The Climate in Emergency

A weekly blog on science, news, and ideas related to climate change

When I Don’t Feel Like it

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Frankly, I don’t feel like writing today. I’m emotionally under the weather, as happen occasionally, and I’m physically under a large number of beautiful trees to whose pollen I’m rather allergic. So I don’t feel like it.

I have to write anyway, and the predicament got me thinking of all the ways that feelings are sometimes less than helpful. For example, today is gorgeous (despite the pollen)–birds are singing, the weather is lovely, all seems right with the world, and yet the online news media are full of climate-related horrors (the broadcast news media, as usual, is mostly silent on the subject). How do I reconcile the idyllic day with the catastrophe that is mostly elsewhere at the moment? I do not know what the weather is like where you are, but I’m sure you have days when it really feels as though nothing whatever could be wrong. Days when it is hard to get motivated for battle.

And, like me, you probably also have days of acute awareness of impending horror, and then it’s hard to get motivated, too. Or you feel too shy to talk to your friends and neighbors about climate change. Or you’re just plain tired of putting yourself out there every day and figure it’s somebody else’s turn.

These feelings have to be dealt with, of course. Feelings are occasionally wise and always insistent, and the person who attempts to ignore them sooner or later soon learns that the hard way. Sometimes, indeed, it is necessary, even beneficial, to back off and take a break. Edward Abby said it best, in lines that are periodically quoted on websites and posters:

One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure…. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.

But that being said, environmental problems do not go away because one happens not to be in the mood to deal with them. Just like utility bills, student loan payments, crying children, and excessive amounts of tree pollen, climate change needs to be dealt with whether we feel like it or not.

I’m keeping this post quite short for reasons that should be obvious, so I’ll finish with a little story, a parable, if you will.

A few weeks ago, my husband noticed an odd thing; there was a bird inside the bird feeder. The feeder in question is a large, clear plastic cylinder with a lid at the top for refilling and a tray on the bottom for use by birds. The seed comes out onto the tray a little at a time through small openings along the bottom and the whole thing hangs by a bungee cord off of an overhang of our roof. Well, the seed had all been eaten up and one very small bird, hoping for another meal, had squeezed itself in through one of the openings and was flapping around and struggling inside the plastic tube.

And the thing is, the bird had gotten itself in there, so it should have been able to get itself back out. The holes work both ways, after all. But the bird, quite obviously, was never going to realize that. Songbirds are very intelligent animals, but with some important exceptions, theirs is not a creative intelligence. Nothing in this small being’s evolutionary history had prepared it to deal with a see-through prison, and it kept battering its body fruitlessly against the invisible walls. It would have died in there, I’m sure.

Of course we freed it, although even with the top of the feeder off it wouldn’t go through to freedom. The bird kept trying to fly through the walls. At last I had to dump it out on the ground like a stuck tennis ball. Finally free, it took to the air with an irritated chirp I do not think I deserved.

That bird had every reason, within the parameters of its own experience and psychology, to do exactly what it did–to try, over and over, to fly through a barrier that its instincts said could not possibly be there. Looking for an opening must have felt like an unnecessary and dangerous waste of time.

I think it’s important to not act like that bird.



Author: Caroline Ailanthus

I am a creative science writer. That is, most of my writing is creative rather than technical, but my topic is usually science. I enjoy explaining things and exploring ideas. I have one published novel and another on the way. I have a master's degree in Conservation Biology and I work full-time as a writer.

One thought on “When I Don’t Feel Like it

  1. Thank you. That is a daily experience for me, especially after personally witnessing what is happening across this country and hearing testimony from hundreds of people along the way. I owe them so much and feel it’s too much sometimes. I can dig what your little bird in the glass feeder was going through. But, you were there to rescue the little blighter and your article, Edward Abbey quote and all, is another bit of that rescue; for us larger birds bumping against our own plexiglass walls.

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