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ENDE GELÄNDE: being part of climate change activism

May 12, 2016

There have been a couple of times in my life when I have felt physically very close to climate change. The first was in 2011 on a cargo ship in the Barents Sea, hundreds of miles north of the Arctic Circle and approaching Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost settlement.

It had been so warm on deck that I’d taken off my coat and my sweater and was standing next to the Captain, wearing a vest. That temperature, at that time of year, at that latitude, freaked me out.

It freaked me out because such uncannily warm weather in such an unspoiled environment took climate change from the remote future and made it, for me, present; its destruction inevitable and any resistance to its man-made momentum – futile.

But worse than the futility I felt about our efforts to curb climate change was the overwhelming sorrow about the total impact of the species I belong to – that we should not be trusted with the beauty and abundance of this planet. We really have wrecked it.

Two weeks ago I was looking from a local tourism viewpoint into Germany’s biggest open cast mine. This is what I saw:

IMG_0371

It’s not often that I have to feel myself so close to climate change. Like most people in the global north I don’t experience climate change as a daily reality and the world I inhabit encourages me to sidestep awareness of and responsibility for my carbon intensive life. Although it adds up – collapsing into my anxiety and my unconscious – I can choose to forget the planet being plundered, the species’ gone extinct, the nations and peoples – on the move – who are already being devastated.

But when I resist our culture’s imperative to close my eyes and forget – when I take myself to the mine and feel that close to climate change – there is no escaping how it makes me feel.

I am hurt by the devastation of this planet to fuel a way of life that causes more stress that it does joy. It just fucking hurts. And when I tune into that reality – the reality of us so distracted by what we want that we don’t notice we are destroying what we need – well first I have to hide and hold myself tight, and then I have to do something about it, even if the something that I choose to do won’t be quantified as ‘a practical solution’ by the yard stick of this current system.

This society that tells us again and again and again to believe in a future of absolute injustice and the end of the world rather than believe, care, demand and create a society that redistributes wealth globally and stops burning fossil fuels.

To me the story of humanity that begins today with our fear of the unknown and ends – in a century or so – with social chaos and environmental collapse is a total failure of imagination.

We are extraordinarily resilient and biologically programmed for survival. We are also nothing without each other.

Later today I will join ENDE GELANDE in a camp outside Europe’s biggest lignite coal open cast mine. Over the following days we will go to the coal mine to shut it down. We will risk arrest to be part of this mass act of civil disobedience. In joining in this act I will be given grace from my feelings of despair.

Our system is built on the assumption that no disruption will topple it. Mass resistance, mass movements of peoples, massive failures of the banking system – nothing can disprove the ‘logic’ of neo-liberalism. Our system thrives when we stop believing in the creative spontaneity that exists when two or more humans connect: the faith that anything can happen and probably will.

Over the coming days I will go somewhere and be part of an environment where some thousand people might find the courage and opportunity to shut down one of Europe’s biggest polluters. That miracle of David and Goliath – over the coming days I might get to part of something like that.

There is no such thing as ‘impossible’. The ‘logic’ of the society in which we compete, and call that competition ‘life’ is unraveling. This is why I am going to the pit. In a world experiencing the impacts of climate change – to be part of moments that scrape, resist and depend upon trust and connection – it’s where I go to remember and to be part of hope.

 

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