Dear Zaria: What can I do about the pressure I feel as a climate advocate?
Making needed change at a personal level to help drive the much-needed and more significant change at a collective level feels like too much pressure sometimes when it’s your day-to-day job, and all we know is time is running out. What advice would you give about finding community and nurturing creativity as a possible way to be more compassionate to oneself and others?
One thing that working so closely with, and on behalf of, the environment has taught me is that all things in nature need rest.
This is simply the life cycle — periods of high activity (life) followed by rest and reflection (death) before returning to life.
We — advocates, activists, protectors, and defenders of the environment — are no different. As you said, we feel nothing but pressure, anxiety, and stress without this balance. These emotions make it difficult to care about anything sincerely without the threat of burnout rearing its head.
Engaging in community, and caring deeply for yourself, are the antidotes to this uncomfortable experience.
When in community, we’re reminded of what calls us to activism in the first place; humans are naturally empathetic, and we naturally want to see each other thrive and experience bliss and joy. Climate Justice posits that the liberation of our environment is tied up in our collective liberation, and frees us from the harmful systems and ideas that push us to degrade our planet and one another.
Without this community aspect, we are prone to despair and loneliness, feeling isolated and separated from one another, which is not what nature intended for us.
As you mentioned, art and creativity help fend off feelings of despair and sadness. Through creative activities, we also become reconnected to our core life force. When we paint, sing, dance, and laugh — we are reminded of our mere existence and that our only duty in life is to, like I said before, live and love.
As climate advocates, it’s easy for our passion for the environment to become a part of our identity; how could it not when we are a part of the ecosystem we’re working to protect? It’s an intimate sort of relationship — a form of puppy love that makes it hard to eat or drink, except the most prominent issue plaguing the connection is the threat of environmental collapse, and not work, finances, or whether kids should be in the picture.
But, like in any relationship, without balance, compassion, and grace, both towards ourselves and others, it quickly becomes codependent and counterproductive. We, simply put, cannot pour from an empty cup.
So make your art, hug and kiss your friends, and enjoy your life while you make actionable steps towards addressing climate change, but always remember that you cannot have one without the other.
Eventually, with some practice, you’ll realize that taking care of yourself, and engaging in community, is a form of activism; we are directly interrupting human’s tendency to self-destruct and destroy. We are learning to replace productivity with passion and pressure with love.
And this is the sort of intervention that allows for radical change within us, around us, and as it pertains to the environment.
I hope this helps.