Times and Climates They Are A-Changin'
Updated: Aug 5, 2019
“Building a world that works for everyone is exactly what we should refocus our efforts on doing when we read scientific studies that scare the hell out of us. As the researchers point out, there’s still time that we have to take advantage of. That’s why it’s so damn important to act boldly. Now.” -Eric Holthaus
Be Not Afraid (OK, be Very Afraid But Do Not Despair)
I know that many of you, upon reading the devastating report from the IPCC, are terrified. Maybe this is new information for you, maybe you’re just coming to grips with how truly awful this timeline could become. Maybe you didn’t know that many of the problems in Syria, which have radiated throughout Europe and caused white supremacists and fascists to crawl out from under their rocks, were caused largely by climate change. It’s really hard to grasp. It’s too big and too scary. Against this juggernaut there seems to be no hope and certainly nothing any individual can do.
And I’ll cop to that fact that yes, probably there is very little we can do as individuals, though we can try harder to make our daily lives more sustainable. What’s needed, though, is a concerted effort from many individuals, a groundswell, if you will, of support for making the drastic changes we’ll need to make.
Here’s the thing: those of us who have worked in the environmental sector have long known about this. We’ve tried to make people listen. We’ve sacrificed much, too much, just in the hopes that maybe we’ll leave the Earth a better place than we’ve found it. But where we failed is in making this movement a green wave. We have repeatedly failed in impressing upon people the very responsive nature of the web of life. Tug any one thread and change, sometimes drastic change, follows. The nature of life is change, it’s true. But we have the power to control those changes—when and how they occur and to what degree. If we’ll use that power.
Up until now, we haven’t. We’ve been (and when I say we—I mean Western and Western-colonized society) flagrantly ignoring this truth that many aboriginal people have always known.
But my reason for blogging here is to ask you not to despair. Please don’t give up. Now more than ever, you’re needed and you matter. All it takes is one gene to turn on cancer, to make a normally quiescent bacterium virulent. You may not be able to be a superhero, but you can try to make the knowledge and action viral. It takes one kid to develop a machine that can scoop the plastic from the ocean. Maybe he’s not getting ALL of the Pacific Gyre, but he’s doing what he can. It took one guy I went to graduate school with sitting with the buffalo every winter and keeping them from leaving Yellowstone to protect the herd.
We can’t turn back the clock. But we also can’t just give up because things are getting hard. The beauty and difficulty of humanity is our free will. Those in power have made some bad choices. Now we need to start making the right ones together.
I’ve always thought (and I still believe) that the protection of our planet should be the one thing that unites us. We all need clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, good soil for food, and to use resources to make shelter. That anyone denies this or would hoard it for themselves while destroying it for others is reprehensible. There could be enough if we would do things the right way. Some of the changes are radical and difficult, but some of them aren’t. Make the moves you can make.
What you absolutely cannot do, though, is despair. You can grieve the world that was—we are unlikely to get that back. You can grieve the human-caused mass extinction taking place right now. But you must not give up. You must not allow those who have already despoiled so much the final say on our future. We may not have the future we hoped, but that does not mean we will have no future. We will have a different future. And rather than spend time mourning what we’ve lost, we must try to save all we can and adapt to what we can’t. If we’re going to move forward and try to mitigate loss as much as possible, then despair is simply not an option. We need problem solvers. We need creativity. We need historians to remind us of what we’ve lost and what we must not lose again. We may be going into the dark, but we do not need to do it without a light.
Do not let the bastards who allowed this to happen win.
Courage, Willow. We may not be able to solve all the world’s problems in time, but we can give it our best effort. We owe that much to the planet and to ourselves.
For more info, have a look at these articles: