Climate: Becoming fully aware of climate change
Last week, I watched a documentary titled "How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change." Sometimes, it seems that the only way to live effectively in the face of such a slow-moving catastrophe as climate change — one that allows us to go about our daily lives in general comfort, at least those of us who live inland and with plenty of resources — is resignation or depression.
So, the common loon and the moose are disappearing from northern Minnesota? So, it rains in December? There is still so much to love about the Earth, albeit a different Earth. And, there is still so much to love about the people on it.
The producer of this movie, Josh Fox, began by filming what was going on in the world with climate change. Midway through, he despaired of the catastrophic picture facing him. He decided to travel to quiet, relatively unknown places where people had already lost much of their former lives to climate impacts.
He paddled deep into the Amazon forest with indigenous people to find a virtually forgotten pipeline spill where thick sludge covers the rainforest — sludge they attempt to clean up with 5-gallon buckets.
He paddled in traditionally built canoes with Pacific Islanders and Australian kayakers who successfully turn around a coal ship in a harbor.
He visited the lowest parts of New York City — the ones flattened by Hurricane Sandy — and spoke with community leaders who tell him their community is resurrecting itself a little more each year.
And he sang and danced with Marshall Islanders who know that their entire island could disappear within a couple of generations.
The first thing I learned watching this video is that people around the globe, whether or not they have access to the internet, are fully aware that climate change is threatening their existence. They don't just read about it; they live it. It is part of their daily lives. In their own words: "We are not drowning; we are fighting."
They have tapped into an internal energy that I wish we saw more on our side of the world.
Once you know something, you are responsible. One explanation for our country's inability to take responsibility for the problem (by solving our part in it) is that we are buried in guilt. Underlying our apathy is an insidious, heavy feeling that it's our fault.
Shame and guilt can be unpopular words today, but I urge us to remember their value. There are good reasons to feel guilt and shame; they get us to change.
Rather than burying these feelings, we can take a realistic look at our own piece of the pie. No, we are not purposely sending people around the world to their graves with each purchase or mile flown.
None of us, by ourselves, have done damage on a global scale. But now we know our markets have functioned to provide us with goods and services that do not account for the damage done to our atmosphere. And, we live in a democracy. Our government needs our involvement to work properly.
So the next time you decide to take in international news (which is usually bad, otherwise it isn't news), remember that without translating this feelings of outrage, bitterness, grief or disgust into some kind of action, we are enslaved by this drama. Outrage is an addictive fast-burning fuel. We have used up our outrage quota for the next decade. To get off that addiction, we need to either hear much less or do much more.
My first suggestion on this is to approach climate change as an economic problem as much as a moral one. We have a market failure here and we need to correct it. Our consumption is inadvertently destroying people and planet.
A new bill, one with a Senate and House version and authored in both Republican and Democratic offices, is in the works that would correct this market failure. There are a whole lot of other good things that come out of it, too.
Learn about that bill and urge our new representative, Pete Stauber, to get behind this bill once it is reintroduced in Congress. Information on this bill can be found at energyinnovationact.org.
Katya Gordon is a volunteer for the Citizens' Climate Lobby and a Two Harbors resident.