Climate change wreaking havoc and climate action wisdom

by | March 22, 2019


Cyclone Idai, Mozambique, aftermath, 15-16 March 2019 (Denis Onyodi: IFRC/DRK/Climate Centre)


I hope you’ve had a great week so far! Just a couple of things today.


Climate change wreaking havoc

As I’m writing this, my thoughts and wishes go out to the millions of people who are suffering in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe after the incredible destruction of Cyclone Idai. As well as the millions of people in the Midwest of the US who are dealing with historic flooding from a “bomb cyclone”. Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and Wisconsin declared states of emergency – farmers especially are getting crushed.

I cannot imagine how much devastation and shock our fellow humans are experiencing.

These are not “natural” disasters. Climate change is making these destructive events far more extreme and likely. There is also a great injustice as those who have done the least to cause the problem often suffer the most.


Wisdom for everyone fighting climate change

I shared a link to this last week. But I want to feature it now because I think it’s that important.

Futurist and veteran in the climate struggle, Alex Steffen, wrote this as a note to young climate strikers before last Friday’s global school strike (which 1.6 million people showed up for by the way – the footage of marches and clever signs are incredible!)

Thousands protested in Portugal, 150,000 in Montreal, and 30,000 in Sydney.

But back to Alex. His holistic framing of where we stand and advice to us at this moment in time is applicable to everyone. The whole thing is 100% worth reading, but I’ve bolded what I found particularly powerful:

Young climate warriors: This Friday, you may be launching the largest coordinated protests of young people and children in history. The future you’re fighting for? That’s what I’ve spent my life working to see. I’d like to share some truths, from an old warrior to younger ones:

1. First, you’re right. You’re right to strike; you’re right to march; you’re right to feel your fear and rage and longing for a better world. You are the victims of a monstrous intergenerational crime, and you are as right as humans can be to demand justice.

2. You are so right that—even though I’m a tough-skinned veteran of three decades of this fight—your truth brings tears to my eyes. You should know that there are millions of older people whose hearts are with you. You should know you are not, in any way, alone.

3. Your truth, though, is changing you. You are becoming different people than you were. I know this, because I was not much older than many of you when I saw the planetary crisis you’re seeing now, and it irrevocably changed my life.

4. It is some shameful stuff for us adults that you have to see these things—that we’ve made so little progress over the course of my whole working lifetime—much less that you have to fight for your own future. But you do see them, and you do have to fight for that future.

5. Having to see and fight, you come to know that so much of the world around you—of the adult world—rests on a foundation of lies, of profitable blindness, of predatory delay. Nowhere in the world do you find your leaders having a genuine debate about stopping this emergency.

6. Many adults want to pretend none of this has any real effect on you—because it eases their sense of shame—but if my own experience is any guide, you’re never too young to look at a planetary catastrophe and feel at times lost and lonesome, disconnected and doomed.

7. If older people were less cowardly, the planetary crisis—what it means, what to do about it, how to work with our feelings about it—would be the topic at every public meeting and over every dinner table. Instead, we offer young people stale platitudes & emotional silence.

8. Of all the many intergenerational injustices, that emotional silence may be the worst because it leaves each of you to struggle with the most profound crisis humanity has ever faced, alone, in your own heart.

9. That’s why tomorrow you will be doing something amazing: You will be breaking the silence by coming together and living your truth, in public, loudly, and with signs and banners and drums and chants. (“Whose future? Our future!” is one I particularly like…)

10. It’s hard to overstate how important breaking the silence on climate is now. Remember, when you’re marching tomorrow, you’ll be fighting not just for your future, but for the future of younger kids (like my own baby boy), and the kids you may one day have—and their kids, too.

11. You’ll be demanding that the world sees the futures of all these generations of kids, sees you and those not yet born as people, who deserve love and respect and protection. You’ll also be saying something very powerful: It’s not too late.

12. It is not too late. We may not be able to stop all the terrible impacts inaction has set in motion, but there’s a huge expanse between the worst catastrophes adults’ continued inaction would trigger and the best futures we can still make. The biggest fights are still ahead.

13. You will meet people who want to tell you that you are already defeated. Regard them as you would a poisonous snake.

14. You will meet others who want you to be “reasonable,” to believe that acting quickly, and boldly, and in ways that help the most people possible, would be an unfair burden on their business or their wealth. When you meet them, you have met your opposition.

15. These days, it’s not the ones denying climate change entirely that you have to watch out for—it’s the ones working to delay action. But when the status quo is building a doomsday machine, every argument for delaying change is an attack on your future.

16. Most of the time, though, you’ll meet people who simply don’t have anything to offer you or teach you. The inattention of most adults to the planetary emergency means that even many of us who are kind and entirely well meaning, just don’t know when we are or what that means.

17. As someone who may have a bit of insight into when we are, maybe a few recommendations might help. First, stay together. Don’t face this struggle alone, and don’t be emotionally silent; find friends and allies and supporters and teachers who get you, and open up to them.

18. Second, stay positive. Yes, this fight is hard, but part of the opposition’s strategy is to make you feel all is lost, we’re all doomed, nothing can be done. Demanding not just action, but a better future, is critical to winning this fight.

19. Third, free your mind. We can’t build what we can’t imagine. Let yourself imagine the most awesome life we could make together, and share your dreams. The poet Blake said the worst chains are “mind-forged manacles”—what we don’t allow ourselves to think. Break them.

20. Fourth, learn what you need to know now. So much of the thinking you’re being taught in school now is outdated. It belongs to a time before everything changed. Seek out new knowledge. Blaze your own trail.

21. Fifth, settle in for the long haul. The reality is that planetary emergency is going to be part of your life for your entire life, no matter where you live or what you do. Accepting that as a purpose to draw power from, and not a life sentence, is key to living in the now.

22. Sixth, take care of yourself. A lot of adults run into real psychological trouble, working on these problems. I did. Do yourself a kindness, and stay human: eat decent food, exercise more, get some sleep, don’t abuse drugs & booze, and if you feel depressed, seek some help.

23. Seventh, laugh and have fun. One way emotional silences is enforced is a scolding voice barking “This isn’t funny!” “Some things are too serious not to laugh about.” Humor is subversive now. Play is subversive. Making doing fun things and being funny part of your activism.

24. Eighth, help older people be better than they’ve been. Invitations are powerful. Invite the older people you know to talk. Help them to see what you see, to join your fight, to be your ally. You never know, they might surprise you.

25. Ninth, and most importantly, get ready. Big changes are coming, and they’re coming fast. You are helping them come faster. Over the next decade, humanity is going to need a lot of young people doing a huge amount of important work.

26. When I was young, and changed forever by really seeing the crisis, I knew that as a writer, no matter what I chose to write, I would from then on always be a writer writing in the time of planetary emergency. That’s just what a writer is, now.

27. So too, for you. If you decide to become an engineer, a doctor, an entrepreneur, a tradesperson, a farmer, a cook or a teacher, you’ll always be an engineer, a doctor, an entrepreneur, a tradesperson, a farmer, a cook or a teacher working in a time of planetary emergency.

28. Learn how to be useful, purposeful and successful as a person working in a time of planetary emergency. I know, it’s a paradox: At the very moment so much of what you’re being taught is out of date, learning has never been more important.

29.  / is critical. @ has begun something amazing. Learning how to become the kind of person this crisis demands is just as important. May your hunger to learn may be just as big a shock to adults as your willingness to march.

I hope you take this to heart (especially the bit about taking care of yourself) and share it with anyone you know who may find it useful!

This post originally featured in the Crowdsourcing Sustainability newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter below!

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