#382: Grieving California
Excellent articles on climate grief, fat shaming, and veterinarians’ mental health
Except for a one-year stint in Boston and a four-week stint in New York, I’ve lived in California my whole life. I was born here, was raised here, went to college here, and have spent nearly my whole adulthood here. But for some reason, I don’t strongly identify with my state. For example: Please don’t ask me how many times I’ve been to Yosemite, or gone on road trips up or down the coast, or exactly where Big Sur is.
Lately, though, I’ve felt more California pride. Maybe it’s because people are leaving the state and I’m feeling defensive. Or maybe it’s that I’m appreciating recent trips to Santa Cruz and the Sierras. Or maybe it’s that I’m grateful for California’s natural beauty and I’m finally not taking it for granted.
Whatever it is, I’m finding myself reading more articles about the state of my state. One of them is this week’s lead article, “Grieving California,” which reminded me of the ravages of climate change and the human consequences of loss. Especially if you’re from California, I encourage you to read the piece.
If California doesn’t interest you, or if climate-related articles feel too doomsday, scroll on down to take in the pet photo and two other great articles. The first is about the simultaneous trends of body positivity and fat shaming, while the second is about the mental health of veterinarians. Please enjoy!
💬 ARTICLE CLUB: It was great to hear from so many of you who said you appreciated listening to last week’s interview with Naomi Gordon-Loebl, author of “Saying Goodbye to My Chest,” this month’s Article Club selection. If the piece moved you, there’s still time to join our discussion this Sunday at 2 pm PT. Would love to have you there, alongside other thoughtful readers.
A building that burns can be rebuilt. But if fire incinerates a state of mind, can that be put back together? After neighbors move, new homes rise from the ones that burned, and the landscape is marked by the fingerprints of flames – the time before can feel like a past life. It’s the kind of rupture that transcends space and time, shaping our memories, our goals for the future and even our understanding of where we belong. Part of living here now means grappling with apocalyptic scenes and with whether this version of California can still be called home.
You don’t have to be from California to appreciate this beautifully written article, in which Erica Hellerstein explores the trauma people have experienced as a result of the massive wildfires that have plagued the state. Rather than focusing on the despondent, however, Ms. Hellerstein devotes her energy to show what people are doing to understand and process their emotions. “It’s really important to know that climate distress is not a pathology,” says Robin Cooper, the co-founder of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance, which is developing resources and therapies to help people deal with the psychological impact of climate change.
Similar work is happening in California schools. A recent survey revealed that 3,000 students in Sonoma County are still showing “increased anxiety, stress, depression, behavioral problems, or decreased academic performance as a result of the 2017 Tubbs wildfire.” Educators there have used resources from the Good Grief Network, a 10-step, peer support program to help people process their climate grief.
Most importantly, Ms. Hellerstein emphasizes that you don’t have to be a survivor of a climate catastrophe to feel the calamitous effects of climate change. If you’re feeling dislocated or distressed or disillusioned, you’re not alone. (28 min)
I went to the doctor this week. We talked about my weight. I said I’m happy with my current relationship with food. He said I should lose a few pounds. The exchange reminded me of this thoughtful essay, written at the height of the pandemic, in which Erika Thorkelson wonders why the rise of body positivity has corresponded with an increase in Instagram advertisements urging us to watch our weight. “Despite gentle shifts toward fat acceptance in the last few years,” Ms. Thorkelson writes, “it’s clear our culture remains obseesed with controlling our bodies.” She adds:
Poor and working-class women, like those in my family, were often encouraged to look to their weight as the source of their problems rather than the larger forces of structural issues like misogyny and capitalism. If you had trouble finding a job or your husband was cheating on you, getting skinny was supposed to be the answer.
Getting skinny is apparently the answer we should be messaging to our kids, too, according to a report released last week by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It seems like we’re saying, “All bodies are beautiful, as long as they’re thin.” (14 min)
Dr. Andrew Bullis is a veterinarian in a small town in Pennsylvania. He treats cats and dogs and chickens and pigs. He loves his job — despite the long hours, the poor compensation, and the complaints of his clients. But there’s one thing that Dr. Bullis can’t stomach, even though he does it every day: killing. More than any other procedure, vets perform euthanasia, which in most cases is the right decision for the animal. But not always, as Dr. Bullis explains in this heartbreaking story about a dog named Lacey, who crushed her leg in an accident, but who didn’t have to die. “Euthanasia gets to us,” Dr. Bullis writes. “Really gets to us.” This stress has led to significant mental health challenges for veterinarians, who die by suicide at a rate two to three times higher than the general population. (15 min)
Thank you for reading this week’s issue. Hope you liked it. 😀
To our 4 new subscribers – including Brooke and Pearl – I hope you find the newsletter a solid addition to your email inbox. To our long-time subscribers (Warren! Wanda! Wilma!), you’re pretty great. Loyal reader Jim, thank you for sharing the newsletter and getting the word out.
If you like The Highlighter Article Club, please help it grow. I really appreciate your support. Here are two ways you can help out:
❤️ Become a paid subscriber, like Melinda and Pearl (thank you!). You’ll join an esteemed group of readers who value the mission of The Highlighter Article Club. Plus you’ll receive surprise perks and prizes. (More hoodies?)
📬 Invite your friends. Know someone who’s kind, thoughtful, and loves to read? Share with them today’s issue and urge them to subscribe. Word of mouth is by far the best way to strengthen our reading community. Thank you very much for spreading the word.
On the other hand, if you no longer want to receive this newsletter, please feel free to unsubscribe. See you next Thursday at 9:10 am PT!