When we talk about the climate crisis we need to acknowledge feelings. A piece of the puzzle that I have ignored until now is guilt, but watching Greta Thunberg excoriate leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit brought it out.
It’s a sickening feeling. If you believe the science it’s paralysing to consider what it means for the next generation. Our kids. Their kids. Kids in the southern hemisphere.
I believe climate scientists. I believe the level of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is warming the atmosphere and that it already has consequences for the planet. Now, many local ‘internet scientists’ (not actual scientists) will want to point to one or perhaps many discrepancies in the International Panel on Climate Change reports that they believe debunks the whole shebang. I believe their response is motivated by guilt, however subconscious.
Reactions to climate change news is personal. It’s perceived as a personal attack.
Many vocal people in the Robson Valley have doubts about the veracity of the climate crisis, but if their doubt was legitimate the stakes would be so low they’d rarely venture their beliefs. Why fight? The climate crisis would soon be debunked. Behold the online vitriol. ‘Thou protests too much, methinks.’
Someone believes in flying saucers and you don’t – do you freak out at them? Do you troll them? Of course not. Why waste your time?
It’s guilt. Wish I would it was a more useful sentiment.
I grew up a Catholic and I know about guilt. Guilt doesn’t manifest change. It’s cement, a casing that prevents shifting and promotes rot.
If we are going to be alive to the climate crisis, or even open to a legitimate investigation of it, we have to shrug off guilt. It won’t save us anymore than Catholic guilt saved kids from the church’s ongoing sex abuse scandal.
I see and hear many people acting guiltily. People in the fossil fuel industry, for instance foment a backlash. In all caps, they point out climate activist Greta Thunberg using plastic utensils on a long distance train.
They call her a hypocrite for this, but really what they are saying is, ‘You share my guilt.’
It’s not wrong, but it’s certainly not the point.
You might reason that this defensiveness is legitimate. Climate policy is a potential job killer. But you don’t see people fighting automation in this way. Talk about the thousands of jobs lost in this province and others to automation. That’s not a conversation people want to have. The difference? The feeling of complicity.
As I examine my own unwelcome feelings of guilt I wonder why would someone who works in the oil industry feel more guilty than someone who works in an office like me? Or better yet, why somebody who works in forestry, the one truly sustainable industry in our province, would feel guilt. On the scale of climate change, workers in every sector are pawns. We’re not driving investment decisions that stand to alter the planet’s temperature. We’re spending our time trying to keep our families sheltered and clothed.
When we talk about climate change, about the climate crisis, it is not an indictment of you. The point is not to make anyone feel inferior or guilty. If we had conversations about the changing climate without the guilt, they’d be radically different. They would lead somewhere and provide an opportunity to make change that matters.