Dealing With Climate Fear
We don’t have to be afraid, instead we can act
Climate change has many of us afraid and powerless, looking for answers about the mess the world is in. But it is time that we face our fears and move beyond them to make a difference in the present.
There is this beautiful quote on fear by Zig Ziglar.
“Fear has two meanings: Forget Everything and Run, or Face Everything and Rise.” — Zig Ziglar
That sums it up really: Fear is the way through, after fear is courage, and when we experience courage, we can choose to act.
If you do a quick search via Ecosia (the search engine that plants trees) you will find other similar quotes. The basic message is the same, face it, have courage, take ownership and then act. Even better, lead.
Climate and Fear
Here is the rub, though. Climate change and the deep mess that we are in as a species is scary and evokes fear, debate, denial and various other unsavory positions in humans because at some level we all know it is happening and we know that it’s our fault. More, we don’t know what to do because the problem seems so insurmountable that we may as well give up and enjoy the last of the good times before the storm hits. It’s either that or pretend that the activists or the scientists will figure it out, but it’s somebody else’s problem for now.
This clip from the series the Newsroom is a funny way of looking at it; if a bit unnerving.
Either which way, whatever might happen, we still have to act. So, here is my recipe for dealing with large-hairy-scary problems, and fear in general, that also applies to climate change.
Allow yourself to be afraid
We’ve been given the experience of being human. It’s our birthright. Part of that very human experience is to be afraid first, to negotiate second, and finally to challenge the things that we fear. It is ok to be afraid of climate change, acknowledge it, and then use the space that appears. I don’t think there are any sane people around that don’t fear for the future of the world, the trick is to not let that fear run you.
Allow yourself to act
There’s another useful saying that got drilled into me as a child, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
In Africa, we’ve been beaten up, let down, betrayed, and robbed by politicians and governments over an extended period. We can still acknowledge the reality of being let down and choose to act anyway. There is always going to be plenty of ammunition for firing up your resentments, but don’t let them get between your teeth. Don’t chew on them. Just get on with it, let them go. When you give yourself agency things shift. You just make enough small changes, and the world changes around you. The only way to tackle a large problem is in small, infinitesimal, steps.
Have faith, we have immense capacity
Around 60 kilometers away from where I am sitting now is an area called Phoenix, Durban. The area is an Indian community that was created by Gandhi. I have a couple of programmer friends that grew up there. A couple of years back I went into Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island. In the Kwazulu Natal Midlands, you can also visit the site where Mandela was captured. There is a history of action that has brought the world this far.
People are extraordinary. We have to believe that we can act in concert, and coordinate a movement that will ultimately lead to mitigation and eventually a reversal of climate change. It may not be in our lifetime, and the next generation may have a heavy burden to bear. But, if we can develop an iron-clad faith that a solution does exist, then it will never arrive.
Faith in people. Faith in cooperation. Faith in life. We need to believe in the possible, to make the possible happen. If you want to quote Jurgen Klopp’s first Liverpool press conference.
“We have to change from doubters to believers. Now.” — Jurgen Klopp
We aren’t alone, and we were never alone
It’s easy to despair, particularly when confronted with the state of the world today. However, while you may feel like you are alone and disconnected, especially in a room or a household or a country full of climate deniers, you aren’t. We are deeply connected to the root of our human experience. And one of the ways to view the climate crisis is that it is a part of that evolving experience.
- By deciding to go vegan, you are connected to those parts of the world that happen to be water scarce.
- By using local products, you are standing alongside those people that are transport and energy-efficient.
- By planting trees, you become connected to those people that are rebuilding the great green wall that holds back the Sahara.
Fear loves loneliness. When we create ourselves alone, we lose the perspective of the other that might set us free, that might help us to see the truth of our experience. Climate change is an experience nestled amongst other experiences on this Earth, and it’s one that also has the deep gift of community and crisis hidden inside it.
It’s an opportunity for an education
Education kills fear. If you want to help deal with the reality of climate change, then it’s worth getting an education on what can be done at a personal level, and at a corporate level to address the situation. There are plenty of things that can be done, but the question is will enough of a critical mass be reached so that they will be done?
For example, an issue that slips under the radar is the takeaway coffee cup problem. To service the coffee industry billions of takeaway cups are thrown out each year. The supply chain for takeaway cups includes trees that need to be cut down, energy to produce the cup, energy to ship the cup to final locations, and then energy to dispose of the cup into landfills. We allow this all in the name of convenience. It’s time to stop.
When you educate yourself about anything, you become a beacon for those around you. There will always be doubters. However, once you tackle your fears, you liberate yourself, and only then can you liberate others. We just keep carrying on, putting one foot in front of the next.
Here is a closing quote, from Franke Herbert’s Dune Series. It is called the Litany Against Fear.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” — Paul Atreides, Dune by Frank Herbert.
And when you think like this, no one can bully you.