If the start of a new year is synonymous with setting resolutions, the start of the new decade multiplies the notion by a thousand (or at the very least, by ten). And while the resolutions (goals, plans, visions) we set for ourselves in 2020 may differ quite vastly from those we set in 2010, the biggest change of all may in fact be the mere scope of our dreams.
We knew about climate change in 2010, of course (back then, global warming), but it didn’t quite suck the air out the room the way it does these days. In 2010, Greta Thunberg was seven. Mark Zuckerberg was known less for his (in my opinion) dodgy morals and more for being the subject of hit film The Social Network (though his character indeed showed an early penchant for ethical ambiguity). Lady Gaga, who had just released The Fame Monster, epitomised a new kind of claw-your-way-to-the-top-and-bask-in-the-glory-once-you-get-there stardom. “I’ve always been famous,” she memorably espoused, “you just didn’t know it yet.” 2010 was the year of the dreamers – whether that dream was borne of ranking women’s attractiveness or mashing Madonna, David Bowie, and Paris Hilton into a fame-hungry pop-persona. You might say it was the beginning of so-called hustle culture.
In 2020, the hustle has revealed itself to be a sham all along. Thunberg is 17, and figure-heading a climate revolution, Zuckerberg is selling our data to space zombies (I jest, please don’t sue), and Gaga freely admits that elements of her global fame caused her to suffer a mental breakdown.
Beyond that, people are seriously contemplating the morality of bringing children into a resource-strapped and ecologically precarious world. Donald Trump believes climate change is a “hoax invented by the Chinese”, while scientists claim we have 12 years to right the ship. It hardly invites dreaming big. It’s more likely to cause a person to squish her face into her pillow until she falls asleep, hopefully forever.
But nothing good ever comes from slumping into a black fog, tempting as it often may be. So how do you dare to dream when it feels you’re on board the Titanic? The answer (well, my answer) is deceptively simple: you open your eyes, and you hold on anyway.
It doesn’t do anyone any good when we deny the realities of our lives. Trust me, I’ve tried shoving climate change into a box – it only becomes a more gnarly beast than it already is. And it certainly does no good to say, ‘fuck it, climate change is going to kill us all, so we might as well accept it.’ That type of nihilism means essentially killing ourselves before we’re already dead. The only solution is to stare climate change in the face (read about it, listen to experts, lean into understanding) adjust our lives and keep moving forward.
Those who say, ‘making personal changes is futile when the climate crisis can only be solved by major corporations and governments’ have a point – but they only offer doom. Living as though our lives don’t have an impact means living as though we are already dead. It’s absolutely true that there’s an insurmountable power imbalance between individual consumers and major corporations. But we can still do our part. The more of us who do, the bigger impact we have. We also must demand change from the top – in the words of Thunberg, no one is too small to make a difference.
Climate change, the advancement of far-right ideologies, the malfeasance committed by those with power – it can send you into a spiral.
Don’t let it.
Or, let it. But rise. Rise again. Set your resolutions. Lean into your life. You’re not dead yet.
2020 must be the dawn of a new era – we get there by doing something, not nothing.Support Villainesse