A 4-STEP ACTION PLAN FOR ECO ANXIETY

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

I'm writing this during an eerily warm fall day in New York. When it's 70 degrees in November, my heart HURTS. I walk outside in a t-shirt, grieving for the season I love most, angry out our suicidally stupid federal government, heartbroken for the creatures that are suffering from erratic temperatures. 

Like many of you, my eco anxiety is embodied. It manifests itself in a struggle to focus and breathe. Climate chaos is our new norm and it isn't always easy to make the transition from acceptance toward action. I believe deep in my bones that healing this world is possible. But I still grieve for what we have lost and are losing. I still feel fear and anxiety about what will be. 

In the last few weeks, several readers have asked me about how I work through eco anxiety. I definitely don't have the answer, but this action plan, below, has helped me tremendously. I hope you can use it as a launchpad for generating your own action plan because the world needs us right now. She needs our energy and our joy and our hope. She needs us to be activists in our own communities and advocates for our sliver of the universe. It's in that spirit that creating a series of strategic steps each one of us can turn to in our darker hours is so damn essential. It gives us a path back to ourselves so that we can choose to spark change and not succumb to fear. 

STEP 1: BREATHE (AND THEN READ)

When I'm feeling anxious, I almost always want to numb myself in Netflix. It takes a lot of willpower to choose to sit with my sadness but I'm grateful whenever I do. I'll find a nice nook in my bedroom or a quiet patch of grass at a nearby park and breathe in and out. Again (and again). Pushing myself to be present helps me quiet my reptilian brain and tune into the kind of peace and patience necessary for sustaining my work as an environmental steward.

I like to read too. Sometimes I'll scroll through Yes! Magazine for stories of resiliency, rebuilding, and resistance, but given that most of the time taking a tech detox is an integral part of working thru my eco anxiety, I choose to open up a book instead. I cherish Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and have found particular solace lately in No Time Like the Present by meditation teacher Jack Kornfield. And when I'm feeling hungry to act, I turn to Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown. My friend Liv of Zero Waste Habesha shared this read with me and it is truly a resource of resiliency. 

STEP 2: MAKE ONE SMALL CHANGE

Action is really the only antidote to anxiety. Feeling helpless only feeds the fossil fuel plutocracy—and I don't want to give Trump and his allies any more fuel for their fire. So whenever I'm mired in anxiety, I commit myself to making one small change that I can do right away. What constitutes a small change looks different for each and every one of us. It might mean choosing to divest from a big bank (here's a breakdown of how to transfer your money toward a credit union). It might mean signing up to be a volunteer with Food and Water Watch. It might mean bringing your own reusable mug to the coffee shop that day. Whatever change you choose to make, trust it doesn't have to be radical to make a difference. When you're healing from anxiety, making one small change is ENOUGH. Really. So do what you can for that day and trust you'll continue to do more and dig deeper as you nourish your resiliency. 

STEP 3: DONATE TO A CAUSE THAT YOU CARE ABOUT

When I'm wrestling with eco anxiety, I worry I'm not doing enough. I get stressed that my work as an environmental educator isn't sufficient given that I'm not working in any meaningful way toward policy change. I question my art. I undermine my passion. In the throes of anxiety, I so easily forget that my work is part of a much larger web. There is only so much each one of us can do. 

 It's for that reason that I choose to donate to organizations who are doing vital work in realms very different than my own. I've been particularly inspired lately by the work of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and the Renewable Energy Alaska Project. These intersectional movements are working on initiatives that support policies for a livable future and fuel community resilience. Learning about their work gives me hope when I'm knee deep in eco anxiety and reminds me that inaction is a luxury. 

STEP 4: SHOWER YOUR LOVED ONES IN LOVE

Eco anxiety sucks. Being overwhelmed by fear and grief inhibits many of us from doing what we can to heal this world and find joy in our lives. And although anxiety is often rooted in wild hypothetical fears, it still can feel like the truth. 

So when I'm finding my way out of an anxiety spiral (because I can get myself real wrapped up), I gravitate toward experiences that bring a big bucket of love into my life. I write love notes to my friends. I go for a walk and thank the trees out loud. I cook a meal for my sweetie. I try to be as unabashedly loving as I can be—because that's the only truth I'm sure of in this world. 

 

That's my action plan. What's yours?

 

 

 

INCLUSIVITY IN THE ZERO WASTE MOVEMENT

WORDS: OLIVIA LAPIERRE

1. UPLIFT THE VOICES OF BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Color) ON SOCIAL MEDIA
•    Follow BIPOC on social media
•    Display their social media handles in your resources
•    Recommend their pages
•    Explore different ways that you can collaborate 

2. BRING ATTENTION TO THE ISSUES
•    Systemic and structural Racism (i.e. police brutality, mass incarceration, school to prison pipeline)
•    Educate yourself on how systemic racism relates to climate activism: read more here
•    Use your platform to educate viewers about the issues facing frontline communities

3. PROVIDE ACCESSIBLE RESOURCES
•    Share resources
•    Hold events, talks, and workshops in communities that are predominately of color and make the information relevant to them and their lifestyle with the understanding of their oppression and how that creates barriers
•    Invite leaders of color in sustainable movements to these talks so that viewers can feel empowered by that representation
•    Make sure you’re inviting them into the conversation rather than just providing a service 

4. EDUCATION
•    Work to bring racial justice trainings to your community
•    Reach out to environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club (who’s already made the commitment to equity/inclusion) for resources
•    Make sure in your efforts to educate the public that you’re not depicting POCs as poor, helpless, incompetent or any other race based stereotypes but just highlighting that it’s about belonging not capacity 

5. COLLABORATE WITH ORGANIZATIONS
•    Local Black Lives Matter (BLM) chapter
•    Local Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) chapter
•    Environmental organizations 

REMEMBER: If you’re not actively dismantling systemic racism then you are participating by being complacent! Staying silent and choosing to be neutral in the face of injustices is upholding white supremacy. 

 

Olivia Lapierre is a Be Zero ambassador and racial justice activist. She is a recent graduate of Lyndon State College with a B.A. in Applied Psychology and Human Services. She began her transition to a zero waste lifestyle in January 2016. Through Be Zero she works to bring awareness to environmental racism and to provide platforms for POCs in environmental communities, which are traditionally predominantly white spaces. As a community organizer and activist, Olivia is drawn to making the zero waste community more inclusive. She does this by organizing community discussions that address, educate, and work to dismantle systemic oppression. 

 

Instagram: Zero Waste Habesha
Facebook: Be Zero Upper Valley

TV Show: Talkin’ Trash
Appearances: Vimeo

REPRESENTATION MATTERS

WORDS & IMAGES: OLIVIA LAPIERRE

The zero waste lifestyle is a movement that has been popularized by bloggers such as Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer and grassroots organizations such as Be Zero. Be Zero defines “zero waste” as an industrial term referring to a circular economy. Mainstream media defines zero waste as a lifestyle in which one does not produce any trash. Though the movement has gained attention for its amazing efforts, it has not been sufficiently challenged on its lack of representation. This is especially troublesome considering that communities of color are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change.

As a person of color who leads this lifestyle, I began to ask myself many questions including: how is it that environmental movements can fight for change without including in the dialogue the populations that are most affected? I started thinking about the sign I held at the Women’s March: “Feminism without intersectionality is just White Supremacy”. But isn’t any movement without intersectionality just white supremacy? If environmental activists aren’t using their platforms to speak on the oppression of people of color they are passively contributing to systemic racism. Are environmental movements that are not intersectional perpetuating environmental racism by creating an elitist culture for sustainability?

If environmental activists aren’t using their platforms to speak on the oppression of people of color they are passively contributing to systemic racism.

The first time I came across Chanelle Crosby was while I was scrolling on Be Zero’s website. At this time I was feeling desperate and hopeless due to the election season. Despite feeling that everything was going to shit in our world, I knew I needed to mobilize. I needed to be a part of something larger than me in order to affect real change. But where could I start? I was feeling divided on what injustices I should put my attention towards. On one hand, I am a black female immigrant, but I am also a human who depends on the planet for survival. Because I’ve never felt like I could affect real systemic change if I were to be a racial justice activist, I chose to focus my attention towards environmental justice and, more specifically, helping communities to reduce their trash.

After not finding success connecting with the global zero waste community, I was happy to discover Be Zero. I was excited to discover a zero waste non-profit that focused on looking at trash consumption on a macro level and examined how systems, institutions, and policies have impacted a disposable lifestyle and culture. When I joined Be Zero, I found an environmental space that showed me I could belong. Growing up in rural Vermont, I have always had a deep connection to my local ecology.  However, I have never felt like I could express that admiration and desire to preserve the natural world in white dominated environmental spaces.

Speaking to Chanelle for this first time was a breath of fresh air. I was so ecstatic to find her, and other people of color, who were part of the team. My first conversation with Chanelle was when she was giving me an Ambassador tutorial. It was my first time ever talking to another black woman about the intersection of racial justice and environmental justice, black feminism in agriculture, and why it is critical for the zero waste movement to be more inclusive. Chanelle taught me that I don’t have to choose between identities or what I want to advocate for and that, in fact, it’s important that we fight to end all systemic oppression. Since then I have identified as an Intersectional Eco-Feminist.

Chanelle’s pivotal role in my understanding of activism has inspired me to learn more about her thoughts on these issues and to open up further discussion.

Olivia Lapierre: How were you introduced to zero waste?

Chanelle Crosby: Andrea Sanders at Be Zero introduced me to zero waste. We met a few years ago at a networking party in Boulder, CO and hit it off. Andrea is an amazing human and I’m sure I’m not the only person that leaves meeting her feeling incredibly inspired. I started to see ways I could apply my budding “minimalist" mindset to all of my consumption, not just my clothes and closets. When I was a kid, I was taught to “take what you need” and over time in adulthood I lost sight of that and bought into latest trends, collecting shoes, and even Dunnies. I learned about zero waste at a good time for me (I was moving from an 800 square foot apartment into a small bedroom). I began to make huge shifts back to giving and taking in a much more responsible way.

OL: Upon your exploration of the zero waste movement, how aware were you of the overrepresentation of white activists?

CC: I wasn’t! Not at all. I was excited and dove right in without thinking much about it at first. I wasn’t actively involved in social media at that time and really focused on having conversations with friends about zero waste in person or over the phone. Once I created an Instagram account, it became blatantly obvious who had space for the zero waste movement online. I also work in the nonprofit world and the overrepresentation of white activists, especially women, is something that can’t be ignored.

OL: Was this daunting? If so, what was/is one challenge you face being a person of color in this predominantly white space?

CC: Oh goodness, yes. It’s something you can’t “un-see.” I began to ask myself, what is the motivation and intention of the zero waste movement? Who is it for? What are the people sharing in the movement fighting for? I feel there’s a lot of room for education within the zero waste movement as a whole, and specifically around environmental racism. There’s an awareness that is missing and, as a person of color, it can start to feel daunting if you constantly take on the role of educator. 

OL: What are some reasons why you believe this movement could be exclusive to POCs?

CC: The way it’s marketed now is a hot, new trend. There’s fancy upcycled you name it and beautiful bamboo and white everything. When you scroll through social media pages dedicated to zero waste you see a very small, privileged population of people who are able to spend a lot of resources (like time and money) to transition their lives to zero waste. 

If we are simply replacing the “bad” things with “good” things and calling that a zero waste movement, we’ve missed the point. “Zero waste” is an industrial term used to describe how products move through the economy. For example, a circular economy is zero waste. A linear economy, the one we are in now, creates products that are designed for single or limited use and then meant to be discarded.

If we are simply replacing the “bad” things with “good” things and calling that a zero waste movement, we’ve missed the point. “Zero waste” is an industrial term used to describe how products move through the economy.

To me, zero waste is part of a solution to the worldwide environmental problems we’ve created driven by our economic values. We want more stuff. We’re dependent on oil. Plastic is oil, so we use it (a lot).

A poet, Rudy Francisco talks about why black people are underrepresented in X-Games sports in a video I recently saw online. He says being black in America is an extreme sport with everyday threats of violence and discrimination solely based on race. 

To me, the zero waste movement as it is presented often comes across as extreme, elitist, and superficial. Honestly, sometimes I’ve even pushed away—and it's my way of living. We can change the representation of the zero waste as people of color by sharing our stories and allowing space for everyone in the zero waste movement to see the big picture (which is definitely not matching mason jars!) We need to be active, not just hopeful and well meaning. 

We can change the representation of the zero waste as people of color by sharing our stories and allowing space for everyone in the zero waste movement to see the big picture (which is definitely not matching mason jars!) We need to be active, not just hopeful and well meaning. 

OL: Why do you believe representation matters in environmental communities?

CC: Because people of color are impacted by environmental issues more than anyone else.

If we don’t see ourselves there, we may not participate and the majority is less likely to include us; they simply won’t notice we aren't represented. We need our voices heard in the zero waste movement because the outcome directly impacts people of color. 

OL: Do you have any advice for how to make the zero waste movement more inclusive to people of color?

CC: Firstly, don’t assume you know what other people want. Secondly, decentralize yourself from the movement. Thirdly, collaborate and combine efforts to create more impactful change. And lastly, discover your own unique intention behind participating in the movement. Why are you here? How do you show up? How do you want to show up? What does it mean to you, your community, your neighbors, your country, and our planet? 

And if you’re a person of color reading this, please join us in the conversation!

OL: What would your message be to members of this community?

CC: If you can’t draw the line between environmental racism, gentrification, and the zero waste movement on your own, do your research, listen, and then listen some more. 

I feel we can create an inclusive zero waste movement by approaching one another with respect, by showing appreciation and gratitude for the conversations and hopeful action we take and by being open enough to not put each other down for not knowing what we don't know. In other words, let's keep the conversation going, uplift one another, and be kind. There's no way in this movement besides together. 

All this to say, I feel we can create an inclusive zero waste movement by approaching one another with respect, by showing appreciation and gratitude for the conversations and hopeful action we take and by being open enough to not put each other down for not knowing what we don't know. In other words, let's keep the conversation going, uplift one another, and be kind. There's no way in this movement besides together. 

Chanelle Crosby works in the zero waste industry professionally as a Program Manager in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is also an aspiring farmer-herbalist, Creator & Consultant at thinkfeelbe.co and Board Member at 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Be Zero.

Olivia Lapierre is a Be Zero ambassador and racial justice activist. She is a recent graduate of Lyndon State College with a B.A. in Applied Psychology and Human Services. She began her transition to a zero waste lifestyle in January 2016. Through Be Zero she works to bring awareness to environmental racism and to provide platforms for POCs in environmental communities, which are traditionally predominantly white spaces. As a community organizer and activist, Olivia is drawn to making the zero waste community more inclusive. She does this by organizing community discussions that address, educate, and work to dismantle systemic oppression. 

 

Instagram: Zero Waste Habesha
Facebook: Be Zero Upper Valley

TV Show: Talkin’ Trash
Appearances: Vimeo

 

 

 

EVERYDAY WAYS TO HEAL THE WORLD

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

During a Permaculture Design Certification course that I took earlier this year, one of my teachers—the rad Brock Dolman—described the erratic weather, cycles of drought and deluge, and species extinction plaguing our planet as symptomatic of the world working through a fever. Climate change has raised the temperature of our precious planet and just like we do when we're feeling feverish, the world is sweating off the sickness.

Brock's analogy has been on my mind lately. I've been striving to take things slower and truly experience my life; the delicious, everyday joys, the energy activism brings me, the wild sense of spirit that courses thru me during my morning walks along the water. As I navigate new paths in my career, I've realized that my hunger to heal the world is the unifying thread. And I'm finding that by doing what I do when I'm sick and in need of mending, I'm better able to tend to our good earth. 

Herewith, three simple ways to heal the world. Healing is truly a communal process and I really believe that if you can bring to your everyday life the same compassion, gentleness, and generosity that you carry with you when you (or maybe a loved one) is working through a bad cold, you'll make the world a little better. 

DO WHAT YOU CAN & BE GENTLE WHEN YOU CAN'T

I've only been super sick a couple of times in my life but when I'm knocked out, the littlest things are draining. So I do what I can (sleep, read, sleep) and be gentle with myself for everything I can't do yet. It's a philosophy I've interwoven into my own everyday activism and it's made the hard work of healing the world far sweeter. 

It's easy to feel despondent when we're struggling to create the kind of radical institutional change our world needs. But when we place the power to build a better world in our own able limbs—when we do what we can, for as long as we can—it fortifies us against the inevitable frustrations inherent in fighting for just policies and equitable systems. Love fiercely. Grow a garden. Make less trash. Make more art. These are world-healing practices you don't need to wait on anybody to bring into being. This is not to say fighting for change within institutions is futile—it's hella vital (and it makes a major difference). Only that it's important to balance political action with personal growth so that we can thrive even in the face of daily difficulties. 

SLOW DOWN

Being sick pushes you to slow down. It's like your body pulls out a "STOP" sign until you sink into bed with a cuppa tea and a dogeared book of Grace Paley. When so much is happening—in our communities, in our country, in our climate—it can feel counterintuitive to slow down. But if we can remember that the world is sick—and that we are sick too—slowing down is second nature. Do fewer things but with greater heart. That simple maxim has truly transformed my relationship to our land and to my life. 

CARVE OUT SPACE FOR SELF-CARE

When you're feeling feverish, self care is Option A & B. I've found that limiting my morning news intake, stenciling "MAKE ART" into my schedule, and spending sweet evenings doing little more than making a simple skillet dinner to savor in my summertime backyard are healing acts that sustain me as I work to heal the world. Self-care isn't a distraction from the "real" work. It's a bridge that brings us into deeper engagement with sustainable activism. Take the time you need to feel at peace, full of joy, and energized. You'll do more to mend the world when you're tending to your own sweet heart. 

 

 

WHAT WOULD LOVE DO?

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

Like many of you, I recently read NY Magazine's doomsday article "The Uninhabitable Earth" by David Wallace-Wells and felt like dissolving. The fear that flooded me was all-consuming and as I do whenever I am paralyzed by fear, I retreated into the sanctuary of my little room. I cried under the covers, struggled to breathe, found some semblance of calm by wasting a few hours on the Internet.

In short, I did nothing to heal the world. Hell, I did nothing to heal my own heart.

Learning to navigate doomsday articles is difficult work. As journalist Victoria Herrmann writes in her nuanced exploration of the danger that doomsday prophecies pose to our collective consciousness:

The narratives we read, hear and see informs how we understand climate change, and that understanding dictates whether we act or don’t.

When we constantly see stories about communities in crisis as sea levels rise and extreme storms become more frequent, we come away with preconceived notions that all communities living on the frontline of climate change are victims in need of saving. On America’s eroding edges, there is no hope – the future is presented as an ominously uncertain but seemingly inevitable defeat.

Feeling hopeless about a situation is cognitively associated with inaction and predicts decreased goal-directed behavior. That means when we present humanity as a hopeless victim of climate change, we are less likely to act because the ending seems inevitable. Climate change adaptation only works when we are hopeful for the future and believe that environmentally vulnerable communities have the agency to act.

Something simple and concrete that each of us can do? Tell different stories.

Hermann's essay is a game changing read and much like this Mashable article, complicates the defeatist narrative that "The Uninhabitable Earth" maps out. Fear is a strong emotion but it isn't the truth. And that's what makes me so angry at journalists like David Wallace-Wells who prey on primal fears without providing meaningful solutions. Sowing a culture of paralyzing paranoia doesn't create the conditions we need for meaningful change. 

Assuming that climate collapse is an inevitability makes it so. Telling stories of infinite crisis only reinforces a sense of helplessness. This isn't conjecture, this is science. If we don't believe our actions make a difference, we don't take action. And so in that sense, the notion that it's too late now isn't only false—it's frankly lazy. It gives us a scapegoat for upholding the status quo. 

It's important to know what's at stake. We are at risk of losing entire worlds and ways of being; in many countries and communities, we already have. It's just as important, however, to honor the multiple realities that make up this world. We can find as many stories of loss and degradation as we can stories of regeneration and resilience. And it's vital that we make sure that no one story should have the power to wipe out the other. 

Whenever I'm faced with doomsday prophecies, I always ask myself "What would love do?" My friend Lynn shared this question with me during our podcast and it's helped me find the motivation to take action and pursue joy even when the future feels frightening.

When I am full of fear, I retreat to the internet or to my bed because it's too damn painful to deeply engage with a world I am so afraid of losing. 

But when I am full of love? That's when I am most moved to action. I do things that feel loving—water my plants, picnic with friends, send notes to my nearest & dearest, hike in the summer evening light—and it gives me the energy I need to do work that makes a difference. 

We can live in fear or we can live in love. We can choose to suffer or to act. No matter how scared I am, I feel firm in my vision of the kind of the world I want to build. And knowing what it takes for me to do just that makes the everyday question What would love do? a truly radical pathway toward regeneration. 

 

 

THE POLITICS OF PROMOTION

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

Several weeks ago, I was talking with a friend of mine who runs her own non-profit. She's an energetic environmental steward whose compassionate approach to sustainable living has made her an inspiration to many. Although she's had tremendous success, she still struggles to ask for help. Folks seem surprised that a strong Instagram following isn't enough to provide her the financial foundation to coordinate her workshops and grow her reach.

As we talked, I realized that I've been struggling with these same issues through my work with Loam. Loam has been my passion project for many years. I love what I do so damn much. I love learning from amazing artists and activists and collaborating with inspiring friends. I love writing stories that give hope, researching articles that provide grounded-in-reality solutions to the climate crisis, and coordinating in-person workshops. It humbles me to hear from people—many of whom don't look like me or live like me—that Loam is a welcoming space for them to explore environmentalism. My hope is for Loam to be as much a playful platform for digging into everything that's juicy and joyous about this world as it is an authentic resource for navigating the embodied trauma of living through climate change. To know that Loam can be that for our growing community is truly the sweetest.

Seeing how Loam resonates with diverse folks has given me the drive to do more with this magazine. I want to grow Loam into a thriving movement. I want to pay myself and my incredible contributors. I want to provide artist-activist workshops at little-to-no cost to the community. And I want to continue to publish our print magazines to share with our blossoming network of movers & makers. 

But all of this requires money. And in asking for money, I've found myself face-to-face with the complicated politics of promotion. It feels weird sometimes. Like I'm asking others to finance the time I spend making art even though I know Loam isn't just for me. Everything I do, I do to build connections, fortify community, and share hope. I not only believe in myself but I also believe in the good work Loam is doing to inspire activism and open up the environmental movement. 

I've sustained Loam through grants, personal investment, and the generosity of our Patreon supporters (I'm grateful to the moon and back to our patrons. You help make Loam a living thing!) In spite of that, I'm still felled by the fear that I'm asking for too much. I worry others will perceive Loam as less "legitimate" because we aren't yet financially viable. I wonder if people expect me to have it down because we've published several magazines. And I fear that in failing to make a hearty profit, I'm failing our contributors who I desperately want to pay in support of their gorgeous art and meaningful activism.

On my better days, I'm able to show compassion for my little ol' self. It takes time to grow a project and this last year I've watched the seeds I planted for Loam germinate and grow. I feel lucky beyond words to have family support and savings and a part-time job and a community of friends who make me believe in my work, encourage me to value my time, and inspire me to nurture Loam in new directions. 

I'm choosing share my discomfort and self-doubt in asking for help because I know it's a struggle I'm not alone in. Throughout my work, I've met many environmentalists, makers, dreamers, and schemers who wrestle with these issues. How can we create financially viable organizations without compromising our integrity? How can we work both within and outside of the capitalist system? How can we support ourselves and others in the pursuit of regenerative work?

I don't have the answers. Only little glimmers! That's why I so want to hear your thoughts on the politics of promotion. What lessons have you learned that have helped you find value in asking for help? What do you do to sustain motivation? Share in the comments, and together, tet's inspire each other to speak our truths and pursue our passions. With love and a willingness to learn. Every. Damn. Day. 

THE POWER OF POROSITY

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

It took just three things to leave me sobbing in bed last night: (1) poring through Janet Mock's Redefining Realness; (2) learning that my friend's cat had died; and (3) reading an article on the worsening toll of heatwaves as climate change intensifies. Even though my day had been mostly good—I went hiking in the foothills by my home with a friend, savored a sumptuous apricot at the farmers' market, and biked in the kind of pinky summer evening light that makes me reflexively smile—I still carried with me some deep sadness. Mock's memoir brought to life just how many people suffer to find their true self. The death of my friend's cat made me sad that someone I loved was sad. And the article on climate change, mapped by heart-stilling statistics, reminded me that every one of our sufferings is transpiring on a planet in peril. 

I am so porous sometimes, so open to soaking up the world's manifold sadnesses, that it makes me feel plain embarrassed. When I woke up and learned from Lily that her spunky gray cat Gracie had died, I felt a lump in my throat. What's wrong with me? I wondered. Gracie wasn't even my cat. And even though she was a sweet creature with electric green eyes and a noisy mew that woke me up whenever she wanted to cuddle on rainy Seattle days, she was still a cat. Cats die. Everything dies. But in that moment, I wanted to desperately skip the sadness that death brings—that hot pain that bubbles up in my belly when I am driving through a forest of dead trees—and reach acceptance. Later in the day, that same desire to press the fast forward button emerged as I read Mock's memoir. It made me so unbearably sad to read about her childhood. The traumatic abuse. The bullying. The struggle for self-love.

I can read "The Untethered Soul" and pore thru Pema Chödrön's "When Things Fall Apart" and still sometimes want with a hungry heart. I want to know that we won't lose winter to the ravages of climate change. I want for my family to never die until I do. I want for no child to feel unloved or lonely. I want for the good things to stay the same and the bad things to get better. Guaranteed. 

I will go weeks without feeling too deeply, and it's mostly lovely, to float in this place of non-attachment, of easy laughter and meandering walks, and then suddenly, some small thing will remind me of the well within me. How sensitive I am to my surroundings. How porous I am to pain. How deeply I experience suffering and joy and love and loss.

It sucks. And it's also my superpower.

This is not to say being porous supersedes nurturing a sense of resiliency. It's important to me to learn how to continue to fight for a better world in the face of tremendous suffering. My mission is to take in the terror of climate change and still carve out a safe space in my soul for freely giving those things—like love, generosity, and goodheartedness—that are climate-change proof. 

For so long, however, I saw my porosity as an impediment to doing just that. I didn't believe that I could create change with so much passion and pain and anger and creativity and curiosity coursing through my veins. I was too fiery, too wracked with fears, too full of wholeheartedness.

And then something shifted. The more I become who I want to be, the more I can see how my porosity has created a life-giving path for me. I am a better friend because I know how it feels to be alone in a new city or sick from heartache. I am a fierce environmental advocate because I know what this world gives to me and am unwavering in my mission to share that same restorative power with others. I am a fearless artist, always seeking opportunities to make and to co-create, because I know what it's like to be bogged by fear and how sweet it feels to do it anyway

In so many ways, yesterday reawakened me to the gift my porosity is. Not because it's super fun to be thrown off balance by a cat's death—it's sure not— but because it was a reminder that I know now how to heal myself. Sitting in bed last night, wiping the tears from my cheeks, I thought: what will make me feel better in this moment? And the only thing was to continue to commit myself to creating the change I want. To embody hope. To cultivate abundance. To give love generously. I scribbled down a game plan for finding meaningful work to mitigate climate crisis and for healing this soft, sweet, sensitive heart of mine. And then I slept deeply that night, trusting that the same porosity that lets pain in will also, always, let it out. 

 

EVERYDAY ACTIVISM

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

Last Friday, I connected with the beautiful Kailea Sonrisa of Harness Your Breath to work out her upcoming Artist-in-Residency with Loam. Kailea is a powerful activist who has worked on the frontlines of the resistance as well as an artist who is passionate about cultivating practices that sustain activism in the face of social, political, and climate crisis. 

Our conversation on sacred—and sustainable—activism stayed with me throughout the weekend as I camped in the woods with a friend. It was chilly in the mountains and we spent much of Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning tucked into our hammock reading, listening as the creek burbled past and staring into the luminous grey sky. Although I am lucky to be in nature every day—I take a walk by the water most mornings and a hike in the foothills most evenings—I am always on the move. It was so sweet to take the time to do nothing. 

There is a tremendous pressure within the mainstream climate movement to work yourself to the bone. I've written before about how the pressure to perpetually act conforms to the same capitalist measures of productivity that so many of us are fighting against. But it can be difficult to bring it on home— to believe that that it is not only nourishing but also necessary to provide pauses in our day; to trust that sitting some things out can create the space for beautiful things to bloom; and to know that rethinking our everyday actions can be as healing to the world as advocating for broad policy change.

In that spirit, I'm sharing four everyday activism practices that help me to sustain the hard work of fighting for social and environmental justice. Let me know what you are doing to sustain your activist practice in the comments!

MAKE SOMETHING EVERY DAMN DAY

Making something everyday—even if it's as simple as watercolors to mail to my friends or a big pasta dinner to share with friends— feeds my soul, connects me to others, and inspires me to take myself less seriously. I have found that the more I recklessly create, the more I am able to sustain my work as an activist. As Deb Talan of The Weepies writes in a favorite essay of mine from Darling: "[As an artist] I think it helps if you feel that what you are doing is sexy in some way. By that I mean, the work is delicious to you, it feels life affirming, wild, and vital. If it does, you'll probably keep coming back to it again and again..." Talan's words resonate with me so deeply. If we want to be activists for the long haul, we need to be able to find joy, creativity, spark, and hell, sexiness, in the fight. 

SPEAK YOUR TRUTH

When we swallow our truth everyday—bite our tongue when a coworker is racist, reject our reality because we are afraid of making those around us uncomfortable—the resentment within us brews. You can't sustain activism, can't continue to rage and resist and rally, if you have too much bitterness brewing in your belly. Learning how to speak your truth is something everyone of us is forever figuring out in our own ways and on our own terms. It takes time but it's an important practice if we want to heal the world as we heal ourselves. 

EAT YOUR VALUES

How you eat is a vote for the world you want. Good food is grounded in good soil and good soil is critical to mitigating climate catastrophe. Every meal truly is an opportunity to bring your values into greater alignment with your actions. Dig in!

SAVOR AN EXPERIENCE WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE

And that can mean just you! Being disciplined about infusing the everyday with a delicious experience—be it a hike with friends or a solitary cuppa tea—helps you cultivate rituals for reconnection that will give you hope even on your hardest days.