Human society is facing an existential threat according to regular outpourings from the multimedia outlets. This is not hyperbole. Every week there’s a new report of posturing and game playing from our world leaders whose primary interest isn’t in saving their people from disasters but in adding another dollar to their profit margin. Sadly, there isn’t enough being reported on the number one threat to our planet.
Talk of climate change and global warming seems to bring out the worst and the best in people depending what they want to believe. For some it’s so far away into the future that cutting out the Friday night steak to reduce methane emissions seems pointless. For others, the news that we’ve reached a tipping point in controlling the increase in CO2 to keep warming under 2C and evidence of melting Arctic ice caps is triggering tidal waves of anxiety preventing them from living their lives.
In describing the doomed nature of the planet, scientists and writers on climate are using emotive language such as extreme, lethal, irreversible, dangerous and catastrophic. Instead of this being an urgent call to action it’s having the opposite effect.
Paralysis and a sense of hopelessness is kicking in, bringing morbid ruminations of the apocalypse no longer being a fabulous plot for a book or film but something that we’re told could happen as early as 2030. No wonder we’re losing motivation to go to work or refit the kitchen.
We can observe for ourselves the shifting weather patterns around the world – extreme heat in Australia and the Polar Vortex bringing almost 50 degrees of cold in America’s Midwest, extreme flooding, wild fires as well as increasing seismic activity- and sense that something is wrong but when we’re told that 200 species a day are dying and that we are in the middle of the Sixth Mass Extinction and we will be next…. is it surprising that we find safety in denial?
It’s sensationalism. A hoax. It’s too biblical to be true, we tell ourselves. Our collective anxieties need to be soothed by seeking out the opinions of the climate deniers and take refuge in their You Tube presentations which criticise the rigorous study of the academics and scientists. The numbers are presented as facts but they must be wrong in this crazy world of fake news. ‘Alternative facts.’
It reminds me of the sixties when men paraded the streets with sandwich boards proclaiming The End Is Nigh. We took no notice since most of them looked scruffy and a bit dazed. Maybe they were nihilists, on drugs or severely depressed. Does that apply to today’s scientists whose work has been peer reviewed? Some are finding it difficult to detach their personal feelings from the science.
I was talking to one such researcher who had just read David Wallis Wells’s book, The Uninhabitable Earth, and although he disputed some of the conclusions, he said it made him want to weep. My own research has uncovered a worrying fact that many scientists are underplaying the seriousness of our current situation. Others confirm that the planet is heating up faster than ever before. Near term extinction is inevitable and we are beyond hope. Check out Dr Guy McPherson. It might not be suitable for the very anxious.
This is bothered me for some time to the point of being unable to concentrate in the day and sleep at night. I feel deep sadness for my children and first grandchild. Grief for our beautiful planet leaves me deeply affected but I think harnessing free floating anxiety to take positive action is the best thing we can do. We know reducing dependency on single-use plastics is an easy way to start taking responsibility. Driving and flying less, planting a garden, recycling and upcycling, not buying into ‘fast fashions’ which get discarded after several washes, reducing usage of dryers, dishwashers and yes, eating less or no meat. Let’s not dismiss these as being pointless because others are not doing it.
Anxiety is ready to leap in when we lose a sense of control over our lives. By doing something, anything gives us back a sense of control and purpose. This applies in most situations in life. We need to stay positive and whilst believing the science, focus more on those who are optimistic about being able to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and do our individual bit.
Groups like Extinction Rebellion are fighting to get world leaders to tell the people the truth about what will happen to human life if we don’t cut greenhouse gases. Sixteen year old Greta Thunberg is an inspirational activist from Sweden. She’s is talking for her generation to world leaders. These people are acting and not sitting back passively believing that it’s someone else’s problem.
I’ve started to focus more on my everyday life. Instead of scrolling through the daily news feed several times a day I go out for walks and observe the snowdrops and the budding daffodils. Soon there will be blossom and birdsong. Bees, I hope, will buzz about in my garden this summer doing what they’ve always done without damaging their habitat.
We must look after our own environment and make it the best we can. Between catastrophe and denial there is a midpoint of balance. We can adapt and not fight the truth, by focusing on the one thing that really matters in life. Love. With that we can achieve the most amazing things. Together.