Panic is a natural first response to the awareness of what a terrible spot humanity is in. Despair often follows the panic. We have to calm down, and cheer ourselves up, before we can get to the real, urgent, practical work of saving the world.
Human-caused climate change is happening faster than even the worst pessimists predicted. The fires, floods, and droughts scare more people all the time. We are beginning to understand the harm we have done to ourselves and this beautiful earth. If enough of us are afraid enough, we might change our behavior before it’s too late. In a way, fear is our only hope.
Some have moved from denial straight to despair. That is natural but convenient. Despair lets us off the hook. Why take the trouble to change if we’re doomed anyway? If we believe human survival is impossible, we won’t even try to fight. But it’s not impossible; it’s just unlikely. There’s a big difference.
We know what to do. Reduce, re-use, recycle; cut way down on fossil fuels, plastics, military spending, and meat; educate women world-wide to curb population growth; prepare for mass migrations; and so on. But how do we do any of this when most of us feel so powerless, and we seem stuck with the status quo?
We do it through changing a culture that glorifies violence and greed. Each of us creates our culture every day, in what we buy, where we go, what we communicate. When we make different choices, we change the culture.
We’ve built our present world by imagining every detail. Everything we see around us is a product of human imagination – in fact, of countless imaginings. Money, status, nations, religions: all of these things are imaginary. When we think about them differently, they change. Now we must imagine a sustainable world where humanity and other species can thrive.
This is a time to rally ourselves, not give up. As has been said, it doesn’t matter what we did. What matters is what we do once we know what we have done.