#climatestrike vs my brain: i am struggling with pessimism and hopelessness

I started writing this post in September, after the global Climate Strike.

It was exciting to see that so many people -- millions around the globe -- understand the urgency and are willing to take to the streets. I thought, This is beautiful! This is amazing! ... and This won't change anything. Both at the same time.

I hate writing that. I hate feeling this way.

Along with Climate Strike, there are other positive developments -- extinction rebellion, for example, and an increasing number of civil disobedience arrests, both celebrity and ordinary. This will grow. More people will get involved and actions will become even bolder.

Yet I feel utterly pessimistic about humanity's future. I have lost hope.

Of course I know I'm not alone in that. Anyone who looks at the reality of climate change either cloaks themselves in denial, clings to shreds of hope, or vows to fight on without hope.

For me, this hopelessness is a kind of identity issue. I reflect on my own feelings and think, Is this me?

I've been an activist all my life. Integral to that has been a bedrock belief in the collective power of people's movements to change the world. I don't consider myself an idealist. I focus on the points in history where people's movements have produced change. And they are legion. Activism has re-made the world again and again. I know that, I still believe it, on a local or national level.

But when it comes to climate change, the threat to our entire planet and our species, I don't believe it. And that shakes me.

I still want us to fight, of course. We must fight. We have no choice.

But there is only one real solution to climate change, and that is abolishing capitalism. And to call that a pipe dream is an understatement on the grandest level. The corporatocracy is powerful beyond all measure. The ruling class will stop at nothing to retain profit and privilege.

Google "ways to stop climate change," and you'll find lists of ways to reduce your carbon footprint -- the usual suspects. All good, all completely inadequate, all deflecting attention away from the real issue, that a system predicated on so-called "growth" is unsustainable. That capitalism is destroying our planet and killing our future.

Even environmental groups that understand the need for collective, political action, such as (in Canada) the David Suzuki Foundation, fall well short of the mark. "Unite for bold climate action." "Get politically active and vote."

Yes, we should do both those things. But is there a party planning to restructure our economic system? Is there a party that will risk re-election by taking on the extraction industries? Is there a party that can move beyond window-dressing into a true sea-change of action? No, no, and no.

All around me good-hearted people are working hard to reduce their individual footprints, and working on the local level to do whatever they can. That's all good. Less plastic waste and less mindless consumerism are worthy goals. But while we're carrying our reusable shopping bags and not using straws, on the largest scale, it only gets worse.

My comrades talk about a socialist revolution. But revolution is infinitely more likely to bring some form of authoritarianism -- whether theocracy or military state -- than anything else.

The impossible economics of late-stage capitalism, have (predictably) given rise to a resurgence of xenophobia and fascism. As our world is (literally) burning with the need for cooperative, equitable, sustainable solutions, the ruling class doubles down on the unsustainable, unjust system that brought us to this dangerous place.

I've been struggling with this post, writing and deleting and writing and deleting, because writing this is worthless. No one needs my cynicism and my hopelessness. It does nothing, changes nothing. Cynicism and hopelessness are death-knells for activism, and without activism, we are lambs to the slaughter.

All I can do at this point is quote Gandhi: You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.

Or maybe Beckett is more apt. You must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on.


Rural said...

A small thing Laura, but be aware that you are far from alone in your struggle with pessimism and hopelessness. As you say we each do our small part to save our little bit of our world but its hard, if not impossible, to view the future with optimism and this from one approaching his final few years on this ball of dirt. What of our children, what sort of world do they face?

Amy said...

My fears and feelings exactly. As I recycle and use less of this and that, I delude myself momentarily into hoping it will make a difference. Then I see Australia burn, Antarctica melt, and the beaches disappear on the East Coast, and I fall into despair that leads to a feeling of helplessness. I am 67 and have had the blessings of a world that was more or less intact. But what world will my grandsons have, if any, if and when they reach my age?

Greed is definitely a primary cause of the failure to do more (and the underlying cause of global warming itself). If we need any more evidence of that, we see it in Trump's rolling back of whatever environmental protections existed so that his cronies in the major corporations can make more money.

I admit that I mostly turn away from reading or watching anything about this because it gives me nightmares. Like violent movies or anything involving harm to animals.

laura k said...

Rural, thank you, I do know that and it's really not a small thing. In fact I feel like my own pessimism is evidence of how prevalent these feelings must be.

I was always the optimist. I rallied myself (and tried to rally others) with a belief in our collective power to change the world. A belief backed by facts, by history.

I thought I'd be the last one to succumb to these feelings.

laura k said...

Amy, I can only take in bits here and there. It's too scary and too monumental.

Greed, profit, consumerism... Adequate public transit, affordable housing near decent jobs... A government that was independent of profit interests... We could have planned it 50 years ago, but now it's 11:59.

Abby said...

As we say in my business, “Copy that.” I unfortunately share your pessimism on this topic. Unlike other aspects of human history changed by activism (however slowly) - the physical world will not wait.

laura k said...

That's well put, Abby. There is simply not enough time.