Climate Anxiety and the Strike

Fastidiously organizing our recycling, schlepping reusable shopping bags, carpooling, eating less meat— it’s not enough. It’s tremendously important, but it’s not enough. 

 

Facing that fact is so daunting that it sends many of us into a sort of paralyzing climate anxiety. We’re scared that we’re powerless, we’re scared that it’s too late. We try not to think about whether or not we ought to have children— the droughts and food shortages they might have to endure. We push the nightmarish visions out of our minds and try to carry on. 

 

I’m happy to say that some of that anxiety was alleviated for me this week thanks to the Climate Strike. Even in this outpost of the American West, I’m surrounded by people who want to protect this earth as much as I do. And then reading the news and seeing the crowds in New York, Hamburg, and Melbourne. Relief washed over me. Millions and millions of people standing up to save what we all have in common— our home. We have the numbers to induce systematic change on a global scale. Saving our planet is possible. 

 

That being said, it’s still a choice that we all have to make on a personal level— something new to add to our daily regimen of eco-habits. We need to pressure government organizations and corporations into regulating emissions and divesting from fossil fuels. We need to reach out to our representatives. Remind them that their job is to serve us. Meet your city officials. Instigate change on a local level. Vote for the planet. Set an example for your family and friends.

 

Climate anxiety, like any anxiety, can be incapacitating. Climate anxiety, like any anxiety, can also be overcome.

Climate Strike in Reno, NV on September 20, 2019. Photo by Clinton Collins.

An introduction to the Jemez

I spent the first week of July getting acquainted with the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. The purpose of the trip was to visit my brother’s new home outside of Santa Fe and spend my days in airconditioned art museums. But the best kind of love catches us by surprise, and I spent my days in the Jemez instead. I admired the high-walled canyons, waterfalls, and hot springs, but the crown jewel was surely Valles Caldera.

A relatively new addition to the National Park Service, Valles Caldera National Preserve is the site of a collapsed volcano, now a huge crater, which has filled in with montane meadows and ponderosa forests over the last million or so years. This time of year, the meadows are lush with snowmelt. A herd of cow elk and their new—and still white speckled—calves splash in the East Fork of the Jemez River. Rocky mountain iris blooms with abandon. Monsoon storms almost never miss their three o’clock cue.

Fires in 2011 and 2013 burned two-thirds of the Preserve. Now all that blazes is the sun, which is relentless at 9,000 ft. The landscape of charred trunks offers no respite. Flickers trill, cicadas scream, pleasant blue fungus beetles buzz and thump as they collide with a human body. Not to mention the mews of cow elk, the croaks of ravens overhead. The loudness of the recovering forest is dramatic and gorgeous as a Stravinsky ballet.

Looking for rattlesnakes and finding none

No switchbacks—the trail is relentless, angled straight for the sky. I can’t breathe and I can’t stop either.

Even my mind is cloudless today. No present, no past.

When I reach the saddle, my body and the tall grass are washed in a strong and steady wind. Lupine and paintbrush too. Grasshoppers and fence lizards too. Litter and dog shit too. Unconditional as the attention of God.

A kestrel climbs and dives, climbs and dives.

I’ve said it before. I can’t separate the two—the wind as God or God as the wind.