So, this might be a week late when it gets posted (look at me, barely working ahead) but this is day 2 of staying indoors due to unhealthy air conditions from the Canadian wildfires. So, like, that’s a thing. And the reactions online have been less than stellar. “Wtf is this bs, we never had wildfire season when I was a kid” or something to that extent. Gang, that’s the point. Climate conditions have changed, drastically, due to human activity. This isn’t normal, and at the old age of 35, this isn’t the weather I grew up with, because we have not made enough changes to stop climate change. So, let’s talk real talk about climate change deniers, what we can actually do about it, and how to manage mental health while living during crazy-making times.
Ok, last point first, because mental health is actually my bread and butter. Climate change is a systemic problem, meaning, large systems like industrialism, capitalism, and the various political bodies are all large systems that affect this issue in a major way that one individual like you or I cannot. And that can lead to apathy: the reality is that you or I can’t stop climate change. The major corporations that are the biggest polluters were behind the PR push for making recycling an individual issue, as if you recycling a water bottle was enough to counteract Menards dropping toxic waste into lakes and rivers and selling toxic waste in their mulch (capitalism!). And like, you can join me in throwing shade at Wisconsin’s richest family being the largest polluter in the state, but John Menard isn’t losing any sleep over me. So, one of my many mantras here, you need to focus on what you can control. You’re not William Wallace, and aren’t going to single-handedly overthrow capitalism. Your controllables pretty much start and end with you. You can recycle (it is still a good thing to do) and shrink your carbon footprint in other ways, you can advocate online and in real life, and you can work to keep yourself educated. Ultimately, you can only give so much as you invest in yourself, so you need to take care of yourself when engaging with systemic issues. These are big issues that took a long time to build up, and are seeming to take a long time to dismantle, but maybe soon some real change will happen. So, connect with nature in a healthy way, go out for walks, get out in the water, visit a special location that you resonate with, or watch a documentary about mushrooms, whatever, keep that connection! Pet a dog, walk a shelter pet, give your pets some extra love. These are all things that keep you sane and grounded, not things that solve the climate crisis. But, we can’t all burn out and give up hope, so you need to do these smaller personal investment activities in order to commit to larger social change. The other big thing is to find like-minded people and build community. These connections allow for community change, and new connections that can create new or unique opportunities to create change on a larger scale. But community helps to keep you grounded and not feeling crazy, sometimes just hearing someone say something that you are also thinking is enough make you feel a little more sane while living through strange circumstances (which capitalism is).
Aight, let’s talk about climate change deniers. Look, it’s just money. And there’s a level of complexity and nuance here, but all of that noise just circles back to the same spot, which is climate change deniers’ only argument is there is money to be made by not saving the planet. And that’s super messed up. Your weird uncle on Facebook who isn’t a climate scientist is making arguments is either making a bad-faith argument to make himself feel smart or is just repeating talking points that come from capitalism defenders. Corporations keep polluting because the penalties are cheaper than making the changes that would actually help the planet. It isn’t comprehensive, but John Oliver did a story on how “carbon neutral” business practices are just a circle-jerk of corporations continuing to pollute while having an easy PR response to insulate them from any major public outrage. Planting a tree doesn’t cancel out toxic waste in waterways, and doesn’t work to lower the global temperature without actually cutting back on the amount of pollution going on. So, just ask the climate change deniers how much profit is worth one year less of having a habitable earth, because that’s the only talking point that matters. The answer is sadly money. And that’s dumb and either is coming from a garbage person or a garbage epistemology (i.e simply repeating political talking points).
So, like, the cynic in me thinks we all just need to hunker down and get used to shitty weather and worse living conditions because we’re burning the planet from the inside out. The optimist in me is very moved by young people and their resilience, and wants you all to protest, advocate, give of your time and energy to make this crisis better in whatever way you are capable of. The future’s children and all the animals who don’t burn fossil fuels deserve our best attempt.