I couldn’t help but feel sad this past week as the piercing winds and slate-gray skies of Boston winters gave way to warm breezes and gauzy sunlight. Relaxing on the BU Beach, lazing around under the pink flowers and watching the sun slowly sink behind the Law Complex are all activities that were once exciting heralds of spring, but are now so very bittersweet.
I find now that lounging in nature and watching the seasons change is deeply sobering, not for fear of bugs or sunburn or time moving too quickly, but because we live in a terrible liminal space of knowing this world is falling apart and fearing there’s nothing we can do about it.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its 2022 report in February, sharing scientists’ dismal climate change predictions for the next few decades. I’ll save you the gory details, but suffice to say we are on track for exploitation, suffering and disasters the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Of course, “climate doomerism,” or the belief that we should give up and accept the inevitable extinction of humanity, is a useless cause, but still — it’s hard not to grieve.
Most of us love this world, and the world loves us back. It gives us nourishment, beauty, adventure and refuge. Yet our home is being ravaged and ruined and wrecked by those with power and wealth, those so far removed from reality they no longer remember the ancient, non-fungible value of water and trees and stars.
We are at the cusp of an unimaginably difficult future, one rife with floods and wildfires, and those who run the world are still gleefully buying up beachfront properties, knowing they will either die or simply buy more inland homes before the inevitable sea level rise.
Just this past week, Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, bought Twitter for $44,000,000,000 — yes, that many zeros. Most agree that this acquisition is just a strange ploy to enhance his unhinged, sci-fi-esque persona or to allow trolls free rein to harass and lie online. Others argue it’s just a silly publicity stunt that will result in him not really owning Twitter at all.
Either way, it is a fascinating glance into the motives of the men who control the world. This purchase of $44 billion was not considered especially outlandish or irresponsible by Musk’s peers, even as many scoff at President Joe Biden’s proposed climate budget of $44.9 billion.
Yet, there is hope.
The Elon Musks of the world will likely continue their deceptive ways — by, say, operating a supposedly sustainable car company that actually utilizes massive amounts of fossil fuels, engages in child labor and is explicitly racist — but the tide is turning against them both literally and figuratively.
The majority of young people are very concerned with the frightening reality of climate change, thus voting for politicians who take a vested interest in combating the phenomenon. The righteous anger that many in my generation feel about the slow death of our world is meaningful and important, directly leading to demands for systemic change and increases in personal, climate-friendly decisions like living in cities or eating plant-based diets.
Climate scientists, even those who are terrified and incensed and chain themselves to banks, still stress that we have time. The world is not over yet, they proclaim, and we have all the resources and the technology to stop this disastrous chain of events in its tracks.
Even though our small changes can seem meaningless in the face of oligarchs’ ostentatious and destructive displays of wealth, and even as it sometimes seems tempting to succumb to our leaders’ many “panem et circenses” tactics, I still believe that spending just one spring day outside can and should reinvigorate our fight against climate change.
This pale blue dot that we live on, so inconsequential in the grand scheme of the universe, is still our home. It holds all the dreams, sorrow, beauty and memories of every human being who has ever or will ever live. It contains trees older than we can imagine, deep seas still mysterious to man and animals that lived long before we did that now leave a haunting void as they vanish forever, their entire species destroyed by us illogical, hairless bipeds.
So as hard as it is, I still think we must remain hopeful, vote green with our ballot and dollar, and live by the words of Peter Kalmus, a NASA scientist who recently chained himself to a Chase Bank building in protest of the bank’s massive fossil fuel investments.
Voice cracking with emotion, Kalmus said, “I’m willing to take a risk for this gorgeous planet, for my sons.”
May we all be willing to do the same.