How do we build resilience to the impacts of climate change?

by Don Marshall

In a more optimistic time we were convinced that, as environmentalists, we could in time help to bring about sustainability and change the planet’s current trajectory of environmental deterioration. So we did what we could to bring about change in our personal perspective, in our habits, and in our institutions and social systems. We worked to help others see the need for the changes.

We think we made some difference, but it has been hardly enough. From many sources we know and feel that we are losing ground in the effort to preserve our environment. The natural world is suffering. The situation at times seems to be getting worse, not better. Our environment has deteriorated to the point that we now need to consider how to adapt to changes that are inevitable.

This is not just a physical problem of the environment. Its also a psychological and emotional crisis within ourselves. How can we hold our centre and keep our commitment to doing what we can to save the planet? How can we keep hope alive? We feel we need to develop resilience. What we mean by resilience is keeping the ability, both personal and communal, to deal with the psychological and social trauma that comes from seeming to lose ground.

In order to keep working as environmentalists we must take care of ourselves and of each other. Resilience, we believe, is best learned and practiced in the setting of the community where we can connect with each other in empathic conversation. We need to ask ourselves sensitive questions about these pressing issues. We need to engage within our own circles. Power to continue on in our environmental quest will come from deeply listening to each other—listening to our fears, hopes, and dreams.

As Suzuki Elders we are working towards bringing Small Group Listening Conversations to various venues in the Greater Vancouver area. Stay tuned.





  1. Beautifully said, Don. Important work indeed. I look forward to sharing this with my Women’s Group in the near future. Thanks for your commitment to this issue, and your perseverance!

  2. Thanks Don. Listening is such an important skill. Perhaps it is the complement of grieving, another healthy skill. And of course, laughing. We humans, what a laugh! “Keep on truckin’, mama, truckin’ my blues away …”

  3. Thanks for the post Don. As a Suzuki Elder hailing from Ontario this is one of those times I wish this country was geographically smaller. We must band together to fight the feeling of isolation and to remind ourselves that we are not alone in our world view of a healthy and resilient community that includes an environmentally sustainable future.

  4. Thank you Rachel Carson, Dr. David Suzuki, and all the other scientists who started telling us in the 1950s what we, as a species were doing to our only home – Planet Earth. I find it so sad that so many, so-called educated people have ignored the evidence. The wealthy of this world will survive much longer than the rest of us because they have the resources to make, build, invent, create, manufacture, and prevent their own personal disaster so there are huge societal implication evolving at present. We have already infected the atmosphere so that there are over 400 parts per million of carbon and it continues to grow on a daily basis. We have too many people on the planet relative to it’s resources. Some human populations are multiplying exponentially which in turn places an ever-increasing demand for everything renewable and non-renewable. Thanks to companies like: Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, BASF, big oil/gas, and others, a cocktail of poisonous chemicals is now in almost all our food yet our governments here in North America are not banning the use of them. I find it so ironic that the agri-chemicals that these companies have touted as being our saviours to produce enough food for the planet are actually killing us. I find it SO sad that our supposed leaders are so uneducated, visionless, gutless, and powerless to do the right thing. My lifelong understanding of our First Nations and Inuit people have enabled me to emotionally cope with our growing dilemma and I give thanks for that every single day. I sometimes feel like that humming bird who gets a drop of water from the stream and puts it on a forest fire ….. I am dong the best that I can.

  5. I agree with you David, Karl, and Jill. I have had the opportunity to visit or live in every province and territory in this amazingly wonderful country called Canada and it is people like you who mean so much to me because you express your feelings in such a genuine way. If you are ever thinking of a trip to the east coast please contact me ahead of time so Joanne and I can host you and/or your loved ones.

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