Rest but don’t quit
In the summer of 2021, as Johanna Peacock jammed out to singer Lorde’s long awaited third album, Solar Power, she noticed that embedded within almost every track was an intense climate change undertone.
It led to Peacock and her best friend conducting a collaborative critical analysis to dissect each song’s hidden meaning and compare it to Lorde’s previous works from eras where the climate crisis didn’t feel as devastating and immediate.
Peacock often finds herself identifying climate change metaphors within multiple forms of media because of the massive connection and impact it has with so many components of everyday life.
“You go about your life but then you feel more exhausted and way, way more melancholic than you think anybody should at 25 and you remember, ‘oh right, the planet is dying,’” she says. “This is what it feels like to be constantly anxious about a massive, specific, uncontrollable something.”
Peacock’s feelings illuminate the nearly universal fatigue and uncontrollable feelings many are experiencing as the climate crisis looms over with promises of futures consisting of fiery temperatures, vicious tropical storms, droughts and flooded regions.
Dianne Saxe, who was the last environmental commissioner of Ontario—until the Ford government abolished the position in 2019—and current deputy lead of the Green Party of Ontario, says that this is where the planet is heading if serious adjustments are not made.
“We’ve reached a point where the best case scenario for the lifetime of today’s children is widespread death and suffering,” she says. “The worst case is humanity on the brink of extinction.”
Saxe cautions that society has forfeited the option to not have some measure of climate destruction and points to the November 2021 flooding in British Columbia and similarly devastating events happening around the world as examples.
Managing climate fatigue
With a majority of the carbon emissions coming from 90 companies with CEOs boasting eight-figure salaries, it’s understandably made a lot of people feel as though they should throw in the towel and accept their fate.
Peacock disagrees with this view and believes that it is counter productive. Instead, she says that in order for this issue to receive immediate action, society needs to hold these companies and governments accountable through individual actions.
“We have to tell them—and preferably rather loudly, that we think it is a pretty damn immediate emergency,” she says.
While Saxe can understand the climate fatigue individuals are experiencing, the climate crisis won’t go away just because people are tired of it. When she or her colleagues who have been working on climate environmental protection for decades experience periods of exhaustion, the best advice she can offer is rest but don’t quit.
“Action feels better than anxiety,” she says. “The only recipe for hope that I know is knowledge plus action.”
Saxe also mentions the dangers of greenwashing and the circulation of misinformation regarding the climate crisis. She warns that this misinformation is not innocently published but rather has been deliberately created and released into the public sphere to allow those who benefit from the current status quo to keep making money—regardless of the consequences.
“There’s a very large financial payback for the very rich and powerful to use their money and power to get governments to set rules to allow them to make more,” she says.
While the climate crisis can sometimes feel incurable, Saxe explains that the technology that is needed to clean the air, improve public health, minimize urban sprawl, grow eco-friendly food and protect a stable climate is already available and accessible.
Some examples are experimental projects like the smog free towers that have been installed in various cities within China. These have been found to greatly reduce pollution while requiring no electricity to function.
The Green Party of Ontario’s Roadmap to Net Zero also highlights that the implementation of energy efficiency upgrades and heat pumps to replace fossil fuel use in buildings would reduce pollution by 40 per cent by 2030 and achieve net-zero by 2040.
So what’s the hold-up? A combination of foot-dragging, insufficient planning and a prioritization of monetary gain by governmental officials, says Saxe.
She highlights Ford’s turbocharging of urban sprawl which will force individual families and the province as a whole into a very high carbon lifestyle, cancellations of conservation programs and clean power contracts and continued expansion on gas pipelines that will subsequently lock in a highly fossil-dependent urban form.
“In every part of the challenge, Ontario is mostly doing the wrong thing,” she says.
Collective action is the answer
Ontario’s current approach towards the climate crisis is understandably frustrating and despairing but it doesn’t revoke the responsibility of individuals, nor does it undermine the power of collective action. While Saxe believes that everyone needs to take measures to reduce their own carbon footprints, she mentions that the climate crisis can’t be solved by individuals because it is a collective problem that has to be solved collaboratively.
She encourages people to find something they are passionate about, identify the climate angle, which is easy since it affects almost everything, and then find like-minded individuals who share the same passion. Artists should seek out artists groups and musicians should create and perform music that inspires and gets people active, she says.
“We have baked in a lot of destruction,” she says. “But we still have a small window to make an enormous difference in the future. And to make all of our lives better.”
About the author
Olivia Matheson-Mowers is a former reporter for Youth Mind. When she’s not writing, or playing with her cat, Daisy, you can find her curled up in her heated blanket watching seasons 1-6 of Dragon Ball Z and complaining about seasons 7-9.