Tag Archives: Environmental activism

It’s Time to Save the World

“Is my English OK? Is the microphone on?” asked Greta Thunberg, in one of her most recent addresses. “Because I’m beginning to wonder.”

Laughter from the audience.

It wasn’t a joke. No one seems to be listening.

Nine years ago, when I was Greta’s age, I wasn’t aware. I wasn’t politically, globally, socially, environmentally aware. I wasn’t aware of what our biggest problems were–or that I, as a kid, could do anything about it, even if I did know what was happening in the world.

Nine years ago, I was LARPing (live-action role playing). For those who don’t know, LARP is a game wherein you create a character for yourself, dress up in costume, and run around in the woods at night, fighting faux villains with foam sticks. It’s like playing make-believe in the backyard when you were little, but on a larger scale, with maybe a better production value.

LARP comes in a number of forms, but the game I played was mostly like Dungeons & Dragons. It was a fantasy game. Swords and sorcery. Lightning bolts. Storming the castle. All of that.

While I knew that the events in the game weren’t “real” and that the character I played wasn’t “real,” they always felt important. They felt bigger than the small “reality” I actually lived in. I often felt that my character was better than me. She was stronger, prettier, freer. She had more goodness in her; more to give. I wanted to be like her in real life.

This disconnect–the idea that my character was false and somehow separate from me–affected my growth in a number of ways. I could write a book on it. There’s a lot to unpack. But the point here is that even after I managed to quit the game, I had a hard time developing an idea of who I was without that character.

Recently, with the changing of the seasons, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. It would be the start of LARP season now, if I was still playing.

I’m still sorting through it, but one of the things that finally occurred to me was that I could be like the heroic character I used to play. I already was like her. She came from me.

But there were still situational differences, systematic differences between that character’s world and mine, dragging me down.

I posted this on Facebook:

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And, only days later, the sentiment was echoed by somebody else:

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I’ve been flailing for a solution. Something I could do to help the environment, and reconcile the reality of my apparent helplessness with the idea of once having played at being someone courageous and able to create change.

In this video, Jane Goodall advises people to act locally. “Quite honestly,” she says, “if you think globally, you get depressed.” Break it down, then. Start with what you know you can do. Do something. Even if it might seem small. “We’re all interconnected.”

I’ve been worrying myself sick. I woke up today with a sore throat, and a headache, presumably from my newfangled teeth grinding habit. In an anxious, somewhat dissociated haze, I drove to the store for some groceries, just to get out of the house. Everywhere, meat and dairy. Things packaged in plastic. Delicious things that I only felt bad about craving. I bought one of those chocolate bars that claims to help endangered species, and felt doubtful about its impact, but I hoped.

On my way home, it seemed like all I could see was trash. Scattered along the side of the road, accumulating in the ditches, washed up along the curb. Plastic bags blowing in the wind and caught up in bushes.

Enough is enough.

I found a metal stick–one of those garden hooks for hanging bird feeders or little candle pots–and I filed the end to a point on my dad’s bench grinder. I walked across the street to the park outside my house, and I attacked the garbage in the rain garden. I chased it through the foliage, piercing it with my makeshift rapier, collecting its remains.

Maybe this will help.

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Photo by Robert Stuart Lowden

I’m an adventurer. It’s my job.

And for all the shitheads out there who consume without thinking, and leave their trash lying around; for the people who continue to make a mess of the world, I have just one message:

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Kids Care…Do You?

My 16-year old daughter texted me this morning letting me know she was likely participating in a walk-out from school. This did not surprise me, she’s walked out to join protests before in support of Black Lives Matter and/or in protest of police brutality. She has taken part in a push for her former middle school to change its name (which it did!) and protested a dress code that she viewed as sexist, leading to discussions with school administration on a more equitable dress code. This time when I asked her what for she simply said, “the environment.” I then heard rumblings at work that students from one of our other high schools were all leaving after 2nd period and heading to the capitol building to participate in the International Youth Climate Strike event. So, I googled exactly what that was.

How did I not hear about this prior to this morning? Has my head been in the clouds? Have I been too distracted by work, school, and my flooded basement? How has this world-wide strike been coordinated and the first I hear of it is when my teenager texts me that she is joining it? Granted, I do not use Snapchat or whatever other apps the younger generation are using. I am “old,” so I use Facebook. The Guardian is giving live updates showing strikes, marches, and protests from around the world. There is a float of 16-year-old Nobel peace prize nominee Greta Thunberg in Sweden. There are kids in school uniforms protesting outside of parliament in Cape Town, South Africa. The protests in London took local police by surprise as they headed towards Buckingham Palace and chanted “we want change” in front of the Queen’s residence.  You can read the live updates here.

This movement, the way that the strikes were organized, and their central push to create “system change, not climate change” is tied in so well to what Manuel Castells speaks about in his book “Networks of Outrage and Hope.” In this article by Sophie Sleeman she talks about how this social movement is forming via social media and how social movements like this are “redefining political space and challenging the idea that social media platforms are only uncontrollable forces beyond our control.” Instead, she declares, they are being used to change the world.

Students in Ukraine hold signs that say, “Make My Planet Great Again” and “Don’t Burn Our Future.” In Poland, a large polluter, they hold signs that say, “Without plastic it’s fantastic.” In London they went heavy on the signage with some of them questioning why they are being forced to study for a future they will not even have if climate change continues at the rate it currently is.

London school climate strikes

What is it going to take to get the adults in positions of leadership to act with the urgency our youth is demanding? We cannot take small, incremental steps towards change or continue to act like it is something that can wait for the next decade, the next administration, or the next legislative session to tackle. Scientists around the world agree that we are either at or near a point of no return related to climate change. Some argue that we can no longer stop a 2-degree increase in global warming, and instead argue we need to do everything in our power to mitigate going beyond that. Others are still hoping we can stop it at 1.5 degrees although now that the U.S. has pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, as one of the largest consumers in the world, I am not sure how likely that is.

Our youth, our kids, our grand-kids will be the ones who will see and live through the effects of the decisions that we are making right now. Aside from taking on these tips for reducing our own carbon footprint, we need to consider a person’s views on environmental policy when deciding who to vote for, put pressure on elected officials already in office, and vote those out who are not voting in the best interest of this earth’s future. Saving this planet must start with us, our kids are begging us – will we listen?