We Have to Be More Than Activists

I’m not having an easy time of it. And I don’t even live in Houston or Florida or Mexico or Montana. This climate change work takes its toll. There is only so much bad news a person can take. And then it starts to erode something at the center of my being. My shoulders have become impenetrable, like steel girders, as though the weight of the world is precariously balanced on them. I find myself crying at the slightest reference to the litany of disasters. With tears in my eyes, I reached out my hand to the guy in the post office whose sister in Houston lost both her cars, along with her house, and everything in it. He went on to tell me that it was ninety-seven degrees at one in the morning at his house in the suburbs of Los Angeles. I had to leave because then I was just crying.

There is a part of me that is trying desperately to wall myself off from the world—to find an impenetrable sanctuary where I will be safe. But external safety, I’m learning, cannot be guaranteed. And the weight of that knowledge was too much. So I did what I do when I can’t cope. I reach out.

“David,” I wrote to a fellow climate activist, “I wonder how you are doing with the recent climate events. I feel battered by them. Like we’ll never be able to do enough fast enough. Like we might as well throw in the towel and go to the movies. Like it’s game over and we should just get used to it. Please offer wisdom.”

“Davia, I hear you about all the climate chaos.  I don’t know about you but some time ago I shifted my internal frame from preventing climate change, to working to preserve a livable planet, and accepted that a big part of our role is helping to create a society that is strong and wise enough to survive the inevitable climate chaos we’re already facing. We must grow a healthier more resilient society during the next challenging period because I believe we are just beginning to see how challenging the next phase of earth life will be. When I step back and look at it from an evolutionary perspective, I wonder if our species is meant to harvest a deep learning of the folly of our ways and come away with a love and commitment to living in balance with the earth.  

Anyway, I think this is why I’ve been feeling the urgency to bring a more spiritual dimension to our movement work. We have to be more than activists, we must be fostering health and wisdom and love and care for one another and the earth.”

I found his words comforting, and yet I am left with a seminal question. How do I become healthier and more resilient? How do I help build a society that is healthier and more resilient? How do I find a place in myself that stays steady in the face of so much chaos and confusion? How do I befriend my fear? How do I learn to live with such an uncertain future?

I don’t have the answers. Right now, I’m hoping the questions will light a path.

But there are a few things I carry with me and know in this moment to be true:

  • I’m not alone. Many people are scared, overwhelmed, distraught and looking for solace. I find that strangely comforting.
  • Taking time for quiet and contemplation helps. Staying right here, right now is useful. It works better than conjuring a crazy, uncertain future.
  • Letting myself cry and grieve and scream and yell when the feelings come up. When I stuff my feelings and cover them with false optimism, my body rebels.
  • Knowing that I have weathered other kinds of storms and emerged grateful for the lessons learned.

Thank you to all who are searching. To you who are looking for ways to become healthier and more resilient, looking for ways to build a healthier more resilient society. As David says, “We have to be more than activists, we must be fostering health and wisdom and love and care for one another and the earth.”







9 comments on “We Have to Be More Than Activists

  1. Davia, I feel your pain and I am holding you in my thoughts. I think David is right about this work bringing us back around to a spiritual dimension. I wish you peace, Lisa

  2. I am reading Krista Tippet’s “On Being Wise”. In it she recounts an interview with Joanna Macy. Tippet asks “There is a sense of grief in news.”. . and Macy replies that we cannot “be afraid of it. Because that grief, if you are afraid of it and pave it over, clamp it down, it shuts you down. And the kind of apathy and closed-down denial, our difficulty in looking at what we’re doing to our world, stems not from callous indifference or ignorance so much as it stems from fear of pain. . The dance with despair, to see how we are called to not run from the discomfort and not run from the grief or the feelings of outrage or even fear. If we can be fearless, and be with our pain , it turns. . . When we look at it, when we take it our hands, when we can just be with it and keep breathing, then it turns. It turns to reveal its other face. And the other face of our pain for the world is our love for the world, our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life.” . . I find these words helpful and I hope you do too.

  3. For me the antidote to the bad new is making positive actionable news myself. Writing the letters to the editor and getting others to do so too, meeting with the op-ed editor and writing the op-ed, meeting with member of Congress and bringing others along with me. I love this article on CCL from E & E News, the top DC trade publication on energy and environment, Here’s the link:


    One excerpt I especially loved is this one:

    Tom Moyer, a CCL volunteer who works with Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), said it’s impossible to convince anyone of anything if you fundamentally don’t like them.

    “If you walk in thinking they’re an idiot and evil, you’re done from the start, it doesn’t matter how logical your position is,” he said. “You have to put yourself in a place where you can find something to respect.”

  4. Hi Davia, Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing your feelings. Yes this climate work is challenging. I have found myself wishing that the hurricane disasters will be really bad so people will finally wake up and take action. Then I see how bad things are and I feel guilty for wishing that things would be that bad.
    On the other hand, seeing the massive destruction of Harvey and Irma, I have felt worried for my grand children in a way that I haven’t felt before. I love your call for wisdom and love and care for one another on earth. Ultimately we’ll need that to carry us through the uncharted future.

  5. Very insightful and moving piece. I have been in a similar place of not having the tools to put all this chaos into perspective. And I’m generally pretty good at creating context. This is bigger and I have to find a deeper place in myself to address all of this. So I still write my letters and nearly beg my Congresswoman to drop her resignation and join the Caucus, but as you friend David said, this is about more than solving climate change. I’m having to learn how to navigate life with a level of chaos I’ve never known before. As we’ve heard, breakthroughs are possible when there are breakdowns. And man do we have some breakdowns, girlfriend!

  6. Davia, These are very hard days. I don’t know why things are going this way, why there must be two,three hurricanes, storms and tornadoes with its attendant hazards and destruction. I told you am a witness to this. I have never experienced this type of thing in my life, and I pray I don’t again. My heart is out there for those who were negatively impacted by this catastrophe. Thank you for these highlights. We were surrounded by water,our cars were flooded and we were only asking God not to allow it get worse, and God answered our prayer. May this not happen again, with the efforts of those who love this planet, CCL and its members to mention a few.

  7. Environmentalism is at heart a spiritual movement; for many of us, our religion. When I hike in the high country now, among so many dead trees, I weep for our losses even as I am celebrating being within such beauty. So I guess I’m trying to follow some of your precepts. Once again, you clarify for me what we’re going through–and how to get through it productively.

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