A summer of extreme heat, forest fires, floods. And ICPP’s 2021 climate report released in August is alarming. Last week the Glasgow climate summit kicked off. Recently, even the Pope called for more environmental awareness. If we continue like this, our planet will become unlivable, the pope said. This alarming news touches me. And I have always been sensitive to bad news. As a human being, can you actually still live a meaningful life when the earth is so sick? What does the climate crisis demand of us? I think the climate crisis demands that we stop depleting outer resources and switch to cultivating inner resources.
Climate crisis and depletion of outer resources leads to climate depression worldwide
Meanwhile, more and more voices are saying that we cannot go on like this. Even the Council of State of the Netherlands is calling for measures. When I read all these threatening messages I do not understand how our caretaker government can continue with childish ego games. Instead of proceeding from wisdom to a quick formation. As far as I am concerned we will send this caretaker cabinet, together with the entire Senate and House of Representatives home today. Without their expensive severance packages of course. With the released funds we can then start planting trees. Lots and lots of trees.
Let’s implement the European Commission’s environmental plans in the coming years without a government. Then perhaps the Netherlands will lead the way in environmental policy. And we will no longer dangle at the bottom of the EU list. Because at the moment the Netherlands is only leading in terms of emissions of greenhouse gases.
In short: I tend to get depressed when I follow the news about the climate crisis. Because my thoughts keep grinding on. And my body feels heavy and tense when I do this. But I’m not the only one who suffers from this. According to a study, hundreds of millions of people are suffering from mental problems due to the climate crisis. That’s a lot. There’s even a word for it: climate depression.
Climate crisis, depletion of outer resources and helplessness
A recent news report called the climate crisis situation “hopeless.” And hopelessness leads to feelings of helplessness. I notice this in myself as well. For I am a part of this consumer society that has been declared “bankrupt” by scientists. I still have a car. I also like to travel. And I like a glass of wine.
What makes it worse: my efforts to save the earth don’t matter to the planet. After all, my contribution is too small to make a difference. Science calls this feeling of powerlessness “learned helplessness.” It occurs when you regularly experience a stressful event. Then you start to believe that you are unable to change the situation. This belief anchors itself in your brain. The sad result is that you no longer see the opportunities for change when they present themselves.
With respect to the climate crisis, this learned helplessness is a major danger. Scientists point out that many people become totally discouraged by all the doomsday scenarios. So they stop doing anything. The result is that you no longer see the opportunities that lie in switching from the depletion of outer resources to the cultivation of inner resources.
Climate crisis and the survival mode of the brain
The reports about the climate crisis do not make us happy. Are you interested in personal growth and personal leadership? Then it is important that you realize how your brain works. Because when you experience something that is not pleasant, your brain automatically switches to survival mode. An article by the BBC nicely shows the connection between the survival mode of the brain and our inability to take action to turn the tide.
Survival mode has been of great value to our evolution. Because it helped you survive if a saber-toothed tiger came running at you while you were taking a nap in your cave. This survival mode is fast. It has only three buttons: fight, flight, freeze. And survival mode does not reflect or contemplate. After all, reflection would mean becoming lunch for the saber-toothed tiger. I often call this part of our brain the ” reptilian brain”.
Unfortunately, we can no longer solve most modern problems using the survival mode of the brain. This also applies to the climate crisis. For this we need the more reflective part of our brain. But the problem is that the reflective part is turned off when the survival mode button is pushed.
The price you pay for survival mode
When you are in survival mode you can no longer appreciate your life and your environment. You think you always need more to experience fulfillment. For this you and the planet pay a high price. You pay that price because you always have to earn more and have more to satisfy the survival mode of your brain. Actually, you are the slave of the survival brain. For you are no longer at the helm of your life. Because you let yourself be carried away by unconscious impulses. The advertising industry benefits from this. But the planet also pays a high price. The climate crisis has made this clear.
Climate crisis and dependence on outer resources
Since the advent of the industrial revolution, we have focused our efforts on material prosperity and technological advancement. This, of course, has its merits. For it has made our lives more pleasant and easier in many ways. But the climate crisis gives us a stark warning. The earth is sick, our resources are depleted. So we cannot continue like this. Our dependence on outer resources will have to change. And we will have to use these resources differently.
In addition to natural resources such as oil and gas, there are other external resources we can depend on. Like the craving for recognition, wealth, fame. I read in an article by Milieudefensie that the problem is not overpopulation, but the excessive lust of a small part of humanity.
Research has shown that wealth by itself does not make one happy. I wrote about this in my blog “What is Happiness?” And look at millionaires and stars. Because they commit suicide on a regular basis. This despite their wealth and fame. Moreover, people in rich countries seem to commit suicide more often than people in poor countries. So fame, wealth and prosperity alone do not lead to fulfillment and happiness. Many even become extra unhappy because of it.
And in the end, we all become unhappy when the climate breaks down. The way out of the climate crisis is to stop depleting your outer resources and switch to cultivating your inner resources.
From depletion of outer resources to cultivation of inner resources
As I write this blog I observe my thoughts. They are heavy and spinning in circles. My body feels heavy and a knot in my stomach is acting up. As I dwell on what I feel, I notice that I consider my life precious. And I think of the woods, the birds, and the people I love so much.
From the depths rises the realization that I want to take full responsibility for my life. Even during the climate crisis. And I don’t want my brain to remain stuck in survival mode and the learned mode of helplessness. When I realize this, my thoughts become clearer. And I feel more life in my body.
Thus, I naturally shifted from outer to inner resources. For I appeal to my strength and my desire for personal leadership. Now I don’t care if my contribution is small or not. As long as I connect with what is important to me. That includes nature and the need for sustainability.
And I realize that my negative thoughts and moods about the climate crisis are certainly not going to help the climate. So what can I do?
From the power of personal leadership, I suddenly see possibilities again. I decide to make a donation to Friends of the Earth. And to sign up for the volunteer project “wild bee” on the Veluwe. I also see from my own reactions how important it is to continue to cultivate your inner resources. Hopefully the climate crisis will help us to stop depleting outer resources and switch to cultivating our inner resources.
What are inner resources?
I think the climate crisis is closely related to the mindset from which we approach the world. Because the climate crisis demands that we stop depleting outer resources and start paying more attention to cultivating inner resources.
We all have inner resources at our disposal. We were born with them. But we are so busy depleting the outer resources that we forget that the most important resources are already within us. Personal leadership means cultivating your inner resources.
Inner resources are not spiritual garbage concepts. On the contrary. They enable you to face life’s inevitable challenges from a position of psychological health. Examples of inner resources are:
- realistic optimism
- inner satisfaction
- strength from within
Climate crisis: three reasons to cultivate your inner resources
First of all, our reptilian brain does not want us to engage with our inner resources. Because it could affect your ability to see saber-toothed tigers everywhere. According to your reptilian brain, inner resources pose a danger to your chances of survival. So your brain from itself is not inclined to cultivate these resources. If you want to live more from these resources, it is important to practice in them. Then you train your brain and also your inner climate.
The second reason is that from survival mode you cannot find creative solutions to the climate crisis outside yourself or within yourself. Because survival mode leaves no room for reflection.
Finally, the third reason to cultivate your inner resources: you become less dependent on outer resources. You know that satisfaction, gratitude, joy are already within you. And that there is no need to keep chasing more and more. In doing so, you help the climate crisis. Because you make fewer demands on life. You experience more satisfaction with less. The cultivation of inner resources can give you a sense of calm and peace that goes deeper than material prosperity. And that is what I wish for every human being and the earth.
Climate crisis: balancing outer and inner resources
I think again of the millionaires who commit suicide. What was missing from these millionaires? They were experiencing great material prosperity. But they no longer had access to their inner resources. So they were unhappy and could not experience fulfillment. Apparently, you have little use for outer resources if you neglect your inner resources.
Of course, we all need external resources. We cannot live without food, shelter and warmth. As far as I am concerned, it is about the balance between the two. This balance was lost on the unfortunate millionaires. If more and more people start to appreciate this balance then more and more people will experience more satisfaction with less. And that is good news. For the planet and for you. So let’s see the climate crisis as an opportunity to shift from depleting outer resources to cultivating inner resources.
Curious about your inner resources?
In my next blog, I will address how to discover and cultivate your inner resources. So that the climate crisis gives you the drive to switch from depleting outer resources to cultivating inner resources in your personal life.