When I first started my Zen Studies Podcast five years ago, I bought myself a magnet that still hangs on my fridge, saying, “I couldn’t afford a therapist, so I decided, hey, why not start a podcast?”
Of course, my Zen Studies Podcast doesn’t at all fit the stereotype of a self-revelatory, confessional, personal kind of podcast. I’m not interested in Climate and YOU becoming such a thing, either. I appreciate the support and experience of other people, but I hate advice and try to avoid any situation where I could be perceived as asking for it.
However, I feel like I’m at a turning point with this podcast and need to be honest about it. In case it hasn’t been obvious, my main motivation when I started the Climate and YOU podcast eight months ago was to help people make the challenging transition from caring about the climate crisis to doing something about it. Growing numbers of people are not just concerned about our climate and ecological emergency, they are deeply distressed, angry, overwhelmed, and fearful about the future. And yet the vast majority of us continue to go about our lives as if nothing much is happening. Because “We the People” aren’t insisting on commensurate action, our governments dawdle, and moneyed interests obstruct change.
The entire world’s response to COVID-19 proved beyond a doubt that we are fully capable of overnight, drastic change in order preserve human life and prevent the breakdown of our systems. Yes, that shutdown was painful, expensive, and in many ways damaging, but the world survived. How is it we will take such radical action in response to a pandemic, but not in response to the greatest threat to human survival we have ever faced?
The daily atmospheric carbon dioxide reading at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii for Sept. 13th, was 416 ppm. Preindustrial levels hovered around 280 ppm, and we passed what was considered a relatively safe level of 350 ppm around 1980. Our emissions continue to rise precipitously, just when they should be not just leveling off, but declining just as precipitously as they have been rising for the last 60 years. Despite all the legislation, despite all the technological innovations, despite all the scientific reports, despite the United Nations conferences of the parties, despite all the green living and good intentions, we are not succeeding in cutting our global greenhouse gas emissions. The atmospheric CO2 reading does not lie.
It’s time for all moral and capable citizens to do their part to push for commensurate action on our climate and ecological emergency – “commensurate” meaning “action matching the scale of the problem.”
Including me. I’ve had my forays into climate action, and I’ve talked about some of them on this podcast. For a while, I participated with a group, and we kept up a regular schedule of meetings and actions. From that place of engagement, I hoped to encourage other ordinary folks to give action a try.
Alas, it can be very challenging to find something meaningful to do. I talk to so many people now who confess deep concern about the climate plus a sincere desire to help, but almost everyone I know is at a complete loss about what to do. I used to think I had an answer, but apparently it wasn’t the answer people wanted to hear and the movement I was part of fizzled out. Now people hope I will have some suggestions for what to do because at least I’ve been trying to be active for a few years, I’ve done some stuff, and I produce this podcast. But I’m also at a loss.
The problem is no one trying to push for commensurate action on climate knows what to do. This should be obvious because we haven’t achieved commensurate action yet!
You may encounter the rare activist who has managed to stay committed and inspired for a long time – someone who believes in what they’re doing, and who continues to do it even though their successes are incremental, and road ahead is daunting. This is awesome, and we all need to follow their example if we’re going to prevent the complete breakdown of our planet’s life-support systems. However, the truth is that no activist, no organization, no politician, no movement has – yet – figured out what can magically overcome the tremendous inertia of business-as-usual.
So I don’t have a convenient list of things you and I can do, beyond what I’ve already offered on this podcast through things like sharing Margaret Klein Salamon’s “Facing the Climate Emergency.” I don’t even know what I’m going to do.
But after a hiatus of almost a year (with the exception of my trip to West Virginia to protest at Joe Manchin’s power plant), I feel the need to get active again. You might say this podcast is a kind of action, but really, it’s just talking about action. Valuable, perhaps, but not the same thing. It does not keep me engaged with other people. It doesn’t keep me plugged in to what’s happening in the climate movement – the kinds of things that don’t make it into mainstream media sources. The podcast doesn’t require me to step outside the door of my house and move my body in ways that put my actions in harmony with my convictions.
Hopefully, I will be able to maintain this podcast as well as get active again. Perhaps I can regale you with stories about what I try, who I talk to, what works, and what doesn’t.
In the meantime, I’m going to take the next month to reconnect with climate activists in my area and find a way to participate. I’ll return in October with a report, unless I feel inspired to update you sooner.