Climate change activists once imagined that they were fighting for future generations, babies that will be born decades from now. Then it became a fight for our grandchildren's future. Today it's a fight for our children and perhaps even for ourselves.
Mary Annaise Heglar, writing in Vox, says what we're fighting for now is each other.
Many people who don’t think about climate change on a daily basis, or who thought it lived on some distant horizon they would never have to face, are now coming to terms with its terrifying reality. I get it. I’ve worked in the environmental field as a policy editor for nearly five years now.
People like me, and others in “the climate-verse” — activists on the ground, experts in the field, professionals at big greens — have all had that moment when we had to face the reality of climate change. For most of us, that moment hurt. I know it did for me.
...I knew I would see bad things accelerate in my lifetime, but I didn’t know it was going to happen before I turned 50. Nor did I realize how many of them I’d actually already seen. After all, I was with my mother in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina and here in New York during Sandy.
...I didn’t know it then, but that first year I spent reading policy papers, I went into mourning. I skipped denial and went right to shock. I floated around on a dark, dark cloud. I frequently and randomly burst into tears, and I’d refuse to admit to myself that I knew exactly why I was crying.
...Then I went into depression. My social life turned into fits and spurts of intense engagement followed by equally intense withdrawal. I was deeply afraid of telling even the people closest to me what I knew and why I was so scared. I couldn’t sleep. The crying fits continued. They didn’t become more predictable.
I’d silently been asking myself: What am I fighting for? What am I trying for? Why am I paying my student loans? Hell, why am I saving for retirement? I was heading into a desperate space.
One day at work, I came across the book that saved me: What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other, a book by environmental journalist Wen Stephenson that chronicles his transformation from reporter to climate activist. The prose was beautiful, and each page oozed with compassion without layering the issue with coats of sugar. It looked climate change squarely in the face.
One of the many, many things that book taught me was that I was not crazy. That my broken heart was normal. I was not the only one feeling it, and the best thing I could do was get out and talk to people who had already stood in front of this same emotional abyss and found the nerve to carry forward.
...Whether we admit it or not, we’re all in the middle of one big, giant mourning process. We’re mourning our futures. We’re mourning the children we’re afraid to have. Our bucket lists. Our travel plans. Some of us are mourning homes already lost to fires or flood, or savings accounts wiped out helping relatives recover from hurricanes. Some of us are mourning our todays, even our yesterdays.
...Denial is part of the traditional mourning process, but we have collectively spent way too long there. It’s time to snap out of it.
Given the sheer enormity of climate change, it’s okay to be depressed, to grieve. But please, don’t stay there too long. Join me in pure, unadulterated, righteous anger.
The dominant narrative around climate change tells us that it’s our fault. We left the lights on too long, didn’t close the refrigerator door, and didn’t recycle our paper. I’m here to tell you that is bullshit. If the light switch was connected to clean energy, who the hell cares if you left it on? The problem is not consumption — it’s the supply. And your scrap paper did not hasten the end of the world.
Don’t give in to that shame. It’s not yours. The oil and gas industry is gaslighting you.
That same IPCC report revealed that a mere 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global climate emissions. These people are locking you and everything you love into a tomb. You have every right to be pissed all the way off. And we have to make them hear about it.
...We can’t pretend this isn’t happening anymore. Especially for us Americans, our general privilege and relative comfort compared to so many in the world can make it easy to turn a blind eye. But we can’t pretend that some unnamed cavalry is coming to save us. We are the adults in this room. We have to save ourselves.
It’s not our fault, but it is very much our problem. It’s dire, but we have to dig in our heels and fight — for each other.