How to live with kids about climate change

A comic about talking, but also not talking

My kids know my day job is in climate. I mean, I wear a giant button that says Talk Climate to Me and I mutter about wetlands under my breath while buttering their toast.

At the same time, I try not to talk about the climate crisis too much. I don’t want it to pervade their every moment, their already restricted childhoods.

But I know they’re smart enough to figure things out.

And their emotional intelligence is so keen.

Which is why I try to talk less about my emotions and more about what we’re doing.

I try to explain what’s happening in easy-to-understand language and contextualize how the world needs to change.

I answer straightforwardly when they ask me the tough questions but I try to highlight the pathways to a positive outcome, which are real.

I want them to be able to fight the doomer nihilism that they’ll soon encounter. This crisis is both unfathomably challenging and eminently mitigable.

I learn a ton from them, too. I’m constantly surprised by their clarity when it comes to injustice. We’ve learned about corporate union-busting and the overreach and barbarity of ICE from watching Superstore. I’m so jaded it didn’t shock me. But my kids brought their fresh eye game.

I want them to have enough understanding to feel strong and take action where they can, but I don’t want to be a climate stage mom, overwhelming them with my own goals and actions. I want them to be kids, unencumbered by weight that should not be theirs to shoulder.

And I want them to love this one precious earth, to have compassion and empathy for those suffering all over the world, so they’re motivated to protect every bit of it that they can.

It’s tough, there’s hope, let’s do this.

Your kids probably already know more than you think. It’s important to find out where they’re at and educate accordingly. Make sure to gauge for overwhelm. Writes Emma Pattee in Wired:

“Starting around 8 is when the larger perspective of climate change and its implications are beginning to be understood, and the feelings begin to arise,” [therapist Leslie Davenport] says. So before you start talking, ask what your kids already know.

This is also a time to start naming feelings and practicing emotional resilience. Davenport points out that while it’s normal to feel big emotions when you learn about the world being in crisis, kids are not equipped to process those feelings. “They are left in a sense of overwhelm, which can upend just about every aspect of life,” she explains. Davenport’s book suggests "toggling," or learning to go back and forth between distressing climate news and tools for self-regulating emotional reactions. “These are essential life skills required to successfully navigate a world with clear-minded and empathic action, especially as challenges escalate due to climate change.”

This is also an age group where kids get really interested in making a difference and taking action, so finding ways to work with your child on climate action can be empowering and connecting for both of you. [Author Mary DeMocker] points out that there is a big range of ways kids can make a difference. The more introverted ones, for example, may not be as comfortable in a political arena but might want to contribute their gifts in another way, through art, writing, or being part of a kid-led effort like the 1 trillion trees campaign.

How to talk with kids about climate change (Yale Climate Connections)

How to talk honestly to kids about climate change — and still give them hope (TED, by the wonderful Katharine Hayhoe)

How to talk to kids about climate change (NPR)

Here’s how to talk with your kids about climate anxiety (Grist)

This week:

Do you talk about climate with your kids or your friends’ kids? What do you say? LMK!

Last week:

Angry words. Lovely Nancy sent me these little nuggets of brilliance.

Two things. 
One is the old bumper sticker:  if you aren't angry, then you aren't paying attention.   It doesn't mean you should be angry all the time but people who aren't angry? Well, you have to wonder.

This painting is called:  'Courage, Anxiety and Despair: Watching the Battle'  by James Sant (1820-1916)

People dancing:

Crocs, twins, vibes, kid:

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you are cozy, happy, healthy, and able to find the time to move your body. As always, let me know how to make MVP better.
Have a lovely weekend,
Sarah

Rage against the frying of the night!

Or, five stabs at anger

BC/PNW readers: I hope you are doing okay. My thoughts are with you at this apocalyptically frightening time. If there’s anything I can do, please let me know!


Writes Lisa: As someone who has been working on climate and environmental justice issues for decades, I have climate anger. And that anger fuels my activism. It could be my age. I lived through the Reagan presidency in the US, where he kept talking about Armageddon and had access to nuclear bombs. I’d appreciate to hear about climate anger.

Thank you for the prompt, Lisa. I have never gone deep on anger, for fear of self-combustion and the subsequent carbon emissions said combustion would produce, but IT IS TIME!!!!!

1 - My anger got lost in the supply chain

I think of Anger, Fear, and Despair as the three witches of climate gloom, and since the last one is the wickedest of them all for me, I focus on her. It’s long been erroneously believed that using fear to motivate climate action induces backfire effects so in the past I’ve tended to shy away from it. Anger, too, I mostly ignored, not because I’d deeply researched its efficacy, but more because it’s not one of my big emotions. I mean, I feel it, to be sure, but I’m not a ‘throw large, messy objects at the wall’ type (the thought of all the waste produced by rage rooms fills me with so much rage that it would be counterproductive!), and so the fury comes on quickly and then transmutes almost instantly into impotent sadness. Not so great.

But ANGER is super important, and it’s rising in tandem with PPM of C02, so let’s unpack!

2 - Anger in the body is fine, damnit!!!!

There’s this idea that we have to excise the anger. Shake it off, and then write a song about it to crush our ex into oblivion. The anger ends where the action begins. But what if there is no two-parter? What if the climate anger needs to sit in the body forever, to honour its feelings and animate its actions?

I’ve always viewed anger as a transitory rage stop on the highway to positivity and enlightenment. But why? Can we not learn to accept it and share the house with it? (Don’t leave the toilet seat up, anger, or I will cut you!) What’s wrong with wanting to scream at the idiocies of nature being destroyed, inequality exacerbated, and climate ravaged? Why is anger deemed unhealthy? It should not be! Please throw that watermelon at the wall. (But then clean it up, and blend it into a daiquiri, or something, right? Like I said, waste.)

Also, that anger can be helpful. Let it stay and play. Studies are popping up that demonstrate that eco-anger can be extremely powerful:

Our findings highlight that frustration and anger about the climate crisis are adaptive responses. Experiences of injustice or unfairness tend to provoke group-based anger, motivating collective (and not individual) action. If we think about climate change as an injustice (e.g., generationally, socially, and geographically), the equally strong eco-anger–personal behaviour association suggests that, in the climate change context, the eco-angry recognise the importance of addressing their own daily behaviours as part of the collective goal of mitigating climate change.

I’ve spent a lifetime trying to run out my anger (hello, Covid punching bag), so the idea that I should actually live with it and use it as a force for change is...new.

3 - 10,000 hours of anger in practice

I’ve long fretted that anger as a climate woman gets you nowhere. The brilliant Amy Westervelt explores this so beautifully in The Case for Climate Rage, a piece I’ve read over and over again. Angry women get tone-policed out of the conversation, diminished, patronized.

Angry responses to climate injustice are deemed emotionally irrational, a belief that goes all the way back to the Stoics. I Kant even! Sorry, not sorry. This policing of emotion is in evidence everywhere, and is both gendered and ageist, as Quan Nguyen writes in this excellent piece:

So, not only are children, who are angry and scared about climate change, rational, they might be more so than the adults criticising them. Emotions play a bigger part in life beyond rationality – they mark values and indicate what people care about. Fear of the future and anger at inaction are ways young people can express their values. Their emotions are, in the words of feminist writer Audra Lorde, an invitation to the rest of society to speak.

It’s a privilege to get to choose how to communicate climate change - to mute emotion and anger where the people most affected by the climate crisis right now have no such luxury. And to narrow the communications to some sort of measured key is a defacto way of excluding voices (Indigenous, low-income, youth, women) from the conversation. Only calm men in starched white shirts with not too much to lose are allowed to frame this pinkie-in-the-air discourse.

Plus, this idea that anger doesn’t work as a climate communications tool may be just that. As climate change increases rapidly, our sentiments, ideas, and tactics are changing, too, and I fear the climate comms consensus may be a wildfire behind. Why not try to get ahead of it and leverage the anger? Polls show our willingness to have our leaders do more is at an all-time high. Seeing our governments not moving fast enough induces frustration. And what is frustration but anger with a few more syllables?

4 - Anger + heart

I love this post from the inspiring climate activist Mikaela Loach:

To fight for the long run, you need to find both what makes your heart break and what makes it swell out of your chest. We need to be angry, outraged and heartbroken about the harm and the violence that is being caused. But, we also need to find that thing that mends your heart. The hope for something better that excites you so much that your heart swells out of your chest. It’s when we have both of these parts that we get to a place where there is no choice but to act in a way which will form new worlds. We can’t help ourselves, the prospect of creating something better is what we can’t ignore. (Read the whole thing!)

Keeping the anger inside us is not about using it as some sort of pilot light (ugh, ‘natural’ gas) to fire us up, but instead about accepting all our parts. In the course of a climate moment, I can feel angry, enraged, sad, gassy, elated (IYKYK and I’m sorry), or gobsmacked all at once. Climate anger without love is like a peanut butter cup with no chocolate. The anger, along with the love for all we can save, is what is needed. 

5 - Anger + heart + action

I know that when I am angry, I am driven to act. I know that when I act, I feel better.

—Emily Atkin in this great Heated post!

In our climate course we asked women to share some of their climate self care strategies. One woman mentioned that she writes to our premier when she feels the climate rage. I felt seen. I, too, write letters and call when the anger over the latest climate idiocy (highways over greenbelts) threatens to boil away all my liquid. But it’s an underpinning love that drives this action, I now realize. I think we should channel this into a climate kickboxing course and strategy session. Punch up, take things down, and love the anger that tells us what matters.

THIS WEEK

I’d love your thoughts on anger, please! How does or doesn’t anger inspire your climate action?

FURTHER PANGS OF ANGER

Get angry AND get active! CBC’s What on Earth.

The Anger Interviews in The Guardian.

This old-ish Vox piece on young people effectively using anger to build the Sunrise Movement.

Good tips on how to use anger effectively in Irish Times.

Stuff

Check out the lovely Kate Holly’s excellent newsletter and podcast about overcoming the scarcity mindset. Here’s the two of us chatting for one of her episodes.

Climate Art Web is a Northern Turtle Island (Canada) initiative to gather climate artists in Spring 2022. They’re looking for curators and artists.

Jenn Foxx sends art to elected officials (amazing!) - and has a beautifully named website that I defy you to not say out loud a few dozen times over: mushrump

And speaking of art:

The climate crisis is a crisis of many things: science, economics, politics, immigration. As the author Amitav Ghosh said, “the climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, and thus of the imagination.” To be clear, that doesn’t mean innovation or invention—we’ve got loads of ideas for solar panels and microgrids. While we have all of these pieces, we don’t have a picture of how they come together to build a new world. For too long, the climate fight has been limited to scientists and policy experts. While we need those skills, we also need so much more. When I survey the field, it’s clear that what we desperately need is more artists.

Read the whole piece by the wonderful Mary Annaïse Heglar in Yes!: Building a Better Climate Future Starts with Imagination. So good!

People dancing

Stromae. Santé!! I love how everyone moves in this music video.

Thanks for reading! Please let me know how I can make this newsletter better!
If you enjoy it, please share and subscribe.
Have a wonderful, joyful, safe, restful, cozy weekend!
Sarah

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Women + art + climate + guinea pigs

+ dancing

Last weekend I went to a gallery for what must have been the first time in almost two years. Thank you Covid for turning me into a cultural boor. I can’t truly blame Covid, I list towards boordom. But I’d been wanting to see Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Movement, and it did not disappoint. It’s an almost revisionist history: what would the world be like if we knew not just the Group of Seven, Canada’s most famed cabal of men with paintbrushes in the woods, but the settler, immigrant, and Indigenous women who were working at the same time?  Rhetorical question. It would be richer. The show is reviewed excellently by Joe Brean here, with so many bits of compelling detail: 

Even in Ontario’s northland, they saw the place differently from the men, as in Cobalt, a 1931 painting of the silver mining boom town by Yvonne McKague Housser. What she noticed was not untouched wilderness, but intense resource extraction and the people who lived that life. Her sketch for the painting of ramshackle houses was initially rendered in muted tones and only brightened, on the advice of a male colleague at the National Gallery, into the “strangely Disneyfied” final version, as Milroy describes it, which today is her best known work, but “strays from her original perception of the place.”

Silver Mine Study, Cobalt by Yvonne McKague Housser, 1931


Women working contemporaneously to the Group of Seven created art that was less about landscape and more about social issues - extractivism, colonialism, the plight of people in cities. Indigenous women artists created unbearably beautiful pieces of great utility. And the settler women artists who painted them recorded their names, engaged with them, and built relationships, unlike many of their male counterparts. 

The Bather by Prudence Heward, 1930.

Coiled basket by Sewiṉchelwet (Sophie Frank), c. early 1900s

Here’s a clumsy analogy that you saw coming from 30,000 electric slides away: It’s the same thing all over again with climate (with everything, really). I wrote as much in an op-ed for CBC last week. Having women (+ diversity) at the climate table isn’t just the right thing to do (because, you know, equity), it also makes for much better climate decision-making, policy, and action. It’ll also save the planet. (This How to Save a Planet/Degrees Pod copro is ESSENTIAL LISTENING on the subject!)

The Women + Climate TL;DR - Canadian women believe it’s an emergency at much higher rates than men, Women worry more, women leaders have lower carbon emissions, women experience more adverse climate effects than men, women are more attuned to climate risk, and women take more action. Ergo: Give the climate file to the ladies.

Of course, we need everyone at the table, but the underrepresentation of women, coupled with their overrepresentation as the people most likely to act does not a great Venn diagram make. We won’t win without everyone, and everyone means women, Indigenous women, women of colour, women in places where the water is already rising, and the heat is already palpable. 

I had a brief flash of pessimism last week, when I felt some pushback to this idea that we need to centre women. In this economy? This is still a thing? But a thing it still is. And yet there is so much happening, from the new climate action being led by women, to this neat climate gender tracker, to the awakening of women everywhere, realizing their power, beating their chests, and screaming with a primal urgency that we will not let this happen while we are alive to breathe and dance and abstain from purchasing Live Laugh Love throw pillows.

I loved watching the first cohort of our women-centred Talk Climate to Me experience unfold. The comments, the chats, the expressions of solidarity, the awakening consciousness, the flashes of profound realization, the desire to do, to change, to help, and to learn. It was so neat to be in a (digital) room with so many women wanting to take action. (Please join the fun! Lunchtime sessions start next week!)

While only a few of the Group of Seven’s female contemporaries ever achieved anything close to commercial success, I feel so lucky that I know them now. (If you’re anywhere near Toronto, go see this show!) The problem with climate is that we can’t wait 100 years to realize the conversation is devoid of women. We need them yesterday!

If I’m honest, everyone’s fave Beyoncé lady anthem always fills me with a bit melancholy even as it hits, because it feels so far from reality. If only girls did run the world! Like Uninvited, it’s a revisionist history. But one that we need to will into being, for the sake of the planet.

THIS WEEK: 

The role of women in climate? Let me know your thoughts.

LAST WEEK:

Sooo many good book recommendations. My to-read pile is threatening to bury me. I’ll share a few each week. 

Writes Patrick: 

Your writing reminded me of the person who upended my thinking about nature, Masanobu Fukuoka. I seem to think you've read him? If not, "The One Straw Revolution" is one of my most well-worn nature texts. Stellar. Short. Mind-blowing thoughts from a plant-pathologist-turned-farmer in 1970s Japan. His work inspired our multiple-year filmmaking project on natural farming.

Writes Kat:

The Arbornaut - it was in a review together with Simard’s book. And have you seen/read Islands of Abandonment? I mentioned it in the last Rewilding newsletter. It’s very good.

Angelina:

Am now enjoying Michael Pollan's This is your Mind on Plants.

Rebecca:

Bewilderment by Richard Powers (also discussed in the interview I linked to last week.

STUFF!

Yeah. We’re essentially just playing with, how bad is it going to be? There usually comes a point in almost every interaction I have with folks that are asking questions about, what do you think is going to happen? What if we really are screwed essentially? The climate science is quite clear on that and that’s really hard. There’s climate anxiety that exists now and there’s climate depression and different things that are making their way through the population because we know. We know what’s happening. The way I’ve been taught and the way I understand things we have been wiped out before, when we were out of balance with the earth, we’re out of balance with nature, with animals. So to me that concept really isn’t like one that’s like the doom and gloom kind of thing. But why don’t we still want to fight with every last bit of our agency and energy and beauty to make the best world we possibly could, in that time?

Why don’t we want to build a world that has racial justice, social justice, gender justice, that is more reflective of the wealth that we’re part of and not to be the most beautiful human beings we possibly can be? The status quo, I think, is so much more than just the status quo of extracts of economy, it’s also, what are we going to do? Why fight? You hear that question, why fight if everything’s lost? Well, because we’re still in this pattern of growth. And so in this cycle of being that we get a little bit further along wouldn’t we want to give that and be part of that?

GUINEA GIVEAWAY:

Maple (with the help of Teddy) picked the winner of Adam’s book. Congrats, Gisela! I’ll be in touch to get your mailing address.

PEOPLE DANCING:

Bey, of course!

Thanks so much for reading. Make sure to drag this email into your primary folder if it tends to go to sludge. If you like this newsletter, please subscribe or share. And as always, please let me know how to make it better.

Share Minimum Viable Planet

Have a lovely, cozy, joyful, restful weekend,
Sarah

Coach Beard Talks to the Trees

On determined focus versus wide-eyed wonder

I wake up in the middle of the night to read Suzanne Simard. So, it seems, does Coach Beard, the sleeper fave character on the charming and messy TV show, Ted Lasso. From the CBC :

The character of Coach Nate, played by Nick Mohammed, is complaining he never gets credit for his tactical game planning. That's when the philosophical and wacky Coach Beard, played by Brendan Hunt, replies:

"You know, we used to believe that trees competed with each other for light. Suzanne Simard's field work challenged that perception, and we now realize that the forest is a socialist community. Trees work in harmony to share the sunlight."

I loved this under-the-breath moment because A) pop culture rarely talks climate, as I have whined about aplenty, and B) Coach Beard’s reading references speak to the growing popularity of books about the animacy of nature. In a different episode Coach Beard reads another favourite of this emerging canon, Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake.

I’m new to it all. I tend to prefer policy papers, behavioural science tracts, books about electrification and climate communication, quality doorstop material. For longer than I’d like to admit, I resisted this ‘nature has feelings’ lit. It seemed kinda, I dunno, floofy. And also, scary. I feel bad enough about what we’ve destroyed of this world without worrying about whether mushrooms have feelings. But Braiding Sweetgrass (Here’s Patch Adams reading + reviewing Robin Wall Kimmerer’s chapter on Learning the Grammar of Animacy - watch it for his glasses alone.) was my gateway moss, and now I can’t put these books down.

I loved this Ezra Klein interview with The Overstory author Richard Powers because they talk about bridging this human/nature divide (humans are nature, I know, which they also discuss in the interview), and this little snippet encapsulates it perfectly: 

Richard: I think if I were to give this an oversimplification, I was concerned as a younger writer, in my 20s and 30s and 40s, with the human sciences that amplify our ability to control and master and manipulate our situation here and to understand ourselves. And in my 50s and 60s, I’ve become interested in the humbling sciences, I guess I would say, that point our attention away from ourselves and onto other living things. 

Ezra: I love that idea of the humbling sciences. I’m going to steal that from here on out.

Richard: Yeah. And you know, amazement and wonder are very close to humility in my own emotional wheel. The more astonishing the world around us becomes, the more we have to share the limelight with these other things that are just mind boggling.

Yes! It makes me think of Mary Oliver: 

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

I know that I’ve been prioritizing the wondrous, if manipulative, power of humanity over the astonishing, edifying powers of the natural world. Humans are indeed part of the natural world, so to prioritize their knowledge to the exclusion of the rest of the world is just…narrow, and a bit sad.



But why was it so hard for me to come around to the humbling sciences? It couldn’t just be the aforementioned fears about mushroom consciousness. I think part of it was the deep-seated belief in the primacy of human knowledge—that the more I read of behavioural science, the more I can solve for human irrationality when it comes to the climate crisis, and life in general. It’s an impatient means of gathering information towards defeating a problem with a very ticking time clock. It’s hard to balance the obvious fact that we need to act now, despite the fact that we have only a tiny understanding of this world we have to save. And to be clear, coming round to the sentience of nature is not just about cheerleading for natural solutions. It’s more like listening to what nature has to offer to the conversation about natural solutions. Less Giving Tree, more Sharing Tree.


Besides, an embrace of one way of seeing doesn’t mean you’ve forsaken another. Learning about how trees talk to each other doesn’t mean you don’t care about how humans talk to each other. I say it far too much, but this paragraph really warrants a ‘duh,’ doesn’t it?

At some point on his Odyssean journey, Coach Beard, or the dazzling writers who put pen to that episode (one of whom is Brett Goldstein…Roy Kent reads Finding the Mother Tree? Now that’s an audiobook I’d pay good money for), seems to have gotten all this into his pleasantly mysterious noggin. Over the arc of two seasons Coach Beard’s reading goes from narrowly literal to natural literature as well, from Coaching Soccer for Dummies to these two very profound books, no disrespect to the Dummies series of course. Change is possible. Football is life. And trees talk. Who knew?

What else might Beard read, I wonder? Here are my guesses:

This week:

What are your favourite The Forest is Talking books? Let me know!

Last week:

Bonnie let me know that the OPP video was...a bit much! It was a helpful reminder that I don’t think twice about a lot of the less than great messaging in all the cultural artifacts of my youth - which usually came with a heavy dose of misogyny, materialism, or just plain gross priorities. There was no need to share the video when the tagline would have sufficed! 

Last last week:

I’ll continue to share the meditations on climate sleeplessness. Here’s this beauty from Nathan:

In response to your invitation: Yes, climate keeps me up at night. Less than it used to, when the weight of it all was still sinking in. Now it's more or less a feature of my days and sometimes nights. Your way of reframing it as poubelle and answering it with some good reading is helpful. There seems to be no shortage of amazing books, directly climate-related and not, right now and I rarely get to them during the day -- partly because I am, irrationally, worried that they will keep me up thinking. Selecting a few that are most inspiring and beautiful for poubelle reading seems a sensible way to both a) attend to the topic keeping me up and b) channel the energy in a useful direction. Which seem to me to be the two (oversimplified) steps to living with climate anxiety. 

Other stuff:

It’s a total communications how-to for impact entrepreneurs and societal changemakers. I’ve met so many people who have had great ideas to change the world but simply didn’t know how to get the world to listen. So when my toddler’s eyes last year asked ‘what are you doing to help my future?’, I decided to write this book (Your mantra of grieve, breathe, seize definitely applied here…). It’s actually all the work I have been doing for the past decade or so packaged up into a simple guidebook.


I love this. If you could use some tools to better communicate your climate ideas, email me! I’ll write all the names down and one of our guinea pig’s will choose a winner next week. In the meantime, check out Adam’s free tools here (sign up on the main page). Or read one of his posts to get a sense of what he’s all about. I like this one on why all changemakers need to view themselves as communicators

People dancing

Who else? Coach Beard from the most perfect Scorcese-homage of an episode. (Earworm warning: you won’t be able to get this song out of your head ever ever ever again):

Thanks so much for reading. Make sure to drag this email into your primary folder if it tends to go to sludge. If you like this newsletter, please subscribe or share. And as always, please let me know how to make it better.

Share Minimum Viable Planet

Have a lovely, cozy, joyful weekend,
Sarah

You down with OPP?

And other acronyms of the heart

My delightful friend Oonagh recorded a little video for our climate education experience that explains how I felt about the climate crisis, and all the other wicked problems of the world, for most of my life. In it, she asks the $64,001 question that allows us to make the climate crisis OPP (other people’s problems): If it was really bad, wouldn’t THEY be doing something about it?

If you grew up in a place where your government, however crappy, could nonetheless be counted on to keep the lights on, this was a privileged but practical response — other people are taking care of this. I can keep making my mumblecore movies, and drawing clumsy comics, and living in my own little bubble of self-interest because if the world was heading towards global catastrophe surely people with the power and skill sets to reverse course would be on it, and would tell the likes of me what and how to change. Right?

It was only in 2015, when I went back to school to study environmental policy, that I began to realize how much I’d casually passed off as OPP due to another acronym: DSP, or the dominant social paradigm. I can’t find the research paper that actually changed my life (yes, I am really fun at parties), but this one seems to get to the same gist:

The model suggests that as one's belief in the DSP increases, their expressed concern for the environment decreases. Further, as their concern for the environment increases, their perception of necessary changes and willingness to change to achieve environmental balance will also increase. 

In other words, your confidence in the technological, political, and economic dimensions of the dominant social paradigm is inversely correlated with your concern for the environment. Duh. High degree of confidence and acceptance of status quo = someone else will figure out this climate sitch = I can keep working on my interpretative dance cycle. Hey hey pas de bourée!

I know this revelation is extremely ARE YOU KIDDING ME to anyone who didn’t grow up with supreme confidence in the system, who suffered from poverty, violence, and injustice, who knew things were unequal, unfair, corrupt, racist, or just plain stupido. What I didn’t fully appreciate is that I mistook my practiced vibe of gentle societal critique, and light feelings of fish out of water otheryness (A Canadian Jew in Florida!), as not being part of the dominant social paradigm. In other words, I thought things were a little effed but generally fine, which is a perfect place to situate yourself if you want to make fun of the world’s dumdums without doing much of anything meaningful to counter them.

The other day my mom mentioned that there are many around her who just don’t think it’s that bad. And I realized it’s because they simply have bad cases of DSP. Life has always been fine for them. Things have always worked out. How is climate any different than any of the previous global ills and chills? It doesn’t seem that much worse. Clearly, climate is some other person’s problem. 

So how do we counter this? Merely telling people they are privileged has a tendency to backfire (hello, all lives matter!) and make them double-down on their confirmation bias. After reading that fateful paper I remember telling my husband he wasn’t too worked up about climate because he was so much a part of the dominant social paradigm. This was a very eggheady way of getting him to think I was a total jerk, which really keeps a marriage fresh. Better, I think, to share others’ moments of awakening — of coming to the realization that we are the THEY. And that they won’t change without more than a wee bit of pressure from WE. I feel some sort of bargain basement Abbott and Costello coming on, so I’ll stop now.

THIS WEEK

When or how did you realize there was no third act deus ex machina? That the only people that can save us are...us! Tell me!

LAST WEEK

So many sweet sleepers (and awakers). Elsa made me fret that my dorveille habits were here to stay, but in a good way. I’ve read her beautiful letter a dozen times:

I have been waking up at 3:10 am since my first baby got hungry  and trained me to use that “dorveille” …40 years ago… now I am 70.

From 2005 for about 13 years, it was a stormy wake up full of fury and worry.

At that time, I began studying with an informal community group  called “carbon masters.” It didn’t take long to realize we were not going to be able to master this one like we had composting and recycling. The vast problems of excess carbon had already just about tipped the balance, yet very few people had any words for what was going on. 

As I said, I could not settle in the night once I understood the scope of damage we were doing at exponential rates with new feedback loops being realized at every turn. I felt the power of the dark and the goings on of the world felt heavy.

I already live the life of a minimalist. Moments of it may inspire those around me to join in. Grow their own food. Put solar panels on instead of flying internationally for vacations and fun. Give up all your fossil-fueled hobbies. Stop buying stuff. But we aren’t affecting the tipping point.

So now what do I do at 3:10 am? I imagine how cleverly and intuitively young humans will adapt. It is abstract thinking for I am neither young nor wide open for adaptation. I try not to think of what my grandchildren will miss but what they will know intimately. It is all imagination and difficult, tiring work but hopeful, and I am usually back asleep by 4.

I care very much about the crisis in front of us. 

Conversations with refinery worker “friends” seldom go well, but I continue to try. Conversations with strangers watching the mile-long coal train go a little better. Oh yeah, coal. We knew that sucked for the planet since the 1950s so yeah that conversation goes better.

But our inability to legislate massive change is the crevasse we are all in and it is very difficult to climb out.

My heart goes out to you, young inspired, clever mom.  I hope you can feel ease amidst your awareness and give your children every opportunity to learn to think critically, freely and use their incredible imaginations for they will lead the way.  As much of a cliche as that “leading the way” may be… 

STUFF

Some positive news: The Cheap and Easy Climate Fix That Can Cool the Planet Fast, or, Sarah is still obsessed with methane. Good piece in Bloomberg.

I’m working on a bigger piece on the gas stove PR campaign, but I ripped mine out in a fit of anger when I learned about this last year. Samantha Bee also covers it in a video: Why Your Gas Stove is Killing You.

Online talk: Women in Climate Policy. I’ve been organizing this talk as an offshoot of Talk Climate to Me. It’s about the importance of having women at the table in climate policy decision-making, and we have a dream team of panelists. PLEASE COME!  (All our experts are in Canada, but it is relevant wherever you are). Register here.

PEOPLE DANCING

Thanks to Carolyn for this amazing submission! She writes, “Please enjoy these Métis brothers spontaneously jigging at a powwow in Winnipeg (they're members, with their sister, of the Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers).”

Thanks so much for reading. If this email goes to your junk mail, please drag it to the safety of your primary inbox. If you like it, share and subscribe. If you have thoughts on how to make it better, please let me know.

Have a lovely, cozy weekend,
Sarah

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