Whatever you believe about the origins of the universe and the history of life on Earth, do you recognize how precious the very existence of life is?
There are 100 billion stars in each of 100 billion galaxies….and our star, the Sun, is located at just the right difference and provides just the right energy to create conditions for an incredible diversity of life to flourish on Earth.
Humans existed for a long time in small enough numbers and made small enough messes that the interconnected life systems of the planet were not threatened.
Eventually some humans began vigorously upsetting the balance, perhaps unawarely at first.
The use of fossil fuels has certainly made life more comfortable for some people and has led to technologies that are truly remarkable.
But, the harnessing of fossil fuels through the Industrial Revolution only perpetuated and exacerbated existing injustices.
Their discovery sparked unchecked greed and set in motion a long chain of reactions leading us to the brink of catastrophe - putting Earth’s life systems (including clean air, water and soil) in peril.
Many people spoke out against these developments over the last 500 years, particularly Indigenous leaders who have always seen all life as interconnected and recognized the recklessness of settler - colonialist policies.
People from hundreds of countries now agree on the dangers of continuing to use fossil fuels. Clearly the sensible thing to do is to eliminate the use of them.
So why aren’t we approaching the current challenge sensibly?
A host of painful feelings are preventing humans from uniting in large enough numbers around a program aimed at protecting life.
Most of us feel like our individual actions don’t make a difference. We fail to recognize our inherent power and either don’t notice or dismiss our influence on things around us - both positive and negative.
Reality: Each of us is inherently powerful and we have tremendous potential to influence everything around us.
Antidote: Take any action and observe what happens, both to you internally and to the external situation. You may experience a surge of energy or inspiration as you realize you actually can influence the situation you’re in. You may be dismayed to recognize your negative influence. The first step to change must be acknowledgment of the reality of the current situation.
We often feel stuck, paralyzed, and unable to move our body or our thoughts. We may feel that everything is impossible and it won’t make a difference to try anything.
Reality: We can now function independently. Our feelings are often leftover from childhood when we were dependent on others to stay alive.
The future is not determined.
Antidote: Speak! Write! Act! Ask for help! Saying or doing SOMETHING will lead to new thoughts and actions.
Many of us can’t shake off a chronic feeling of being alone in the world. We try hard to carry on each day and to maintain a hopeful perspective, but it’s difficult to hold onto positive thoughts without any word from the outside.
Reality: There are almost 8 billion humans, often within arms reach or at least shouting distance. Every person is a potential friend or ally.
Antidote: Whenever you feel stuck, helpless, or can’t think of what to do: Connect with someone, even for just a few minutes, or by simply meeting someone's gaze when you pass them on the street. Your mind will work better after you have made a connection with another.
I often experience an overwhelming despair as I face the level of environmental destruction in today’s world. Do you?
Reality: Earth’s systems are reacting in predictable ways to the current amount of carbon in the air and oceans. However, we are not (yet) all doomed to die prematurely and extinguish all life on Earth. The way we feel now has more to do with painful times from earlier in our lives that we still carry with us, likely because we faced those painful times alone.
Antidote: Fully face the despair, release the grief, and in doing so, maintain the ability to keep looking at hard things. We do not need to be afraid of feeling deep, painful feelings. Being willing to face seemingly unbearable sadness will also allow us to experience immense joy. Best of all, we don’t need to face hard things alone - ask a friend to bear witness and sit next to you - or meet with you on Zoom - while you voice your fears and grief.
This is a key cause of feeling exhausted. We may feel discouraged about the future and defeated before we even begin a campaign.
Reality: It’s logically impossible to feel discouraged about something that hasn’t happened yet.
Antidote: Remember that the future is not determined. Feelings of discouragement must be related to something that happened before, not something that has yet to occur. Remind yourself of this continually.
Burnout is extremely common among people who take action. It can feel unbearable to write one more email, organize one more event, or read one more news story.
Reality: We are living beings who have real needs for rest, nourishment, exercise, and relaxation. We are also weighed down by earlier times we experienced overwhelming situations and didn’t have the inner resources or help from outside to cope, and were left feeling discouraged.
Antidote: The future needs us alive and healthy to keep meeting the challenges of the day. Just like birds take turns being the leader in the migrating herd, we can step back as needed to rejuvenate. Staying in connection with others who share our perspective caring concern can make all the difference.
Please share these ideas and stay in connection with others fighting to maintain a livable planet. The next two to ten years will likely determine the conditions on Earth for millenia. Don’t you want the best possible outcomes?
Don't let your feelings stop you from acting. Do something every week for a livable planet. If you can’t act on your own behalf, please act for the younger generations. Not sure what to do? Give today. We have tons of ideas for mobilizing and decarbonizing our community and need funding to turn ideas into reality.
-Nancy Faulstich, Regeneración Director