One simple thing to stop climate gloom
and it's easy-ish to do
Hi! I’m Sarah. Minimum Viable Planet is my weeklyish newsletter about climateish stuff, and how to keep it together in a world gone mad. I’m always curious to know what you think.
There were two huge stories that overwhelmed my news feeds on Tuesday.
Pop quiz: Which one would you read?
If you chose 1:
I get it. I read it. I saw the words “tipping point” and my heart did that making-popcorn on-the-stove thing it does when I contemplate the seismic reinvention of the planet as we know it. But this bad news happens every other day. In fact, the world’s largest piece of ice cleaved off Antarctica two days later. It’s absolutely bonkers that the entire planet is not devoting all its energy to gluing these chunks of ice back in place. But we’re not. And reading each one of these pieces will make one go nuts, or at least have nightmares about talking monkeys being swallowed up by the impending sea-level rise. Oh, that’s just me? Cool. Which is why the key is to get the gist and resist the click.
If you chose 2:
I get it. I read it too. And I’m very glad for having done so. It’s a huge and positive development for the “historically staid” IEA to come out with such a clear and unmincing scenario of what needs to happen for us to traverse the narrow path necessary to keep warming under 1.5 degrees. While the timelines are unforgiving and the emissions reductions frighteningly daunting, it’s good to have another respected body endorsing what is increasingly becoming consensus view. No new oil. No new coal. Regardless of which outlet you got this well-covered news from, it’s something worth consuming because it’s a huge shift in positioning and thinking. A useful read.
I have been slipping as of late, consuming too much melting ice news when I know it does me no good, and enlightens only a little. Writes Alex Steffen in a twitter thread (the entirety of which is solid gold, read it!!!)
Mental hygiene has two steps: avoiding consuming too much apocalyptic news, and actively seeking out information that empowers you to better understand the deeper trends around you: long-form, thoughtful, explanatory, solutions-focused work that teaches rather than triggers.
About a decade ago I found myself following a slew of climate-doom tweeters who shared the latest melting ice data the way other people shared Real Housewives reaction GIFs. I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me until I read some great advice to delete them all. Soon after, I stopped feeling too sad to get out of bed. This doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s happening in ice fissures. It does mean I have shifted my attention to meaningful climate reportage and commentary that isn’t exclusively breathless doom, or play-by-play horror. Yes, it’s bad. Yes, it’s frightening. But there are funny and incisive climate people everywhere, writing brilliant and thoughtful and useful things, and I learn from them daily.
I know all this, and yet, in the frenzy of the daily scroll, I click willy nilly, not taking the time to differentiate the terrifyingly edifying from the edifyingly terrifying. Which is bad mental hygiene. I hate this phrase, though. Can we call it something else? Brain ablution? Mental grace? Detwittification? I hate the phrase self care too, so I think I’ll just start saying it in German, as one does. Selbstfürsorge!
Which is all a grand wind up to say there are some excellent things that one could read about “solutions-focused work that teaches rather than triggers.” Here are a few brilliant things I’ve been consuming of late:
I’m working through Braiding Sweetgrass with a wonderful book club, and I can’t recommend it enough. It inspires me to think more deeply than the current news cycle. And there’s so much to unpack it’s best done with a group. (Thanks, Katie!)
This great piece on rewilding by my friend Kat!
Canadian company Shopify is writing the book on carbon removal. Or at least the report! I’m inspired by their efforts to invest in early-stage tech. Companies that have the money should be doing this.
This Grist and this Axios piece on Ford’s EV F150. So many cool marketing angles! It’s essentially a generator. And it’s priced decently. Will it turn petromen into voltstuds? Let’s hope. Obviously, the best pickup is no pickup, but if tailgaters gonna tailgate, might as well let them power up the neighbourhood.
This Axios piece on big VC investments in climate risk! Just yesterday, Biden dropped a major climate risk executive order. Read about it in Kate Mackenzie’s excellent Stranded Assets Bloomberg column.
How do you practice media selbstfürsorge? Let me know.
So many great insights! Here is some beauty from L:
In the past 2 weeks I've been exploring about how to put a dent in my lifelong patterns of always working. It was a useful pattern when I was young — I got more positive attention and less spankings from my parents. As an adult, I have a reputation for getting stuff done — employers liked it and I liked setting and reaching goals I set for myself. It led me to working to the point of injuring myself on several occasions. So, now I'm trying to find ways to punch holes in the pattern so that I don't feel compelled to work all the time. Balance is the goal.
The one little step I am trying this week is to take time a few times each day “to do nothing.” It is permission from myself to just be. No plan for breathing exercises, observation of nature, plan a project. Just be. Lots of feelings come up and I have to just be with those, too. It will be interesting to see what I learn.
Elsewhere, a friend reminds me that I also used to add ingredients to my homemade hummus until I had enough mediocre tapenade to feed anyone who’s ever owned a Moosewood Cookbook:
Stuffing soup - I think we've all been there. My classic is making hummus, then making it too salty, then adding more stuff, then making it too garlicky, adding more, etc... eventually ending up with way too much mediocre hummus that takes multiple blenderfuls and no one really wants to eat it all! So I hear you.
Thinking about doing less for better results, I'm reminded of a modern attitude toward managing wildspaces, urban landscape, and even gardening. I've been interested in the “accidental wilderness” of Tommy Thompson Park (actually a pretty planned park on the Leslie Spit), which is land of addition, ie. fill land from urban rubble. But in 40 years, it has blossomed into a biodiverse park pretty much by leaving it alone (here is a recent book about it.)
Peter Del Tredici is a Harvard urban ecologist who studies “spontaneous vegetation” in cities (ie. weeds) that is something I’m very into right now: He argues that native and non-native /invasive is not worth bickering about in urban environments, echoing other ideas I've come across about “ecology without nature,” ie. how our idea of pristine wilderness needs to change and is actually hindering ecology... I’ve always wondered about all the efforts to maintain, weed, and eradicate invasives when they have ecological benefits.
I first thought Billie Eilish was blah. I didn’t know Ariana Grande was a Starbucks beverage. Who is this Tom Holland guy and why does he make Tobey Maguire seem like the world’s most charismatic Spider-Man? In all of things pop culture under 30, my daughter has schooled me big time. Holy Tom:
Check out my latest comic for Yes! on How To Get Rid of Throwaway Culture!
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Thank you for reading. If you’re new here, I’m Sarah Lazarovic. I work on communicating the importance of good climate policy and carbon pricing by day, and this newsletter and my dance moves by night.
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Have a beautiful weekend,