For about a year now, I’ve been living with a conviction that the fate of the Earth is going to be decided during my lifetime.
It started with Greta Thunberg’s speech at COP24 in December 2018. I remember listening to her for the first time, tears growing in my eyes. Yeah, I become emotional easily. But that time, there was a good reason to be emotional.
For the first time in my life, I felt the harm we’re doing to the Earth as a species. I saw clearly that we’re destroying our very basis for survival. A lot of people have known this has been happening for the past few decades. Yet, somehow, we’ve been continuing as if this was all perfectly normal.
It’s like with the Emperor’s New Clothes: everyone sees that the Emperor is naked. Yet, no one dares to say the obvious. People are afraid to lose their face.
Only a child who doesn’t have full-blown social conditioning imposed on them yet points out what everyone knew all along. The Emperor is naked. Why do we all behave as if we didn’t see it?
Today, the symbolic child who speaks the truth is Greta — and other young people following her lead. They still haven’t accepted that the world isn’t black or white. And precisely because they can’t see all of the shades of grey, they’re able to do the right thing:
Tell it like it is and treat the climate crisis as a crisis.
I joined the activists early this year. For a moment, it felt like we were doing something important. It was heart-warming to see people stand up together, even if at times it was just a handful of us.
Then, for various reasons, I returned into the shadow. I managed to persuade myself that I’ve done my part and that the issue was going to take care of itself. I grew tired and disheartened. I cut my ties with the local group.
But whenever a spot-on tweet or article jumps at me online, I’m reminded that this is not over. It’s just the beginning. There’s still so much to do.
Humans claimed responsibility for this planet as we gained an evolutionary advantage over other life forms. Now, when that responsibility becomes too much to bear, we pretend that our biggest issue can solve itself.
We’ve just been enjoying the holiday season, going about it as always. We gifted each other with objects produced with massive abuse of resources. We wrapped them in throwaway packaging and we enjoyed the view of our streets, all dressed in Christmas lights powered by coal-derived electricity. We prepared, ate and threw away too much food.
As the holiday time is coming to an end, I ask myself: Was it really necessary?
It’s easy to answer: yes. We explain our Christmas habits by saying that life has always been this way and that we need to preserve tradition. It’s convenient to cover our overconsumption under the blanket of Christmas necessity.
But we’re just postponing the moment when we’ll have no choice but to face the consequences. The moment we’ll need to ask ourselves what we care about more: Christmas lights, or survival?
I don’t mean to scare you or induce a sense of guilt with this post. But I need to talk about what I’m seeing. And what I’m seeing is this:
The Emperor parades naked and proud, while most of us pretend that he’s wearing clothes.
Meanwhile, the collective awareness of environmental problems is shifting. There is hope. The only question is whether you and I will act upon what we already know. Whether we’ll remain passive observers or become the child who has the courage to speak.
As we enter 2020, we symbolically transition into a new decade. We’ll still have a chance to turn the world into a better place to live. Or should I rather say — into a place to live at all.
I know that this year, I will return to climate activism. I won’t lead a movement and my actions will be small. I know I won’t abandon my personal goals for the sake of saving the world. I’ll continue living my usual life, squeezing in small acts for the planet into my routine.
Those acts will probably be so tiny that they’ll seem insignificant. But the difference between doing something and doing nothing at all is the biggest one. It’s the difference between the passive observer of events and someone who dares to speak — even if in the faintest voice.
I’ve made my choice about which person I want to be in 2020. I hope that you’ll also make yours.