19 June 2016

Why We Shouldn't Be Afraid of Fear Right Now

A friend and fellow activist said that, after reading last week's blog post to her partner, they "were wishing there was a more empowering word to use than fear. Being afraid is supposed to be a temporary response to an immediate danger. And fear can be paralyzing." They were wishing that "people were aware, alert, and responsible -- so much so they they took personal and political action out of awareness... not just out of fear."

That got me thinking. I talk about fear because most of us don't seem to be feeling or talking about it yet. It seems there's a fear lag as well as an ocean heat lag. Climate scientists who have been working on climate change research for decades are finally just waking up to their fear for the fate of the biosphere -- and their children and grandchildren. The public is mostly still just checking their cell phones, watching videos and trying to make a buck.

If enough people were afraid, we'd be noticing it, wouldn't we? As a society, I mean, or as a species, no? In cafés and other public places? Wouldn't there be a groundswell of "Hey, this climate change thing is starting to look and feel very real and real scary. I thought they said it was a hoax." Wouldn't everyone be talking about it? 

But no, the deniers are still out in full force, still rousing the wrong kind of fear in people (in EuroAmerican countries at least) that the "alarmists" are trying to, I don't know, take money out of rich people's pockets or something. (Remember, deniers usually don't make any sense. And it's not alarmist to raise the alarm about something that's alarming.) And the general public still sees it as sometime in the future, or somewhere else in the world, or simply something they can keep ignoring until someone knocks on their door and tells them to listen up.

We animals have three responses to fear: fight, flight or freeze. Freezing would be great if it meant staying home and not burning fossil fuels. Flight would be okay, too, if one did it on foot or bicycle. However, when it comes to climate change, the preferred response is to fight ... to have our hackles raised and our fists up, ready to protect our loved ones. 

Yet no, as the United States reels from another mass shooting -- its worst since the massacre of hundreds of Lakota children, women and men at Wounded Knee in 1890 -- and as fracking continues to expand (is not fracking the epitome of stupid?), we're just not getting the numbers of people we need putting up the good fight for the sake of their children and the next seven generations. 

So no, with apologies to those who think hope is what's important these days, I say no, we don't yet deserve hope yet. We haven't done anywhere near enough to deserve hope. We first need to be scared %$#@less on behalf of our children. And then we need to turn our fear to fight, and our fight to action!

Or else, as Prince Ea says in his spoken word essay, Dear Generations: Sorry, "Whatever you're fighting for -- racism or poverty, feminism, gay rights, or any type of equality -- it won't matter in the least, because if we don't all work together to save the environment, we will be equally extinct." And that, ladies and gentlemen, is freaking scary.

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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?