Yesterday was 45th Earth Day.
On the one hand, the fact that we are still celebrating Earth Day is an incredible testament to the vision of John McConnell, the creator of Earth Day.
On the other hand...
45 years y'all! 45 years!!! Forty-five! 4-5! Four decades and five years! 1969!
We can now say that for 45 years we have had at least one day a year when, in theory, people were organizing to protect the earth. Yes, I know people have done this long before 1969. But what if we just looked at the last 45 years?
The results are varied in terms of success. Yes, we have had some serious focus on recycling, reducing and reusing. And, we are still 2° Celsius close to some major wreckage.
I've been aware for some time of the immensity of tackling climate change. And so when I consider it, I feel as if I swing between advising recycling and putting my head against the air conditioner. The solutions are systemic, which invariably include adaptive responses rather than technical ones. And my life is pretty reliant upon technical solutions. Find problem. Identify shape. Match piece to puzzle. Done. Next?
Change my lifestyle and basic assumptions? Say what?!
There is a form of learned helplessness in the face of climate change. World ending, species extinct, massive change, cataclysmic weather patterns. Blah. blah. blah. The spirit and soul are numbed before the statistics and reality.
But then I realized, the simple fact that I can not think about climate change is privilege. My learned helplessness is a privilege. My apathy is a privilege. This made me uncomfortable. I considered perusing Facebook or answering emails, but the truth is persistent. My apathy was directly related to my life that was filled with privileges.
For mothers in places where there isn't sufficient water and civil wars have erupted, they must think about climate change. For elders who mine the trash dumps for food with the air thick with contaminants, they must live with climate change. For the families displaced by mudslides and hurricanes, climate change is not an optional topic.
The late Dorothy Parker would often instruct students in the Catholic social worker movement, "no one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do."
I think there is another dimension to this right to hopelessness. Put simply, if we don't believe we can change our behaviors and undo the damage, well then we certainly won't. If we don't believe there is a better future for our children, well then there most certainly will not be one.
This is not a belief we must be convinced of, but a decision to envision a better world. The decision to live out of hope and for hope.