Well, I watched a YouTube video yesterday of a talk given by journalist Chris Hedges that is really powerful and I can't stop thinking about it. It is a no-holds barred, eyes-wide-open and unflinching look at the condition of the United States and touched also on climate change. Hedges has just published a new book called "America: The Farewell Tour." So first, here are some links:
Now, as one of the undoubtedly many non-American people around the world who are watching with panic and horror at the train wreck of the American political system, this talk rang very true. He isn't pulling any punches. I could summarize, but it would be better to just watch it yourself and get the full story.
However, I wanted to highlight three things that stuck out for me. The first is that while he wasn't able to get into a full discussion of climate change in that particular lecture, apparently it is addressed more fully in the book and he really gets it. One man stands up in the Q & A and, voice choked up, tells Hedges that because of him, he has become vegan and it has changed his life completely. I wanted to applaud. Hedges became a vegan when he found out the environmental cost of animal agriculture and he responded that it was the biggest impact any one person can have on the state of the environment. Furthermore, once you understand the impact on the environment, it also gets a person thinking about these exploitative corporations that churn living creatures into a consumptive object. This has become my litmus test as to whether an environmentalist truly understands the crisis we face as a species; are they vegan or transitioning to become so? If not, then we need to let them know and help in any way we can to support them in transitioning. As Hedges points out, we may feel like we can't as individuals do much, but every single person can wake up every morning and change the world by eating a plant-based diet.
The second thing I noted was a comment he makes that I made myself in a Facebook declaration about four years ago. Hedges says that this fight to halt climate change may be a losing battle. We may not make it through this crisis intact, if at all. But he wants his kids to know that he did everything in his power to stop it. That's how I feel, and maybe you can relate too. I thought instantly of Gandalf, talking to Pippin on the eve of battle: "There never was much hope ... Just a fool's hope." It is the bravest thing of all to fight to the very bitter end, for our loved ones, with no glory, just the knowledge that we do what we must. How far would we go to save our children? As far as it takes. How many hours of vigilance? As many as it takes. At what point can we give up? Never.
Which leads me to the third point that is sticking with me. And it resonated deeply because I have been thinking the same thing. It is the issue of hope. Another man stood up during the Q & A and said he agreed with everything that Hedges says but wonders what Hedges could offer in the sense of hope because it's of no use if we fall into debilitating despair. Hedges answer surprised me and likely the audience that day. He said that he doesn't "share the culture's mania for hope." As a war correspondent for two decades, he saw indescribable horrors and the basest of humanity; that must knock the rose-coloured glasses off of even the most devoted wearer. No one is coming to save us. Not through technology, not through political leadership [see Part II of Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything, if you have any lingering hope for that].
Instead, he says the only salve is in the resistance itself. It reminded me of being in labour; all the hours waiting, with waves of pain coursing through our bodies. There is nothing we can do except endure. But then the time comes to push, and even though the pain is at its peak, at least you feel like you can DO something. And that helps, weirdly.
He also said that this resistance must be done with others because if we deal with all this knowledge alone, we will succumb to despair. And, he adds, he means REAL connections to others, in real life, not just electronically.
And in the spirit of resistance, I did something today and I encourage you to do likewise. I saw a great IKEA ad on YouTube that actually did a social experiment in one of its stores. It raised the heat to 4 degrees hotter than [I'm assuming] the outside temperature. The customers were agitated and sweaty, asking workers if the heat was on in the store. But then it was revealed that this was what a 4 degree global rise in temperature would feel like. I thought 'kudos, IKEA!' and sent them the following email:
"Hi! I just saw your ad about Climate Change and I wanted to say AWESOME!! I'm glad to see that your company is raising awareness about the existential crisis we all face. I would also like to offer you a challenge. Your restaurants are renowned especially for your meatballs, but the reality is, animal agriculture has the greatest impact on global warming. In fact, it beats out fossil fuel use. There are many studies showing the statistics and what an impact it would have if IKEA led the way in switching their menu to a much healthier, humane and sustainable plant-based one. You would truly be a trail-blazer, and it would be much cheaper for you as well. There are so many fantastic substitutes for animal based favourites, a transition would be completely feasible. In the meantime, perhaps you could start offering a variety of plant-based options because many of us have already transitioned to plant-based and would very much like to support your efforts!!"
It was a small gesture, but it was something. I'm going to try to do something like this a couple times a week and I encourage you to do the same. No one is coming, so we must take action, even if it seems small.
A fool's hope, indeed. But what other choice to we have?