23 February 2014

What a Broken Ankle Can Teach You About Climate Change Denial

I'm in a warm place. I mean that literally, not figuratively. Going someplace warm (actually, it's swelteringly hot and humid here) in the winter is something I haven't done since I learned about climate change almost 20 years ago. But we're here on "business" — the business of climate change. 

Yeah, yeah, I know. Flying somewhere to talk/teach/learn about global warming and ocean acidification is the act of a crazy person — or a desperate person. I can't disagree and I do feel guilty. But here we are at an important conference, so we're making a vacation of it.

Unfortunately, I'm here with a broken ankle, a walking cast and a cane. Today, while eating a picnic lunch on the beach, I started feeling sorry for myself. The first warm water I've encountered since 1996 and I can't take advantage of the recreational opportunities like surf lessons and learning how to paddle board. I couldn't believe my bad luck.

After a little pity party, we walked (slowly) to an outdoor art festival and then hung out at a different beach for a while. I could not believe how many people I saw who had canes, crutches and wheelchairs! The moment I really got it — that I need to stop my whingeing because I'm quite blessed generally and particularly blessed to be visiting this land of warm beaches — was seeing a brand new amputee wheel up beside us, alone. Self-pity turned to embarrassment for my thoughts and admiration for his gumption.

On the way home, my hubby and I talked about the fact that I never usually notice people with canes or wheelchairs, but here I'm seeing lots and lots. Is it because I'm currently "among them" that I'm noticing more of these people lately?

And that got me wondering (make the leap with me here) ... are people who have been impacted by climate chaos more likely to acknowledge the climate change emergency? Apparently, research shows that to be true ... but it's fleeting. And I suddenly understood why.

I want to get back to normal. I want my ankle to be mended, my foot to be healed, and the whole thing to be a fading memory. Of course! If I had been hit by Hurricane Sandy or a horrific heat wave or a terrifying flood, I'd want to forget it as quickly as possible, too!

So in the case of those already touched by climate disruption, denial is more a case of forgetting. Or wanting desperately to forget and get on with normal life. Even though "normal life" no longer exists. And for some (impacted by life-changing illness, injury or extreme weather events), simply still being alive is the blessing. Millions weren't that lucky.

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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?