Let’s be real. The future doesn’t look bright for the human species. As the IPCC prepares to release it’s report on the impact of climate change, leaked draft documents reminded us this week of just how much doom is in the air–literally, in the form of CO2–especially given that the IPCC tends to be conservative in its predictions.
Life as we know it is over. In many ways, it has already ended, only we frequently fail to acknowledge it. According to some, it is too late to return the climate to 350 ppm of CO2 or less. It is too late to stop the accelerated changes in weather we face in the coming decades. If the economics hadn’t been stacked against my parent’s generation when they were my age and trying to get the big systemic powers to do things differently, we might have been able to prevent 1, 2, 3 degrees of warming. My potential grandchildren might have had a shot at a comfortable existence. Instead, the glaciers are almost gone, the corporate engineers of our doom still reign supreme, and all is uncertainty.
That doesn’t mean life has to end.
On any given day, I wake up, eat some food, go to work. Sometimes I even drive my car someplace. I don’t spend every waking hour worrying about how or whether I and my family and friends and communities and country and etc are going to survive the next 50 years. I can’t. But when I do think about my future there is a big question mark.
Given what I know about the potential impacts of climate chaos on the world economy, on the US economy, and on the infrastructure and food systems we take for granted right now, these are the narratives that run through my head, often concurrently. I always strive to choose the last one.
Convenient Naiveté — Someone else is going to figure this out, and I’m going to trust them to do that while I go over in this corner and worry about how I’m going to afford fixing my car next week and what’s for dinner tomorrow and whether my boyfriend will want to go with me when The Fault In Our Stars movie comes out, and whether or not I should cut all my hair off.
Fight Fight Fight — Why am I doing what I’m doing right now? I should be tying myself to the White House. I should be handcuffing myself to a construction vehicle. I should be calling congress every single day. I should be out there with my body on the line, because this is the pivotal, moral issue of my generation. Many of my peers have dedicated their lives to this kind of action — youth organizing, protesting, getting arrested, shouting until I’m hoarse, until I’m heard. Why not me?
Cynicism — What’s the point? The system is stacked against us. It’s really too late. We’re all going to die. Having a family is futile and will only bring pain when your kid dies because the future is bleak, or because you died first. A retirement account? Ha. Yeah, right. My retirement account is this bunker up here in the Green Mountains where I’m going to go hide out with my guns and shoot at people who try to take my food away from me. I’ll go be really depressed now.
Fatalism — Yeah, it’s too late. So live as much as I can now while I still have virtually limitless access to resources. Find a way to get rich fast and have a lots of (good, not procreative) sex before dying. Also going to go be really depressed now.
Defiant Hope — It may indeed be too late. But cynicism and despair are the tools of the system. Collapse may come, but because I have the choice, I choose to Hope. I choose to act on that Hope. I will build relationships that I would grieve to lose. I will connect as deeply and wholly as I can with myself and the world. I will start a retirement account, even if it is pointless, just because it IS worth planning for the future. I want my granddaughter (if I have one) to see snow in New England (or wherever she is) every once in a while, and I want men and women and everyone in between to have the opportunity to lead healthy lives as themselves. I want the water in our wells to remain drinkable for as long as possible and our communities to be resilient in the face of the inevitable chaos of weather that we face. Most of all I want to be a part of creating a world that loves itself well enough to roll with the punches, to survive, to heal, and to thrive in whatever new way of being comes next. Because in Love there is Joy, in Joy there is possibility–Hope, and in Hope there is energy to keep moving.
I refuse to be burnt out by throwing myself against a wall, I want to be a part of the movement of water that whittles away at stone until it becomes sand. I refuse to sit down and shut up and pretend that everything is fine and dandy. I refuse to feel guilty for NOT always sounding an alarm, drowning in doom and gloom, fighting visibly. I choose to believe in the capacity of the human species to love, collaborate, and adapt, and that the only thing stopping us is ourselves.
I want us to stop stopping ourselves. That’s why I tell stories.
The stories we tell are the stories we live.
What stories are you telling?
“I will say this: the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?” – Gandalf