Canada has a plan for greening the grid — if politics don’t get in the way. Workers worry Alberta’s moratorium on renewable energy will cost them jobs. And Doug Ford’s government handpicked the chunks of protected land they offered up to developers, several of whom had access to officials, according to the Ontario AG. Divvying up the Greenbelt will lead to urban sprawl, which means more heat-trapping pollution from commuters and less natural flood protection.
Each of these stories is a reminder of the tenuous nature of our progress when it comes to protecting the planet. We fight for small steps forward, and sometimes watch as powerful parties knock that progress back. That’s always been the case, but it’s especially hard to swallow as we watch the catastrophic effects of extreme weather this season. From deadly heat to wildfires to floods to hurricanes, Earth is having a rough summer — and for some of its inhabitants, living has become an extreme sport.
If today’s headlines fill you with a sense of dread, you’re not alone. Climate change in particular can be a grim topic, and more than a few of us experience eco-anxiety about the state of the planet.
A couple weeks ago, I put out a call for advice on how to stay hopeful — or perhaps optimistic is the better word — in the climate emergency. A few folks wrote back to share how they’re handling this season’s onslaught of bad news and how they stay positive about humanity’s halting progress. We humans have risen to monumental challenges in the past, they said, we can do it again now.
Others weighed in to say they weren’t feeling hopeful at all — that as long as we keep pumping fossil fuels out of the ground and slow-walking climate policies, we are heading for disaster.
To me, both sentiments ring true. So, this week I am sharing a few suggestions from our CNO community — including readers of The Weekly and some of my teammates in the CNO newsroom — for how to keep going when the climate crisis feels overwhelming. These ideas won’t necessarily fix the problems we face, but I hope they can help you find ways to rest, recharge and feel ready to take up the fight again.
Got any other suggestions? You can send them my way at [email protected] and I’ll share them in a future newsletter.
Have a great weekend and stay safe!
— Dana Filek-Gibson
Looking for more CNO reads? You can find them at the bottom of this email.
Let’s be real: There are plenty of good reasons to feel defeated right now. Disaster is on our doorsteps. We are mourning firefighters lost in the line of duty, children swept away by floods and loved ones silently stolen by heat and smoke. The human cost of the climate crisis is heartbreaking. And all of this is happening while the industry most responsible for climate change continues to grow, with help from its enablers. Even thinking about making progress can feel overwhelming.
But if we give in to despair, nothing changes. The bad news will escalate. The planet overheats. Our lives — and the lives of future generations — will worsen.
Here’s some advice from our CNO community about how to find hope when things seem bleak:
Take a beat
Practising a little general self-care can help to bring you back to a headspace where you’re ready to think about the climate crisis in productive ways again.
For some people, that might mean going outside to unplug. CNO reader Wilma Brown likes walking in nature or “beautiful places with trees” to help her recharge.
For others, bringing a bit of the outdoors inside can help to lift their mood, especially when the air is dangerous. “I’ve started keeping more plants at home,” my colleague Zahra Khozema tells me. “They’re so nice to look at when there is smoke outside and I can’t see a tree in sight.”
If you’re looking for more self-care ideas, here’s some good advice from mental health experts on what to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed by eco-emotions.
Break down the problem (and its solutions)
It’s easy to feel paralyzed by a problem as massive and all-encompassing as the climate crisis. When you’re overwhelmed, sometimes the best way to move forward is by breaking the issue down into smaller pieces.
For my colleague Cloe Logan, that means reframing climate action from a grand undertaking — keeping the world from surpassing 2 C of warming — to something more incremental.
“This line from the IPCC is always present in my brain: ‘Every bit of warming matters,’” she says. “I think we can get tripped up in big, unfathomable goals … but the idea that every sliver of warming has a tangible effect for someone, somewhere (because warming = more climate change = more climate change impacts, such as sea level rise, fires, floods) makes me feel like every fossil fuel project that shuts down, is defeated or whatever else, is truly something to celebrate.”
CNO reader Gérard Montpetit takes inspiration from history. “Some leaders arise when things become hopeless,” he wrote. “We need leaders with the resilience of Winston Churchill or Joan of Arc; they are the ones who can give us HOPE and the will to fight.”
My teammate Natasha Bulowski feels fuelled by collective action in the streets. “People who go beyond signing petitions and get their boots on the ground, often sacrificing personal safety to put polluting companies on notice never cease to inspire me,” she says.
“I think this type of work is an act of love towards the Earth and all beings who inhabit it. I feel loved and cared for when I see folks doing this work.”
While there is a lot we stand to lose as the planet heats up, there is a lot we stand to gain in building a cleaner world. My colleague Sadie Stephens, CNO’s engagement specialist, sees the world’s clean energy transition as “an opportunity for our society to rebuild itself in a more sustainable, equitable and enriching way.”
“The truth is, even 20 to 30 years ago when less of the climate crisis impacts were present, our society was deeply flawed,” she says. Rethinking the world we live in can help us address not just climate change, but the many other overlapping crises that shape our lives.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done, but there are lots of places to look for inspiration. There’s CNO (of course), but also great reporting from other news organizations that cover climate justice and solutions like Grist and Canary Media. Newsletters like HEATED and the L.A. Times’ Boiling Point are also a hit in the CNO newsroom.
Once you’re armed with a better headspace and a bit of inspiration, you may want to look for ways you can help make a difference in your own community.
Sometimes taking action can feel big, but it doesn’t have to be. Individual actions can be a good place to start — things like conserving energy at home, eating less meat, walking or biking when you can and buying less stuff. Talking about the climate-conscious choices you make can also have a ripple effect, helping others around you think more critically about their choices, too.
If the goal is more collective action — the kind that can put pressure on governments and other large institutions — that often starts small, too. Chances are there’s already an organization in your community doing some of the work you’re inspired to help with.
If not, Natasha points out that sometimes getting started can mean something as simple as getting to know your neighbours or talking about the climate crisis with friends. They’re the ones who can help you in a crisis, and may even be the people you sit and brainstorm with when you’re searching for ways to tackle climate change in your own life. Readers like Clara George, who worked with the City of Vancouver to help cut pollution from film sets, or Sheri Plummer, who organizes events in her community to protect the Pacific coast, are great examples of this.
Ultimately, CNO founder Linda Solomon Wood points out collective action starts with the conversations we have and the stories we tell.
“The stories we tell will be fundamental to coming together more to solve the climate crisis,” Linda says. “I'm not hopeful that we will do this before many more people’s lives are badly damaged and before we lose many more precious species. But I am optimistic that the next generations will find ways to adjust and survive and to eventually reduce warming.
“Realistically, I think this is one more case in history where untold suffering might have been prevented, but the greed of a few who don't care about what happens to the many prevails. I'm optimistic that enough people are seeing this and more will continue to and that in time, the many will demand things change. When that happens, I believe that change we hope for will come.”
Lend us your ears
In our newest podcast, Protecting Haida Gwaii, journalist Brandi Morin takes listeners on a journey to a remote archipelago off the coast of B.C., where Haida guardians are working to protect their land, sea and sky. Listen on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts, and read more about the Haida Nation’s fight to protect its territory in our three-part series.
More CNO reads
More pesticides, more problems. The federal government is once again considering an increase in the amount of pesticide residue allowed on foods, Marc Fawcett-Atkinson reports.
Ottawa unveils its clean power rules. Environmentalists are happy with the step forward but worried about natural gas loopholes, John Woodside reports. A couple Prairie provinces, meanwhile, are adamantly opposed to following the new regulations, which raise the temperature in an already heated conflict.
“We just feel like our voices aren’t being heard.” At a final hearing, Algonquin leaders made their case against a proposed nuclear waste storage facility near the Ottawa River. Natasha Bulowski was in the room to hear what opponents had to say.
Doug Ford’s Greenbelt plans are neither “standard or defensible.” So says the Ontario auditor general, who released a scathing report this week on the land swap that opened up thousands of acres of protected land to housing development, Abdul Matin Sarfraz reports. One municipal politician’s response to the findings: “You can't make this up.”
Too hot to handle. B.C. is ordering anglers to stop fishing on some rivers and lakes in the afternoon to protect local fish from a growing environmental threat — the heat, Isaac Phan Nay reports.
Does climate change cause tornadoes? Cloe Logan speaks to an atmospheric scientist about how a hotter planet affects different kinds of weather.