Overcoming Climate Overwhelm — the game that is out to change the world

Anger that sinks into despair is powerless to make a change. Anger that evolves into conviction is unstoppable.

— Christiana Figueres, The Future We Choose

Welcome to Earth Week.

I’m torn between writing this from the future, as if I’ve stepped into a time machine and arrived in 2050. It’s temperate, and the air is fresh — 50% tree cover means that we are breathing the finest air in several generations. Humans are thriving in green, living, solar-punk-esque cities.

Hold up, wait. That’s not right. We failed to cut our emissions in half by 2030! We were so far off track by 2050 that we couldn’t see the forest for the blaze! And now everything really is on fire, literally. Those who could grow their own food (that was me, by the way, once I got the hang of it), now have to defend their land from looters and the military, both of whom want to seize the whole damn lot.

God, it’s grim.

But we aren’t there yet.

It’s still just 2021. And it’s Earth Week. So now you get to think about the future too. This is my invitation to you.

Where do we begin?

Are you stressed out your eyeballs by carbon emissions? Have zero idea what is going on or who to believe? Or just super chilled, not in the least bit worried?

I’m not here to judge.

But I am here to tell the stories that I think the world needs to hear.

I’ve been all around the houses in my time — I studied law, with Honours in International Environmental Law, and I even managed to pull off a first class dissertation in Comparative Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). But I graduated right bang smack in the middle of the financial crash of 2008, so, you know. Pursuing a legal career felt like a risk. Plus it really wasn’t me. Did someone say rules?

So instead of getting a job, I did what any self respecting law graduate with no prospects should do. (Not true, by the way. There is no should, this is is just what I did). I went back to school and did an MSc in Environmental Management. A freaking Masters of Science. That meant that there was lots of brand new cool stuff, like wow, what’s an ecosystem, and why not take on the economics of climate change at Masters level right off the bat. Yeah. That whole year was a steep learning curve.

Since then I’ve been a renewables EIA project manager, I’ve been an ecologist, I’ve sold vegan shampoo (true story), and now, I write. I tell stories. Sometimes they are stories I made up, sometimes they are stories that other people ask me to write, sometimes they are stories that I just think need to be birthed into the world.

This is one of them.

By the end of the Masters degree, I was pretty geeky about…. bats. Some (but not a lot) know that I often carry a bat detector around with me. Also a true story. I like to listen to the bats. Who wouldn’t?

Once upon a time I also knew a fair amount about the World Trade Organization, and the Contraction and Convergence Framework for Climate Change. Oh, and by 2020, I was also well on the way to being vegan as one way to reduce my own carbon footprint. So when I heard about the Climate Collage workshops, I kind of passed. I thought I knew what I needed to know. I thought I knew plenty and was doing everything I could.

I am glad my ego stepped down when it did, because there were some things I really needed to hear.

The Climate Collage was a wake up call for even me, certified environmentalist.

Since taking part in a workshop in November, I stepped up to become a facilitator too. Because reducing my meat intake was one thing, but sharing knowledge is a whole-different-level.

And this is the level I want to be on.

One thing that really sunk in for me is what I call the “2 degrees thing.” If you already know the ins and outs of why an increase in 2 degrees is what we are desperately trying to avoid, maybe you want to skip this part. But if you want to read about some of the finer details that kind of blew my mind, come with me for this.

Warming the earth by 2 degrees is a big no-no. We know this, even if we can’t articulate specifically why. (And that’s ok by the way, you don’t have to know everything. Note to self, too, not to hold myself to impossible knowledge and awareness standards). But here’s the thing: that 2 degrees isn’t going to be equal across the world.

If it was, and Scotland was two degrees warmer, that might not be so bad, right?

Wrong.

The 2 degrees is an average. And we are not talking about air temperature here, or the weather. Even though it will have an impact on the weather that will make it go properly bat-shit crazy.

Some places will get hit harder, much harder, and some will get an easier pass. Some areas might even cool as global weather systems do weird stuff. But all of this will change life as we know it, everywhere. And when I say change, the worst case scenario could be “irreversibly kill off.”

And one other thing — this a model. A prediction. Because, frankly, no one really knows what is going to happen, because it’s never happened before, like this, ever. So these are educated best-guesses about what will happen based on things we have never really observed before. So that 2 degree average could mean that at the poles we could actually be talking about a whole 7 degrees warmer. Which would be an unmitigated disaster.

If you’re sitting to wait and see what will happen when we unleash all hell by melting the permafrost, I strongly and respectfully advise you to just not wait for that. You could start with what’s going on in New Hampshire. They are already a few degrees F warmer over the last 30 years, and it’s put an end to the ski season. Pennsylvania gets more snow now than New Hampshire these days. Being a Brit, that doesn’t really mean a whole lot to me, but this is what I can surmise: this shit is very real, and it is already in motion with some pretty strong consequences. I won’t even start on the polar bears, if that’s ok with you.

All. Right.

Time to check back in with you and see how you’re doing with all this existential threat.

You good? I know I’m not.

I was angry. But I was angry bordering on despair, like so many in the circles around me. I was definitely in the Climate Burn-out Camp. I was on the cynical, fatalistic, pessimistic end of the scale. Mired in the hopelessness that breeds inertia. The fear that paralyses you into inaction, or into taking actions so small that they feel like they are doing nothing. NOTHING IS WORKING — the mantra of the climate forlorn. Taking action on climate change is pointless — because otherwise, wouldn’t we be seeing some results by now?

If you’re sinking — know this.

We are not doing enough, this is true. But it doesn’t have to end here. AND. There is some seriously cool shit going on out there.

But in order to engage with it, it is necessary to move out of the grief / denial / anger stage, and proceed into the future, into action, into hope, into community.

This is why I love the Climate Collage. I thought I would hate it, and I definitely resisted it. But a) it helped reorient my perspective, and shake up what I thought I knew and what I thought I should do. It is so much lighter this way, to be part of something bigger than just one little person taking on issues like overfishing, plastic waste and deforestation for agriculture. Phew. Community and Climate is where it’s at. And b) it is just so nice to not feel devastated by the state of the planet and so overwhelmed that I don’t even know who I am any more.

Yes, half of all coral reefs are gone and 12% of all species known to humankind are threatened (by our activity). But the Climate Collage helped me ditch the guilt of being human. It helped me navigate out of complacency and distraction and displacement activity — what George Monbiot calls ‘micro-consumerist bollocks’ (MCB). While that stuff is good, like not using plastic cotton buds and taking reusable bags with us etc, and it feels nice, it is just not enough. And it might not even matter, right?

It’s 2021 — we need the big guns now.

Want to be one of a million players and see for yourself?

This Earth Week, roll up your sleeves, get your thinking cap on — we are going to dive into climate literacy and engage in some wacky cool climate solutions that are a whole other level from that MCB.

Book your place with me and the Climate Collage here — Friday 23rd April, 10am (Edinburgh, UK).

*Other times with other inspiring facilitators are also available — see booking link.

Founder, feminist, entrepreneur, coffee + self care

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