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Five New Year’s resolutions for the end times

By Pieta Woolley

As 2017 ends and 2018 begins, watch for the usual lineup of weight loss and fitness articles in your local media.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find these pieces dangerously banal, now. Just how high of a priority should that bikini body be when you’re swimming through acidificated, dying oceans? (I’m looking at you, editorial staff at Women’s World and Maxim, instead of the Teen Vogue editors, who have become shockingly visionary — and truly aware of their readership.)

Last month, more than 15,000 scientists in nearly every country issued a truly sobering warning that climate collapse is coming and human extinction may be just decades away. And they couldn’t have been more clear: “By failing to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivize renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere.”

Still, climate scientists are baffled by the seeming complacency exhibited by the rest of us. We continue to eat ruminants; fly in planes and take cruises; drive fossil fuel-guzzling cars; buy stuff that was imported on container ships; and fail to press our governments on climate commitments such as the 2015 Paris Agreement.

So what to do? Ordinarily, I’d never presume to tell you. But given that us writers seem to use all of your New Year’s change-making energy and direct it to where it belongs, here are five appropriate resolutions for living on a dying planet.

1. Feel your grief

What horrors have we unleashed on our planet, on animals and on each other? The impacts of climate change are so vast — and still so unknown — that people get stuck and just check out, according to the Scientific American. The first step in facing our collective mess is acknowledging your grief. You can’t take responsibility and commit to making real change without first feeling the weight of what we’re facing.

2. Make one really big personal change

Go vegan. Ditch your car. Move to a smaller home, close to work. Cancel your cruise. Commit to buying nothing for a year, as The Observer’s Lee Simpson once did. Follow a 50-mile diet. Give up all plastics. Yes, individual action has a limited impact. But you’re a pioneer for the future when you do any of these things. That’s a crucial role. 

3. Begin or enhance a spiritual practice

Ground yourself in love and hope when encountering fear, distain and apathy. Find your foundation in meditation, prayer, yoga, singing and participation in a faith community. After all, Pope Francis really gets the need to lobby against climate change, as do progressive Protestants and some evangelicals.

4. Join a big group — and give money to it

Sure, humans will face extinction even if you do everything in #2. Individual action will only take us so far. Personally, though, I don’t find joining big groups particularly satisfying; I don’t always agree with everything they stand for, and they can seem out of touch with regular people’s lives. Still, I’ve come to realize that big groups, such as 350.org, the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and the National Audubon Society, likely represent our greatest hope for actually achieving governmental and corporate change.  

5. Act locally

Get to know what’s happening in your own backyard — both grim and hopeful. Is there a forest that is being managed sustainably that needs some public celebration? Is there a mining tailings pond that has not been inspected recently? Can you buy locally harvested fish from your chain grocery stores? Join together with your neighbours and help your own community become a model for the future.

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
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