The weight of the world

PhD candidate Lori Clarke seeks to bear witness to the embodied responses to grief that people experience because of climate change.

Climate change affects everyone. It’s an immediate threat in some countries, while in others it’s felt less directly. Lori Clarke, an artist-researcher and interdisciplinary PhD candidate at Memorial University, explores how indirect experiences of climate change are affecting people living in Atlantic Canada.

Lori says many Atlantic Canadians don’t have first-hand experience dealing with the persistent threat and resulting consequences of climate change; nevertheless, they feel the heavy burden, an unfortunate result of their mediated exposure to images and accounts of global ecological upheaval.

For this project, Lori defines “mediated” as social media, radio, television and documentaries, as well as individual oral accounts shared from person to person.


The expertise
Lori received a bachelor of fine arts from Concordia, a master of arts in somatic psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies, and she is a certified professional member of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. Combining these areas of expertise, Lori’s interdisciplinary inquiry found a home in the interdisciplinary PhD, a program intended for students whose academic interests cross multiple academic disciplines.

Her research project, Grief and Resilience; Understanding Mediated Experiences of Climate Change, is comprised of primary research gained from one-on-one conversations with several Atlantic Canadians regarding their indirect experiences of climate change. In addition to a dissertation paper, Lori is creating performance and installation work with hopes of engaging audiences and communities with her findings through art.

The opportunity
Grief can be complicated. When unresolved, Lori says our embodied stress responses to grief and fear show up in our postures and behaviours, and can contribute to individual and social vulnerability. In addition to her work as an artist and researcher, Lori is a body psychotherapist, offering counseling and Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) psychobiological trauma resolution to individuals, couples and small groups. While therapy is unique for every individual, Lori says this method aims to resolve symptoms and relieve chronic stress.

In her research work, Lori’s expertise in somatic psychology and SE™ informs her methodology and provides a lens to examine embodied responses to grief and trauma resulting from indirect experiences of climate change.

Lori records each interview. She says these recordings may play a part in the artistic portion of her project, but primarily she uses them to observe the ways people move, sound, react and behave when discussing their personal experiences. From these interviews, Lori hopes to gain a deeper understanding about how people in Atlantic Canada are coping with climate change.

The goal
As the world around us continues to alter with the effects of climate change, more research is required. Not only will we need to adapt to a changing global landscape, Lori says we’ll also need to better understand how the impacts of climate change affect human well-being. Lori’s work acknowledges and examines human responses to the growing ambience of loss and threat that challenges our personal and community resilience during this time of change.

Acutely aware of the influence media has on our understanding and perspectives of climate change, Lori is mindful that her work could potentially add to an already overwhelming feed of climate change stories and pervasive atmosphere of dread. When discussing plans for how she’ll transform her research into art, she says she wants to present work that won’t add to the growing anxiety currently burdening society, but instead open a new dialogue that includes awareness of bodies and nervous systems and acknowledges the ways fear and loss affect people, families and communities. She hopes her research will point to new ways of discussing and living with ongoing climate change.

If you’d like to learn more about Lori Clarke, please visit her Yaffle profile, or her personal counselling website.

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