An Environmental Professor on Learning to Cope With Climate Change.
ALISON SPODEK KEIMOWITZ, Slate : An environmental professor on learning to cope with climate change.
When I was ill, I was terrified, as you might expect for a 37-year-old mother of two kids under age 6, and a disease with a two-year survival rate of 25 percent. Initially I read all the statistics on prognosis for my disease, my age, my gender. My anxiety began to ease only when I fully acknowledged and named the nearness of death, no matter how I sliced the numbers. By being more present to my suffering on my worst days, by naming it not just clinically but as a full-hearted human desperate to stay alive, I found myself more present to my joy as well. By finally looking mortality in the face, its presence in my soul began to shrink, and I could enjoy the small joys that I could find. I taught my 2-year-old to taste honeysuckle; I showed my 6-year-old cicada shells.
Inevitably, the climate will warm; whole ecosystems will be lost; and someday, there will be a last generation of humans on Earth. But the years we can postpone each loss, and each wild place and creature saved, are incalculably valuable. And so I keep teaching, and processing, and working to stave off the inevitable. I don’t know if any of those things will truly prevent catastrophic changes on Earth; I suspect not. But I give these gifts freely, hopefully, and in the knowledge that they are all I have to give. Nothing we can do will prevent the Earth from being deeply transformed. Maybe the next generation, my children or grandchildren, will be the last to live in large-scale human civilization. Or, maybe the efforts of me, my students, and millions of other like-minded folks will push back the inevitable collapse for another 100 years, or 500 years, perhaps allowing us to coexist longer with the wonder of wild places and creatures. There is no preventing the inevitable, but the delay is precious. It is all we have.
We can’t surrender to despair. Trump will pass, and there is a lot we can do even while he is President.