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Let us cry over nature’s destruction, scientists say

Scientists have made a public appeal to be "allowed to cry" to get over the emotional trauma of witnessing nature's destruction.

In a letter to a major academic journal, three leading researchers claim many scientists experience "strong grief responses" to the current ecological crisis.

They urge institutions to provide better psychological support, similar to that offered to the emergency services and military personnel.

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Tim Gordon, co-author of the letter and a marine biologist at the University of Exeter, said: "When you spend your life studying places like the Great Barrier Reef or the Arctic ice caps, and then watch them bleach into rubble fields or melt into the sea, it hits you really hard."

The academics write in their letter to the journal Science that emotional trauma can substantially compromise self-awareness, imagination, and the ability to think coherently.


"If we're serious about finding any sort of future for our natural ecosystems, we need to avoid getting trapped in cycles of grief," said Mr Gordon.

"We need to allow ourselves to cry – and then see beyond our tears."

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The authors warn that environmental scientists tend to respond to destruction of the natural world by ignoring, suppressing or denying the resulting painful emotions while at work.

Husky dogs appear to be walking on water in northwest Greenland. Pic: SteffenMalskaer and the Danish Meteorological Institute
Image: An image which sparked concern over levels of melting ice. Pic: SteffenMalskaer and the Danish Meteorological Institute

Another of the co-authors, Dr Steve Simpson of the University of Exeter, said: "Instead of ignoring or suppressing our grief, environmental scientists should be acknowledging, accepting and working through it.

"In doing so, we can use grief to strengthen our resolve and find ways to understand and protect ecosystems that still have a chance of survival in our rapidly changing world."

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