Anxious. My body shakes. It feels like fierce little things are running, running, running inside me. My mind races. It finds a thought, any thought, and grabs at it, tears at it, tears it apart. All of this is fed by a low hum of dread.
But this isn’t my first rodeo.
And, by now, this old cowboy has mad skills.
I take my time. Hold onto a little love and empathy. Focus on my breath. Scan through my body. Notice my thoughts. It’s not pleasant. It takes grit, but it works. It always works eventually.
My body steadies. Thoughts space out a little. The dread is still there so this cowboy steps into the enclosure and speaks directly to it.
You don’t need to be scared. You have a wife you love and healthy and happy children. Parents and extended family are well. You have friends, a safe home and the opportunity to write. You have nothing to fear. There’s nothing to –
I stop in my tracks. There’s something else in this enclosure with me.
I take a few steps, feel dirt under my feet. I hit against something that doesn’t yield to my hard fought skills. It’s as solid as a brick wall and just as real. It won’t be negotiated away by a bit of meditation or a relaxation technique.
You see, I was wrong.
There is something to fear.
But this isn’t anxiety. Anxiety makes my world smaller. What I’m face to face with now, expands my world. Because it’s bigger than me, bigger than any of us on our own.
I’m not alone. This is the biggest rodeo in town. We’re all here in the enclosure together. It’s right there in front of us. Waiting on our response.
We can’t deny it. We can’t distract ourselves from it anymore.
So what are we going to do?
“That is the course we are speeding so blithely along—to more than four degrees Celsius of warming by the year 2100. According to some estimates, that would mean that whole regions of Africa and Australia and the United States, parts of South America north of Patagonia, and Asia south of Siberia would be rendered uninhabitable by direct heat, desertification, and flooding. Certainly it would make them inhospitable, and many more regions besides. This is our itinerary, our baseline. Which means that, if the planet was brought to the brink of climate catastrophe within the lifetime of a single generation, the responsibility to avoid it belongs with a single generation, too. We all also know that second lifetime. It is ours.”
Excerpt from The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells