It’s not that we can’t admit the reality of climate change…it’s that we can’t even comprehend.
I've been spending a lot of time lately at my cottage. For the past few months, I've been super busy with contract work, and it’s been hard to find a time to settle down. Now that I have some free time, I've escaped to the country. My thoughts have started to slow and the days are getting longer.
A colleague recently posted this article about how climate models are using increasingly unrealistic assumptions that we will get our act together to prevent 2C degree warming. The article concludes that no one wants to admit the scientific reality that it’s basically impossible that we will actually avoid catastrophic changes. It’s a tough read, and not just because it uses a bunch of acronyms and data.
When I read articles about climate change, sometimes I feel a jolt. I see a disconnect between the normalcy of our daily lives and the urgency of acting, even with my friends in the scientific/activism community. Even for people who are such believers in science, who trust the “facts” and data, it seems almost impossible for us to believe that life will be drastically different in the future. We are starving for optimism. When I tell my peers about my thoughts on inevitable climate damages and injustices, the response is often “well, we don’t know for sure that it will be that bad”, “there’s still time” and “don’t be an alarmist”. I settle into a feeling of comfort that maybe I am being too pessimistic. Maybe it will all be okay somehow. Maybe we will figure it out. It’s nicer to think that way.
Yesterday, a very close friend’s grandfather died peacefully. After hearing the news, I walked through the woods before sunset, listening to the haunting calls of hermit thrushes and searching for wild leek. The shadows were deepening during my walk, and my feet sank into the soft ground. My friend called to talk about her loss. I sat on a mossy rock and we had the type of conversation you have when you realize again how fragile it all is. Looking around while we chatted, I noticed everything is changing so quickly and slowly. The jack in the pulpits are out, and all of the wild strawberries are in bloom within just a few days.
When I think about climate change, it’s easy to see it as headlines in a place far away. It’s getting more palpable, for sure, like Quebec’s record cold winter and my extra high heating bills. But it’s still so slow, so piecemeal and so far away. Something bad is happening in the arctic. Something bad is happening with climate refugees. Something bad is happening on the other coast. There will be another international conference, we will be skeptically hopeful, the activists will rally, and we will sigh and try again for next year.
A big part of the climate justice movement is about building a better community. By learning how to make decisions more collectively, by taking the time to build relationships, to eat meals together, to grow our own food, to acknowledge our histories, to become more mindful, to honor the places we live in.
But here, with the blue jays calling outside, with the bees bringing back their last pollen of the day, with the warm breeze…it’s hard to actually feel that the world is slowly dying.
Sometimes I can’t wrap my head around the distance between present moments drenched in beauty and future projections aching with grief.
How do other people deal with this dissonance?
5/17/2015 11:27:13 am
5/18/2015 01:03:55 am
Hi Anna, thanks so much for your response!
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I'm an eco-conscious girl from Montreal, Quebec. I'm currently an adjunct science professor at Champlain College of Vermont (Montreal Campus). I'm interested in any opportunities to expand my experience with grassroots activism, climate change legislation, or environmental education.