Beyond Climate Change 101

Discovering a Life of Purpose Along the Way

by Julie Hall at ProgressiveKid

As with all meaningful change, there is no simple fix for our climate change crisis. There is no pill, band aid, 12-step formula, or “expert’s” advice to heal Earth or its life forms. There is no “clean” nuclear power that will preserve our current luxuries without risking even more environmental disaster, no green product that will redeem generations of overconsumption, no fluorescent light bulb that will reverse the excess of our industrialized systems, no recycling process that can restore forests, no zoo or seed bank that can preserve our world’s biodiversity, no replacement planet we can relocate to. For worse and for better we are stuck here with our mess and our weakness, our solutions and our strength.

Not that you shouldn’t install those fluorescents if you haven’t already. Yes of course cut out the plastic, switch to reusable bottles and bags, recycle and reuse, buy less, eat less meat, trade your grass for trees and plants, conserve water, ride your bike, buy locally and organically. Each step toward sustainability counts. But these are merely first steps, and we can’t stop here. As we take the next steps to restructure our local communities toward more sustainable self-sufficiency (as they once were), commute less, conserve more, transition to renewable energy sources, and regreen our environment, there are deeper changes we face.

Our climate problem isn’t merely an overdose of CO2. Global warming is fundamentally connected to overpopulation, pollution, industrial manufacturing, industrial farming, capitalist media manipulation, exploitation of natural resources, poverty, corporate abuse, and governmental abuse. We’ve had evidence for a long time now that these are unsustainable situations around the globe. Climate change is merely one more, albeit the most radical, reality check in a long series of warnings that have gone largely unheeded.

So as the weather around us turns strange, as drought, fire, floods, and storms reach unprecedented proportions, let’s hope we ask ourselves the right questions: What matters? How should I live? What should I teach my kids? What do I actually need? How can I take less and give more? What can I contribute to heal the damage around me? How can I help other living species?

There are more specific questions that may follow. How does the food I eat make me feel? How does television affect my thoughts and emotions? How do my specific choices and actions affect the world around me? How am I using my time? Am I connected with my family and friends? Are my kids receiving positive messages about themselves and their world? Are my kids confident, humble, connected, empathetic, resilient, capable of joy, and awake to the world around them? Am I?

These are not easy questions to ask or answer, which is why they must be addressed. As Rilke reminds us, “Most people have (with the help of conventions) turned their solutions toward what is easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must trust in what is difficult; everything alive trusts in it. . . . That something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it.” The power of difficult challenges in our lives is why millions of us around the world are watching the Olympics right now. We admire the athletes for achieving something profoundly difficult. Although the media would have us ignore the athletes who do not win medals, we are impressed nonetheless with their accomplishment of making it there and trying. And this is why we are disappointed when athletes take the easy route with drugs.

Most of us know intuitively that when it comes to taking care of our extraordinary home planet there is much more we need to do. We know that there is no easy fix to solve climate change and no easy fix to solve the related environmental problems we have wrought. Although we may have lost sight of it, we know in our wisest hearts that life is to be honored, not exploited, squandered, or taken for granted; that one by one we must each take responsibility and not look to others for answers; and that in the process of saving ourselves we might just recover our own dignity and sense of purpose along the way.

Julie Hall is the author of A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids: Understanding Climate Change and What You Can Do About It, a poet, and cofounder of the green online store ProgressiveKid.

Image by David Goehring, 2006, Creative Commons license.

©2008 ProgressiveKid

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2 Responses

  1. […] by 20% this year without replacing everything I own. And guess? It’s working!” Julie Hall presents Beyond Climate Change 101 posted at on a ledge. From the article: As with all meaningful change, there is no simple fix for […]

  2. Hello, I just discovered your blog through the carnival on focus organic. I am excited reading your thoughts, because they push towards the underlying issue in everything that is going on: ourselves, our way of looking at life, our consciousness. I was impressed by you asking whether your children – and you – are humble, connected, resilient and capable of joy – those are profound values and it doesn’t happen so often they get mentioned in this context. We are discussing similar issues on a website called thesunnyway.com – where we look at the connection between changing ourselves and changing culture. And we are finding, all the time, how alive old patterns of thinking are in us and how relentless our, human’s, need to take a position of ‘being better than..’ or ‘knowing more than..’ without that actually being the case. That is why I was so struck by you mentioning ‘humble’ above. Thank you, I don’t have children, but I will make this one of my favorites.

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