2021: Trauma & Climate Change

In my early years as a reporter covering the environmental beat for radio news, I never once thought that there’ll be a time when I’ll be able to use the concept of Climate Change as an analogy to tell a very personal and public story about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Back then when the weather seemed fine and seasons were predictable it was very hard for people to understand why scientists and environmentalists warned about climate change which is, for those of us who still don’t know, the collection of Green-House Gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane gas into the atmosphere causing a change in climate over a long period time.

It’s easier for people to understand the concept today because the evidence is all around us in the form of extreme weather; such as heavy rains, scorching summers, bitter winters and long dry seasons. The same applies to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Think of the emotions as the climate, the subconscious as the atmosphere and the green house gas emissions as violence, conflict or any traumatic events such as surgery, earthquakes, floods, droughts and the heatwaves.

The more incidents of conflict or violence are deposited into the subconscious the more they will change our emotions over time causing cases of extreme anger, rage, sadness, depression, aggression, hypersensitivity, anxiety, drug abuse, alcoholism and other addictions which could lead to death.

While we know of an increasing number of journalists whose deaths were caused by their work people such as Nat Nakasa, Kevin Carter; there are countless other journalists whose lives have been destroyed by mental and emotional injuries sustained in the line of duty.

Like Climate Change PTSD is no longer a question of if it will happen, it’s a question of when and how far? And I believe that it is our moral duty to provide journalists with psychological training and protection to help them minimise its impacts. My book, Soweto To Beirut, is an attempt to illustrate, through my personal experiences on the field, how emotional and psychological trauma affects not only journalists and their work but society in general. The more aware we are of them the better we will be able to mitigate and adapt to their impacts in our personal and professional lives.

Soweto to Beirut follows a young South African Journalist on an emotional journey of self-discovery while covering conflict in Beirut, Lebanon (2006). The experience of war precipitates a deep loss of faith, triggering childhood memories of growing up in Soweto in the early 80s – with dramatic implications for relationships in her life. It’s a fast-paced journey through time and place giving you the sensation of being nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Another perspective on how intergenerational trauma can wreak havoc in the personal and professional space. 


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