It’s hard to avoid hearing about floods, droughts, heat waves, fires and rising sea levels and not feeling worried. If you’re concerned about climate change, you’re not alone. A recent survey of young people in 10 countries found that more than half said they felt sad, anxious, angry, helpless, helpless and guilty about global warming (The Lancet, bit.ly/3hrudWQ).
Since climate change is real and our world is in trouble, I wondered what could I do?
A few years ago I made some changes in my personal life like recycling, using less plastic, eating less meat, and installing a heat pump and insulation. But I didn’t do much else; I was worried but quite passive and inactive.
One day I asked my granddaughter, who was about 14, what she thought about global warming. “Oh, we learn it in school,” she said. “We know it’s happening, but we don’t talk about it. I don’t want to think about it, because I don’t think anything will change.
Talk about a wake-up call. I decided I owed it to my four grandchildren to work more effectively on global warming so they could have more hope for their future.
I learned that making changes in our personal lives is important, but it’s not enough. We will only reduce carbon emissions to livable levels by making major changes to the way we transport goods, grow food, power cars, and construct and heat buildings. This requires coordinated action on a large scale.
So I asked, “What can all of us do?”
I discovered the idea of “active hope”: “Active hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it’s something we do rather than to have …it involves three key steps: first, we take a clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the directions in which we would like things to move or the values we would like to see expressed; and third, we take action to move ourselves or our situation in that direction. …Rather than weighing our odds and only proceeding when we have hope, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide. (“Active Hope: How to Deal With the Mess We Find Ourselves Without Going Crazy,” by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone).
It helped me go from having good intentions to getting down to business. After some research, I found the Portland chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby (citizensclimatelobby.org). I like the CCA because it promotes respectful and civil discussion and is non-partisan, friendly and welcoming. CCL focuses on big solutions. Right now, we’re advocating for carbon cashback: putting a price on carbon emissions and returning the money to people through direct payments.
There are many organizations that focus on climate change. Some are local, others national or international; some focus on land preservation and conservation, others on advocacy and legislation. There are good choices for progressives, conservatives, introverts, and extroverts. You may already belong to a religious denomination, school or club that works on climate change.
Working with others has many benefits. It helps us move from feeling helpless, anxious, angry or depressed to feeling empowered. With others who share our concerns and commitment, we can build community, support each other when we need it, and amplify our impact. Two sayings apply here: “You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time” and “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
The most important step is the first.
Susan Payne is a resident of Cape Elizabeth and a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby.
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