Winter is coming.
One of the most iconic-epic lines to ever surface from a book or TV series. Even those who are unfamiliar with the popular Game of Thrones have most likely heard the phrase at some point. Plus- its not a complicated message. Winter is coming. Even the most removed person can understand its meaning. What I love about this line, aside from its ease off the tongue, is that it contains so much inuendo. At the surface it is a literal predication of a weather event, one that the entire book series seems to be preparing for. But underneath all that it indicates the coming of hardship and suffering, depravity and loss, things that define winter on a human level not just a natural level.
When I think of climate change and the direction the earth is moving this phrase often comes to mind. Winter is coming. On the surface there are the literal climactic changes, just like in the series, and we should take note, these events are changing the course of each of our lives as well as changing the landscape around us. But beneath all that there is an underlying current of the unknown. A fear of what this changing earth will look like in the not so distant future.
-Will our children look back with disgust and hate knowing we had the power to make changes before the point of no return?
-Will the earth even be able to sustain our children at some point?
-Will the end of the world as we know it be a slow decline with people gradually dying of hunger or will it come quickly with war and disease creating massive population die outs?
-Will nuclear fall-out eventually block out the sun or will a natural disaster leave the air oxygen-less and the earth uninhabitable?
OR maybe it will be a combination of all of the above, or something else entirely- something that Hollywood has yet to make into a blockbuster film.
This can be a bit overwhelming at times. In fact, it can be so overwhelming that we may try to hide from winter. Head to warmer pastures to avoid dealing with it, both literally and figuratively. One way that people run from climate change is to hide from it, or ignore it, I like to think of it as “ostrich syndrome” (not an official diagnosis rather one that I made up). If your head is in the sand, you can ignore everything around you. We don’t hide because we don’t care, we hide because we haven’t been educated enough to care. We also hide because sometimes we just don’t know what to do. We have no idea where to start.
When I was a kid and we celebrated earth day and learned how to keep our water clean, but it always felt like it was more in theory. We learned about oil spills and gained an understanding of the details of the earths eco-system. We were encouraged to recycle and to maintain the ozone, but no one talked about just how fragile that eco system was/is. I personally took this message to heart -despite the non-urgency and relaxedness of its delivery. I bought a book that talked about recycling and that went into more detail on how to clean the planet. I began to cut up the plastic pop can holders that you would see stuck on a bird’s neck. We started recycling cans at home, I remember a chore was to crush cans in the outside shed. In high school I decided to eat less meat. And when I was old enough to make my own money, I started to donate to Arbor day and then to other organizations that I felt were making a difference. I preached to my friends and family about recycling (recycling was something I felt I could do). I read about sustainability and as I approached my late 20’s and early 30’s I would listen to podcasts and shake my head at how little the world was doing to make a difference. All the while I felt a tickle of hypocrisy running down my spine. What was I actually doing to make a difference? It seemed what I was good at was talking a lot and using a reusable water bottle. This helped me sleep better at night, but left a nagging feeling that I was not really doing much at all to make an impactful change. Feelings of guilt and shame would wash over me at different times. Sometimes the guilt pushed me to make major changes, and other times it would make me feel shameful and phony. It was not until I did yoga teacher training and really began to understand the spiritual and energetic connection between our environment and us all and I started to see the absolute futility of guilt, that I began to understand that I did not need to be perfect to create change. Winter was coming regardless and it would serve no purpose to focus on what I was doing wrong.
Its important to point out that this post is just as much autobiographical as it is aspirational. I still do not make the most sustainable choices I can, and I still struggle with guilt, and I still preach more than I practice. But as that gap slowly gets smaller so too does the self deprecation of not meeting perfection. I have learned to give myself a little grace and to celebrate the wins rather than focus on the fault. I don’t have to be perfect to encourage others. We are all on this journey of life and death together and the one thing we all share is the need for this planet to survive. If my encouragement to others makes a change that impacts others, than I have done more than just concerning myself with how well I do.
Winter IS coming- The question isn’t who is more prepared, the question is are we as a world, as a community, as a species, prepared? Instead of looking at what you and others could do better, focus instead on what you are doing well. Share your knowledge with everyone you meet. Think about what you yourself are doing to make a change. Even if you don’t feel the motivation, means, or know how to do something -it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share that post about planting trees or that you shouldn’t buy the recyclable paper. In fact if you want to share some thoughts on this send me an email about your efforts and I would be happy to share them on the site to encourage others. Let’s face winter unified and prepared to not only survive but to thrive.