Portrait of resilience #3: meet Lewisham’s Madeleine Hamey-Thomas

As part of the Climate Refresh series, Eastlondonlines has interviewed four local environmental champions to ask how they stay positive in a time of apathy and anxiety. Our third champion is the activist, Madeleine Hamey-Thomas

Name:Madeleine Hamey-Thomas
Occupation:freelance copyeditor and proofreader; activist at Lewisham Extinction Rebellion and Climate Café volunteer
Top Tip:“Community is important; if you’re not joining an activist group, then try to find people who may share interests in nature so that you can still talk about these issues.”

Tell us about the sustainability challenge you’re working on?

There are five of us working on a climate cafe together. We’ve been following the work of the Climate Psychology Alliance who have been running climate cafes online. It’s completely inclusive, open to everyone, and it’s free. We opened in mid-April and hired a space at the Albany Theatre. I like to think of it as an informal support group. It’s basically a place where people can bring any feelings or thoughts in relation to the climate emergency that they aren’t able to express in their day-to-day life and can discuss these over a coffee.

How does your work contribute to solving the climate crisis?

I see it as a missing piece of the puzzle because while there are specialist activist groups that people can join, the climate crisis affects everyone and what we’re interested in right now is trying to support more people to have those discussions. I think it’s right that people have space to share their feelings when it can be so stigmatised to talk about climate impacts in day-to-day life. We’re also aware the climate crisis touches people of colour more than other groups, as well as people who have working-class backgrounds or unstable incomes. So I think with Lewisham being such a diverse borough, it’s really going to need support in that area.

Do you experience climate fatigue or anxiety?

I definitely do. It can come in waves. There are periods of time when I don’t feel it at all. Then there are other times when it can be overwhelming. It also depends on what’s happening in the news or around you. I’m quite connected to talking about climate but when something isn’t on your doorstep I think we have a human ability to compartmentalize groups and issues. It’s different when we can see the impact.

Do you remember when you first took an interest in sustainability?

It’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment but I would say probably back in 2018. The IPCC report came out and it was one of the first ones that was using language like “red alert for humanity.” I was also abroad at the time and I was starting to think about the way I was living my life and feeling it was counter to what most other people were experiencing globally. I was seeing some of the impacts on other nations and started to feel concerned about Western consumption and then how that was impacting elsewhere. It started from being fearful of the future.

Any parting advice for how to get through climate fatigue or anxiety?:

I would say first, it’s not a one-size-fits-all, you have to figure out what works for you.  But there are various things that climate psychologists have talked about. One is to get out into nature. Whether by yourself or with other people, reconnecting with the natural world is a proven way of bringing your heart rate down, making you feel relaxed. It also helps you to feel connected to ecology, to feel we’re part of, not separate from, this world. I would also say look up things like climate cafes, even if just online if there aren’t any near you, because community is so important. One of the hardest things is if you’re feeling a lot of anxiety, fatigue, or depression and the people around you are in a kind of denial about it or have their defence mechanisms up. You feel really alone in that. So, I’d recommend trying to find community. If you’re not joining an activist group, then try to find people who maybe share interests in nature so that you can still talk about these issues.

If you’re keen to join Lewisham’s Climate Cafe, follow the Instagram account below for the latest news and events. Or, if you want to learn more about local responses to the climate crisis see the rest of the Climate Refresh series here.

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