Lori Imsdahl is a public health practitioner and communication specialist. She writes for fun at loriimsdahl.com.
It was 2006, and I was tired.
I was so tired, I fell asleep watching Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth at a theater in Brooklyn. My friend elbowed me when I began to snore, my body slumped against a velvet seat. I’d never heard of climate change before, and it didn’t strike me as particularly important.
A few months after Brooklyn, I deployed to Afghanistan. Although I’d traveled previously, Afghanistan was like nothing I’d seen. Roads were nonexistent or in need of repair. In the rural mountainous province where I worked, it was not uncommon for people to freeze to death in winter due to lack of controlled indoor heat. For 15 months, I rarely saw a woman who wasn’t in the military. The few I did were wearing burkas. One morning, through the barbed wire fence surrounding my post, a camel sauntered by.
Afghanistan made me realize how vast the world was and how little of it I’d seen. In 2011, five months after leaving the military, I backpacked through 19 countries. I haven’t stopped exploring since.
It’s been more than a decade since Afghanistan, and some things have changed.
One of them is the noise around climate change. That noise seemed small in the theater in Brooklyn. So small I fell asleep. Today, it’s grown deafening.
I think about climate change constantly, often with a feeling of guilt. I do good things. I eat a plant-based diet. I recycle, and a few times per week, I reach into smelly garbage bins to salvage other people’s recyclable items. My Toyota Prius gets 45 miles per gallon.
But a few times per year, I fly in airplanes. I squeeze into economy seats and eat airline pretzels and admire clouds. I’m sure that negates the good I do, but the thought of giving up travel devastates me.