Five steps for thinking about climate change without being overwhelmed by hopelessness

Originally published at:


There is a step 6, believe you me.


I don’t think believing that climate change is going to be a major, major challenge planet-wide over the coming decades and century or two, and acknowledging this is going to mean the loss of human life, animal life, biodiversity, ecosystems, cities and even nations, has to be mutually exclusive from being hopeful.

I’m hopeful that the planet “will get through it” and it might even be a, in the long term, useful pressure that forces humanity to evolve in a positive direction. I still think it’s going to kick the shit out of our and many other species.

I’ll add (now that I read the article summary) that I totally agree that the focus needs to be on systemic changes. Al Gore has been saying just this for years now. However, making personal shifts can actually help one’s psyche for the better, and do make little changes, even if they mostly serve as being illustrative for others. So not worth tossing all of those things, ditching the baby with the bath water as they say.


This toon always.



Marris’s advice is to focus on climate as a systemic problem, with collective solutions – rather than beating yourself up about your individual choices about how you travel or which things you recycle.

I heard a great quote on NPR the other day which was to the extent of if your bathroom sink is flooding you don’t grab a mop and start furiously mopping. You turn the faucet off first.

It’s disgusting when I see deniers chastising people trying to make a true difference at the source (like Greta) caught in a situation where some things are inevitable because it’s the world we currently live in.

“Look at Greta with her SINGLE USE utensils on a DIESEL train. We have to give these things up but she doesn’t?!?”


This isn’t hopeless. We have a herculean task, and the sooner we start in on it the better it will work and the less trouble we’ll have in the meantime, but it isn’t hopeless.

We need people to have the flexibility to adapt to the new systems and accept changes even if they are somewhat less convenient, we need to accept that we will need to do things that are scary (like switching to nuclear power, in addition to as much renewable power as we can do), and we need to have the resolve to pay for the programs and see them through.

Sadly, it seems like the vast majority of objection to this plan is from the older people, who thought they wouldn’t live long enough to suffer from climate change (Australia on Line 1) and who see it as being expensive in terms of both cash and moving to some less convenient options. So they have said that this will be done over their dead bodies.

The rest of us may need to accept their terms…


Will small individual actions solve the mind-boggling problem that we (and our predecessors, and our descendants) have created?


But they won’t hurt, either, and even small changes in the right direction are good. More to the point, they help address the “money/mouth” comeback and (more importantly) speak louder than words to shift public consciousness. That’s one reason why visible actions like rooftop solar and replacing fossil fueled vehicles with electric are not only (somewhat) moves in the right direction but also public statements that get attention to the problem.


I will say, I think we will definitely be engaging in major geoengineering projects before the end of this century, as one of the mechanisms to try to shift climate. The past 10-20 years seem to indicate that the most extreme end of earlier climate change scenarios is what is coming to pass. It’s too late for us not to be massively affected by climate change, much worse than we are now, and that’s if we did everything perfectly instantly. Which is sooooo not going to happen. We’re going to have to lose a real lot, before our species really takes this as seriously as we need to. It’s going to have to be, oh shit, our species might really die off in the next 50 years. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but my gut tells me it will. I remain hopeful. :slight_smile:

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The science is a lot better than most people think. The longer we wait the more expensive it is; and the worse the weather is going to get - but we can reverse this a lot faster than people think.

It’s not hopeless. We’ve hit the point where we can’t just stop polluting our way out of this, we need to start actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere; but we can still fix this.

There is hope. We can still save humanity. The next 300 years and the next 30 years don’t have to suck. We can still do this. The sooner we start, the better things will be, even in our lifetimes.


(Alternatively, the boomers make me want to ask why we should bother saving humanity.)


“Ditch the shame” (your car didn’t cause climate change);

So very much this. It runs deeper than the shame though—there is almost an absolution mentality to the people who shame you for not buying a Tesla. As if now they need do nothing more for the planet than berate you for burning gasoline.

I recently argued with a musician who insisted that because he drives a Tesla to his shows, he’s had more of an impact on the planet than Beyonce at Coachella. This is the problem I have—how these “money/mouth” gestures absolves one from any further action (and pushes people like me away from their mission). I know we’re only human, but this is one of the things humans do.

To me, this whole thing boils down to the question people have been asking since Homer’s day: is humanity capable of solving its own problems? I try to remain optimistic: yes we can, but one way or another, global warming will answer this question permanently.


Absolutionly not? Activism is necessary but also vulnerable to dismissal based on a long list of silly criticisms. See the stuff going on for two decades now to support ignoring Al Gore’s attempts.

The public activism is vastly more important than rooftop solar, but without putting it into personal practice is much easier to ignore. So, not absolution but potentiation.

Oh, they’re not ALL bad. But then again, most of the ones I spend any real time with, like my Mom, are at the very cool end of the spectrum.

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I think this narrative that it’s all “the average person’s fault” is likely propagated by the rich bastards who at this point, the fault really lies with.

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Not all boomers are bad. And I don’t hate them; if anything, I really feel bad for them.

I understand the whole “eat and be merry today, for we’re all dead of atomic hellfire in 15 minutes” attitude that they developed. To go from being assured that the world was a safe place and everything would be OK to “here’s this noise, if you hear it you have 15 minutes to live”. All of the '60s and '70s and '80s make sense with this light: finding distraction through free love and drugs, then moving to absolute live-in-the-moment greed because the piper can’t call if he’s dead.

Gen X people like me and the Millenials who came after me are a lot more optimistic. We think the world will still be here in 20 minutes, in 20 years, and in 20 decades and 20 centuries. We are returning to thinking of longer time frames; and some of us even have the perhaps delusional ideas that some part of us will survive (either metaphorically or actually) for those time frames.

The problem is that most boomers are now aging into their not-so-golden years and they refuse to accept that the world will carry on without them; I get a sense from many that they are almost bitter that the world didn’t end on their watch. In some ways their trash heaps and their convenience and their climate change is their legacy; and the younger people are working to erase their monument to living in the now and worry about the future after it happens. With the wholesale elimination of pensions and the refusal to provide more social services it seems like they are trying to ensure the oncoming generations will have it worse when they get old out of spite.

It all boils down to a conversation I had with someone about why they didn’t want people to start working on the Climate Change problem. They believed in climate change, they accepted that it was happening, and that we were causing it. But they didn’t want to spend money on it because it might reduce their money and they would be dead by the time it was a real problem. “But what about your grandchildren?” - in reference to her actual, real grandchildren who spent a lot of time with her and who were very devoted to her; not just hypothetical grandchildren. “Don’t care, I’ll be dead.”

“Don’t care, I’ll be dead.”

(As a Gen X’er, the only thing I’ll be bitter about on my death bed is that I won’t get to see how the Climate Change problem is resolved; I’ll be sad that I won’t be around when everything is back to normal. But I’ll take comfort in that I helped get us back on track to normality.)

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This reveals a very, very deep sickness in our society. Which I think most of us here are privy to, but geez, this is just a really direct way of making a point of it. Really quite disgusting and overwhelmingly nihilistic.


On reflection, it’s not the climate crisis that nudges me toward despair. Its the lack of meaningful democracy. Its an economy built on human misery. It’s living at the center of an empire so “successful” in what it does, that no one inside thinks its really an empire-just that everyone outside has rotten luck.

If I had to pretend that climate crisis were really the only untouchable problem out there, that truly would send me into despair.


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