Reflections On A Dying World: Finding Meaning In The Climate Crisis

The climate is collapsing. Most of us live in denial of this. But it is inevitable.

What does climate collapse look like? The signs are everywhere. The insect population is plummeting. The oceans are overheating. Hurricanes are stronger and more frequent. Methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, is rising at an alarming rate. In short, we are fucked.

I cannot speak to what that means for the future of humanity. I doubt that we will go extinct. But I can say that the climate crisis will bring untold suffering to all of us. Life will never be the same. Everything will get worse.

What to do with this doom and gloom prognosis? When I in earnest begin to dig into the climate crisis a few years ago, my reaction was despair. I went into a deep depression. I suffered from solastalgia, a form of existential grief over the environment and climate change. I had trouble sleeping. I could find no joy in everyday life.

Photo by Andrea Schettino on Pexels.com

Eventually, I turned to activism and worked with Extinction Rebellion for awhile. I reasoned that I must do something about climate change. I needed to fight for a dying world. But I lost faith pretty soon after. No one around me seemed to take the climate that seriously. Not my friends or family. Like. Cassandra, I could convince no one. Humanity, it seemed, would not take the climate seriously until it was too late.

Today I am free from most of my solastalgia. Like Camus, I have always felt the absurdity of human existence. Humans, it seemed to me, were destined to look for meaning in living when there was not. The climate crisis is just an exacerbation of that absurdity. In the face of destruction, what is there to do but look destruction in the eyes and smile? I have no control over whether humanity will eat itself alive like a toxic ouroboros.

Because of this climate absurdity, I have changed. I view my mental health quite differently than I did as a younger man. I no longer search for meaning so ravenously. When I was younger, I was egotistical. I thought I would make my mark on the world. I believed I was smart and thoughtful and had something to share with the world that would help. (On some level I still believe this, otherwise I would not write this blog). But I no longer feel like my efforts will have any lasting effects on the world. In the world of my ego and making a mark on the world, my life will ultimately not mean much. I will be forgotten. It is inevitable.

Instead, I try to live in the present. I try to live generously. I try to be with my patients’ suffering and connect with them. I try to offer compassion everywhere I can. I try to be aware of every moment. I try to be in nature and connect to my surroundings especially the trees, which feel holier and holier for me with each passing day. And I try to have fun when I can.

I realize this seems futile in the face of existential dread. But it is all I have. And it is all I can to keep going when despair is everywhere.

One comment

  1. We will all be forgotten, except by loved ones — Your new carpe diem philosophy is the best way to live. The angst you went through when you were younger is a lost cause in a world of unconscionable government actions — and inactions — by the soulless sleaze in charge of our future.

    Like

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