The truth is that before I became a mom, I didn’t think about the environment. Then one day, I realized that the future people were talking about in increasingly gloomy terms (because of climate change, among other issues) was my children’s future.
I had a baby and a five-year-old at the time, and I could barely balance work and family. But still, I had to ask myself: How could I put so much effort into nurturing my kids’ well being every single day — tending to their diet, their schooling, their friendships, their access to screens, their every scraped knee — yet largely disregard the future and the larger world into which they would one day go?
Turns out, I couldn’t. Once I recognized my personal connection to this issue, I could no longer be a bystander. I had to do something.
Finding time was one challenge. But so was feeling up to the challenge. What could I do about climate change seemed an absurd question. As if I could stop the seas from rising? Temperatures from escalating? The Arctic from melting?
There is a brief moment in time when parents feel like superheroes in the eyes of their children; but if anything can shatter that delusion fast, climate change is it.
Feeling daunted and powerless in the face of this challenge comes with the territory. But feeling difficult feelings, and moving through them, I’ve learned, is part of what it means to not only mature as a human being but to live during this particular moment in time.
We all, after all, face the conflict of knowing that climate change is a serious threat — yet wanting to avoid painful or frightening realities, especially when we don’t immediately know what we can do about them.
So what can I do?
In the ten years since I first asked myself this question, I’ve tried many things. I’ve written about the issue for The Daily Beast, Greater Good, and The Christian Science Monitor; and I co-authored the book, Ecoliterate. I’ve tapped my experience in other social movements in an effort to apply their successful strategies to this one. And I’ve developed a specialty in climate change communications, having recently, for example, facilitated a major conference on the topic for the Institute at the Golden Gate.
But today, this is my bottomline answer: While many other good people focus on the facts about climate change, I can contribute a focus on the feelings — which, more often than not, prove decisive in motivating any kind of action.
I can share some of the important lessons I have learned: that some ways of thinking about this issue make us feel fearful, guilty, and powerless, while others (such as those that invoke our empathy, optimism, and efficacy) help us leave that awful sense of powerlessness behind.
And I can share that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that when we speak our whole truth on issues as important as this one, and connect with others around it, we can develop the caring and courage to tackle anything.
That is why I am proud to join Moms Clean Air Force — and if you have not already done so, I hope you will, too.
Lisa Bennett is the director of A Better Climate, an organization dedicated to inspiring the care and courage needed to tackle climate change and other sustainability challenges. She coauthored the 2012 book, Ecoliterate, with bestselling author Daniel Goleman, and her articles have appeared in The Daily Beast, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Grist, More, American Health and Mothering. A former fellow at Harvard’s Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, Bennett served as communications director for the Center for Ecoliteracy and founding director of a national education program for the Human Rights Campaign. She is a member of Climate Voices, a speakers network sponsored by NCAR and the United Nations Foundation, and recently facilitated a major conference on climate communications hosted by the Institute at the Golden Gate.
Lisa blogs at Keeper of the Kids and is on Twitter @LisaPBennett