Purple, green, and lime hues of foliage line the cold cement sidewalk and fill yard after yard in my ever growing neighborhood. As I walk by each house and cross the road I reach a trailhead. Cement turns to crunching gravel, and gravel slowly turns to a matt of dandelions and grass that rises up to my knees. The crisp sweet smell of new growth hits my mind like a wall of memories as I reach my destination: a storm water pond. One of many scattered throughout this developed wetland I call home.
For this blogpost I am asked to take a walk and contemplate the pain and weight of the current climate crisis. Glancing down at the book I carry, Active Hope by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone, I read the following open ended sentences:
“When I imagine the world we will leave our children, it looks like…
One of my worst fears about the future is…
Ways I avoid these feelings include…”
While my initial reaction was to simply end the first sentence with “a disaster” or “chaos”, I pushed myself to elaborate and really picture some sort of scenario in my mind:
Pictures and images of conflict slowly arose, but underlying it all was something more positive; the world was taking serious actions pertaining to the way our global capitalist society functions. Their purpose was to both reverse and prevent more damage to our environment. Since any large change in economic policy has far reaching affects that are largely unpredictable, these serious actions were not agreed on by all communities or individuals, yet there was an overall consensus among the population that something must be done. I imagined that such measures were finally being taken because the climate and environmental conditions had taken a sharp turn for the worst. The “disaster and chaos” stemmed from this sudden shift in natural conditions, but also from a rapid shift of the global political and economic systems.
Though I thought my vision of the future would be darker, I realized I hold an intrinsic belief that if the reality of climate change does become unignorable in every day life, drastic change will take place for the better.
The feelings about this that I carry around with me are varied. I do have fear, worry, and doubt when thinking about the many uncertainties of the future and how people around the globe will respond. A common question becomes “will we do enough, fast enough to prevent major disasters?” There are also emotions of hopelessness, sadness, and urgency for the existence of such a pressing issue. On the other hand, I feel a unity amongst all of society, and the plants and animals we live with, tied to a responsibility to be more active and engaged. Unfortunately, my engagement is dulled by avoidance. I don’t go out of my way to allow myself time to delve into these thoughts and emotions as often as I should.
The climate crisis is an enormous challenge that no one person could face alone. However, the first step in tackling any challenge is acknowledging its existence. This is why it is really important to take the time to process and revisit all these painful emotions and hard-to-face images of suffering. Without this step, we cannot advance to realistically solve such a challenge since, in our minds, none would exist.
As I sit on a storm drain, facing the pond, I allow myself to mourn for the loss of what could have been a more peaceful coexistence between humans and nature. Through doing so, I find I am more willing to face the environmental issues plaguing us all.
The trills of red wing black birds cut through the air, tree frogs croak out a chorus, a neighbor dribbles a basketball, and the sound of distant traffic is nearly unnoticeable.