“Minimum Viable Planet” is a weeklyish commentary about climateish stuff, and how to keep it together in a world gone mad. This week, we will be discussing anger, heart, action.
Writes Lisa Climate anger is a result of my decades-long involvement in climate justice and climate issues. This anger fuels my activism. It could even be my age. I was there during the Reagan presidency in the USA. He kept talking about Armageddon, and had nuclear bombs. I’d appreciate to hear about climate anger.
Lisa, thank-you for the prompt. I have never been deep with anger, because of fear of self-combustion, and the subsequent carbon emission that would result, but IT IS TIME!
1. My Anger got lost in the Supply Chain
Anger, Fear, or Despair are the three witches of climate doom. Since the last one is the worst for me, I tend to focus on her. It’s long been erroneously believed that using fear to motivate climate action induces backfire effects, so in the past, I’ve tended to shy away from it. Anger, too, I mostly ignored, not because I’d deeply researched its efficacy, but more because it’s not one of my big emotions. I mean, I feel it, to be sure, but I’m not a “throw large, messy objects at the wall” type (the thought of all the waste produced by rage rooms fills me with so much rage that it would be counterproductive!The fury quickly turns into impotent sadness, and then it comes on quickly. This is not the case.
But ANGER is super important, and it’s rising in tandem with ppm of CO2, so let’s unpack!
2. Anger in the body is fine, but it’s not okay!
There’s this idea that we have to excise the anger. To crush our ex, we need to shake it off and write a song about it. The anger ends when the action begins. But what if there are no two-parters? What if the climate anger must sit in the body? forever, to honor its feelings, and animate its actions?
I’ve always viewed anger as a transitory rage stop on the highway to positivity and enlightenment. But why? Is it possible to accept it and live in the same house as it? (Don’t Or I will make you scream at the toilet seat! What’s wrong with wanting to scream at the idiocies of nature being destroyed, inequality exacerbated, and climate ravaged? Why is anger considered an evil? Unhealthy? It shouldn’t be! Please throw the watermelon at it. (But then, clean it up and make a daiquiri. As I said, waste.
Our findings demonstrate that Frustration and anger about the climate crisis are adaptive responses. Experiences of injustice or unfairness tend to provoke group-based anger, motivating collective (and not individual) action. If we think about climate change as an injustice (e.g., generationally, socially,And geographically), the equally strong eco-anger–personal behaviour association suggests that, in the climate change context, the eco-angry recognise the importance of addressing their own daily behaviours as part of the collective goal of mitigating climate change.
I’ve spent a lifetime trying to run out my anger (hello, COVID punching bag), so the idea that I should actually live with it and use it as a force for change is … new.
3. 10,000 Hours of Anger in Practice
I’ve long fretted that anger as a climate woman gets you nowhere. The brilliant Amy Westervelt explores this so beautifully in “The Case for Climate Rage,” a piece I’ve read over and over again. Angry women get tone-policed out of the conversation, diminished, patronized.
Angry responses to climate injustice are deemed emotionally irrational, a belief that goes all the way back to the Stoics. I Kant even! Sorry, Not sorry. This policing and manipulation of emotions is evident everywhere. It is both gendered, ageist, Quan Ninhyen writes in this excellent piece:
Children who are scared and angry about climate change are rational. However, they may be more rational than adults. Emotions play a bigger part in life beyond rationality—they mark values and indicate what people care about. Young people can express their beliefs through fear of the unknown and anger at inaction. They are, in the words of feminist writer [Audre] LordeAn invitation to the rest to speak.
It’s a privilege to get to choose how to communicate climate change—to mute emotion and anger where the people most affected by the climate crisis right now have no such luxury. De facto, it is possible to exclude Indigenous, low-income youth, and women voices from the conversation by limiting communications to some kind of measured key. Only calm men wearing white, starched shirts and with nothing to lose are allowed in this pinkie on the air discourse.
Plus, this idea that anger doesn’t work as a climate communications tool may be just that. As climate change accelerates, so are our ideas, sentiments, and tactics. I fear that the climate communications consensus may become a wildfire. You can leverage the anger by trying to get ahead of the curve. Polls show that our willingness to have our leaders do more is at an all-time high. Frustration can be caused by the inability of our governments to move fast enough. What is frustration other than anger with a few more words?
4. Anger + Heart
I love it this post from the inspiring climate activist Mikaela Loach:
You must find what makes your heart ache and what makes it swell to the core in order to fight for the long-term. We must be angry, outraged, and heartbroken at the violence and the damage being done. We must also find the thing that soothes our souls. The hope for something greater that makes your heart sing. It’s when we have both of these parts that we get to a place where there is no choice but to act in a way which will form new worlds. We can’t help ourselves, the prospect of creating something better is what we can’t ignore.
The goal of keeping anger in check is not to use it as a pilot light (ugh! “natural” gas) to fire us up; it’s instead about accepting all our parts. I can feel angry and enraged, sad, gassy or elated during a climate moment.IYKYK, and I’m sorry), or gobsmacked all at once. Climate anger without love is like peanut butter cups with no chocolate. The love for all that we can save is what is needed.
5. Anger + Heart + Action
I know that I feel more motivated to act when I’m angry than when I’m calm. I know that I feel better when I act. —Emily Atkin in this great Heated post!
Our website climate course, we asked women to share some of their climate self-care strategies. One woman shared that she writes to our premier whenever she feels the climate rage. I felt seen. I too write letters and call when anger over the latest climate idiocy threatens to boil my liquid. But it’s an underpinning love that drives this action, I now realize. This should be channeled into a climate strategy and kickboxing class. Let’s get up and go, and let the anger that tells what matters matter.
I’d love your thoughts on anger, please! How does or doesn’t anger inspire your climate action?
Additional Pangs of Anger
Get angry AndGet involved CBC’s What on Earth.
These anger interviews in The Guardian.
This oldish Vox piece on young people effectively using anger to build the Sunrise Movement.
Good tips on how to use anger effectivelyIn The Irish Times.
Climate Art Web is a Northern Turtle Island (Canadian) initiative to gather climate artists in Spring 2022. They’re looking for curators and artists.
Jenn Foxx sends artwork to elected officials (amazing!)—and has a beautifully named website that I defy you not to say out loud a few dozen times over: mushrump!
And speaking of art:
The climate crisis is a crisis that affects science, economics and immigration. As the author Amitav Ghosh said, “the climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, and thus of the imagination.” To be clear, that doesn’t mean innovation or invention—we’ve got loads of ideas for solar panels and microgrids. While we have all of these pieces, we don’t have a picture of how they come together to build a new world. The climate fight has been confined to scientists and policy specialists for too long. We need these skills, but so much more. When I survey the field, it’s clear that what we desperately need is more artists.
Read the whole piece by the wonderful Mary Annaïse Heglar in YES!: “Building a Better Climate Future Starts with Imagination.” So good!
Stromae’s “Santé”! I love the way everyone moves in this music clip.
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Enjoy a happy, peaceful, secure, restful, and cozy weekend!
P.S. This is my newsletter for Nov. 24, 2021. It was published in partnership by YES! Media. Sign up to receive the Minimum Viable Planet newsletter directly to your inbox https://mvp.substack.com.
Sarah Lazarovic She is an award-winning artist and creative director, a freelance animator and filmmaker, as well as a journalist covering news and cultural events in comic format. She is the author A lot of Pretty Things I Didn’t Buy.
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