I confess, I almost didn’t write this. Any motivation to spread hope and positivity has been immobilized lately, in the face of everyday doom and gloom: the blazing Amazon, active shooters, plastic wastelands, rising tides, the massive asteroid that’s expected to hurl by Earth on September 14. Death is at our door, and it’s time we lay out the welcome mat.
Before you jump to any conclusions, I am not saying that we should all give up and die. Rather, we need to work on a rewiring that rids our fear of death and allows us to act with it in mind. Life on planet Earth will come to an end, whether that’s in 500 years due to mass extinction or 2 billion years when the Sun boils our oceans. As my sister recently coined — after a horrible disease killed her two litters of kittens — death is inevitable. Together, we have the choice: will we let the idea of death be devastating, or will we bravely allow it to inform our choices so that the cycles of life and death are rebalanced on this cosmic rock we call home?
First, let’s look at the way we talk to each other. Much of the messaging over environmental and social upheaval uses divisive fear mongering, pressuring, and shaming. Every day, I am asked by Instagram ads to give my money to save various earthlings and ecosystems. I am told to “stop being a baby” and do something about global warming by signing this or that. I am spoon fed stories of mass murder, government corruption, and a degrading planet.
In a 2017 TED Talk, psychologist Per Espen Stoknes offers steps to turning apocalypse fatigue into positive action. Instead of distancing ourselves from the problems we face, we can create positive social norms that lead to solutions. Corvallis has a pretty good reputation for this already. If we could eliminate plastic bags and straws from our city, imagine what ripple effect we could have if we banned or boycotted plastic altogether.
Stoknes calls for a reframing of language — so climate change becomes about health and restoration instead of loss and destruction. Local businesses and city officials can continue to do their part to make Earth-friendly behaviors and consumer choices accessible and convenient, and citizens can do theirs to hold them accountable. It is also crucial that we offer each other positive feedback for the strides we make as individuals and within our communities.
There are so many people in Corvallis doing their part to mobilize and uplift the community in these times of crises. Corvallis has a comprehensive climate action plan and our leadership takes pride in being stewards of this beautiful land we get the privilege of calling home. While climate change seems to fall on the individual to do something, there is strength in unity. Show up for climate action week. Show up for city vigils and causes. Show up when you’d rather hide.
By Stevie Beisswanger.