On Losing Everything to the Climate Crisis, except for Hope
Yesterday my home burnt down to ashes. It couldn’t be saved from the forest fires currently raging across California. I’m of course still in shock and deeply sad about losing my house and everything material I owned. But I’m still able to be calm, keep perspective, and even hope. I wanted to share this note with some immediate reflections from my side with everyone who has been sending me some much support and love.
Meaningfully (and ironically), from that house surrounded by an incredibly beautiful redwood forest, I researched, got inspiration, and drafted the ideas that manifested into Pachama, an organization with the mission of restoring the forests to solve climate change. The house was our first “heartquarters” as we had our first brainstorming sessions with the early team right there, and the majority of the current team members passed through the house as a sort of rite of initiation into the team. I’m incredibly grateful to the house for being a sacred temple for the birthing of this wonderful project, whose mission becomes more important every day.
I’m so grateful for all the incredible life moments that I got to live in that house with loved ones. I loved, learned, worked, read, laughed and so much more among those trees. I’m grateful to everyone who shared all these unforgettable moments with me. I’m grateful to the forest itself that allowed me to dwell there for three joyous years. I’m grateful to the firefighters and my neighbors who put their life in the line to try to save the houses from the fires. I’m grateful to everyone who is showing their support today; I feel your love and it touches me deeply. I’m grateful to all the teachers that I came across in my life, whose teachings allow me to be today, in the face of this adversity with calm, equanimity, and gratefulness. I’m grateful for everything that I will learn from this experience.
I feel like sharing some of these teachings that are helping me today in the hope that it may help others facing their own adversities. From Buddhism I learned to contemplate that everything is impermanent, that suffering comes from clinging too much to what we like and rejecting too much what we don’t like, and that one can develop equanimity by meditating, observing the fluctuations of the mind, with compassion. I plan to revisit the book “When things fall apart” by Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron. From the Stoics, I learned to be prepared for the worst-case scenarios by doing negative visualization, to find happiness in simplicity and virtue, and to accept the fatalism of the past. I plan to revisit the book “A guide to the good life” by philosophy professor Will Irvine. From my brothers, I learned to be grateful to everything, even to adversities, and that everything in life is part of a sacred journey of spiritual development. From my indigenous plant medicine teachers, I learned that Nature/Life knows better than our little selves and all we have to do is to be at its service. From my family, I learned that all that matters is love, relationships, and what we do in life to help others. From my life experiences, I learned that you can always rise up from the ashes, strengthened and transformed. Today I’m reminding myself of all these teachings and is helping me a lot.
It is meaningful that now my house is taken by the consequences of climate change, and that those forests will need restoring soon. You can’t make our mission more personal to me now. The consequences of climate change will not be an abstract idea in a distant future, but the biggest disaster of my life. This, of course, renews my determination to give my all, for the rest of my life, to work on this purpose. And I feel very hopeful that we can make a dent, that we are still on time to reverse a big part of this planetary catastrophe and leave a safe and beautiful planet to our future generations. Let’s do it.
Thank you again so much for your encouraging messages, they mean a lot.
Diego Saez Gil
California, August 22nd, 2020