This week, after roughly a year of construction and approximately half a million dollars in expense, repair work on the Morton Street Bulkhead appears to be winding down. Meanwhile, the Global Carbon Project estimates that global carbon dioxide emissions – which had leveled out briefly at the end of the Obama administration – are on pace to increase by 2.7% in 2018 on top of a 1.7% increase last year. As I have written before, coastal defense alone will likely cost New York City tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars in the foreseeable future, and yet, diligently, we are repairing aging bulkheads that, odds are, soon enough, will be regularly underwater. Clearly, as we hurtle towards the proverbial cliff’s edge, we are (almost) all in denial.
A loved one reached out to say she was feeling discouraged and personally culpable for climate change, and I responded: “It’s a tough reality at the moment and those of us who live comfortably in the US are all disproportionately to blame, but I don’t see any option at this point but working to reduce the harm.”
A friend declared that what she most feels in thinking about climate issues is “shame.”
By way of social media caption, I wrote: “If you’re not thinking, talking, and acting on climate every day at this point, then you are part of the denial. We have until 2030-ish to utterly transform the way the world works, and despair, cynicism, and resignation are all just different forms of cowardice. Time for concerted, sustained, collective, just, historically-rooted, and evidence-based action.”
Another friend publicly reasserted his conviction that geoengineering will be the only way to avert the most dire consequences of global climate disruption (a contention with which I firmly disagree).
On the one hand, we are desperately in need of a strong dose of reality; on the other, it’s about damn time for some pragmatic optimism and can-do spirit. Yes, the interwoven social, political, economic, ecological, and climate crises have grown to staggering and daunting proportions.
What are you doing about it?
If you’re in need of further inspiration, I recommend you follow the links to videos about what youth activists of the Sunrise Movement are doing here in the United States; what indigenous communities are doing in Canada; what members of Extinction Rebellion are doing in the U.K.; what farmers are doing in India; what Greta Thunberg is doing in Sweden (and her remarkable speech at the generally tepid and heavily-policed COP 24 Summit in Katowice); and what Amy Goodman (of Democracy Now!) modeled in chasing one of the chief representatives of the U.S. Government at the Katowice Climate Summit in pursuit of honest answers to a few simple questions.
I urge you, look to these good examples, and then ask yourself – this holiday season, this new year: What am I doing about the climate crisis? Why am I not doing more? How will I feel about my actions, or lack thereof, in a decade? Or fifty years?
Here’s to making 2019 the first year during which global emissions trend down, after which they stay down. Take Drawdown with a grain of salt, but we already have the solutions (chief among them, ending the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, which Drawdown does not emphasize, hence the salt). And if you’re dreading challenging climate conversations with family and friends, here’s a primer.
We have a lot of work to do. See you next year.