How To Stop Freaking Out

How to Stop Freaking Out and Tackle Climate Change

By Emma Marris
Ms. Marris is the author of “Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World.”


Dr. EGB: Hey, Emma Marris . . . isn’t she the same woman who wrote the first Opinion piece we talked about, the one about the New Year’s Climate Diet? You hated that one. Trounced it thoroughly.

Dr. AC: No, she isn’t. And NO, EGB, I DID NOT HATE IT. I just thought it was gravely lacking in aspiration.

Dr. EGB: Please don’t SHOUT at me AC. My nerves are still freaked out by the fires in Australia. And I feel guilty every time I make myself a latte. I’m just making all those cows belch more methane. And to top it all off, my vegan daughter has been on me about the cruelty of the agro-industrial complex. Factory farming, I mean. At Christmas, she lambasted me with this: chickens died for that specialty eggnog I bought and never got around to drinking!

Dr. AC: You, EGB, are a mess. So apprehend what this published author Emma Marris has to say in her discourse: DITCH SHAME. Even if you abandon lattes, become a legitimate vegan, and never fly again,  it won’t alter the impending dire outcome one iota, unless you can induce about 20 million other members of your species to do likewise. But that doesn’t mean your lifestyle is irrelevant. Maintaining your integrity is critical, if you are to have any influence over other people.

Dr. EGB: Hey wait a minute. What do you mean “my species?” You need to remember who you actually are! And furthermore, what you’re saying is actually laughable, AC. If it’s not SHAME you’re trying to impose on me with your incessant criticism, what are you up to?

Dr. AC: I’m trying to get you from ALARM to ACTION! From GUILT to GAME PLANS.  From ANGER to ACTS OF BRAVERY. From DESPAIR to DEEDS OF GREATNESS. And look what I’ve achieved already! You invented me . . . externalized the voice in your head otherwise known as your conscience, and started writing.

Dr. EGB: Right. Well, I externalized you because it was the only way I could cope with you. I figured that if we could correspond in a thoughtful way, we might be able to sort things out between us.  But unfortunately, whether you mean to or not, you make me feel ashamed on a regular basis.

Dr. AC: Well, the antidote for that is definitely NOT wasting your mental energy fretting about lattes. It’s ACTION. Excogitate what this woman Marris has to say:

“My point is that the climate crisis is not going to be solved by personal sacrifice. It will be solved by electing the right people, passing the right laws, drafting the right regulations, signing the right treaties — and respecting those treaties already signed, particularly with indigenous nations. It will be solved by holding the companies and people who have made billions off our shared atmosphere to account.”

See what she says about the AIR, our SHARED ATMOSPHERE, the LAST GREAT COMMONS. People have been dumping their garbage into the atmosphere for free since time immemorial. When there were only a few million people on the planet lighting fires to cook and keep themselves warm, the planet was gracious and absorbed their waste. Now that we have 7 going on 10 billion people plus multinational corporations all burning fossil fuels, it’s become untenable. But her logic is rigorous: the CLIMATE CRISIS is not a mere botheration that can be solved by berating ourselves and becoming dispirited. It’s a SYSTEMIC PROBLEM and it needs SYSTEMIC SOLUTIONS.

Dr. EGB: If that’s what you really think, then why did you insist I read that guy Safran Foer’s latest book, the one called WE ARE THE WEATHER? Saving the planet begins at breakfast. If ever there was a call for individual behavioural CHANGE on Climate Change, it’s that book. He goes on and on about what a huge proportion of global emissions come from animal agriculture, and how we will never avoid a Climate Crisis if we ignore our own behaviour and focus exclusively on the fossil fuel industry.

Dr. AC: He’s right too.

Dr. EGB: Now I’m REALLY CONFUSED. I honestly don’t know what you want from me. Should I eradicate the last vestiges of animal products from my diet? Resign myself to never flying again? Sell my Tesla and give the money to Greta Thunberg? Go on a hunger strike? Lie down on Paris Street each Friday until I either get arrested or killed by a hit and run driver? Publish more letters to the editor in newspapers fewer and fewer people read? Go and talk yet again with my Member of Parliament about stopping fossil fuel subsidies and bumping up the price on carbon? Write a book about my angst? Go to a therapist?

Dr. AC: You are being OVERLY DRAMATIC. You don’t need to go on a hunger strike or die on Paris Street. All the rest, you probably should do.

Dr. EGB: But I don’t want to sell my Tesla. I love my Tesla! And it’s electric. And the electricity in Ontario is 90% green. And how else would I get around in Northern Ontario?

Dr. AC: I was merely jesting in regard to the Tesla. You did an exceptional thing there. I applaud your foresight, become an early adopter of EV technology in your community. But you must remember: Although EV’s don’t themselves produce greenhouse gas emissions, they are only as sustainable as their source of electricity, which fortuitously is green in Ontario. But that’s not true everywhere in AmeriCanada. Look how much coal they’re still conflagrating for hydro in Alberta and Saskatchewan. And all over the US. An electric car powered by coal or even natural gas-generated electricity is most decidedly not green. And besides, cars defeat the other critical important particularity you yourself have mentioned: they constitute a most inactive form of transportation. Not at all suitable for the maintenance of human health. You should unquestionably burn less rubber on the road, and walk or bike more.

Dr. EGB: Well maybe. But it was -26C out there this morning. Even the dog shuddered at the thought of going out to pee. Nobody in their right mind would walk anywhere in this weather.

Dr. AC: You’re right on that, at least. Even I wouldn’t.

Dr. EGB: And AC, there’s one other thing I want to mention. This word “AmeriCanadian” you’ve invented . . . I’m not sure either Americans or Canadians are going to like it much.

Dr. AC: Well, they’ll just have to tough it out, as the peons say.