Last Friday, March 4, I stopped in at the Garrison Institute in Garrison, New York for the last day of a conference for social scientists who study how people are dealing with climate change—their understanding or lack of it, their willingness to discuss the future or lack of it, and how meditation fits into this. Just when I was ready to jump up and run over to ask a few questions, before lunch, a gong sounded and then began 5 minutes of silent meditation. Later, one of the organizers told me that the previous day had a packed agenda, with no time for silent reflection, and participants complained.

Their approaches to climate change and society are many. Economists, psychologists, energy-use experts, religion scholars, and others gathered. As I listened to them wrap up their three days of presentations and meetings, I was the most surprised by the tenor of the group. They are discouraged, some are fighting depression, and only one young woman, a graduate student, said she enjoys her work. Not that the others don’t, but they weren’t talking about that. “I know too much,” one of them said.

“We find if people have a 10-minute ‘mindful’ (meditation) session, you will prevent burnout,” another said.

“I want every one of us to pledge never to use the words ‘doom and gloom’ ever again,” another said. This aspect of the conference surprised me.

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