As Greta Thunberg says, we need hope, of course we do. But the time for pep talks is over. The only way to feel hope now is by taking real action on global warming.
I am worrying (not an action).
I am grieving (not an action).
In the midst of this long, cloudy, snowstormy winter, stuck indoors, I find myself spending hours distracting myself from many bitter realities with long, glazed bouts of media consumption. Because life is already hard. Getting older is hard. Relationships are hard. Winter is hard. And much I/we love is under siege.
Like most, I work primarily to earn money for food and shelter. But I am sometimes overwhelmed by the cognitive dissonance of simultaneously feeling panic at the inaction of governments and nations in the face of the collapse of species, and knowing that instead of responding to this crisis in a manner appropriate to the threat, I spend my days doing paid work that is utterly pointless when it comes to addressing this looming threat.
Let me know if this is crazy talk, but it feels like the appropriate reaction would be to stop living our normal lives and doing our normal things, and instead do everything we can to respond to this crisis.
If your house was on fire, would you try to pretend it wasn't? Would you keep watching the Great British Baking Show while the flames consumed you and all you hold dear? Hell no.
(Even though I know you really, really love the Great British Baking Show.)
This is an emergency. We need to mobilize! This I say, as I sit at my laptop, blogging.
I feel like a fraud. Really, what am I doing? Planting natives to help our insects. Giving money to places like the Center for Biological Diversity. Contacting legislators and government agencies. Good things that I know are not nearly enough.
I hear this clarion call to DO SOMETHING, and yet I'm like a panicked animal in a pen, banging into the bars and not knowing which way to run to escape the threat. Do you feel this way, too?
It doesn't seem right that many of the actions recommended to take involve buying things, either. Buy an electric car. Install solar panels. Replace your gas-burning water heater, your furnace, your range.
Those would all be useful, but they are technological solutions to a much deeper cultural problem: that our relationship to this planet needs to fundamentally change if humans are to survive.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, a ethnobotanist, writer, and member of the Potawatami tribe, spoke at a conference on native plants I attended last week about healing our relationship with place. She said so many wise things, and one of them was regarding the power of personal and collective action to address climate change. She said: "We don't need more data, we need another way of thinking."
Another way of thinking. Right now, she said, the earth asks us to change.
We are all on our own journeys, so it is up to each of us to figure out what that change looks like, whether it's planting a meadow, opening up our minds to considering the personhood of all beings, or taking our power into our collective hands.
Dark days dressed in bright white. Maybe some hope on the horizon? Perhaps we are finally after 40 years reaching critical mass on this issue, turning a corner? Do you sense a change?
In about six months, Greta Thunberg has gone from being a lone student protesting climate inaction outside the Swedish parliament, to leading weekly climate marches of thousands of students. The young ones have an energy and moral clarity most adults seem to have lost along the way. It is so easy to feel deadened by the constant barrage of loss. I am grateful to them for giving us something to believe in about humanity's capacity for compassion and another way of thinking right now.