The Climate Emergency is here. Our wonderful capitalist civilization of convenient consumption has pushed too much pollution into our common atmosphere, and our earthly and watery environments are suffering as well. All around the world, smart and well-informed people are feeling climate anxiety, a lot of climate anxiety.
It’s really depressing to contemplate our current setup: we have rampant capitalism even in the most open, democratic nations, there are totalitarian dictatorships covering most of Asia (and would-be dictators appearing almost everywhere), and sociopathic “edge-lords” heavily manipulating their positions controlling various types of economic resources. Imagining how these unaccountable forces might react to even more disruptive heat waves, floods and fires brings us a lot of anxiety. And what happens when we reach even worse possibilities like 6-ft sea level rise creating hundreds of millions of dispossessed migrants, or the failure of major food systems like wheat or rice crops, or the East Pacific fishery?
So we need a simple memory device to help us deal with our climate anxiety. I have been advising folks on staying whole and grounded while involved in political activism since the “90’s, and I think I’ve hit on a simple memory device that should already be fairly well-implanted in a lot of people. It’s something that Paul sang to us, in one of the Beatle’s greatest hits.
Specifically, it’s the advice in the last two lines of the first bridge in Hey Jude. Here’s the whole four lines.
“And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain, Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders, For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool, By making the world a little colder.”
So let’s repeat that: “For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool, By making the world a little colder.”
Yes, we’re all to aware that we do carry the fate of our children and our world upon our shoulders, and while our overriding goal is to make our actual earth a lot colder, it doesn’t do anyone any good for any of us to be depressed, to be anxious, to be “doom-looping” all the bad possibilities, And it really hurts everyone if we allow our anxiety to get so bad that we stop caring and stop trying and give up in despair.
But let’s not be fools, let’s try to avoid making our human environments colder, more selfish, sore toxic. We desperately need to be making our human environments and actions “warmer” (and more loving and accepting), caring even more for our families and friends and neighbors, we need to be much “warmer” socially and politically in getting organized and helping create a global youth movement that will not tolerate governments that are failing to significantly control fossil fuels. Can you imagine if the billion or more folks who really want to reverse climate change were as organized for political action and economic power-plays as the billion or so people who are profiting from fossil fuels?
Individual action is necessary, neighborhood organizing for safety and sufficiency will be extremely helpful , but to actually save the future for all the human beings under 65-70 years old, we are going to need strong, organized political and social movements demanding that governments and corporations are getting out of at least 90-95% of the fossil fuels we are burning. This will be incredibly divisive and contentious, as nearly all of our economic activities and expectations are based on the fact that, in general, manufacturers and consumers are not having to pay the full costs of cleaning up their pollution.
And before you say that it’s impossible, that we can never change governments and corporations in a short enough time, steps are already in motion. One initiative that I personally believe could serve as a useful model is a global coalition of positive-minded activists, which has put out a “Manifesto for an Ecosocial Energy Transiton from the Peoples of the South” that has received zero attention from the Western media. I find it an amazing document, which basically understands the capitalism must be transformed into something new that benefits all, yet also understands that this will be the work of all of the rest of our lives, and that everyone will work on this in their own way, in their own areas. These are the people who are already suffering the effects of the Climate Emergency, and they have understandings that could be more widely shared by privileged activists in privileged nations.
Another important step that has not been reported in American media is the case of six Portuguese youth who have filed suit in the European Court of Human Rights, against 32 European governments for failing to fight climate change which is already affecting their lives, and failing to meet the pledges of the Paris Agreements on Climate change. Measures like this could soon possibly be forcing government to take serious action against fossil fuel pollution.
Yet for us to really see such initiatives to fruition, we will have to be absolutely “white hot” in making our human political environments much, much warmer. Every government will have to feel the pressure of a distressed citizenry in order to actually take meaningful action against fossil fuel pollution.
For myself, I have to be an optimist, just to get through the day. I have been a “news junkie” since 1958, and I’ve worried about a lot of silly and forgotten crises … but the last few years have been increasingly depressing. The problems that the Climate Emergency is already bombarding us with, and the future problems that may be dumped on us unexpectedly, combined with all the other problems that selfish and stupid humans are creating, make it very difficult to be optimistic.
Which is all the more reason to be all the warmer to our fellow humans in the struggle, a struggle which unfortunately looks like it’s going to be our version of the “Humdred Years War.” Luckily, we have some great models to follow in our Ukrainian brothers and sisters: locked in an existential war against a selfish monster, they somehow find the courage to serve at great costs to their own conveniences, while also serving and looking after each other, and taking in stray creatures who’ve also been disrupted by the incredible struggle they face.
The Climate Emergency is real, the anxiety we face is real. But let’s not be fools, let’s be continually making our human environments warmer, more helpful to all of us who will be suffering through the Climate Emergencies to come. It’s one positive point that we can focus on as we work to bring back a world we’d actually like to be living in