05 February 2011

"A Child is Trapped Under that Car!"

The latest synthesis of ice core data combined with the latest predictions about food security and climate change in the Arctic are painting a very dark, very scary picture of the quite close future. I cried myself to sleep last night, and by this afternoon, still had not shaken my sadness at the thought that my beloved niece is likely going to be robbed of her future.

"Doom and gloom," my mom called it when I phoned her today. I burst into tears. "You don't get it. It's like Savannah is trapped under a car," I sobbed to my poor dumbfounded mother, "and NOBODY'S LIFTING THE CAR OFF HER!"

A whole generation of wonderful young people is trapped underneath that metaphorical car. Urban legend tells us that loving mothers in a "frenzy of maternal fear" can lift cars off their trapped babies. A new kind of urban legend, Tom Boyle Jr., lifted a Camaro off a bicyclist crumpled beneath it. Neuroscientist Jeff Wise shares that story in an article on the "super powers" we get from fear.

He explains that "[t]here is a bright side to crisis. The experience could give you a rare opportunity to meet a part of your mind you otherwise would never encounter—and to find out just how powerful you really are." Here are the four "super powers" fear gives us:
  1. Fear — our danger-response system — allows us to respond rapidly and vigorously to a threat.
  2. Fear can increase our strength — in the moment, sometimes accomplishing this by deadening pain. (Boyle discovered later that he'd clenched his jaw so hard while lifting the car, he shattered eight teeth — I want this guy on our side!)
  3. Fear gives us incredible focus.
  4. Fear dilates time, putting everything into what seems like slow motion. This helps us do what we have to do.
Unfortunately, as so many commentators have pointed out, the climate change emergency is, for the vast majority of us, a creeping emergency. So we haven't had our amygdalas and limbic systems fired up and our hormones and neurotransmitters released. Yet.

And because we're so gawddamned comfortable (lazy, greedy, cowardly, insert-suitable-adjective-here), we're simply going to ignore the child pinned under the car. "Car? What car? Legs? I didn't see any legs. Did you see legs? I didn't see any legs."

Maybe I can't singlehandedly lift the car, but I am not going to refrain from expressing my fear and my sadness. (It's now officially your problem if you can't handle the truth. Though as a friend said recently about a blog post here: "Clarity of understanding creates hope for me.")

I am going to do something very concrete in response to my sadness and fear. I am going to help get our first Green Party Member of Parliament elected here in Canada. I am going to respond rapidly and vigorously when our climate-change-denying prime minister calls an election. I am going to use all my strength to work round-the-clock. I am going to focus like mad. And the whole campaign will go into slow motion so that we can get everything done in order to make history here in my riding.


P.S. I did help get our first Green Party MP elected! Woohoo!!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Julie. We NEED E. may in the House! I just watched this "Canadian Environment Minister outright lying to parliament" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOfq6ej_L-o&feature=player_embedded
    ---gah! Let me know if I can help with the campaign from up in PG!


I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?