Hows everyone doing? Because I’m not great.
This morning, as I was going through my inbox, I struggled with a few things.Disappearing Orcas,Melting polar Ice Caps, climate-related natural disastersWe acknowledge that. Can’t get a federal bill through CongressEven a little bit of foresight is a good thing.
There are so many bad news.
I am languishing. Burned-out. Feeling overwhelmed and ineffective at fighting the dread. I felt exhausted and pissed at my self for feeling overwhelmed. Who am I supposed to take a break when it is this bad? I have COVID-ward friends.
Pushing yourself to the limit can lead to more stress, which can make it difficult for us to be effective citizens, advocates, people, and friends. We need to find some respite.
We can look to many cultures for ways of achieving that goal and finding light in the dark season. There have always been negative things happening in the subarctic., Some of the darkest countries on the planet are: December practicesThey date back well before Jesus’ birth. They remind us to stop listening to the sad news and take a moment to reflect on the year. Maybe evenRead something good.
In previous years, I might have overlooked the importance of slowing down and reflecting. I feel the need to take a moment before jumping into a new year with longer days and new resolutions. I want to be able to focus on the individual stories and not the news that is constantly breaking. It feels like a form resilience to take that space.
These books and films are great for helping you to reflect on the past year if, like me, you struggle with reflection. I arranged them according to what they gave me: a sense or wonder, connection, or hope.
My Octopus Teacher (Stream on Netflix)
The year’s most talked about piece of media (at the least, in my very exclusive pod of tastemakers that I run group) was My Octopus Teacher. The film was nominated for the Oscar for best documentary because it depicted a South African diver’s fascination with one of these animals. This film is not a top-down, tense tale about a man who forms a bond with an animal. It’s a joyful portrayal of how nature changes us if you take the time to notice.
Gunda (Stream on Hulu)
Consider this if you are looking for a way to remain in the realms of animal consciousness, but are looking for something that is completely visual. GundaVictor Kossakovsky, documentary filmmaker, directed this film. It is a serene, mesmerizing piece about barnyard life. It was entirely shot in black-and-white without narration or talking. You will love the adorable baby pigs. But you will be drawn to the crisp, patient cinematography. It is so vivid, it almost gave me the chills. ASMRBrain tingles of a high level
Margaret Renkl is an essayist who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a genius at drawing expansive metaphors from nature. Shell gracefully equates butterflies with democracy to show why we need to protect both. In her latest release, she uses such metaphors with great skill. Graceland, at LastThis book examines the complexities in her home state. (I have a similar book. Please read thisRenkl loves Ross Gays Book of DelightsGay’s daily essays, a collection of essays that he wrote to help him find joy in his life. These topics range from wildflowers and nicknames, and will inspire you to notice your small pleasures.
The Hidden Life of Trees (Rent on YouTube)
In the last few years, there have been many books that have explored the neural networks of trees. They also discussed how these organisms communicate. (This years highlight wasFinding the Mother TreeSuzanne Simard, a pioneer in this field of research, wrote the following: It felt like the subject matter was perfect for a high-definition movie. This year, however, it was.The Hidden Life of TreesA documentary based upon The 2015 edition of the same titlePeter Wohlleben captures in hyperrealistic detail the interconnectedness between forests and the many ways humans have an impact on that web. This is the type of thing you should watch if your mind needs to remind you that the earth is smarter and bigger than we are.
I bought a syringe last winter, pre-vaccine, and post-insurgence, because things felt especially grim. WinteringKatherine Mays book on seasonality and how we are biologically wired to need rest, especially outdoors, is available. It was like finding the answer to a question that I didn’t know I was asking about why I felt disconnected from nature and stressed out. I have reread it twice now and gained new information each time. These details covered everything from swimming to Stonehenge.
It is not going to be easy to create a sustainable future. BelieversLisa Wells takes on this challenge head-on. She profiles renegade organizations that are finding creative ways to combat climate change. And she delve into the human struggles that come with trying to build utopia, or at minimum a new way of life. The results are gritty, vivid and real.
Elizabeth Kolbert is my favorite author, but I waited to read her new book. Under a White SkyBecause it felt like more bad news than what I could bear. Kolberts pragmatic, forward-looking realist approach was something that a friend suggested to me recently. It could help me get over my worst anxieties. Her description of how engineering and innovation might be used to adapt to the climate crisis revealed to me that, although we can’t continue operating indefinitely, there are options.
Kolbert is a hero of mine because she tells clear, multifaceted stories of the complex, overwhelming nature of climate change. Katharine Hayhoe (climate scientist) is another. She seems to be at a forefront of realistic climate policy and action discussions. Her bookSave UsIt is less about climate science as it is about how you can talk to people who think and believe differently from you, which seems like an important thing to learn right away.
Youth V. Gov (You can watch select theaters)
One thing that keeps my mind from sinking into despair is the fact children and teens are now so much more savvy and brighter than I could have imagined when they were their age. This is on full display in Youth V. GovA 2020 documentary about a wide-ranging coalition of kids from the U.S., who are suing the government over its failure to address climate changes.