Why I’m not a doomer (anymore)

I found the solution to “climate anxiety”, and today I want to share it with you.

The key to overcoming climate anxiety is understanding that the climate apocalypse is not a looming threat that will soon be upon us. It’s here — you and I are living through it right now. People are dying in heat waves and storms who wouldn’t be dying if we had averted climate apocalypse. But we didn’t. So here we are: living through the apocalpyse.

Look — I’m not going to sugar coat this. Things are bad, and because of the way that the climate works, things are going to get worse before they get better, no matter what. Once you pull this uncomfortable knowledge down, through your brain and into your heart, the anxiety will dissipate. You’ll probably feel sad and angry instead, at least sometimes. Cut yourself some slack because you are living through an apocalypse.

Don’t fall for nihilism. Yes, I did just write, “things are going to get worse before they get better, no matter what”, but that doesn’t mean that our actions are without consequence. For example, the situation can get a little bit worse, or much worse. Life for humanity can get worse for a while, and then start to improve; or it can just keep getting worse and worse forever.

These are outcomes that, collectively, we have complete control over. Individually, you and I have little — but not zero — control over them. Focus on what you can do and don’t worry too much about what you can’t. You can’t avert climate apocalypse, and that’s because it’s here.

So what can you do? For a while, folks were worried about their individual carbon footprint. There was a well-deserved backlash to this kind of talk, because corporations and wealthy individuals are doing much more harm to the environment than anybody who might read this; feeling ashamed for every luxury you consume isn’t going to prevent famine.

Sandra @ Idiomdrottning has already suggested a dialectical approach to individual consumption, and she’s absolutely right.

I will only add: talking to the people in your life about what you’re doing and why is a huge “force multiplier”. Invoking shame and guilt is unlikely to be the best approach in most cases, but you’re going to have to navigate those social relations. You got this!

Those of us in “the global north”, “wealthy nations”, etc. are going to have to start living differently than we have been. Folks are going to have knee-jerk responses here, but the facts are on your side: nobody actually loves the world that’s been presented to us. The biggest barrier to overturning it is the difficulty many people have imagining something different and better.

So that’s your job. Imagine something different and better. Talk about how much better different can be with anyone who will listen. When people tell you that good things aren’t possible (somehow we’re supposed to be the joyless doomers?), gently correct them. Chat about how you would spend your day if you didn’t have to sell your labor for wages just to afford food and shelter. Wouldn’t you use significantly less energy if you spent most of your time in leisure? Wouldn’t the luxuries that you acquired through copious free time be much nicer than anything you’ve ever purchased with cash?

Yes, the apocalypse is here, but we can end it by sharing our visions of a better world.