Powerful emotions surface in the face of massive ecological destruction: panic, terror, guilt, emotional overload, and despair. It’s tempting to run from them. To begin to accept the realities we face and to channel our feelings toward constructive engagement with possible solutions, we must first allow ourselves to mourn. As Bill McKibben noted so long ago, we must mourn the “end of nature”—including the end of many species, ecosystems, seasons, agricultural ways, and archipelagos.

Eco-Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy has suggested that the more we experience eco-fallout from human-induced climate change and other environmental problems, the more we will have to learn to deal with eco-despair. As an educator who teaches courses with titles such as “Religion, Nature, and Globalization,” I have had to learn how to deal with the ecological despair that my students face when they begin to realize just how impossible, wicked,...

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