It is your soul you need to change, not the climate. - Seneca
Every year around this time, I begin to contemplate how I am going to survive another summer of North Central Florida’s outstanding heat and humidity. I dread it with a passion. It confines me like I imagine winter cold does in other places; my days are ruled by avoidance - of being outdoors after 10am, of manual labor upstairs after 9, of vigorous exercise after 8. I feel imprisoned by the heat, and I hate it. And every year I try to tell myself that it’s a matter of attitude (and a few trips to the springs and a lot of cold showers). Thus far I’ve survived quite a few summers.
But the quote above, read with a different emphasis, speaks to a much more serious topic: We need to change our souls so we don’t change the climate. While I’m aware of the controversy, the sources that seem least self-interested predict serious climate change during this century if we keep going as we are. It’s going to get hotter and, while this thought fills me with dread at a most basic level, it calls me to greater action than heading north for the summer, or to the springs. Why is there still argument about this? Even if we’re not absolutely sure, if there is a possibility of preventing rising ocean levels, widespread famine, and mass die-offs of species by changing our lifestyles now, why wouldn’t we? Why don’t we?
The First Gulf War of the early nineties was my first war as an adult. George Bush the Elder, in a moment of astonishing candor, called it a war in defense of our American lifestyle. This was the war where my friends were facing deployment (as opposed to this one where it’s the friends of my children), and I thought I would gladly give up my car and ride my bike every single day to save one of their lives. It’s our grandchildren who will face the catastrophe of climate change. Can’t we muster the gumption to change for them? My friend, Julie, says she has a recurring nightmare where her descendants ask her why she didn’t do something.
Jan Phillips, co-founder of Syracuse Cultural Workers says this: “No matter what our attempts to inform, it is our ability to inspire that will turn the tides.” I feel inspired by bike commuters who head out rain or shine and brave all kinds of inconvenience to avoid being “one more car,” and by folks counting food miles and travel miles, carbon footprints and the real cost of the “American Dream.” I’m inspired by those wonderful extremists who challenge themselves and others to “live simply so others can simply live.”
It’s getting hot, and I’m getting more and more
uncomfortable. I need a change of soul.