Deepening Complexity: Honouring Despair and Cultivating Hope during the Climate Crisis
As multiple crises fall into one another, how can we collectively increase our capacity to hold the painful truths of now without sacrificing our hope for the future?
Listen below for the audio recording of this blog:
Note: This blog was written for MFA’s The People’s Fund days before the unfolding of the current genocide in Palestine and prior to my awareness of the genocides and layered crises occurring in the Congo, Sudan, Haiti and many other countries. As I read through this post now, I cannot help but notice the critical need for us, as individuals and as a collective, to increase our capacity to both face and act upon the truth of the layered and interconnected exploitations and murder grounded in colonial consciousness, action, belief and values. It is my hope that those who read this are inspired to face the world with open and broken hearts so that they may continue to create, disobey, disrupt, divest and act in solidarity with the fight for freedom occurring around the world. I pray that collective liberation becomes a value we all hold. May all the lands and all beings, present and beyond, remember the truth of our freedom. May that freedom be grounded in the highest of love and a new world stem from love’s expansive foundation.
I stopped engaging with news in the midst of the 2020 pandemic due to the seemingly endless overwhelm and despair I felt for the world we are living in. At the time, this was the best choice I could make for my mental health and for my capacity to dream up the liberated futures available to us in the present beyond the despair being funneled through the media. Here, I was at peace and felt I could live the rest of my life giving my energy and awareness to hope and possibilities only.
That mindset evolved when I was in California getting my permaculture design certificate; 240+ wildfires began to spread across Canada and the toxic smoke blanketed most of the east coast. I found out about the fires through a facebook post days after they began and called my loved ones immediately to check in. My time in California exposed me, for the first time, to ecological threat beyond human control as my classmates and teachers shared their experiences and insights around fire prevention and disaster preparedness.
A couple weeks before the fires, I shared that where I live in Canada isn’t really threatened by natural disasters, so I’ve never had to think about ecological threat; my limited experience and awareness made me believe that safety was a given. When that veil lifted, I feared that my loved ones would underestimate how dangerous wildfire smoke is because they’ve never experienced it before and I was right; many continued living as normal, the smoke reminding them of nothing more than the delightful smell of bonfire until their lungs became irritated days later.
Ignorance is bliss, until it is not. This experience humbled me in a necessary way. For the first time, I had to face the limitations of my climate privilege and the depth of my own despair about the changing world and allow this to transform my role as a climate repair activator and as a human being alive in this moment.
My commitment to imagining and building a world beyond the one that we have inherited was powerful; however, it would always be limited by looking at the world as it is from the corner of my eyes. I realized that while holding the deep truth of what is possible is necessary for our survival, our most powerful dreams of a new way forward can remain unreachable utopian ideals, rather than tangible possibilities, when they don’t encompass the full truth of what is being lived in right now. This year alone, Canada has experienced over 6000 wildfires and we are set for those numbers to increase in the coming decades.
The origins of the climate crisis and most crises of our time can be found in the evolution of 500+ years of global colonial genocide and exploitation of land and people to support the insatiable desires and empty promises of capitalism; this truth has overflowed from the foundation of our so-called democratic political and educational systems and has trickled into the desires, beliefs, practices, thoughts and consciousness that govern our most intimate and unacknowledged relationships.
There is undeniable breadth and depth to where the root problem lives and we won’t find our way through this by avoiding the painful truths at hand. Once we, individually and collectively, acknowledge our overwhelm and despair, we can find inspiration and strength in a key permaculture principle and timeless wisdom of life which states that the problem is the solution; when we fully understand the problem at hand from a holistic and relational view, the way beyond them will reveal itself - even if that means starting from scratch.
What if we could create more expansive and liberating solutions because we have the capacity to face and understand the complex tangle of interconnected problems that this moment in time is asking us to face? As we experience the inevitable impacts of the climate crisis, how can we collectively increase our window of tolerance to hold what is true so we can be present, more resourced and connected in our grief and in our creation of a new way forward? Can we, as a species, begin to create who we are beyond the myth that war, exploitation and dominance are humanity’s defining features? I am sitting with these questions myself and allowing this inquiry to guide my way forward in the sacred world-building being done all over the world.
I still don’t actively engage with news outlets in the ways I did before the pandemic, but I am engaging with a plethora of resources that are allowing me to process what is now and prepare for what is ahead in a courageous and truthful way. I make sure that I nurture, individually and collectively, a healthy balance of facing what is true and unavoidable (eg. The climate crisis will impact food accessibility and security globally) while cultivating what is possible for myself and my community now (eg. I can connect with folks who know how to grow food and build mutual aid networks that keep me and my community well-fed). In this practice, I’ve deepened my capacity to hold both despair and hope without being burdened by its complexity or wholeness. We can learn that our resiliency does not have to come from succumbing to suffering; our resiliency can be grounded in us being more resourced to face the known and unknown challenges of the climate crisis, and the building of a new world, together.
If I can offer any advice around resourcing yourself and your community, I would say to center on connection and building community networks of support. Make space for intentional time to connect with loved ones on what is present - in joy, in love, in grief, in loss, in overwhelm. Lean on each other and learn ways to cope that leave you feeling empowered and as prepared as possible to embrace the unpleasant fact of the matter: the time is coming where none of us can hide from the impacts of the climate crisis. For many, that time is now. Thankfully, we don’t have to face the truth alone; our chances of making it through this become more tangible when we build networks of support, aid and transformation that explore how to meet our collective needs in harmony with life’s cycles, patterns and rhythms. The problem is the solution.
The most healthy and liberating thing for any of us to do is to be in choice. The choice I made is not the “right” choice, but it is the best choice for me to show up fiercely in my mission to offer new possibilities to humanity and it will continue to impact how I show up as the climate crisis touches our lives more than we’d like it to or could ever imagine. The solutions I am intent on exploring and the new world I am committed to building collectively are now grounded in an unflinching look at what is now - heartbreaking, challenging, complex and whole. I can face the truth and still have hope; I can face the truth and choose, still, to become it.
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Suggested resources that have supported my balance:
WELP: Climate Change and Arctic Identities by Michaela Alexandra Stith
The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells
Andrewism - Youtube Channel
Restoring the Kinship Worldview: Indigenous Voices Introduce 28 Precepts for Rebalancing Life on Planet Earth by Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows) & Darcia Narváez