I’ve been concerned about climate change since I was in my early teens, when we were taught about the greenhouse effect and rising sea levels in geography class. Over the years, I have felt a mixture of optimism that we have the opportunity to transform our society in so many positive ways to make it truly sustainable, contrasted with pessimism that our efforts are far too small and far too slow to prevent a major crisis for the human race and other species that live on our planet.
In the last few years, the science has started to show more and more that our window of opportunity is closing fast, while real action in many ways continues to be a drop in the ocean. Consequently, although I always try to be optimistic, I think it’s important to be realistic and accept that major crises are likely to occur within our lifetimes. Not just for a minority of people in a few places far away, but for almost all people, including me.
I genuinely do not believe that my generation and certainly not younger generations will be able to enjoy the sort of pleasant, comfortable retirement that my parents enjoy and grandparents enjoyed. The real impacts of climate change are already beginning to be felt in many places, as extreme storms, heat waves, forest fires and drought affect more and more places, and low lying areas are already being hit by rising sea levels.
In a globalised world, even the most simple day to day things depend on people and resources from other countries. We’re likely to be feeling the impacts of climate change at least indirectly by the time that I hit retirement age in about 2050. This could make me feel really hopeless and depressed, but instead, it’s done the opposite. It has focused my attention and made me face up to the fact that not only is life short, but that the really good times might be even shorter. This acceptance has helped me to appreciate the incredible life that I have and to enjoy each day even when things are tough. It’s helped me to embrace opportunities and to not spend so much time worrying about what may or may not happen in the future.
It hasn’t made me stop trying to work towards a positive future, nor has it encouraged me to act irresponsibly or stop caring about the bigger issues. It’s simply helped me to do everything with a smile on my face, because right now, life is pretty damn good. As the Buddhist saying goes, the past no longer exists, the future does not yet exist, so the present is all that exists. By accepting that climate change makes our future extremely uncertain, I’ve been able to best embrace the present, and in the past year, I’ve been the happiest that I’ve ever been.