Individually, each of us will have to go through a grieving process for the loss of a world we believed in our bones would always be there. Collectively, to help mourn and accept this loss, we will have to share with one another alternative visions of a shared future, stories about how climate doom is not inevitable, and what the future Earth might look like if we do what is required—and still entirely possible—to hold off the greatest threat to our very existence. With a treasure hunt you are given a treasure map, compass and clues to find your way along the route.
What you’re feeling right now is not unique to you. And just because others might not be feeling it yet doesn’t diminish the intensity of your experience. You are not alone in bearing this existential dread, this fear of the future, this hopelessness. But just as important, this feeling does not have to define you. In fact, your energy, your emotion, your desire to right this wrong, is a critical part of the solution. It is precisely because you care and want things to change that you feel this way. In January 2017 I started counseling for climate-related anxiety. To this day, I struggle with how to focus my attention and energy to fight climate change. But I can tell you that part of the answer is just talking about it, and to know you are not alone. Drawing from the science of psychotherapy, I believe it is possible to spontaneously and emergently solve problems in our lives—and in society—simply by talking about them. The physical act of speaking changes the way your brain works and causes you to think differently. And if we ever needed to think differently, it’s right now.
In the hundreds of conversations I had while researching I kept coming back to one inescapable conclusion: as long as we are still here, it means we haven’t yet lost the fight. And that realization gives me a glimmer of hope. I’ve come to accept the fact that we’re entering a scary time of profound change. I’m not going to push for any specific radical lifestyle changes or for any revolutionary new political campaigns in response. That’s not my place. Instead, I’m going to encourage all of us to explore possible futures based on the latest science and continue to have faith that the conversations themselves could be transformative.
It’s likely that you—yes, you—have an idea that I’ve never thought of. It could be your idea that winds up making all the difference. Our time requires us to listen to the people who have been ignored and unheard because what they have to say is inconvenient to the people in power. This problem affects all of us, and so the future will require the creativity of all of us. The only thing I’ve become convinced of is that we need a revolution, which you can define however you want. No matter how we define it, though, nothing less than a complete transformation of almost everything we know will be enough to get us through the next few decades. The old world is dead—what comes next is up to us.
I’m a journalist. I can’t afford solar panels for my house or a Tesla. I often feel uncomfortable about joining a protest. But I can talk with my friends about how I feel. I can imagine what I hope to see in the future. And then, just maybe, we can brainstorm things that we can do together to build upon our shared desires for justice. Maybe, together, we can build a movement focused on love and repair. The biggest climate lie is that individual action is the only answer—that’s a recipe for burnout and continued disaster. Individual action is only useful when it helps bend society toward radical change.