Climate Fatigue


The latest issue of Orion magazine (one of my favorites) takes aim at various climate concerns through several articles.  The overall sense of the issue is one of anxiety-stricken urgency.  And perhaps its needed in the wider sense of the world, but I have a hard time believing that regular readers of Orion need yet another call to action. 

Audrey Schulman encourages us to overcome the Bystander Effect while Mike Tidwell tells us to “snap into action” and do something, anything for climate change.  Anything at all, according to each of these writers, will have a cummulative effect on the currect situation.

Personally, I’m starting to fear a different social “effect” than the infamous Bystander one.  That would be fatigue.  We live in a culture of obsessions and fads and fashions.  Things, ideals, and exercise programs are adopted for a short period of time until their novelty wears out and are summarily dropped without much more than a slight and nagging feeling of remorse. 

Climate concerns are novel at the moment.  Heck, its en vogue to wear shirts that feature Charlie Brown pointing to a recycling emblem or tees that say “Green is the new Black!” or to proudly strut around with organic produce packed into a reuseable Publix bag.  The idealist is me is beaming with pride but my cynical side is afraid that these behaviors and practices are simply another slogan.  I’m afraid that the current buzz around green living and sustainability will remain only buzz.  Or worse, that it will become the sort of white noise and static that pervades the background of our culture but fails to truly mean anything.   

We need much more than slogans.  And we need more than people calling for a “sea” change.  We need to go beyond the rectangular thinking that any PR department can dream up.  Altering our situation shouldn’t be about projecting an image along the way.  Peer pressure shouldn’t have a place in addressing climate concerns in the same way that brain washing shouldn’t be apart of the dilemma, or the solution. 

We need to treat people as people and not a mob of ignorants that need to be converted or led to a higher plane of consciousness.  We need to realize that everyone in the United States cannot – cannot – simply give up their vehicles and their access to milk, bacon, and avocados flown in from California.  We need outreach, and we need the kind of outreach that touches people’s true sense of the moment and their strictest sense of commitment to themselves, their children, their communities and through each of these connections, to the wider world.