Digging deeper into the silent response to climate change
Once I started getting involved with Climate Change, which was only a little more than a year ago, I started to wonder why more people in our country were not also involved in some way or another. Of course because of my own lack of involvement for so long, on some level I did understand. Also because there are so many “causes” one can get involved in – or not – in that sense, climate change is just one of many, but still I felt there was more to the story.
For myself, pre-involvement, I knew a lot that was happening from my own observations of life and from some readings and films, but I still didn’t want to jump in. I was not even close to jumping in. It was like there was this background rumble in my consciousness; a knowing how devastating the picture was, on one hand, while actively and somewhat miraculously, (I say that rather sarcastically) keeping the whole crisis at bay. Of course one does not totally keep this “rumble” at bay, but I did do a pretty good job.
Now as time goes on, I become more aware that I am not alone in this. Yes, there are many who are concerned and actively responding, but many more are in the place I just described. I have also found surprisingly many writings addressing this question – examining this phenomenon of non-involvement; non-interest… what could be called an uncanny silence.
All of these explanations are very valid and enlightening, and at a later time I would like to share more of them with you, but in this essay I am going to focus on my own experience and dig deeper.
So pre-involvement, I had felt at times devastated when I read or saw the effects of climate change but that emotional response usually didn’t last very long and then I just carried on as usual. Climate change did not really affect me personally in my day to day living. I didn’t feel under any immediate threat and so I managed to avoid it. And those moments when I did let in just a glimpse or whiff of its reality, I felt so powerless that I almost unconsciously shut down. It was just too much. In speaking to a good friend recently, she said not only is she keeping the crisis at bay, but she doesn’t want t hear anything about it. Well, this was close to my experience as well.
I have frequently come across in my readings on climate change this quote by T. S. Eliot “Humankind cannot bear too much reality.” But in facing not only the climate changing, but the consequences that will result, I think this is a reality that goes way beyond what we usually think of as ‘reality.’ This reality encompasses the present, future and the very far future and though it’s not totally clear exactly what will happen (we are, to some degree, in the realm of probabilities, but many of those probabilities have a great deal of certainty) still what is happening now and the probable consequences of what will be happening in the future, are so huge and so unlike anything we have ever experienced before, that it is almost impossible to totally fathom.
Do we human beings turn away from what is too much to take in if we can? Maybe… or maybe this is so Big, unlike anything we have ever had to take in before, that puts it in a whole new category.
Why I got “hooked,” is in a way a mystery; not dissimilar to why many people’s lives slowly or quickly change directions for known and unknown reasons.
Something touched me deeply when I watched the film “Planetary” that begins with showing our beautiful planet from the Astronaut’s perspective in space. Why at that point did it touch me? Who knows? It was just before the Paris Climate Change talks. I was no longer helping to care for my elderly mom. I was no longer in a spiritual community. Perhaps one could say, I “let in” what I was watching in a way I had not before, in a way that I knew I had to jump in. Something grabbed my heart and soul and would not let me go.
Since, then, it’s definitely been a process that still continues. At first after being hit by its reality – “Yes, this is really happening and it’s really serious” – I made the choice to read a very challenging book, as I wrote earlier, by James Lovelock, who did not hold back from the rough ride we are all heading towards. And then it was like being in a very bad dream, a bad dream that was real and which demanded a shift in perception and orientation to reality. As time has gone by, this shifted view has become more of a reality and I have more space inside for it to live and still, to be honest, it is almost impossible to stay continually with the entirety of the picture. Perhaps that is a saving grace to some degree – a survival mechanism that at the same time has activated and energized me.
While I don’t always “feel” the full impact, I can’t avoid or deny what I know. I still find it hard to read certain facts, but I do anyway. I can’t go back. So I live day to day, simultaneously as if, in a sense climate change doesn’t exist and also always knowing that it does. As I lean in, it does inform and guide the choices I make every day and I can honestly say I would not have it any other way.