Accept truths so climate change can be confronted

“If we aren’t able to face the climate reality, then how do we know if our thoughts, beliefs, and actions will save us or destroy what we supposedly hold so precious?”

These days, we take books that we don’t understand or agree with off shelves at libraries and schools, and sometimes we burn them. We tell teachers they can’t talk to their students about what really happened in our country’s past. We refuse to listen to scientists and doctors about the COVID-19 pandemic, believe that it’s a conspiracy, and don’t get vaccinated or wear masks. We listen to elected officials who lie to us about the results of an election and storm the U.S. Capitol.
It would appear that many of us are struggling with the real world. We are having a difficult time acknowledging and accepting what we call “the facts of life.” It’s understandable that there are things that happen in the world that can trigger our anxiety and fears.

But what concerns and saddens me is that many of us choose our beliefs and perspectives from our own insecurities and misinformation. And too often we allow our prejudices and anger to colour our thoughts and actions.
If we choose to deny or turn our backs on the “facts of the matter,” then how quickly do we lose touch with reality? And if we disconnect ourselves from the real world, how soon do we lose our sanity?
In his book, “Good Thinking,” David Robert Grimes talks about our internal battles between the facts and personal ideologies and convictions, and what really is happening. Grimes warns us that if we choose our beliefs and ideologies over the truth, then we endanger ourselves and our world. “The alarming reality is that people tend to believe what ideologically appeals to them, filtering out information that conflicts with their deeply held beliefs,” Grimes wrote. “This afflicts all of us to some degree and is something we need to be actually be aware of if we are to have any chance of overcoming it”

The other night I watched a Ted Talk titled, “How I Made Friends With Reality,” by Emily Levine. She talked about being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and how she came to terms with and accepted the diagnosis. Like many of us, Levine said she initially wanted reality to leave her alone but then realized she had to befriend and embrace it.
Levine proposed that it’s important for us to come in contact with “actual reality” and recognize that there are limits in life, including death. According to Levine, when we reject death, we are anti-life and anti-nature. And to deny death, we are disconnected from the biorhythms and cyclical rhythms of the universe.
So, if we try to deny or possibly delay such things as aging and death, and have distanced ourselves from nature, how can we possibly understand and appreciate the growing impacts of climate change on our fragile environment? How can we make logical and realistic decisions to address climate change when our actions are based on beliefs and ideologies that are not founded on facts or the truth? According to Levine and Grimes, we have to become aware of those beliefs or personal convictions that could be endangering our lives; especially at a time when there are so many global challenges that, if not addressed, could hurt or destroy us.

What makes this so difficult is our growing detachment and distance from the real world, including nature. And what makes it worse is that we find ourselves spending more time in the digital world and with virtual reality. We are losing our ability to focus, pay attention, and be present. And we are losing our mental and emotional capacity to make sense of and cope with what’s really happening around us.

We can no longer turn our backs on climate change. We can no longer keep looking for distractions to distance ourselves from climate reality. If we refuse to face and acknowledge climate change, at what point do we lose our sanity and lose our ability to successfully address the numerous climate challenges right in front of us?
In a collection of essays titled, “Eyewitness: Minnesota Voices on Climate Change,” Munira Berhe wrote, “Climate change is significant in our lives whether we realize it or not. It is time that we open our eyes to the suffering of others and understand the weight of the reality that we all face. We need to realize that it is not enough to have compassion; there must also be action.”

If we aren’t able to face the climate reality, then how do we know if our thoughts, beliefs, and actions will save us or destroy what we supposedly hold so precious?

The author of this article, Tone Lanzillo, is a member of the Loaves and Fishes Community in Duluth, a live-in volunteer at the Dorothy Day House, an active part of the Duluth/365 initiative, & is a key part of our team here at The Human Exploring Society.

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