Category Archives: What the…?


I know better than to self-diagnose but I thought for sure I knew what I had, and a bad case of it at that. It’s going around. It’s not as contagious as I thought it would be (or even as I think it should be) but those of us who get it tend to get it bad.

No, I don’t have covid. What I thought I had was eco-anxiety, otherwise known as climate-anxiety, or eco-distress, defined by the American Psychological Association as the “chronic fear of environmental doom.” All my symptoms pointed in that direction. Eco-anxiety can then lead to ecological grief, which is defined as “grief felt in relation to experienced or anticipated ecological losses, including the loss of species, ecosystems and meaningful landscapes.” Anyone who regularly reads this blog would probably agree with that diagnosis and a secondary part of my distress was the fear that my friends would ostracize me, afraid of ‘catching it,’ or even just finding it ‘unbecoming’.

In her book, Generation Dread, author Britt Wray argues that “we should be proud and relieved to experience these emotions; they are a sign of our humanity.”

That made me feel a little better.

She continues. “A sense of realistic danger is what’s fuelling the rise of eco-anxiety. It emerges when we feel our vulnerability and connections to what’s unravelling around us, and becomes adaptive when we are in touch with our ability to care. In this sense, eco-anxiety works like an antidote to the culture of uncare. That’s why some call it eco-compassion or eco-empathy. It is what happens when we bring our thinking and feeling together – a healthy, human way to function, as long as we stave off its ability to hijack our brains entirely!”

So that’s where the misdiagnosis comes in. I like to think I have eco-compassion or eco-empathy, not the more negative sounding eco-anxiety.

Joanna Macy, activist and author suggests “…it is a measure of your evolution, it is a measure of your humanity, it is a measure of your nobility that you have a heart-mind big enough to see and empathize with the outrage being inflicted on our world and all our relations.”

Noble? Me? That might be a stretch, but again, her words make me feel, well, nobler.

And, from the Lancet, a well-respected medical journal, “Recognizing that emotions are often what lead people to act, it is possible that feelings of ecological anxiety and grief, although uncomfortable, are in fact the crucible through which humanity must pass to harness the energy and conviction that are needed for those lifesaving changes now required.”

Very helpful.

So, I’m calling my ailment eco-compassion and I don’t want to get better. Don’t get me wrong, I want the health of our planet to get better, much better, but I don’t want to lose my sense of care for our one and only beautiful planet and all its living beings.

“Only when enough hearts break wide open will we start to heal the broken systems that are causing us to suffer in the first place.” (Britt Wray)


Photo from

Did you hear about the Red Alert in this week’s news?

Probably not. Most of us didn’t.

World Meteorological Organization is “sounding the Red Alert to the world.”

In his newsletter for Canada’s National Observer, climate correspondent Chris Hatch quotes the World Meteorological Organization (WMO): “The state of the climate in 2023 gave ominous new significance to the phrase ‘off the charts.’ He said the WMO officially certified last year as the hottest on record by a freakishly wide margin.

Hatch continues. “If you didn’t hear about the WMO “sounding the ‘Red Alert'” it’s probably because it barely made the news. The weekend weather forecast gets more coverage than a global red alert from the world’s meteorologists. Instead, we are inundated with articles and commentary gloating over the plight of carbon pricing or counselling strategic retreat on that policy.”

What is the main-stream media’s role in our apparent apathy, or even ignorance on the climate crisis?  That so many of us are blissfully unaware of the consequences of climate chaos is at least partly because main-steam media outlets aren’t giving us the whole truth. Stories of flooding and wildfires are covered, the words ‘climate change’ are suggested as a possible reasons for these catastrophes, but there’s no sense of urgency, no suggestion that world leaders are talking  too much and not acting nearly fast enough. If we don’t actively search out information (ie. the facts (not cliches) about the carbon tax) we won’t get accurate information and may believe that someone else is going to fix the climate emergency.

I’ve recently turned to Canada’s National Observer, The Guardian and The Tyee for more in-depth reporting.  Highly recommended.

A Disconnect: Pelts vs Pets

My newspaper is open on the table in front of me. On the left page is a story about  trappers  bemoaning the fact that there is a general decline in their target species, whether it be beaver, mink or bobcat. “The price for lynx pelt – about $70.00 – is “disappointing” considering the amount of work required to catch and process the animal,” the article says.

It continues. “Fur remains popular with increasingly affluent buyers from Russia and in China – the fur industry there is worth $22 billion – but the vagaries of fashion and waning economic growth in those nations have depressed prices for pelts for the past several years.”

On the facing page is a human interest story about a puppy whose face was severely damaged by corrosive acid thrown at him in his homeland of Iran. He was rescued and put up for adoption, hopefully “by someone in North America who could afford the care” and surgeries it required. A Vancouver woman did adopt him, she set up a GoFundMe page and raised over $7,000.00 to pay for the veternarian costs.

What is wrong with this picture? One animal is considered a ‘pet’ and thousands of dollars are spent to keep it alive. Another animal is seen as a pelt for someone to wear, so it is only valuable dead. There is a huge disconnect here.

I, of course, am on the side of the animal. Wearing pelts for fashion seems ridiculous in this day and age.  I saw a mink coat valued at $40,000 in a Vancouver store last weekend.  I wonder if the person who would buy such a coat might also be carrying a small dog under her arm.

Yes, a serious disconnect.

(Quotes were taken from the Vancouver Sun, January 28, 2019.

Fear of heights? What the…?

Because I’d viewed this photo before we hiked up to the cliffs it never occurred to me that there’d be a problem. I knew what I was getting into. Our competent Irish guide, Gerry Greensmyth, led the way. It was Day One of our hiking adventure and we were on Achill Island on the west coast of Ireland. Spirits were high.

As we crested the ridge I caught a glimpse of the sheer drop-off down to the wild coast below. It hit without warning, a physical response, a dizzy light-headedness as all my blood seemed to rush to my  heart which just might have stopped beating for a moment. Next came a floating sensation and I hoped I wasn’t mid-faint. I think it was a panic attack, but I don’t know if that’s the correct label. All I knew then was that I absolutely could not stand there on that cliff-top with my friends to admire the view. I felt sure I would pass out and fall over, or worse, hurl myself over. Then, to further increase my anxiety, one of my dearest friends stepped oh-so-close to the edge to peer down. And it was a LONG way straight down. And did I mention that the wind was blowing hard? That really stirred up the strange physical sensations I was experiencing.

“C’mon, Shelley, come a little closer,” Gerry urged, wanting me to experience the full magnitude of the vista. After all, we had climbed this steep mountain for that very reason

I tried to cover up my embarrassing reaction by making light of the situation. “Did we sign any waivers before we took this hike?” It was supposed to be a joke, but my face likely conveyed my fear.

“Waivers are meaningless. C’mon, hold my hand,” he said and grabbed it without waiting for a response. He tugged me closer to the edge. That’s when I lost it.

“We don’t know anything about you!” I cried out, trying to put on the brakes. “For all I know you are a crazy man, luring naive tourists up here and then pushing them over the edge.” (Novelists have vivid imaginations.)

He may have experienced hysterical women before, I don’t know, but he remained calm and did manage to drag me close enough to the edge that the full beauty of the coastline unfolded before us. I am grateful for that. But as quickly as I could I took a mental photo and scrambled back to relative safety on the other side of the clifftop.

Admittedly, this was not the first time this has happened, so I should have been better prepared. It happened in the wind turbine on Grouse Mountain. When I stepped out of the elevator into  the observatory at the top, it hit me equally as hard and as unexpected.  I had to turn around and step directly back onto that elevator that returned me to the ground instead of walking around to enjoy the 360 degrees of  magnificent views.  Suspension bridges are another trigger. I won’t be crossing those anymore.

I didn’t have this fear of heights until fairly recently,  I don’t know where it came from but I would really like it to go away. Does anyone know any strategies?

Anchll Island photo credit: Gerry Greensmyth.

Eye of the Wind Photo Credit: Grouse Mountain Resort

Is it just me…

polar bears… or does it seem odd that there is a move to ‘adapt’ to global warming (planting drought resistant gardens and even artificial turf in lieu of grass) instead of an all-out effort to reverse the warming trend?

There is only so much an individual can do. Real change has to come from government policies and direction. There is an election coming up. Let’s vote wisely.

Meatless Monday

Meatless Monday 2Okay, today is Wednesday, but I just read in the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) Newsletter that, “If all Canadians went meatless on Mondays, more than 100 million animals would be spared from a miserable life and death in our country’s factory farms.”

Whoa. That’s a lot of animals. I’m guessing this means over a person’s lifetime… but still. That’s just one day a week. What if we had Meatless Monday and Wednesday and Friday? Or everyday?

Pass it On

Father/daughter bonding. Really?

mooseThe trophy hunter being interviewed on the radio defended his ‘hobby’ by claiming that taking his 11-year-old daughter moose-hunting was the most incredible bonding moment he could ever imagine having with her. He spoke with a sense of awe and wonder. It didn’t matter that her first moose was a ‘small’ one, he said, (only 5 points on the antlers), the exhilaration of watching her shoot it, and seeing the thrill she derived from that experience was pure pleasure for him, “a life-altering moment”.

 The interviewer pointed out that it was certainly a life-altering moment for the moose, and suggested that the hunter and his daughter might have derived the same pleasure by simply photographing the moose. The hunter disagreed completely, saying that a photo would get stuffed away in a box somewhere and forgotten, but by hanging the moose-head in their home they would always remember the thrill of that special time together.

 I think he was serious.

 We surround ourselves with like-minded people, so when I heard the sincerity in this guy’s voice I was flabbergasted. Killing a beautiful wild animal for the sake of a trophy would not be a celebrated bonding moment that I would ever consider sharing with my daughters. I always try to understand the point of view of people with ideas that are different than my own, but this one is just too mind-boggling for me.

Photo credit:

A writer needs her fingers

My hand shortly after the fall. It doesn't look too bad.

My hand shortly after the fall. It doesn’t look too bad.

I took a simple tumble.

It involved inappropriate footwear, a dark night, possibly a little ice, a speed bump and a retractable dog leash with a hard handle.

My hand got jammed and it hurt a little. It became swollen and colourful but I didn’t really believe anything could be broken. Besides, I was at the cabin during the holidays and I didn’t know where to go for help.

Five days later my pinkie finger still didn’t seem ‘right’ so I had it x-rayed, and sure enough, it was broken and required the insertion of 2 metal rods the size of coat hangers to repair it.

My hand after surgery. Worse.

My hand after surgery. Worse.

I have a history of being in denial re fractures.  Thirteen years ago I walked around on a broken ankle and a broken bone in the other foot for almost a week before I had them x-rayed. This fall also involved a retractable dog leash. (In that case – and to my credit – a clinic doctor told me he thought both ankles were simply sprained and didn’t require x-rays.) Eighteen months ago I broke an elbow while travelling in Europe but completed my holiday before flying home and discovering that it, too, was broken and required surgery. (Once again, a medic led me to believe it wasn’t badly damaged.)

My splint for 6 weeks. I'm getting used to it.

My splint for 6 weeks. I’m getting used to it.

I hope there will be no more falls, but if there are, I wonder if I will have learned my lesson – get x-rays.

In the meantime, I’m becoming fairly proficient with my left hand, and can type quite quickly using only the pointer finger of my right hand. If I had to break a finger the timing was good, I’m at the research stage of a new writing project so am reading more than writing. However, I do miss my pinkie finger and the 4th finger which shares the splint.  Like my elbows and ankles, I will not take them for granted ever again.