An inconvenient awakening: It's time to step up for our beautiful home
The wind is howling, and the sky is overcast. It feels autumnal. Unfortunately, it is because there is a hurricane gathering in the Gulf. There could be flooding here in Austin tomorrow. I am afraid of what it will do to the coast.
I am especially afraid after viewing Al Gore's Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. It is scary--the desertification and super storms that are happening because of global warming evaporating water out of the land and oceans. Every storm will be different now because the world's overall atmosphere is warmer and wetter. Thousands have already lost their lives (hundreds of thousands? millions?). The media doesn't tie these events together, but the stats are honestly terrifying. The curve of temperatures have completely shifted. Global warming is now. It is happening right now.
Global warming comes up, it seems, whenever we travel. I recently went home to Tennessee, and an old friend who told me she and her husband are trying purchase property along a river there. Their reason? They believe freshwater real estate will be at a premium when climate refugees flee the coasts.
Two summers ago, I saw millions of acres of standing dead trees in Colorado because the warmer temperatures gave an advantage to an invasive beetle. Our road trip continued through Idaho, which was on fire, and Washington, where I saw brown grass in the rainy Evergreen State for the first time in my life.
This man continually faces down despair and chooses not to succumb to it.
Things feel pretty damn bleak these days. On top of all this, there's the horrendous rise and condoning of Nazism. Charlottesville happened while we were camping in the Smoky Mountains without reception, and I haven't even read all the details yet. I am afraid of being incapacitated by overwhelm and despair.
But watching the film, I am struck by the fact that Gore has literally taken on saving the world. Instead of being appreciated for this monumental service, he's been ridiculed and raked over the coals for it--for decades. But he believes it is right, and so he keeps going.
There is a story in the film about the satellite Al Gore wanted to launch.
His vision was not only to gather climate data, but also to take photographs of the Earth that would inspire people to unite for our home. The satellite was ready to go, but the whole “hanging chad” thing happened. He lost the presidency to Bush, and the satellite was stripped down and put in storage. It had to be totally devastating.
But Gore held onto the vision, and when Obama came along, he made his case. Finally, the satellite DSCOVR went into orbit in 2015.
I am so humbled by Gore, the strength of his character and the long view he maintains. He really is reaching for the highest human unity above all the petty scrambling for power and short-term gains. Such foolishness. Such short-sightedness. Such selfishness and greed.
Caring about the environment is caring about people.
So it is time to do something. It IS inconvenient, Al Gore. I want to focus on my own life and personal goals. It feels like getting stretched too thin to even consider a real attempt at doing anything about any of this. But who has time to fight this fight? People with privilege. Me.
I also feel subconsciously guilty pursuing environmental activism when there is so much social injustice happening. But as the film demonstrated, climate change disasters will and already do affect the poorest people first and most. Everyone needs to be working on something--all hands lifting--and no one can do everything.
On my trip home, I got to see some of my oldest, best friends. They have daughters now, a tiny new 12-week-old baby and a clever, magical 8-year-old. My heart stretched and stretched, trying to figure out how to even hold the upwelling of love I felt. I considered the lives they could live, all the possible futures that could come to be.
At night, my soul kept rolling a new question over and over: “What do I want to leave behind?”
I want there to be a world for these kids, and my other friends’ kids, and all the world’s children. I want there to be a world for the fireflies and raccoons and otters and black bears and whales and fish and birds.
I cannot save the world, but I can do my part. My next experiment in activism will be to learn more about becoming a climate leader and help convince our towns, cities, and states to live up to the Paris Agreement even if our country will not.
I know you probably don't have time, Trump slams us with new outrages everyday, and it's just plain inconvenient. Won't you join me anyway?
If you are interested in experimenting in this kind of activism, please comment or connect with me! This feels vulnerable and important, and I would love to support each other as we go.
Image: This enhanced color image of the Earth was produced by the satellite DSCOVR and the NASA EPIC Team. DSCOVR stands for Deep Space Climate Observatory.