Destruction Island lighthouse, Washington

Confronting climate change with an “ecological imagination”

Destruction Island lighthouse, Washington
Destruction Island lighthouse, Washington (Photo by T.S. Bremer, 2017)

We have not yet fully realized the profound upheavals of climate change that the world is now experiencing. Most of us continue living blissfully unaware that the world we knew is rapidly vanishing, and even many people who realize that something big is upon us have not been able to shake up the dreamy populace slumbering in their denial. Most people are more concerned about more immediate worries.

It seems we need more “ecological imagination” to go along with the mountains of data already compiled. This was the topic of a 2015 conversation with Mitchell Thomashow, former Unity College president and author of The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus; Ben Champion, the University of Arizona’s director of sustainability; and curated by student Paulina Jenney at the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment. Thomashow began by describing ecological imagination as “a way for people to expand or broaden their awareness of their relationship to the earth.” He explains, “The ecological imagination proposes that we use various forms of narrative and artistic expression to bring diverse communities together.” It has a strategic role in “offering a venue for bringing various people together to think about global environmental issues.” [You can read a published version of this conversation on at]

I’m not certain I quite understand Thomashow’s vision of an ecological imagination that is a venue for thinking about global environmental issues, but it seems clear that data and the experiences of a changing climate are not enough to rouse people out of complacency. We need more imaginative, more creative ways of addressing the human impact on the global environment. People will be moved to change when they feel the fear and experience the heartbreak in their souls. Until then, all the data in the world will not budge us from the immediacy of our petty anxieties and misguided opinions.

[Daily post 032 of 260 in my year-long challenge.] ♨

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