The first time I met what I have come to not-so-affectionately know as a “doomer dude” was in 2007. I was volunteering with a New York City-based lefty newspaper and still trying to fit my voice into a mold as a “real journalist” (in retrospect, I’m glad I never succeeded). The major news outlets were still covering their ears and mouths when it came to “global warming” as it was then derisively, controversially, dubiously known. But my little paper, The Indypendent, bravely decided to break the silence by dedicating its entire April issue to the crisis on the horizon.
Each month, we had these elaborate open-floor editorial meetings and this one drew a particular strain of peculiar volunteers out of the woodwork. I found myself surrounded by tall, white men with remarkable sunburns and disheveled hair and cargo pants who towered over me with tales of woe. “There’s really no point anymore. Humans are done for!” They said with glee. Perhaps as a consolation, they offered, “but don’t worry! The earth will be fine! She just needs to get rid of us!”
Their wistfulness was as perplexing as it was intimidating.
I was 23 and new to New York—still too young and too southern to know my way out of a man-splaining vortex. I nodded and smiled and cried the whole way home.
They were significantly older than me, and didn’t seem to register (or even consider) how many of my dreams they were crushing. According to them, I was not entering adulthood, I was entering a furnace. Almost on accident, their joyful nihilism effectively placed environmentalism on a shelf that was too high for me to reach. I, in turn, limited myself to the issues on the shelves within my reach: police violence, income and education inequality, homelessness, etc. Fixing what I could while the world burned.
I didn’t know how to speak up then. I didn’t know how to tell them that I couldn’t bring myself to give up on myself before I’d even begun. But I’ve grown up.
The Chickens Have Roosted
Since becoming a part of the climate justice movement in earnest, I’ve come across a good share of climate de-nihilists. They have books. They host panels. They are prolific Tweeters. They are legion. In my opinion, they are a problem.