You got to accentuate the positive...and just ignore the other stuff.
Plus: "An effective and worthwhile bamboozle."
This is a short one because I wanted to leave room for your climate journeys, and highlight a few people who have popped into my life and reminded me that there are a million climate paths, all of them replete with their own wayfinding systems and beloved mixtapes. And it’s Earth Day. So lots of other hum(m)us-y content out there to fill your souls and inboxes. I just have one little thing that I’ve been thinking about, so here goes:
My son and I are the soccer half of our family. We go to the park to kick around a ball whenever Toronto weather cooperates, and also when it doesn’t. But a part of me feels preemptively wistful every time we play. Because despite the fact that my soccer career ended in high school, Teddy still thinks I’m the greatest. It’s only a matter of time before he realizes I am not that good, that the world is less perfect than he imagines it. It’s crappy to ruin a lovely moment with thoughts of its eventual disappearance. With a predetermined vision of the inevitable decline of worldly wonder. And it’s a clichéd thought groove, a mixture of original sin, entropy, 90s slacker nostalgia, and general malaise, set to a dumb downer soundtrack I can’t seem to turn off. Even as I am preternaturally positive, there’s this ‘must acknowledge the dimming of the world,’ too.
Indeed, it’s a bit of mine. Nothing is as good as it was when I was a kid. The forest is not as piney, socks are not made as well, and I swear on Betty White’s grave that candy bars have been palm-oiled into a noxious facsimile of their former selves. It’s my Shifting Baseline Syndrome Energy. And yet, while some of this may be true (I’ll prove this one day by making Kit Kats from the OG 1980s Roundtree recipe), it’s not a way to live a life, or solve a climate crisis.
I can feel this even as I skew optimistic to an almost pathological extent. And though it’s hailed as a marker of cognitive clarity to hold two ideas in your sweaty palm at the same time, sometimes those two ideas are false binaries. I can believe that the world might and must get better, without default acknowledging that it must also always be getting worse.
None of this gets away from the fact that demonstrably horrible things are happening: to people, planet, and Justin Bieber’s wardrobe. And none of this is meant to boost the Steven Pinkers of the world, who cherry pick their way to a perfect data set that makes privileged people feel good about their expensive sweaters. Instead, I just want to be mindful of the fact that I myself am always weighing the balance — are we saving the planet or losing it — even as my predisposed-to-be-positive hand is slightly pressed on the losing-it portion of the scale. Which is wrong. I’m still mildly decent at soccer, and may be ever thus in the eyes of my cute little son. And the planet is still here for us to make better every day, no need to check that sentiment.
Instead, I’d like to bend towards the viability of a more perfect world, on this day, but also on every day. I’d like to not hedge, or flinch, or even let the negative pathways invade my mindspace. Because the path forward requires all the strength and corner kicks I’ve got. Hope you are doing good things, making waves, and pushing towards catalytic change while drinking a nice beverage.
LAST PLANET: YOUR CLIMATE JOURNEYS
Staying positive in this fight is about being buoyed by the wonderful people around you, each of them doing their own helpful things. Last week I shared my climate journey. Everyone in turn sent me their own amazing journeys, and I’ve been reflecting on them all. There are so many ways into this work, each of them perfect unto themselves. Here are a few inspiring journey vignettes from my life lately.
Antonia is a new-ish IG friend. She wrote these words a few weeks ago and they grabbed me by the arms and would not let me go.
I know it's hard when you're screaming from the rooftops and no one is listening.
But it helps to reframe things. So know this:
For some reason, you have the capacity to stare this terrifying reality in the face.
Your ability to face this, and the courage you're bringing to the table now, has been gifted to you.
Finding fellowship with the millions of others in this arena will ease the loneliness you feel.
And remember - we don't need absolutely everyone to engage. We need just enough.
I love the acknowledgement that we might not know why climate picked us. And why others aren’t rising up in the face of such dire, dire news. It doesn’t matter. We just got selected for the most important (neverending) jury duty of all time. Thank goodness our fellow jurors are cool. Let’s do this!
Tim is my affable energy savant neighbor, a bureaucrat who has been doing the work for years. We meet walking our kids to school, and I pat myself on the back for resisting getting a COVID dog, even as I admire his pandemic family addition, Norman the Beagle. Yesterday, on a damp and gloomy morning, Tim told me he was pleasantly surprised that two huge steel plant deals which will see Ontario reduce its emissions bigly have happened in relatively short time, on his watch. Hamilton’s ArcelorMittal plant will alone take 3 million MT off the books. Though I knew of the deal, hearing a bureaucrat wax enthusiastic about its agility cheered me greatly. And I felt profoundly thankful for the Tims (and Normans) of the world.
Celi and I met at Florida State and fell in love over our mutual affinity for dance, Jamiroquai, and the Delia’s catalogue. Our favorite joke was Celi putting peanut butter on her face and asking me if I’d still be her friend if she “looked like this” (points to her very cute nose covered in peanut butter). I’d like to say my sense of humor has evolved but…not so much. We spent our twenties going deaf at drum and bass nights in London and attending strange performances in New York City. And then Celi left me, moving back to London to make theatre and start the city’s first co-working space. But somewhere along the way, like me, she became deeply fascinated with the brain and climate. Unlike me, she became a neuroscientist. Now she publishes brilliant research about inequality and environmental pollution in low-income communities in London and runs a neuroscience lab focused on healthy communities. The why of her climate work:
Environmental and health justice have always been community led. Communities develop unique expertise about health risks, develop new lexicons to deepen cultural understanding of health justice, and move policy towards equitability.
My climate journey has some similarities to yours. I wrote about it a tiny bit here, but it's been a series of phases: from being mostly oblivious, to addressing it through a more detached international legal perspective, to manically trying to zero-waste my house, and more recently to exploring how I can help make climate action more palatable and easier for all the people who know climate change is happening but don't know what to do about it. (Like with my 31 Days of Climate Action project that I launched at the beginning of the year.) Sprinkled throughout have been feelings of eco-anxiety, heightened by having two young children and feeling heartbroken by the world we're leaving them and their generation.
Jenn’s climate journey takes place through the lens of chronic fatigue syndrome, which she writes about so beautifully:
For me, connecting with organizations that could help me become an advocate was the first step. Once I’d gotten into the flow of sending those pre-written emails and letters once or twice a week, I wanted to make things a little more personal and to enjoy myself at the same time. Making art seemed like the perfect way to achieve this. I’m not a professional artist, but I deeply enjoy the process of creating things and experimenting with colors and materials. So, I began making small pieces of artwork connected to the theme of climate change. I posted them on Instagram and Facebook with quotes that might inspire people to take action, too. It was surprisingly effective in terms of communication—people saw some original art by me (regardless of its quality) and were pulled in by it, then BAM! I had sucked them into reading about climate action. An effective and worthwhile bamboozle.
An effective and worthwhile bamboozle. I love it.
This is how we do it. The wonderful Liiiisssaas of Artists for Real Climate Action are my sheroes. We have almost no time to GTFO (Get! the! Ford Out!) and yet we must rid this province of this Clusterford. As ARCA says, “Let's canvass Ford out the Door! The other parties may not be perfect, but they are LIGHT years away from bringing in the Mordor-like future Ford has in store for us!” If you can sign up, please do! (Apologies - this song will be lodged in your head all day now.)
I met Ani a few weeks ago at a newsletter hangout. (Yes, I am a nerd). I fell coup de foudre in love with her energy, and her newsletter, and her jumpsuit. She started her newsletter to PRACTICE writing English, and omg, give me a break, it’s brilliant. Enjoy!
Dorky proud of my sister, Becky, for organizing a brilliant Balkan fest, interviewed by the CBC here. This year the fest turned into a benefit for Ukraine. It’s always held at the Ukrainian cultural centre, a gorgeous old hall in Montreal, so it only made the most beautiful sense.
Thank you for all your lovely shares. As always, tell me how to make this newsletter better. Wishing you a beautiful weekend!