Last night, after reading about the IPCC report on the climate crisis, my heart was racing and I felt sick and dizzy with fear. Rather than become paralysed, I felt I needed to do something so I painted myself with shaking hands and then I wrote this. I’m not sure what it is exactly but I’m just trying to find ways to speak to my thoughts and feelings about the situation we’re in and how I find strength to go forward. This isn’t an attempt at objective truth – that’s what the report is for – this is just an attempt to soothe, strengthen and nourish myself with hope.
I think I’ve known this for a very long time. I think I’ve known that the world is ending. And with that knowledge has come a despair that has been a paralysis; if the world is ending, why should I bother with such absurd everyday things as working a regular job so that I can pay rent, buy things and possibly save some money so that one day I can retire in comfort? If the world is ending, what point is a retirement fund? What point is… anything?
The world is ending. This is a fact that I am no longer going to deny. We were raised in a world that has already gone, taught to live in a future that will never exist. This world is ending and it’s going to be the hardest thing that we have ever faced.
I know this in my bones, I feel this in my gut. The world is ending and yet my hope will never die because while there is life, there is hope and while we are alive, we can fight for life, for love, for beauty. While we are alive, we can dream, we can plan and we can prepare for a new world. Perhaps even a better world.
Our world is ending and if we don’t act quickly, we will not survive that ending. Some people say this is for the best, that we humans have had our time and we have ruined everything but personally, my heart is full of love for us; we’re baby monkeys who only recently became conscious and so I hope that we do survive and I hope that we evolve. I hope that we no longer operate on the mistaken delusion that nature is subservient to us but instead, we understand that there is no separation between us and the rest of the fabric of life.
In our immediate future, there is fire. In our immediate future, there are floods. In our immediate future, there is suffering beyond measure and we need to let ourselves feel the depths of our horror, rage, despair and grief. We need to feel these feelings so that we can let the others feelings in – gratitude for the flowers we do see blooming around us, awe at the sight of a bird flying overhead, hope for a better tomorrow and a profound and deep loved for ourselves, the precious, fragile, endangered species that we are.
How do I combat the climate despair which plagues me on a daily basis? I focus on the beauty that exists now, I focus on the actions myself and others are taking but most of all, I dream. In my dreams, I see a world that has changed beyond recognition to the one that we are in now. So many of the countries that exist are underwater, massive cities have been swallowed by rising oceans and are gone, populated now only by ghosts and sea creatures. And the land that is above sea is covered in strange new forests that are thrumming with the hum of insects and echoing with the songs of birds. The land has been rewilded, healed through the efforts and dreams and love of a new type of human.
These new people have learned from the mistakes of their ancestors and so they are not conquerors or narcissists because the only people who survive an apocalypse are people who are able to work together, work communally. And the only people who are able to heal the world after an apocalypse are the people who are able to work with the laws of nature in a mutually beneficial symbiosis… and so these people have become connected to the land they are on, like Indigenous people always have been.
These people are gardeners.
Humanity has a way forward but it requires a shift in how we perceive ourselves. No longer can we be conquers, dominators, destroyers. Instead we must be healers and caregivers of the earth. Our world is ending but life doesn’t have to and we can be part of the most beautiful process of transformation, rejuvenation and change.
I’m scared to say all this, afraid that I will be judged as a naïve, ridiculous dreamer. But perhaps we all need to dream more, perhaps we all need to dream so much that we see a path forward that isn’t just a living nightmare. And so I allow myself to dream and I allow myself to believe that we can all be part of discovering a beautiful destiny for humankind where we are warriors for light and love, where we are gardeners who nurture, nourish and protect the incredible miracle that is life on this planet.
And if you are like me, which I suspect many people are, your heart aches with the desire for this world to exist. And if your heart aches as mine does, perhaps this indicates something about a beautiful truth of our human nature; we don’t want to destroy life on this planet. We don’t. We’ve lost our way, we’re confused and scared and far from home but our heart knows what we want most: we want to live, we want to love and we want to thrive.
So let’s awaken to the truth in our hearts and start doing what we need to do to prepare for the hard road ahead. We are an incredible species, we have art, we have science, we have social justice, we have music, poetry, medicine, philosophy, psychology, ecology… we have so much. Let’s put it all to use and together, we are powerful.