By Jothsna Harris
February 13, 2019
The reality of global climate change is bigger than any one of us, and this leaves many who care about climate change with the sense that what they do does not matter.
That notion could not be farther from the truth.
With flooded coastlines, intensifying heat, and increasingly frequent and widespread powerful weather-related events, we already can see the impacts all around us. And projections from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other recent climate-change reports are more stark than ever. Essentially, we have 12 years to get it right. The urgency of climate change could not be more clear.
As individuals, we are not disconnected from climate change. We are the culprits and victims, and we hold the power to influence solutions.
When we understand that, fundamentally, climate change is a people issue and not only violence against the planet, we truly can get to the heart of why climate change is something to be felt in our bones, at the deepest levels.
Healing our broken world must begin within ourselves — and with each other.
For a long time, the way we talked about climate change has been mostly from a scientific perspective. While that is important, it must be balanced with our stories, placing facts and figures into context. To shift behaviors, we must begin by getting out of our heads and into our hearts, connecting climate change to what we care about. With the pressing imprint of climate change, it has become increasingly clear we are all seeing the consequences. We all have a story to tell.
The process of finding a climate story is often a deeply personal one. It can involve a range of emotions: loss, love, grief, pain, anger, courage, or hope. Discovery can lead to a better understanding of ourselves. It can reinforce values and identity and help elicit a rooted confidence that can lead to a greater sense of agency and action.
Being able to articulate your climate story and tell it is a powerful way to influence others. It can prompt listening, empathy, compassion, and understanding — more of what is needed in the world right now.
In the midst of the crisis we are facing, if we look in the right places, we see those around us who are busy getting to work. We need to stop saying that solutions are possible and that we are on the cusp of a clean-energy revolution, because they are happening. We are in it, and it is flourishing. We are seeing an undercurrent of momentum from local communities which are responsive and making strides with ambitious commitments to cut greenhouse gases. They are amping up solutions on the city, state, and community levels, which ultimately can supersede what we could achieve at the national level.
Youth who have a vibrant vision for their future are taking serious action on all levels to stop climate change; they are demanding not what is politically possible but what is necessary with a “green new deal.”
Undoubtedly, there is an insurmountable amount of pressure for us to get this right, but we don’t need perfection. There are people who are ready to take bold action, who see the opportunities, and are willing to get to work no matter what it takes. What we need is massive imperfect action — and that must begin with reconciling our willingness to see ourselves in this difficult work, and to bring others along.
Climate change is the biggest challenge humanity has faced, yet we can look to those who have gone before us to recall the mental strength and fortitude it takes to overcome in the midst of extreme adversity. Healing is an active journey. It requires setting our minds for the long-haul work that inevitably will be required of us. We can resolve to generate a stubborn persistence bent toward the reality that another world is not only possible but we are creating it now.
Finding the stories we want to tell about this particular time gives us a voice; it prompts us to listen, and it places us on the timeline of how climate change has and will be seen and felt, giving way to a more complete picture of this historic challenge.
Jothsna Harris of Minneapolis is the public engagement manager at Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy (climategen.org).
What: Talk Climate Institute, a two-day event hosted by Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy
When: March 25-26