Reality Changes Everything: Internalizing The Climate Crisis

by Carole Resnick

Details of art from the “Carrying the Weight: Fire & Ice” exhibit atArtRage Gallery. The exhibit features California forest fire photos by Stuart Palley and large-scale pastel drawings of glaciers, icebergs and oceans by Zaria Forman

Climate Conversations
Feb 11 – Mar 9
Active Hope Workshops
Feb 9 – Mar 15

From February 1 through March 15, ArtRage Gallery at 505 Hawley Avenue will be showing “Carrying the Weight: Fire & Ice,” an exhibit of art related to the current climate  
emergency. During the course of the show, there will be a  series of events and offerings designed to help us engage more  deeply with the immediacy of the threats to human survival  on Earth, and to consider how the choices we make about our political organizing and community activism must change as the urgency of the climate crisis becomes clearer.

The best way to do this is in community, and openly. Talking with each other and giving voice to our fear, despair, and rage  can empower us to rise together to face the truth of this dire circumstance, and to hold each other up as we move forward into truly unique and extraordinary times.  

Hopefully we will begin to preface our thinking about  personal and organizational priorities with the question,  “Given that there is a 10-12 year window estimated for humans to make changes that may decrease the degree of  environmental devastation, how can we, as a creative and  loving community, plan now for changes and needs which can  
be anticipated, as we make choices about our use of resources,  time, and personal energy?”

As activists and people interested in progressive politics, it’s no news that we’re facing a climate emergency. But how can we integrate this horrifying reality into our work addressing so many varied areas of oppression and injustice that aren’t explicitly about environmental issues? These times call for the ultimate level of intersectionality. Everything impacts, affects, and changes everything else. When we actually feel in our bones that our “house is on fire,” we will make immediate and  drastic changes in how we think and the choices we make.

It is well established that as members of the human species, we are not neurologically constructed in a way which makes it easy for us to genuinely take in a devastating reality that isn’t in our own backyard. Fight or flight is a survival mechanism that is designed to protect us from immediate danger. It doesn’t kick in easily when the danger is more remote, so we need to find ways to light  
the fire of reality if we are not immersed in work which brings it to our attention constantly and deeply.

We have to expand our empathic reach  and feel threats beyond what is familiar and present in our individual lives. This is essentially the same process as really feeling the threat—even if you do not  experience it personally—from police to  young men of color, or the humiliation  and sexual attacks experienced by women, the danger trans people live with daily, or what it’s like to live under drought or flood or war or extreme poverty and starvation  conditions. The threat of climate collapse is no different, but the consequences of allowing ourselves to become dulled to other peoples’ pain are more globally catastrophic than anything humans have ever experienced.

There are ways that we can work together to make the climate emergency really real while we strengthen and develop  community that is able to acknowledge and speak of the current threats honestly. 

Climate Conversations is a weekly series of gatherings for a light dinner and conversation. Presentations will come from a variety of perspectives and experiences looking at the intersection of the climate crisis with the many other issues facing our community and the world. The presenters will include youth climate activists, local farmers and farm workers, leaders from the Onondaga Nation, mothers,  and organizers addressing poverty and green jobs.

In addition, on several weekends, Active  Hope Workshops are an opportunity to participate in experiential activities based on the work of Joanna Macy. (Those who are interested can check out her books, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re  in Without Going Crazy, and Coming Back to Life). These workshops provide a space to voice our feelings about the climate  crisis through structured and guided group activities, so that we can clear our minds and bolster our courage to take the necessary steps moving forward.

Please check for full details of the scheduled offerings, and come join in as often as you are able.

Our collective futures require us to create a fully intersectional and collaborative community of resistance to the status quo while also shaping and planning new visions for the future. Let’s not leave anything unsaid, in the shadows, in the shroud of denial. Let’s raise up our courage to face an unspeakably dangerous situation together, by bringing it into the light and developing the capacity to think and talk about it without collapsing under the weight of fear, grief, and outrage.

Carole Resnick is a long-time activist in the Syracuse community who has a burning desire to  
help move action forward by opening to the truth of the moment.

Return to PNL Issue: Jan/Feb 2020 #870

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