The Climate Crisis is Worse than We Can Fathom
My awareness of climate breakdown reached the point where I had no choice but to respond in some meaningful way…
But, a meaningful response was a tall order: global warming is intertwined deeply with our lives, physically, socially, and spiritually. I asked myself, how can we respond, as individuals? What can we do right here, right now, with what we have? How can we live happy and fulfilling lives even in the shadow of global warming?
I am a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. I use satellite data and models to study the rapidly changing Earth, focusing on boundary layer clouds and ecological forecasting. I have a PhD in physics from Columbia University and a BA in physics from Harvard.
Because burning fossil fuel is what’s causing global warming, the central focus of my response is to avoid burning it! Today I emit under 2 tonnes of CO2 per year, one tenth of the U.S. average. In reducing my footprint, I have discovered this to be surprisingly satisfying and empowering. I also work within my community to help neighbors, cities, schools, and churches use less fossil fuel. Meditating and growing food helps me stay centered and happy even in the face of dire climate projections. My award-winning book, Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution gives real life solutions to move away from a consumerist lifestyle that isn’t even making us happy.
Changing our lives shifts the culture and creates space for collective action. Together, let’s explore a more meaningful life – without all the fossil fuel!
No one can tell you how to be a climate activist. That’s up to you to figure out. But here are a few guidelines to help you:
1 Find a local group of activists to join
Better yet, join two or three. You need to find your people, your friends and co-conspirators. You need their support. They need yours.
Voices are empowered when joined together. Hone your organization and communication skills. Find your niche.
2 Be courageous & creative
The movement needs motion: fresh ideas, perspectives, tactics. Don’t wait for others. Get political.
3 Bring in others
Talk to others. Recruit others. Inspire others.
4 Prioritize your physical, mental, & spiritual health
If you are burnt out you can’t help. Be kind to yourself.
5 See how far you can go
How revolutionary can you get? We are losing Earth. Now is the time.
6 Dissolve your ego
This will help you, the climate movement, & the Earth. There are many practices, find one that works.
That’s it, have fun! And thank you. We love you, and so do all the other beings on this Earth that are suffering from climate and ecological breakdown.
Here are some popular climate groups to get you started:
Change Links recommendation: Here’s a link to powerful story about Peter Kalmus and his family: https://www.propublica.org/article/the-climate-crisis-is-worse-than-you-can-imagine-heres-what-happens-if-you-try
For years, in articles in Yes! magazine, in op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, in his book “Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution,” on social media, Peter had been pleading, begging for people to pay attention to the global emergency. “Is this my personal hell?” he tweeted this past fall. “That I have to spend my entire life desperately trying to convince everyone NOT TO DESTROY THE FUCKING EARTH?”
His pain was transfixing, a case study in a fundamental climate riddle: How do you confront the truth of climate change when the very act of letting it in risked toppling your sanity? There is too much grief, too much suffering to bear. So we intellectualize. We rationalize. And too often, without even allowing ourselves to know we’re doing it, we turn away. At virtually every level — personal, political, policy, corporate — we repeat this pattern. We fail, or don’t even try, to rise to the challenge.
Yes, there are the behemoth forces of power and money reinforcing the status quo. But even those of us who firmly believe we care very often fail to translate that caring into much action. We make polite, perhaps even impassioned conversation. We say smart climate things in the boardroom or classroom or kitchen or on the campaign trail. And then … there’s a gap, a great nothingness and inertia. What happens if a human — or to be precise, a climate scientist, both privileged and cursed to understand the depth of the problem — lets the full catastrophe in?