We have all become slightly discombobulated while passing through our first global pandemic and simultaneously navigating our first global climate crisis. Due to the rarity of such events, establishing the verity and severity requires medical or scientific training. Most of us are neither doctors nor scientists; despite that, we must make critical life-changing choices for ourselves and ours.
At least the current pandemic wave seems to be waning, allowing us the headspace to meditate on the import of the other big one, the climate issue.
When I was younger, I did an exercise someone recommended to me. I wrote in detail what I wanted aspects of my life to look like twenty years ahead. The next step in the activity required I note where I must therefore be in ten years? Then in five years, two and a half years, and on down to what must I do later that very day (Smarten my appearance and get a haircut).
It was a powerful exercise. It turns out that once we have a clearly defined goal, things happen rapidly; buffeting headwinds become smooth tailwinds. It took less than four years to achieve it all. I clearly should have set higher marks, but it already seemed overly audacious as I wrote that day.
Were I to repeat that exercise, twenty years takes us to 2042. What do we expect things to look like by then? It probably is not how we want them to look, but the specifics elude millions of us laypeople; there is too much we don’t and possibly can’t understand. It isn’t possible to reduce the instability, multiple cascading climate events, and the simultaneity of it all to a neatly delineated straight and narrow path. The thing about instability and uncertainty is they give us no line of sight into the specifics of the outcome. The danger of the absence of knowledge is replacing it with the arrogance of some false certitude unsupported by evidence. The evidence is we face a gargantuan task just up ahead of us.
We gather from reports many things are occurring earlier and advancing more rapidly than predicted by the climate models. While nothing terribly untoward is happening to most of us – the climate crisis remains chiefly forecast predictions or prophecies of science. We accept the sea is warming, ice is melting, and greenhouse gasses are accumulating. But outside, the sky is blue and cloudless; flowers bloom, and birds chirp on the fresh green lawn; as climate crises go, this one is, to date, underwhelming—this paradox of the present blinds. Still, the emerging patterns of a steady acceleration of all the issues driving the crisis pick away at our calm. We can only hope a general lack of composure will eventually generate enough critical-mass anxiety to influence business and the way society works and that it happens soon enough.
It shouldn’t seem overly audacious to believe that the common sense of the ordinary people will work to divert us from climate calamity. We know our leaders have proved pathetically meek in the face of humanity’s greatest challenge – so we are the last best chance. Any less audacious expectation does injustice to our complexity and humankind’s sometimes irrelevant brilliance.
As the crisis bites ever deeper into our lives, we are likely to discover new layers within ourselves, and within them, footholds for new possibilities. In the ceaselessly twinkling constellation of challenges ahead, we must protect and save what we love while maintaining our humanity, our power, poetry, poise, and grace.
The age-old human quest of seeking the meaning of life may have to give way to an all-consuming purpose – granting us the experience of being fully alive as we confront the most urgent and consequential all-hands-on-deck moment.
What to do?
Imagine immensities, save what you love, remember to stop and laugh sometimes, but don’t compromise or waste time.