An Invitation for Our Species:
Pınar Sinopoulos-Lloyd on Ecological Grief as Regenerative Medicine

You may remember when you first consciously experienced ecological grief: grief for our planet during climate change. 

The initiatory memory sticks with me since it was when I began to blossom into being an embodied member of this planet. I was 16 when this emotional capacity was awakened within me. 

It was 2004, so there wasn’t much consciousness around it just yet — especially in the younger generations. I felt isolated in my experience but found refuge with other radical environmental activists at the time.

This emotion is a gift. Each emotion has intelligence or it would not have evolved with us. The key is to discern the wisdom nested in it. 

Illustration of people walking through forest
Illustration by Johnathan Huang for The Goodnewspaper

When I began to feel ecological grief, my capacity to love the world deepened — and so did my commitment to climate justice

When I was gifted with ecological grief, I was simultaneously gifted with ecological awe and enchantment. 

As an Indigenous person, we would not and may still not necessarily even distinguish it “ecological” since we would have had (and still may have) secure emotional attachment to place and our other-than-human relatives.

There is such possibility in ecological grief, which can transmute into regenerative action. Grief is only possible because we love what we are grieving. 

This is why I call this realization initiatory; it initiates us into our belonging to this planet rooted in fierce love for ourselves and our human and ecological communities. 

As many Indigenous leaders point to, defending our territories and relatives is an act of self-defense and community love. It is a prayer for our future generations — multi-species futures including but not limited to human relatives.

Ecological grief transformed me as much as ecological awe. I needed to deepen my understanding of how to care for Pachamama (Mother Earth in my Quechua language) and learn how Pachamama cares for me. 

Portrait of Pınar Sinopoulos-Lloyd, co-founder of Queer Nature. They are wearing a black hat, colorful scarf with a pondering expression
Portrait of Pınar Sinopoulos-Lloyd, co-founder of Queer Nature. / Photo courtesy of: Pınar Sinopoulos-Lloyd

This is what brought me to survival skills a decade ago. I longed to tend to a secure attachment with place as well as learn how to tend to my nervous system through ecological co-regulation as a displaced Native, a trans young adult, an Autistic person, and also, a human being on the planet during this initiatory time for our own species.

Place-based skills are crafts and technologies rooted in one’s bioregion that builds relations to place. 

It’s also important to acknowledge that although we all have ancestral skills that are place-based, a lot of these skills are Indigenous Lifeways that may have been disrupted or severed due to colonization. 

As I was learning place-based skills, I began metabolizing my ecological grief. Learning wildlife tracking and bird language was immensely transformative. 

These somatic multi-species languages expanded and reshaped my perspective and even my own cosmology. Wildlife tracking has been such a through-thread and is a humbling practice I continue to apprentice to this day.

Experiencing this healing and activation of multi-species solidarity fueled my drive to make this accessible to my LGBTQ2SIA+ community. 

During my journey of learning survival skills — which I refer to as multi-species kinship practices — I realized the depths of our survival skills as queer and trans peoples and it felt integral to explicitly weave this wisdom in. 

In 2013, I met my spouse, So Sinopoulos-Lloyd, another trans animist who would later become the co-founder of our organization, Queer Nature

We fell in love in the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest surrounded by western red cedar, banana slugs, and sword fern.

This is what Queer Nature was born out of in 2015 — a multi-species love story.

Two people exploring the outdoors sitting on a mossy tree trunk
Queer Nature co-founders, So and Pınar Sinopoulos-Lloyd, respectively. / Courtesy of Pınar Sinopoulos-Lloyd

Historically, queer and trans communities have sought refuge within cities and specifically around bars and clubs. This is in part due to the trauma of homophobia and transphobia brought to this land by settler colonialism. 

We wanted to offer an alternative refuge and co-create an earth-based queer community through place-based skills in a sober container. 

After starting Queer Nature, we soon realized that the queer and trans communities not only needed one another to hold each other but also, to be held by the land.

The alchemizing of ecological grief initiated the space for community action to break through the spells of isolation. This includes isolation from our human community members as well as our ecological kin. 

One of the emotion’s gifts is the alchemization to create restorative habitats for community connection and regenerative action. 

In the dreaming of multi-species futures, may we relearn how to listen to our more-than-human kin. Our ecological grief and awe are portals to that re-enchantment.

A version of this article was originally published in The Intersectional Environmentalist Edition of the Goodnewspaper.

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Featured image courtesy of Pınar Sinopoulos-Lloyd