Do you find knowledge of climate change paralyzing or catalyzing?

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Tim DeChristopher. Like Tim, I fell into a period of despair when I realized the truth about climate change and the degradation of our environment, but emerged from the other side with nothing to lose, energized to do whatever I can to save as much habitat as I can for the other species we share this planet with. We all need something to fight for, to turn the despair into energy. What are you fighting for??

“I think part of what empowered me to take that leap and have that insecurity was that I already felt that insecurity. I didn’t know what my future was going to be. My future was already lost.

I met Terry Root, one of the lead authors of the IPCC report, at the Stegner Symposium at the University of Utah. She presented all the IPCC data, and I went up to her afterwards and said, “That graph that you showed, with the possible emission scenarios in the twenty-first century? It looked like the best case was that carbon peaked around 2030 and started coming back down.” She said, “Yeah, that’s right.” And I said, “But didn’t the report that you guys just put out say that if we didn’t peak by 2015 and then start coming back down that we were pretty much all screwed, and we wouldn’t even recognize the planet?” And she said, “Yeah, that’s right.” And I said: “So, what am I missing? It seems like you guys are saying there’s no way we can make it.” And she said, “You’re not missing anything. There are things we could have done in the ’80s, there are some things we could have done in the ’90s — but it’s probably too late to avoid any of the worst-case scenarios that we’re talking about.” And she literally put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m sorry my generation failed yours.” That was shattering to me.

And I said, “You just gave a speech to four hundred people and you didn’t say anything like that. Why aren’t you telling people this?” And she said, “Oh, I don’t want to scare people into paralysis. I feel like if I told people the truth, people would just give up.” And I talked to her a couple years later, and she’s still not telling people the truth. But with me, it did the exact opposite. Once I realized that there was no hope in any sort of normal future, there’s no hope for me to have anything my parents or grandparents would have considered a normal future — of a career and a retirement and all that stuff — I realized that I have absolutely nothing to lose by fighting back. Because it was all going to be lost anyway.

I think activism at its best is refusing to accept things. Saying that this is unacceptable. And I felt that so strongly sitting there at the auction, watching parcels go for eight or ten dollars an acre. I mean that’s why I first started bidding — just to drive up the prices — because I had this overwhelming sense that this is not acceptable.”

Tim DeChristopher, Bidder 70, co-founder of the Climate Disobedience Center, from an interview in Orion Magazine by Terry Tempest Williams.

Artist unknown.