Twenty years ago in my high school chemistry class I heard the phrase "global warming" for the first time. Not because it was being taught but because the teacher was an ardent denier and he liked to argue aloud about its validity. I believe it was then that I subtly began grieving climate change. For years I cycled through a climate change grief process that never fully matured to acceptance.
A few weeks ago while driving home from work all of that changed. I was listening to the Bioneers podcast "One Percent Solutions: Climate Disruption, Fossil Billionaires, and Democracy Deficits" when I crossed the threshold to acceptance. I wept and wept at the sobering truth that by 2028 the impacts of our species' choices may be irreversible. 2028. That's eleven years. It was like hearing the dreaded words, "you have 'x" time to live". I've only heard those words as a bystander. This time, the radio spoke directly to me.
Yet, this is not new information for me. I work for endangered animals. I follow climate change news. I once vehemently argued with a stranger about the truth of climate change. But at least part of me lived with an illusion of immunity. It's a coping mechanism and my consumptive choices still reflect being a part of the fossil fuel addicted system. To fully divest from fossil fuels is nearly impossible. And so I'm in the betwixt and between of what was and what is. It seems like we all are.
Climate change is overwhelming. Every corner of the globe is affected and our social, ecological, and economic structures are crumbling under its weight. And when structures meet the end of their cycle, it's tempting to lull back to sleep and grasp for "what was". But there is no going back. No matter what delusional promises our politicians make, there will not be a future in which we exist that does not include climate extremes and it's endless rippling effects.
I have faced the unpleasant facts (to paraphrase George Orwell) and am sitting in the uncomfortable space of acceptance and letting my tender heart love what it loves. And it loves this earth and the life that exists here. If there are only eleven years left to change the course of life on the planet then that is where my heart will be. Loving and tending as many forms of life within my reach.
I invite you to do the same. If you find yourself wanting to come home to acceptance, I'll be here holding gentle space for your arrival. And maybe our collective pilgrimage home will change the story.
May it be so.
"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." -J.R.R. Tolkein
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open -
pools of lace,
white and pink -
and all day the black ants climb over them,
boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away
to their dark, underground cities -
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,
the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again -
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
-Mary Oliver, Peonies