This week, the revered Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published an overwhelming – more prognosis – report on our imminent climate crisis.
It is distressing, you all. The planet has already heated by 1 degree Celsius. In fact, we have exceeded this threshold just during the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The Paris Agreement intended to prevent us from exceeding 2 degrees and doing everything possible to keep it below 1.5 degrees. . Between each individual fraction of degree there are unspeakable levels of death and disease and general destruction.
Things are already bad. They are already getting worse. This report reveals ̵
Many people who do not think about climate change on a daily basis, or who think they lived on a distant horizon that they would never have to face, are now coming to terms with its terrifying reality. I see. I worked in the environmental field as a political editor for almost five years.
People like me and others in the "climate verse" – field activists, experts in the field, professionals in the big greens – all had that moment when we had to face the reality of climate change. For most of us, that moment hurts. I know he did it for me.
I started working in the world of climate change defense a bit by chance when I got a job writing a policy for an environmental defense organization. I cared about the land, of course, but I was not a hardcore environmentalist.
I spent my first year deeply immersed in detailed reports on climate policy. No detail has been spared. Day after day, I read of the reckless course we were on and of all the silly ways we were digging deeper into our lair. It was terrifying.
I had known that climate change was real. I had the impression that it was not very far. But I did not know how bad it was. I did not know how many innocent people were already suffering horribly. Choose a natural disaster: fires, hurricanes, mud landslides or heat waves, many of which have already been exacerbated by climate change: people with fewer casualties are more likely to hurt themselves more. I did not know how many people had been marked as allowed victims because they were born in the wrong place in the wrong circumstances. Just at that moment.
I knew I would see bad things accelerate in my life, but I did not know it would happen before I was 50 years old. I did not even realize how many I had actually seen it before. After all, I was with my mother in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina and here in New York during Sandy. And if you think that climate change and hurricanes are not connected, they are not separated either.
My stages of pain
I did not know then, but that first year I spent reading political documents, I went into mourning. I skipped the refusal and went straight to the shock. I floated on a dark and dark cloud. I broke often and casually in tears and refused to admit that I knew exactly why I was crying.
When I was in the middle of a crowd crowded with people, I saw death and destruction. When I walked on the dry, I saw the floods. I imagined wild animals, especially snakes, going out of the zoo as a result of natural disasters. I was worried about how we would treat each other in the face of such a calamity. I doubted it would be kind. (I still doubt it, in fact.)
I kept changing, but I tried to dissociate myself, pretending that none of this was real, however ridiculous it may seem. This did not work either. The editing profession requires empathy. You must be present.
Then I went into depression. My social life has turned into attacks and flashes of intense commitment followed by equally intense retreat. I was deeply afraid to tell even the people closest to me what I knew and why I was so scared. I could not sleep The crying crises continued. They did not become predictable anymore.
I was silently asking myself: what do I fight for? What am I looking for? Why am I paying for my student loans? Hell, why am I saving for retirement? I was going into a desperate space.
What are we fighting for?
One day at work, I came across the book that saved me: What we are fighting for now is the one a book by environmental journalist Wen Stephenson that tells his transformation from journalist to climate activist. The prose was beautiful, and every page exuded compassion without overlapping the problem with the hands of sugar. It seemed a climate change in the face
One of the many, many things that the book taught me was that I was not crazy. That my broken heart was normal. I was not the only one to hear it, and the best thing I could do was go out and talk to people who had already been facing this same emotional abyss and I found the courage to carry on.
Then I moved from depression upset. And I'm still angry because, in this context, acceptance is bullshit.
We are all in mourning
Whether we admit it or not, we are all in the midst of a great process of giant mourning. We are crying for our future. We are crying for the children we are afraid of having. Our bucket lists. Our travel plans. Some of us are homes in mourning already lost due to fires or floods, or the savings accounts have been wiped out helping the relatives to recover from the hurricanes. Some of us cry our today, even our yesterday.
Denial is part of the traditional process of mourning, but we have collectively spent too much time there. It's time to get rid of it.
Given the enormity of climate change, it is right to be depressed, to be sad. But please, do not stay there too long. Join me in pure, genuine, just anger.
The dominant narrative about climate change tells us that it is our fault. We left the lights on too long, we did not close the refrigerator door and we did not recycle the paper. I'm here to tell you that they are bullshit. If the light switch was connected to clean energy, who the hell does it matter if you left it on? The problem is not consumption: it is the offer. And your scrap card did not hurry the end of the world.
Do not give in to that shame. It's not yours The oil and gas industry is lighting you up.
The same IPCC report revealed that only 100% of companies are responsible for 71% of global climate emissions. These people are blocking you and everything you love in a grave. You have every right to be pissed off completely. And we have to make them feel about it.
It's time to grow up
I grew up a lot during that first year. And that's why I say this without any intention of condescension: to face climate change, to really look him in the eye, we must grow.
We can not pretend that it's not happening anymore. Especially for us Americans, our general privilege and relative comfort compared to so many in the world can make it easy to turn a blind eye. But we can not pretend that some anonymous cavalry is coming to save us. We are the adults in this room. We must save ourselves.
It is not our fault, but it is our problem. It's terrible, but we have to dig and fight – one for the other.
This essay was adapted from a post Medium .
Mary Annaise Heglar is the publisher of leading political environmental defense organization publications. She is based in New York City. Find it on Twitter @ Mary Heglar .
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