In looking at the reality of climate change, it is so complex and so systemic that it is difficult at times to see clearly how we as individuals can effect any meaningful change to address the challenge. Even for those persons who are committed to making a difference, there is the temptation to believe that no matter what we do as individuals, the systems of our society will make it impossible to make a real difference. For some this leads to a feeling of impotence over against the magnitude of the crisis that manifests itself in various modes of inaction. The feeling of impotence and consequent inaction are grounded in an overwhelming sense that the systems cannot be changed by me or us as individuals. The social, economic, and political systems on local, national, and international levels seem too entrenched, and the forces at work to preserve these systems seem too powerful for us as individuals to make a real systemic difference.
I think all of us who care deeply about climate change have experienced moments of despair that it is simply “too much,” that the challenge is simply too great for us to be able to make the changes quickly and effectively enough to avoid the worst consequences. I know that I struggle with these feelings all of the time, and I think it is natural to have these feelings in the face of the daunting challenges that we face. However, when I find myself wallowing in these feelings and the anxiety and inaction that come with them, I find myself thinking: “They have me right where they want me!” The persons who want to preserve the status quo in relation to climate change want you and me to think that there is no way that we can make a difference, and they actively foster a sense that there is no way to make the systemic shifts necessary.
So, perhaps it is partly out of a sense of defiance, but I would like to think that it is more out of a sense of hope, that those of us who know climate change is real and dangerous stand up and say with our words and our actions: We will not give in to the temptation of believing that we cannot make a difference! We will not give up on the work of making a better world for future generations of all life! We will be “ALL IN” to do the work in our personal lives, our families, our communities, our nations, and our world! We will never give up on our work for justice for future generations! Our cries for justice for all life will continue! We will continue to find ways to break our own addictions to fossil fuels and the addiction of our politicians to fossil fuel money! We will help find ways to build sustainable communities and sustainable societal systems! We will each find the place where we can most effectively be a catalyst for systemic change! For me that is in the field of higher education. What is it for you? Keep working! Let us not allow the forces for the status quo keep us where they want us to be. Yes, we may fail, but we will definitely fail if we are not all in. We may not be able to completely change the world, but future generations of life are calling out to us to give it our all. As the first century Rabbi Tar’fon said in commenting on the Talmud: “The work is not upon you to complete, but neither are you exempt from trying.” If we keep trying with all that we are, we will be right where we need to be and not right where they want us.
* (Winkler, G. (2004). Kaballah 365: Daily Fruit From The Tree Of Life. Kansas City, MO, Andrews McMeel Publishing, p. 228).