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White Supremacy, Climate Crisis, and Human Trauma


Estimated reading time: 1 minute

Part of the “Showing up for the Planet” series.

With the evidence of global warming and climate disaster all around us, one natural impulse is to want to throw all of our energy behind efforts to stop it. But as longtime One Earth Sangha friend Kritee argues, this response will be ineffectual unless aligned with efforts to recognize and soothe the trauma that many have experienced—whether racial, gender-based, economic, or other—and address what she calls the Mother of the Climate Crisis: white supremacy. In this video, as in her interview earlier this year, she encourages us to gather small groups of friends together to empower one another to heal individual trauma, build community, and support collective resistance to climate and racial injustice.

This talk was excerpted from Showing Up for the Planet, a daylong program on August 22 hosted by Marin Sangha. Speakers in addition to Kritee included Thanissara, James Baraz, Donald Rothberg, Teja Bell, Kristin Barker, and Eve Decker.

View the slide deck from the presentation.

Forming “Islands of Sanity” Practice Circles

Read the full guidelines here.

  • Bring together 6-8 friends
  • Hold regular meetings (>3 per month, 120-150 minutes each)
    • 20-25 minutes: Silence/somatic practices (to attune to each other)
    • 30-35 minutes: Check-ins with wholehearted listening without interruption
    • 60-90 minutes: Discuss (or prepare for) “Third pillar” strategic actions or scheduled sharing circles on money, lifestyle, race/religion, gender
  • Have a transparent structure/format for:
    • Grief/rage work for processing trauma
    • Action strategy and understanding of the movement ecosystem
    • Information flow
    • Decision-making
    • Learning through feedback
    • Restoring after conflict
    • Flow of money (if any)


“We can’t solve climate now and then come to racial healing.”

“Grieving lessens the burden on our bodies. When you release that pressure, when you grieve, there is clarity.”

“I hope whatever you do, you do it with community.”

Picture of Sensei Kritee Kanko

Sensei Kritee Kanko

Kritee (dharma name Kanko) is a Climate Scientist, Zen Buddhist priest, Educator & Founding Spiritual Director of Boundless in Motion, a 501(c) nonprofit based in Boulder (Colorado). She served as a Senior Scientist in the Climate Smart Agriculture program at Environmental Defense Fund for  about 12 years. She is also an ordained teacher in the Rinzai Zen lineage of Cold Mountain and a co-founder of Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center. She has served as faculty for courses or retreats at the intersection of Climate justice, Trauma healing and Spirituality for many organizations including Stanford University, World Council of Churches, San Francisco Zen Center, Mind & Life Institute, One Earth Sangha, Al Gore’s Climate Reality.  Her articles, podcasts and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, BBC, Washington Post, Harvard Health, Yale Climate Connections, California Public Radio and Post Carbon Institute (See a few here).
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