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Gathering Friends to Look at Climate Change

My partner and I led a care-of-the-environment gathering for a group of families that all know each other well. Seventeen adults and fourteen young people attended.

We welcomed people in a big room with lots of playthings and good snacks. Then we split into two groups: one with half of the parents, and the other with the young people and the other half of the parents. I began by leading the all-parents’ group.

I invited everyone to say where they’d been born and a favorite place outside when they were young and why they’d loved it. I shared how I had loved to spend time outside and had cared intensely about every living thing, no matter how tiny—as I believe all humans truly do. I talked about the confusion and heartbreak we can feel when our dearest adults seem not to care about the living world or when they act powerless despite how much they care.

I talked about how as parents and adults we can be totally absorbed with getting by:* working, cooking, cleaning, and so on. It can feel like there’s no room in our minds or schedules to notice that something else might need our attention. I said that not noticing climate change and the need to do something about it is partially caused by under-resourced parenting in a time of collapsing capitalism and partially by early heartbreak and confusion.

I read aloud the first four pages of the introduction to Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Some people began discharging right away. Then I talked about “listening pairs” and we did a four-minute-each-way mini-session.

Following the mini-session, people shared thoughts and discharged. Most said they had tried not to pay attention to their feelings about climate change because those feelings would be too big to handle. A few were excited about the challenge and the potential for human liberation in working together to make the world livable for future generations.

People felt bad about their consumer habits. (Our group of white mostly-middle-class USers had been set up to consume a lot and prioritize leading a materially comfortable life.) I tried to articulate that changing our lifestyles is part of the solution but that when it’s paid attention to out of proportion, it can serve as the perfect distraction from solving the systemic problems.

One of the loveliest parts of the meeting was hearing the stomping and thumping above us in the room where the little ones and half the parents were playing. When my group traded out and got a chance to play, it was a great balance to the meeting.

Everyone wanted to meet again, so we chose a date in mid-March. Any family that wanted one was given a copy of This Changes Everything.

Two of the mothers are so excited they are planning their own events. I love this, because one of my goals was to release initiative.

I’ve concluded that it’s time to make more friends and keep pointing all of our minds toward the reality of climate change and the idea that it might be more interesting, hopeful, and exciting to engage with it than to wallow in old feelings of helplessness and denial.

Anna Shapley-Quinn

Monroe, Maine, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of parents

(Present Time 183, April 2016)


* “Getting by” means surviving.


Last modified: 2020-07-01 09:13:21+00