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Love in the time of climate change
How do we connect with people (and have hope) when we live in a dystopia?
I haven’t posted in a while so this one is catching up on a lot of news.
My daughter just got married, so I know young people still love and make plans for the future with their loved ones. But it’s hard to see sometimes, even for an optimist like me. Because the current state of the world is so much of a struggle for so many people, especially if you’re not wealthy.
The world is on track to miss agreed-upon carbon targets unless we curb fossil fuel usage faster. It’s fucking depressing, and a lot of people are just giving up. And the truth is that we’re getting used to the constant drumbeat of bad news. Dystopia is the new normal for a lot of people. Read: People Are Calling Out "Normal" Things In The US That Are Actually Dystopian, And It's So Messed Up.
Is it time to accept the inevitable?
In the Scottish play, Shakespeare wrote:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time.
If a crappy, struggling existence is just how things are—if the obstacles to improving our lives are so entrenched as to be insurmountable—then why even try to make things better? Many people have given up.
I mean they still go about their lives. We all do. But who among us still believes we can fix the problems we face? Problems like climate change and growing inequality (when one percent of the world’s population owns nearly fifty percent of the wealth).
Dude, I’m as tired as you are of reading about how we’re failing as a species. And I’m not young anymore. It seems bad now, but it’s likely that I’ll be dead before the worst of it comes to pass.
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.
Gen Z and Gen Alpha will be hit hard. The impact on Gen Z is already being seen as many of them entered the workforce during a global pandemic. This, along with the climate trends and dystopian inequality, has caused Gen Zers to experience massive stress, depression, and a sustained decline in mental health (even more pronounced for LGBTQIA+).
And yet… the younger generation is rejecting Macbeth’s declaration about life:
It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
It turns out that despite the waves of societal antagonism that they face, young people are still surprisingly optimistic about their future. And while it’s not clear why they’re hopeful, I think it’s a good thing that they are. Because throwing in the towel is not the answer. Jaded inaction doesn’t help anyone.
So, what then can we do?
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Focus on the good, but stay real
Wait what? There’s good news?
Yes, actually, there is good news every day. And since the only way systemic change can be achieved is through ongoing, cooperative effort, finding hope in the small victories is as important as getting angry about the status quo.
In the US, there is finally some movement on climate change because of the Biden energy bill (aka The Inflation Reduction Act).
For the first time ever, wind and solar power generated more electricity than dirty coal-fired power over the first five months of 2023. Plus, because of the ramp up in clean energy production, the cost of wind and solar has decreased, making it less expensive than coal, oil and methane gas. The increase in new solar and wind production has also contributed to a more reliable grid that has kept homes cool and families safe during this summer’s extreme heat.
Other positive news includes a New Innovative System Can Turn Seawater Into Fuel and the use of machine learning (aka AI) to monitor and protect biodiversity in Mexico. Scientists have bioengineered bacteria to produce an enzyme that digests plastic, and others are developing new plastics that biodegrade on their own.
Looking to the future
The ugly truth is that it’s hard to care about the future when the conditions of your own life are such a struggle. But we’re not alone in wanting to fix the problems in the world. Climate protesters recently gathered in Vienna to keep the issues alive in the public consciousness.
Still there are questions to consider. In a recent New York Times column, a concerned Gen Zer poses the question: Should they bring a child into this warming world - even though they are privileged enough to be able to avert the brunt of climate change? Read: Is It Wrong to Bring a Child Into Our Warming World?
I’m not sure if my daughter and her husband are planning to have children, but I do know that they are looking ahead with a strong sense of optimistic realism. And love. Y’all, there was so. much. love. on display at their wedding. Even billionaires burning up the planet can’t stop humans from connecting, bonding, and making deep commitments with each other.
To quote the bard again:
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep. The more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.