And so we find ourselves on the eve of COP26. From the 31st October to the 12th November, highfalutin delegates from around 200 countries will come together in Glasgow to either unite the world to tackle climate change or to talk shit, greenwash their failures and prove virtue signalling is a real thing after all.
Joining them will be tens of thousands of climate activists, yer Gretas and indigenous peoples among them, for two weeks of protests including the Global Day of Action For Climate Justice on the 6th November.
In preparation I’ve been hard at work on my soul-crushing climate anxiety. This requires long nights lying awake fretting, long days doomscrolling social media. It requires your heart pounding against your ribs so hard it actually makes a noise.
There was a time I had this pretty well contained. I smiled blandly as people told me they were doing their bit, when what they meant was they sometimes recycled stuff. That time has passed. Now it’s leaking out all the time always. Now, my friend tells me he bought a reusable straw, I tell him it won’t do shit while he and his wife are driving two cars and eating meat and dairy 21 times a week. My brother mentions his pension scheme, I casually tell him there won’t be a welfare state on a dead planet. We book a trip home for Christmas, I get so stressed about the carbon emissions I decide, briefly, that Old Mother Zero should just spend Christmas alone.
These blog entries, when I’ve been bothered to do them, haven’t been high on pep. I’ve been stressing about how Covid-themed mobility problems have knackered my carbon footprint, how EasyJet will kill us all with their short-haul twattery, and how we’ll very definitely cause climate breakdown because we like eating meat and driving places. And I’ve turned on my Twitter followers, heckling people who retweet Greta while doing fuck all else about anything. I’m not playing it super cool, is what I’m saying.
I wonder what I can do, how I can get this under control. Extinction Rebellion talks about wellbeing as part of its regenerative culture, but it’s heavier on the platitudes than I can stomach. I tried mindfulness and got distracted. I tried meditation and got giggly. I tried shutting it all out and distracting myself with TV, but it gets me feeling guiltier than before. Mostly, I’ve been buying trees like medicine.
What I keep coming back to is that what I’m feeling is appropriate. That it’s essential. That if enough people felt it we’d do something about it. That we should all lie awake panicking, we should all wake up screaming. We should all type in caps lock. We’re at late-stage disaster movie here. We’ve got an asteroid heading for the earth, already visible in the sky. Godzilla’s knocking about the place. King Kong’s twatting helicopters. We should all be panicking and rioting and looting and fucking each other. We should be taking to the streets.
Which is what I’m going to do. On the Global Day of Action, at least. That’s where most of my anxiety has been going this past week. The march through Glasgow – which expects about 100,000 do-gooders – is three miles long which, thanks to Covid, is about two-and-a-half miles longer than I can walk now. I’ve been stressing about my options here: Skipping the thing and feeling like the rest of the schlubs on this planet who don’t give two shits about it; staggering along to the start point to wave people off and feeling bad for not doing more; or hiring a wheelchair for the day like a granny being taken to the fucking seaside. All three feel shitty and stressful to me. That last one in particular, because it’ll break my 17-year streak of not using a wheelchair. And that adds a fourth option for shittiness and stress: Feeling guilty for indulging my petty vanity against the scale of climate breakdown.
Do the things
I’ll do the bugger somehow. Action is what calms me. Being among people who give a shit is what gives me hope. Protest is a treatment for climate anxiety. It’s not the cure. There is only one cure: Reducing emissions. Only that.
You, reading this right now, need to go vegan, ditch petrol, plant shitloads of trees and join the crowds of us fighting the genocidal capitalists who want to wipe us out. Only that will reduce emissions. Only that will change the system that has us killing ourselves. More importantly, only that will get me a decent night’s sleep. I’m bloody knackered.