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Hope and Balance

Facing the realities of climate change can be overwhelming. Media in all its forms reminds, warns and shocks us multiple times daily about climate disasters, pending doom and the lack of commitment by many in power, private or public, to act with the greatest of urgency. It’s like the Aesop’s tale; many of us are ants working hard and planning to try to prevent rougher, sparser times ahead while those we think have greater power to make change are the grasshoppers enjoying life in the moment without full acknowledgment of the cause and effect it will have. It can be disheartening, enraging and depressing to witness this; moral outrage fuelling much of these emotional states. I am in the rank and files of people who feel these things, however, I am making a concerted effort to shift my mindset. Here is what I have been doing mentally and cognitively in case it might be useful:

I limit my exposure to the bad news. By that, I don’t mean burying my head in the sand. Catch the headline but forgo the images. Visual content is very impactful. We all know what devastation looks like and while I can still be very much sensitive to the problem and support needed, I don't have to be bombarded with traumatic images. Research shows that these tragic images can have a lasting impact on the psyche. I read print material instead so that I can temper my exposure while getting certain information;

I seek out good news stories to balance the negative ones. Those stories do exist, they just aren’t as sensational for mainstream media. I can find them daily and this CANA website is going to start providing the links to these global and local good news climate stories;

I keep the faith. Hope is found in your heart, and is a crucial influencer of the belief systems of the mind. The good news stories will help with this as well as historical articles that show change over time. In the 1980s we could not see if action taken to restrict CFCs would be enough to save the ozone layer yet we see now this action is working and full repair is now only decades away, instead of disaster. We only really began in the mid 1990s to acknowledge that fossil fuels are the most significant culprit to greenhouse gas emissions whereas few took NASA’s James Hansen seriously in 1988 and there are claims that ExxonMobil scientists knew as early as 1977. Either way, fossil fuels have had their day, the writing is on the wall now;

I remind myself that while I may only be able to influence others, I can control my own actions. While I feel outrage at the political and conglomerate cover ups that eventually reveal themselves one way or another, what is more important is what we do with the information now. Howard Zinn, an American activist once wrote that ‘the future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is in itself a marvelous victory.’ (You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train). The past is important but with climate change, what we do now is even more so;

Richard Wagamese wrote that ‘yes’ is a very powerful word; there are many ways to say ‘no’ and provide obstacles why something can’t happen. Yet, to say ‘yes’, to tell myself ‘yes’ in his words ‘becomes the most spiritual word in the universe…And your world can change.’ (pg. 71 Embers). I focus on empowering myself and saying yes;

Small circles of influence. While I still write letters ad infinitum to all levels of government, companies and individuals in leadership positions, I keep grounded in trying to effect change in the closer circles around me. I created a hard copy nonpartisan petition against the Ontario government’s Bill 23 and Greenbelt amendments, tapped into my own spheres of family and friends and then placed myself at local venues that had great cross sections of the community. I gleaned some 570 signatures in two weekends. That was better than just my own feedback. Across Ontario there were like minds in their small circles and over 15000 voices and hundreds of organizations, First. Nations bands, and businesses are still resounding together;

I use strategies to strengthen my patience as change takes time and while there is certain great urgency in respect to slowing climate change within the next two decades, ensuring that the sense of urgency doesn’t overwhelm me is a key component for my own well-being. I meditate if only for minutes a day. When feeling overwhelmed, I ground myself, take essential calming breaths like 4-7-8 and do a quick body scan to relax the stressed muscles. Then I remind myself to have faith. I also need to have wisdom about what I can change now. While I still say ‘yes’ with all my heart that something can be done, I also remind myself that there are many steps and hurdles along the way. With patience comes fortitude to be able to last the journey;

I try to be kind to myself while facing those hurdles - financial, physical, emotional and social hurdles. I take on what is realistic, sustainable and where I can see the results in a shorter period of time. Once I learn more and I have what is needed to tackle a bigger wish list item, I proceed. As Maya Angelou said ‘ Do the best you can do until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.’

I find ways to have a sense of purpose. I get active, but what is manageable for me. That will be the topic of the next blog. What do individuals do that is manageable to fight climate change?

If you are feeling a greater sense of despair about the environment, climate change, or anything else in your life, please know there are people to help. Talk to a trusted friend, a doctor or call 310-COPE, 1-833-456-4566 (Talk Suicide Canada), Wellness Canada Together 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 741741 (adults) or 1-888-668-6810 / text WELLNESS to 686868 (youth). There is also and via 1-800-668-6868 or by texting 686868.

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1 Comment

Well said! Thank you very much for this!

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