Discover more from Minimum Viable Planet
How to take a vacation in a climate crisis
Ceci n'est pas une post about air travel
I’m trying not to think about climate too much for the week as I’m on vacation at music camp. But it’s ever-present in my brainscape, even when I’m not actually worrying about a warming world. I flow discussion to the topic, because I control my personal conversational ouija board, and it always spells out the same few topics: jumpsuits, bakeries, climate. At the same time, even as I’m trying to focus on balkan beats over ocean heats, I’m okay with the mild undercurrent of climate conversation. I love learning about what people outside my bubble, or in my tertiary bubbles, are thinking and feeling about this warming world.
I’m in the Catskills, and the weather is equal parts glorious, not glorious, and different. One day the rain fell in buckets, opening up a mini lake on the field. There’s a bit more wind than usual. And I wonder if the picnic table wasps are as plentiful. I think yes, but can’t be sure. Visiting a place year over year allows you to notice change with such clarity. The grass is lusher, the air is fussier, the bagels are still terrible.
I’ve been chatting with friends old and new, and learning about how they’re processing climate. Weather is almost always the entry point. Jesse, a singer, moved his fam from Northern California to Western Massachusetts because of wildfires. He says people in his new community don’t yet feel the full urgency of the crisis because they don’t know what it’s like to experience climate-induced emergency. He’s the person who has already answered the question so many people ask Bill McKibben: where should I live? My friend Taliesin lives in Hawaii and gets frequent reports of the tragic wildfires there. Stacey, a violinist, tells me about her work in community solar, and I learn the intricacies of the fight in certain states. I’ve meant to read up on it, but it’s much easier to absorb when the info is relayed by a chatty friend over a very compelling bass line.
For the people I don’t talk with about climate there’s something that feels very early aughts. I’m just a girl making weird art with a bunch of other people making art. When climate was a thing other people thought about. This is nice too.
My takeaway is that I’m in a different place than I used to be – a little bit reporter, a little bit removed, but in a healthy way. Of course, I AM always doing the emissions arithmetic, measuring the impact (minimal, we’re staying in tents and cabins), assessing the carbon weight of our experience (light, if you don’t count the lamb roast?), and gently asking myself whether I should be acknowledging the luxury of not having to think about climate, even for a week (Yes).
But all of this is about thinking towards not thinking. And getting to thinking has been the product of working on the feeling. In another gem of a newsletter, Chris Hatch deftly condenses where I’ve been going for the past decade, using mindfulness (and jogging, which for some reason I’m pronouncing as yogging as I write this) to interrogate the stress of the body, as it grapples with solastalgia in the micro, and our collective climate action problems at the macro. “Finding the specific location of a feeling and then its distinct qualities — precisely where and precisely what it feels like — can be a powerful entry point for processing emotions.”
I like the phrase ‘the location of the feeling.’ Because climate feelings take up residence in the body even if you don’t let them sign a lease. And it’s acknowledging their corporeal estate that allows us to try on new ways of living with this crisis. In this way, I feel a strange gratitude this week. My emotions, acknowledged, have allowed my brain to be a relaxed information gatherer, a musician, a mom, the lady plating someone’s ajvar and feta at 1:45 AM. Is climate there? It’s always there. Have I found a little bit more peace. As my son says, indutibably.
And you know what’s cool? There are seven heat pumps in the camp’s renovated theatre that were not here last year. I may have talked about this with people.
Does climate join you at the all-inclusive? Let me know.
Thanks for all your lovely notes. So many readers of this newsletter are writers, too, doing the important work of getting climate into their community media. Here’s a great piece by Maria. I like this bit about noticing, and everyone now starting to notice.
I have a semi-obsessive habit of photographing the high tides as they shove the river into places where it really doesn’t belong A few years ago, I would traipse someplace like the foot of High Street or the Centreville Wharf for this purpose, and almost always be alone. If anyone else was around, they simply launched their boat or took their walk, apparently oblivious to the really big, ah… puddle in their way. Last week, however, I felt almost superfluous among the swarm of people documenting the waves washing inexorably over the deck. This is progress.
I LOVE these community question prompts from Ann Helen Peterson. Ask them of yourself? “The essence: what pillars of community have you found, and what are you still seeking?”
GetClimateHelp.com connects volunteer homeowners who've made the switch (to heat pumps, induction stoves, etc.) with the climate curious. Our mission is to provide real climate advice from real people. Volunteers have an empowering experience, and the climate curious get the real world advice they need to make the switch!
Heat pumps are hot! Even the CBC thinks so.
Seeing heat pumps in the wild makes me happy (see above). My friend Rich can help you get one, Toronto.
I’m hiring for the neatest supervising creative producer job. Looking for an electric unicorn of a multimodal media maven!
As always, thank you for reading! Let me know how to make this newsletter better! I hope you’re happy and healthy, and finding a bit of time for vacation and rest this summer.