"As we grieve in our personal capacity, we are also living in a time of rapid ecological loss. The land is still in the heritage of colonisation, dispossession of land and ethnic cleansing. The current narratives surrounding climate change are predominantly framed around fear, scarcity, and adaptive systems – in other words – systems that will mitigate the impact of neoliberal capitalism and the colonial legacy. “Not well documented in literature [nor in the media] is an emotional response that has been termed ‘ecological grief’ and explained as: the grief felt in relation to experienced or anticipated ecological losses, including the loss of species [human and non-human], ecosystems, and meaningful landscapes due to acute or chronic environmental change” (Neville Ellis & Ashlee Cunsolo, 2018).

Can food connect us more directly with nature? Like patiently waiting to harvest sweet potato, cassava, pumpkin or custard apple? My experience of growing these in my garden has taught me that nature does not hurry. Surely, we need to slow down and resist the glorification of busyness. I always try to purchase food more locally to nurture connections of food ways, with small scale farmers like my friend Goodwell, a Zimbabwean farmer, based in the Eastern Cape, who often traded seed and greens with me of indigenous herbs, rape, spinach and roasted nuts.

When I think about healing and food, there is also a very strong association to a particular landscape. The foods and herbs that come to my mind are buchu, lemon verbena, fynbos or rooster brood on the garden route[8]. Yet Food can also make us feel this ecological loss more deeply, e.g. as the tastes of foods change, or, as certain foods disappear as a result of climate change, habitat destruction or loss of knowledge.

Ecological grief reminds us that climate change is not just some abstract scientific concept or a distant environmental problem. “It draws our attention to the personally experienced emotional and psychological losses suffered when there are changes or deaths in the natural world. In doing so, ecological grief also illuminates the ways in which more-than-humans are integral to our mental wellness, our communities, our cultures, and for our ability to thrive [in the Anthropocene]” (Neville Ellis & Ashlee Cunsolo, 2018)." - Rifqah Tifloen

Food as ecological grieving