Reminders of the dire state of our climate are seemingly everywhere.
“We’re all gonna die” my friends often say to me, casually, over a glass of wine, smiling. “We only have ten years until we’re floating in melted ice caps'' joked the female lead in the romantic comedy I saw last night, and my whole body clenched while the rest of the theatre laughed. “We’ve probably missed the boat on climate change” someone said on a podcast I was listening to while driving, and I was forced to pull over because I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
The concept of climate change is overwhelming by nature, and it’s easy to feel like individually we can do nothing to solve problems that aren’t really being caused by individuals, but by huge corporations. But I don’t understand how everyone I know seems so at peace with the idea of the world crumbling around us. I don’t understand how people can face mass extinction, think, “Oh well,” and keep on drinking their rosé.
For me, thoughts about climate change are an ever present undercurrent to my daily life. Everything else I do feels like I’m just trying to distract myself from it. If I read a book or watch a TV show, it’s to try and stop thinking about the end of the world for just one second. When I write, I feel like I’m desperately trying to make my mark on the world, to try to be remembered in case we all disappear. I often end up crying in the shower and not sleeping at night.
This week, I had to delete Instagram and Twitter from my phone, because I couldn’t bear to see a picture of that “climate countdown” one more time. Unfortunately, it’s already been etched into my subconscious.
Now, I think of everything in terms of the seven years on that clock. In seven years, I will be 31. My youngest sister will be 20. My youngest cousin will be 10.
When I’m feeling optimistic, I think about how much can change in seven years. In the last seven years, I finished high school and university, I travelled across America and Europe, I moved out, learned to drive and lost a parent. That’s quite a lot.
But most of the time, I think that the last seven years have felt like almost nothing at all, and the next seven might, too. Seven years is less time than my dog has been alive, and she still seems pretty young to me. Seven years is less time than John Key was Prime Minister. Seven years is less time than Game of Thrones was on air.
Welcome to my cyclical anxiety thought-spiral.
I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way. I know I’m not the only one who feels the intense psychological trauma of being alive right now. There wouldn’t be global movements, marches in the street and children becoming household names because they dare to demand a future if I was the only one.
But my climate anxiety still manages to feel lonely, particularly when everyone I know seems to be so casually resigned to hopelessness.
My point isn’t that everyone should feel the same debilitating way that I do. But I suppose my hope is to find people who do. After all, the solutions to this will be found through community action, not individual panic attacks from looking at our individual Twitter feeds on our individual phones.
I think the only way I’ll be able to sleep at night is if I’m doing everything I can to help fight climate change, so that’s what I’m resolving to do. To lend my voice, time and whatever money I have to people and causes who are doing everything they can to ensure our future. Because I want to be able to have children, and I want to be able to look those children in the eye and tell them I did everything I could.
My anxiety doesn’t seem to be going away, so if my options are to be anxious and do nothing or be anxious and do something, I’m going to pick the latter.Support Villainesse