Sarah Jaquette Ray

A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety

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    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    If an oppressor is trying to deplete a person’s emotional and physical resources, stripping them of the energy they need to resist oppression, then any behavior that protects those resources likewise counts as resistance. Cultivating pleasure, relationships, and energy through sleep, retreat, silence, inaction, and the pursuit of activities that generate passion and creativity is essential for us to maintain the human capital required to keep engaging in political work.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    To “change the macro conditions in which we live and work,” she concludes, “we’ll need all the physical and emotional resources we can muster.”
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    Find beauty, savor the small gifts of being alive, see everything you possibly can through the lens of being blessed rather than victimized, recalibrate your efforts toward the small and local, collect and create positive stories, heed your calling by not trying to be more than you are, take yourself less seriously, and pause to inhale deeply and honor the moment. This is what it means to learn how to die in the Anthropocene. It’s a Buddhist or existentialist goal that means sustaining your will to live so that you can keep trying to stave off the end of the world.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    Grief is the opposite of hope, but, perhaps counterintuitively, it’s a more important affect for doing the existential work of facing climate disruption. Whereas hope is often sought as a distraction from the gravity of what’s really going on, for Jamail, “a willingness to live without hope allows me to accept the heartbreaking truth of our situation, however calamitous it is. Grieving for what is happening to the planet also now brings me gratitude for the smallest, most mundane things. Grief is also a way to honor what we are losing. . . . My acceptance of our probable decline opens into a more intimate and heartfelt union with life itself.” Grief allows Jamail to “fall in love with the Earth in a way I never thought possible.” Embracing grief and decline is not a morose, fatalistic orientation. Facing death—the planet’s and ours—opens us up to the love that is necessary in order to sustain the work of climate action. Punishing ourselves for being a part of the humanity that has caused so much destruction can activate a savior complex or a politics of sacrifice, and assumes that the goal is moral purity. It’s preferable to aim for humility instead, and to accept our own entanglement in systems of injustice.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    In The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption, journalist Dahr Jamail writes about grief as a necessity for honoring suffering.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    On the contrary, acceptance of mortality enables us, ironically, to cherish life. Or, as Scranton puts it, “It’s at just this moment of crisis that our human drive to make meaning reappears as our only salvation . .
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    She refers to the long history of “misery resistance,” practiced particularly in Black communities, “of dancing, singing, and loving as forms of resisting, and releasing oppression from the collective Black body.” In the next chapter, I explore how joy and pleasure are a kind of resistance to the oppressor’s need for our spirits to be deflated so we won’t fight for justice. These feelings are not frivolous extras; they are requirements.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    Buddhism distinguishes between the kinds of desire that are distractions from suffering, but which never alleviate it and in fact often cause further suffering, and the kinds of desire that are necessary to alleviate the experience of suffering. Mindfulness helps us sort out what we truly desire from what we desire as a quick fix to escape from our existential suffering. Hope plus existential desire adds up to a sense of purpose, a reason to withstand the suffering for longer-term fulfillment. Hope alone cannot get us there; indeed, dashed hopes can lead to despair.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    “hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.”
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    Jonathan Franzen’s 2019 New Yorker piece, “What If We Stopped Pretending,” which didn’t offer much sugar, caused such a stir).
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    Practice green consumerism because it feels right—because you wish to—not because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t. But don’t let green consumerism make you complacent. When you limit your arena of social change to what you buy or don’t buy, you can lull yourself into thinking that’s enough.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    Although we wield power as consumers, we have greater impacts as citizens, community members, and social-change agents who can do much more than not buy plastic cutlery or pens.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    changes typically last about three weeks. And I’m not alone. Behavioral adaptations based on unpleasant feelings, like guilt and self-loathing, are not sustainable.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    When privileged people get stuck in guilt, they paradoxically can feel excused from the work of justice. The desire to not feel guilt is often greater than the desire to right whatever wrong is making us feel guilty, such as how we’ve failed the planet.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    Understanding that fear is at the root of much of our politics enables us to remain calm and make better decisions. What do you fear? Start there.

    It is easier to be compassionate about others’ views about climate change if we see these other worldviews as varying by degrees in many different ways, rather than clustering at the poles.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    The alliance between the climate and social justice movements recognizes the potential to bring people together over issues such as labor, indigeneity, immigration, abolition, and demilitarization. We can develop effective strategies by making climate change a social justice issue and recognizing that our position in society—our relative access to power and privilege—affects the way we frame and feel about these issues.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    Ocasio-Cortez’s impassioned speech on climate change to the House GOP in March 2019 illustrates a generational shift toward social justice, not just justice for the environment. The social justice check on the climate movement is not just about the “trickle down” of ecological goods that comes with saving the global ecosystem; it’s about an entirely different way of understanding the interconnectedness of social and ecological forms of degradation.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    When environmentalists claim that climate change is the greatest threat facing humankind, says Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council, they commit “existential exceptionalism” by not allowing that many communities have endured and are still enduring serious existential threats already.
    Bianca Beltránhas quoted3 months ago
    These frames help align climate change with the top priorities of most US citizens: the economy, health care, and jobs.
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