Dear Zaria: how do you cope with the climate emergency?

Dear Zaria: how do you cope with the climate emergency?

Hi Zaria! Thank you so much for creating this. Writing from Spain. I guess my first question, although I hope not too generic, would be how do you specifically cope with this climate emergency, especially when you see so much inaction from our political leaders?

Furthermore, in my case, I'm surrounded by people that do not care about what's happening — either by lack of interest or just as a coping mechanism itself. Either way, that normally makes me even more anxious and I would not be exaggerating if I said these thoughts take pretty much all of my daily thoughts.



Dear Ricardo,

I’ve been croaking about climate like a crow since I was a pre-teen. If I can be 100% honest, and as I’ve said before, there have always been, and there will always be, people who do not care about (or worse: believe in) climate change.

I state this so plainly to rip the bandaid off. It is a false reality that we will ever get to a point, at least at this time, where we can expect every single human to rally behind this cause. Accepting this fact has brought some peace and acceptance into my activism, and allowed this work to be sustainable for me.

What we are fighting for, therefore, is simply a few changed minds — in the hopes that they will go and change a few more and so forth, and before you know it we’ll have changed enough minds to maintain our movement. It has worked so far, and this tactic has been utilized successfully by many other social movements.

Credit: @GoGreenSaveGreen

I want to go even further and encourage you to keep speaking your truth even in the face of this adversity and pinpoint what it is, exactly, that’s bothering you.

For example, do you lack a climate-conscious community? If you are not receiving, through your interactions, affirmations that tell you that what you believe in and are fighting for is important — that is bound to make anyone feel anxious, resentful, or alone.

Building this community looks like:

  1. Showing up as yourself; your natural enthusiasm for the environment (when expressed) will attract like-minded souls.
  2. Creating space, within these relationships, to nurture your love for the environment. Environmentalism is absolutely a love language and something you can use to bond with other people over, or use as an example for the sorts of qualities and/or values you’d like to be nourished in these connections. It’s very important that we help those who love us, love us!
  3. Remain open-minded. Community can be found anywhere: online, in books, within certain spaces. The important thing is to always be actively looking for, and acknowledging, those people, places and things that might see us back.

Or, could it be something else?

These sorts of questions help me navigate my own confusing emotions as I approach this work each day, and help us better understand the root of an emotion.  The anxiety we feel at the surface, with enough research, could often give us the answers we're looking for, on how to self-soothe.

Anytime I felt anxious or frustrated with my peers’ climate inaction, I’d alchemize those emotions into thoughtful dialogue, an art piece, or more energy for protesting against environmental degradation.

As climate people, we must find ways to deal with these uncomfortable emotions of frustration, anxiety, and bitterness by channeling them into something productive.

The human soul dies when there is no more hope to be had. Capitalism, white supremacy, and these other systems of oppression thrive off of us — those who are challenging the systems — feeling broken down, degraded, and helpless. These are the sorts of conditions that enable us to be most easily manipulated and thus, disinterested in and disillusioned with our cause.

Credit: @GoGreenSaveGreen

The ultimate antidote to the anxiety you might feel therefore, and a tool that has aided me in my own activism, is active hope.

The creators of the phrase describe active hope as:

“A practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather than have. It is a process we can apply to any situation, and it involves three key steps. First, we take in a clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we’d like things to move in or the values we’d like to see expressed; and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction.”

Here’s what this has looked like for me during the climate crisis:

  1. I acknowledge and accept the current climate movement for what it is. This does not mean I don’t also acknowledge and recognize areas for growth. It does mean, however, that I relieve myself of the pressure of trying to change people, narratives, and communities that simply are not interested in changing. This leaves more room for daydreaming and world-making, the real activism.
  2. I identify what is most important to me. I have decided that advocating on behalf of marginalized communities in the face of climate change is my ministry. I have made energy equity, green space accessibility, and public health, priorities in my own climate fight. This takes the edge off when the green energy team doesn’t pass that bill they were hoping for — sad, but hey, wasn’t my wheelhouse, anyway. Sometimes activism requires this compartmentalization for self-preservation.
  3. I am honest about what I can do. I used to demonstrate a lot. Picketing, chanting, and disrupting used to be the way I could most easily participate in this movement. After some time, naturally, my body began to suffer, and I had to pivot. Now, my activism looks like dialogue, a warm hug, a listening ear that turns into an important article. It’s okay if our capacities for being an activist changes or looks different over time.

Ultimately, Ricardo, as with most things in life, try to focus on what you can control. This is perhaps the most actionable piece of advice that I can give you that has worked most effectively for me.

Good luck.