What will it take?
For me, one thing that has become increasingly clear over the past two years is that climate change is very much real and happening right in front of our eyes. Now, it may be naive to admit that, at 19, I am just starting to feel the weight and urgency of this issue. Even after years of learning about it, it is only now that I am starting to come to terms with the reality of our fleeting time left on this planet.
Recently, the issue of climate change has been presented to me in a way that forced me to no longer ignore it, but rather sit and stare at it in complete shock and horror. I know what you’re thinking: “here we go again… another person trying to lecture me about the climate.” I get that — it is a depressing and unsettling topic, one that makes you want to shut the book, computer, or whatever object is presenting this issue to you and forget you ever heard about this crazy thing called climate change.
You may even think, “I’ll probably be dead right, why should I care?” Hear me out: even if it’s only for these few paragraphs. I feel as if we need to open our minds to new ways of thinking. Rather than the unsettling topic of climate change being something that we actively push away, I encourage you to stare right at the truth. To acknowledge openly what our world faces and to let yourself experience the intense range of emotions this subject should bring to the surface.
It is hard to ignore the beauty of nature and the feelings it brings you. For me, it is a powerful energy that engulfs my senses as it coaxes a deeply planted seed of curiosity and excitement from my soul. I remember feeling such awe and peace when in nature even at a young age. It is so evident within any sort of natural space or ecosystem that the world holds a magic that we simply cannot explain, but only feel.
All forms of life are equally mysterious, complex and miraculous. Even within cities and urban environments, it isn’t hard to find the beauty in our limited, but present, green spaces. A leisurely walk in Strathcona Park or a drive to Gatineau Park is all it takes.
I have experienced this strong presence of nature while walking through the forests of Algonquin Park and paddling on Georgian Bay, where it was so easy to feel content. So disconnected from modern society yet so connected to the earth and myself, I began to question how we could even begin to believe that we are separate from the natural world when we are, in fact, nature, and always have been.
I am lucky to have been able to experience such immersive outdoor experiences, but I believe that one can feel this connectivity to nature from within their own backyard. We cannot forget that nature is as much a part of us as we are a part of it. That when the planet is not healthy, we are not healthy. No matter how hard we try to develop, expand, grow, and build, nature will always find a way to infiltrate our systems.
Even so, it is not hard to turn a blind eye to this crisis — truthfully, I have been doing it most of my life. We have forgotten that this world and its natural landscapes are drastically different from what it was even fifty years ago. We have lost control and — to put it frankly — I have no idea what to do about it. And hey, I get it! This shit is fucking scary, to say the least.
But when do we accept the fear, grief, and sadness of our situation? And when do we do something about it? When do we look at the seriousness of the apocalyptic extinction we face and get terrified into change, real radical change? What is it going to take? How long will it take? What level of destruction does our world have to reach until leaders band together to determine the future of humanity? When do we decide that the damage has reached its end? When, if not now, will there be a revolution on a world scale to change the course of history?
It cannot be done if we are blind to it. It is so insanely easy to continue on with daily life as if the concrete jungle is where we evolved and that the coyotes moving into the cities are not supposed to be there. Rather, that they are pesky and bothersome intruders. When will we stop making excuses and see that the forests burned in B.C. this past summer were not a coincidence, and that the ice caps melting and sea levels rising are swallowing islands as we speak? Globally, when are we going to accept the reality presented to us?
Now, I wish I had a solution. I wish I could say I even knew where to begin with solving this issue. It is hard to even fathom making a difference to such a large scale issue that holds such magnitude. I encourage you to feel all the feelings around this topic: fear, sadness, depression, grief, loss, confusion, and anger. Let these natural emotions fuel your actions and infiltrate the way you go about your daily life. Start to look at the world through a new critical environmental lens and analyze the ways in which we are so deeply entrenched in it.
I credit a lot of my newfound knowledge on this topic to my religion, nature and animals class, to my anthropology program at the U of O, to the experiences and insight I gained during this insane two-year pandemic, and to my own research that has stemmed from this initial spark of interest in climate change. I am grateful to be here just writing this and sharing my thoughts to, hopefully, an equally concerned reader.