As a Millennial, I’ve struggled with even just the idea of climate change for most of my life. That all changed when one day, a heated argument challenged me to come to terms with how I felt about our changing climate.
I first learned about environmental issues in grade 2. My class learned about chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) thinning the earth’s protective ozone layer and climate change. Even as a kid, it worried me that environmental issues even existed. Thankfully, the problem of CFCs seemed to eventually resolve itself. As for climate change, it seemed so far and away that on some level, I felt I didn’t need to act on it. I was just a kid, after all, and winter still kept coming.
In university, I took a course to try to understand climate change. Hearing about the effects of climate change was frightening and surreal, like a bad dream that I just wanted to end. However, in one lecture we discussed supposed “evidence” that climate change was natural or not happening. I remember it felt so comforting to hear about this. I thought maybe, we weren’t really causing it or that it was all just a big hoax.
My ambivalence about climate change came to a head in the past few years when I started to see its effects around me and in the news. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, we embarrassingly didn’t have enough snow to hold some events and had to ship it from other mountains. Just last summer, we experienced a drought unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in Vancouver, complete with a spell of forest fire smoke that gave our city an apocalyptic vibe. For me, climate change was becoming all too real.
Dealing with climate change began with resentment. I resented the previous generations for bringing us down this path. I resented everything that everyone was doing or wasn’t doing, since I thought it was all wrong or wasn’t enough. I wanted to run to the hills and live out the rest of my life away from society.
I would always rant about my dissatisfaction with society to my partner then. At one point, he bluntly responded, “Why does everything have to be so bad to you?” What he said hurt. And it sure as hell shut me up. But I thought about his question and realized something important: I was hard on others because I was hard on myself for living a privileged lifestyle and thinking that I wasn’t doing enough. On some level, I was ashamed and resented myself. I also realized that my thinking was making me feel lonely and miserable.
As I slowly began to acknowledge my feelings, my paralysis on climate action started to soften. I started to look more and more into the issues behind it. I also became empowered to learn that there are feasible solutions to stop the worst effects of climate change. A few months ago, I started volunteering for an environmental organization that advocates for carbon fee and dividend, an ingenious nationwide policy proposal that scientists and economists alike say is the best first step to combating climate change.
Here are 4 things that empowered me to deal with our changing climate:
1. Taking up a mindfulness practice and giving it a fair shake. Mindfulness practice, or meditation, is not kooky or spiritual. In fact, it is scientifically proven to improve our well-being. This is in part because over time, meditation gives us a deeper understanding of our own thought processes and emotions. I started meditating by listening to an amazing audiobook for which you can get a free trial. I challenge you to look up how to meditate and schedule even just 5-10 minutes a day, 1-7 days a week for it and to keep an open mind. In my opinion, it is one of the best things you can do for yourself and others.
2. Trying to be understanding of yourself and others. There are so many unpleasant feelings associated with climate change, whether it be towards others or ourselves. Yes, we sometimes make harmful decisions, but that does not make any of us bad. Try to acknowledge that everyone is at a different place when dealing with climate change. We are all just trying our best. Besides, changing how we behave is difficult and often requires enormous effort.
3. Informing yourself. Watch a video. Read a book. Learn what you can about the science and politics of climate change. Scientists are on the front lines of investigating what is happening with our planet. They paint a frightening picture of what’s to come, but their findings will also help us prepare for the future.
4. Volunteering for Citizens’ Climate Lobby. In informing myself, I learned that our governments can implement policies to stop the worst effects of climate change. However, politicians need to know that we support these policies. Citizens’ Climate Lobby addresses this need by training and coordinating citizens to engage with politicians directly or through the media. Through our coordinated efforts, our leaders will respond to what we all want: a sustainable future.
Climate change is frightening. But when we grasp how climate change makes us feel, we can begin to grasp its urgency and become empowered to look for solutions. Effective solutions to climate change like carbon fee and dividend are ambitious. But the best thing about these solutions is they make the earth a more just, peaceful, and safe planet to live in. That is a legacy worth striving for.