01 July 2012


We have a wonderful little coffee shop in my community ... friendly owner, lovely ocean view, great coffee (apparently; I don't drink the stuff myself), and a potluck feeling of "Hey, who might I run into here today?"

My husband and I were in there yesterday, meeting with a young climate activist friend, and there was a moment during our conversation when I suddenly started crying. I can talk about this stuff rationally and intellectually, but then all of a sudden the enormity of the problem hits me. Crying is the outlet that allows me to stay in the discussion without banging my fist on the table in a public place or, worse, becoming totally depressed and withdrawn.

It was kind of funny and ironic then that another friend – a rather pregnant one – walked in and we started talking about epidurals and pain during delivery and the magic of Demerol. One person in the café explained that he was prescribed Demerol years ago following a very painful surgery. To paraphrase: "I found myself lying in bed, happier than I've ever been, trying hard to think of something negative. But I could not come up with a single problem in the world. Then I realized it was the effect of the Demerol and I had to kiss that particular brand of happiness goodbye."

Aha, I realized! Demerol is the answer to climate change! If we all take it, there won't be a climate change problem anymore! Indeed, all of our problems will be over.* [Satire alert.]

It was an interesting thought for a moment or two*, until I had to kiss that brand of problem solving goodbye. But it made me realize several things. 

  1. The psychic pain of knowing what we're doing to the Earth, to the future, to Life, can cut very deep at times – and there is nothing wrong with taking a painkiller from time to time. 
  2. Every activist who hasn't burned out has found their own painkiller. "Demerol for All" isn't the answer, but we ought to be compassionate with ourselves. Constant pain is not in the recipe for healing or health. For example, my friend Sandy Hinden (see his call for a Sacred Earth Economics Conference) uses his creative powers and energies to keep himself going in the face of "knowing." He recently said: "The powers of greed and corruption are amazing, so cunning, so smooth and deeply entrenched throughout governments, non-profits and business… yet we are approaching a biological meltdown. I think I am toughening up for something."
  3. And yet, our psychic pain of knowing is nothing compared with the pain already being felt and experienced by hundreds of thousands of the world's most climate change vulnerable. And they don't have the option of tuning out or turning away or taking a painkiller. They must stay totally focused on survival. 

So let's have a good cry or take our metaphorical or symbolic painkillers as and when we must in order to stay in the fight and the fray. As my husband just pointed out in his most recent Uprage post, "Believe me, we must save Africans to save ourselves. If we don't act on it now, by the time Africans are dying in their millions we will know we are watching our future."

* p.s. Demerol is a powerful painkiller, not to be used lightly and only with a prescription. Please note that not for one minute am I suggesting that we all take Demerol.

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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?