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How climate scientists, including Jacquelyn Gill ’05, keep hope alive as damage worsens [AP News]

In the course of a single year, University of Maine climate scientist Jacquelyn Gill lost both her mother and her stepfather. She struggled with infertility, then during research in the Arctic, she developed embolisms in both lungs, was transferred to an intensive care unit in Siberia and nearly died. She was airlifted back home and later had a hysterectomy. Then the pandemic hit.

Her trials and her perseverance, she said, seemed to make her a magnet for emails and direct messages on Twitter “asking me how to be hopeful, asking me, like, what keeps me going?”

Gill said she has accepted the idea that she is “everybody’s climate midwife” and coaches them to hope through action.

How climate scientists like Gill or emergency room doctors during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic cope with their depressing day-to-day work, yet remain hopeful, can offer help to ordinary people dealing with a world going off the rails, psychologists said.

Gill, who describes herself as a lifelong cheerleader, has also battled with depression. She said what’s key in fighting eco-anxiety is that “regular depression and regular anxiety tools work just as well. And so that’s why I tell people: ‘Be a doer. Get other there. Don’t just doomscroll.’ There are entry level ways that anyone, literally anyone, can help out. And the more we do that, ‘Oh, it actually works,’ it turns out.”

What’s more, Gill and several others said, the science tells them that it is not game over for Earth.

“The work that I do inherently lends me a sense of agency,” Gill said. “As a paleo-ecologist (who studies the past) and climatologist, I have a better sense of Earth’s resilience than a lot of people do.”

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