Being alive to feel the humid breeze flowing in through this window is equal parts empowering and daunting and bad for your frizz. Yes, we’re alive. Yes, we want to stop the imminent destruction of the earth. No, we don’t quite know how. Or we do, but no one is listening, as we scream at the top of our lungs while dancing naked in the middle of Oxford Circus. No, that definitely was not me in the oversized zebra head and unitard.
Over time, I’ve collected writings (tweets, poems, bathroom graffiti) that speak to this climate window. My own goes something like, AAAAH, I’M ALIVE NOW, I NEED TO DO SOMETHING (dances like a chicken, plunges her head into an ice bath). Most of these writings fall into two camps: Act now for chrissakes, or We are so effing lucky to be alive right now. I think, for reasons that I will enumerate in this essay, that the latter is the stronger tack.
Negative, window-is-closing language stresses out people and does more to discourage than inspire. Don’t highlight the finite finestra. The frantic, time-is-running-out messaging, however true, makes people cower. There is a ton of literature about this. This kind of messaging is like breathing down a bomb defuser’s neck as the clock ticks away. It only works on Tom Cruise. This doesn’t mean hiding the truth, or the enormity of the challenge. It just means not front-loading your window talk with panic on a deadline.
There’s some evidence that strong fear with a slant towards brutal honesty can get people going, but omg when combined with a looming deadline, it’s a toss-up. Three-fifths of me wants to drink a lot of Aperol and crawl into a hole. Two-fifths of me wants to grab my megaphone and run screaming down my street:
I’m just here to say that it has been 1 year 309 days since this dire IPCC warning, over 16% of the time they gave us. The world’s governments accomplished less than nothing in that time.
There are now 9 years 142 days until 2030. We need to change ?????????? ASAP. https://t.co/VXTmbDzibO
— Peter Kalmus (climate scientist) (@ClimateHuman) August 13, 2020
The window messaging I think we need to focus on is how fortunate we are to be alive right now. Indeed, it’s a challenge. Indeed, politicians around us are not taking the actions they need to take to prevent our demise. But we are alive to keep pushing.
Good climate window talk doesn’t have to shy away from the precariousness, loss, or uncertain outcomes we will experience as we sidle up to climate apocalypse. It just has to also acknowledge the power we have now. Like so:
This window is full of danger, but we are alive to mitigate, to do as much as we can:
The window is this tiny period on a vast continuum of a time where things are not yet locked in. We have an opportunity:
It’s scary that Elizabeth Sawin wrote this in 2007, but it still holds true for me:
There are moments when the 10-year window comes into clear focus for me, moments when it stands out against the blur of obligations and worries and pleasures of my ordinary life.
It is in those moments—when I can see the 10-year window while not being too frightened by its seriousness—that I seem to know best what to do. It is in these moments that I find myself standing beside my neighbors with my “Stop Global Warming” signs, buying electricity produced from methane capture, and expanding the garden that feeds my family. It is in those moments that I feel most like the person I would like to be, someone who knows what to do when she is given a window of opportunity.
We are alive. We can act. This tweet from Eric Holthaus captures the promise of climate window as perfectly as one could:
This article was first published in Yes! Magazine. You can see the original article here.