This is an article that I wrote back in the spring of 2019 for publication in Geez 54, an issue dedicated to climate justice. It came out of my research and thinking at the time, much of which was informed by solarpunk. This is a slightly unedited version – the one that appeared in the magazine was edited, of course. I feel obligated to apologize for the title; it’s not my best work. Gets the point across, though.
Every time that I say “the Anthropocene” outside of academia, I cringe inwardly. The word carries a story implicit in it: “anthropos” = (hu)Man; -cene = recent era. The world we live in – of overpollution, extreme economic disparity, ecological injustice, dwindling biodiversity – is the world that humans have shaped and are shaping even now with every decision. It is a story that is too moralistic for my liking: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of David Suzuki.” Yet this is a faulty narrative – unjust and unreflective of reality, and subscribing to it is making the problem worse, not better.
I’ve noticed a trend, lately, in a lot of the circles I move in or at least brush against, and it’s something I’m starting to label, since I’m coming across it so often. Help me think through this?
I’m calling it “saviour syndrome” because I’m coming across a lot of religious language and mythos from sources I would expect to be fully secular, or atheist, or at least agnostic or pagan or heavily critical of the Christian narrative. It’s frankly pretty puzzling at first, but given more thought and what I know about the origins of settler society on Turtle Island, it comes clear after a bit of thought. At least, to me. I want to know if I’m off-base or what I haven’t thought about, since this is grounded in my own experience as a cis, white, 3rd-gen Dutch settler woman who grew up in the Christian Reformed Church ethnoreligious community. So there’s a lot I might not be seeing. But this is what I have seen.
This water timer on my shower wall was given to me by a friendly young volunteer at the Waterloo Region Water Conservation tent at my local farmer’s market this past summer. It’s a simple blue octagon bisected with a small hourglass; the top reads STOP IN TIME in white block letters, and the bottom features the Region’s brand image. It came with a rubber suction cup so I could stick it to the wall of my shower, able to view it easily when showering.
I thought it would be a good idea – and it is. It’s a great idea, actually. I assume that whoever developed this little timer thingy measured how much water goes down the drain from the showerhead in roughly 4.5 minutes, the amount of time precisely that the hourglass measures and, in order to curb excessive water use, the Region hands these out free to citizens.
It’s very nifty: it saves the environment and on my water bill, and I take very brief showers as it is. What’s not to like?
The heat dome also extended east over Alberta, and amiskwaciwâskahikan (where I was living at the time) was in its grips for about five days, give or take. My partner and I were living on the eleventh floor of an older apartment building, which had no air conditioning.* It was a corner apartment, so the breeze coming through was enough to cool us on the hottest days up until that point; we had a fan to aid air circulation, and so we were mostly fine. Or so we thought.
and i am privileged af to feel it, but i don’t know that i’ve felt its sharp edge since before the accident.
yes, with the pandemic came a certain generalized existential anxiety that the whole world shared in, and certainly the rise of crypto-fascism coupled with accelerating climate breakdown has been an ever-present fear these past few years, but dully – as if all the bad news were like gusts of wind against the globe of a hurricane lamp protecting a candle, an assault that is constant but outside, that does not touch the self.
or that the self does not allow to touch it.
perhaps i am slowly adjusting. “adaptation” is in vogue these days, especially in circles concerned with the havoc of climate disaster; maybe my ontology has morphed itself into a new resilient form. i can’t even attribute this to being in my thirties, as I’ve been here for a while now. it would be nice if anxiety were a phase, something that all 20-somethings go through and come out the other side of, more stable.
It’s Good Friday, so I feel this is an appropriate theme for the day. From the category description:
“In religious circles, the phrase “dark night of the soul” indicates a stretch of time (not necessarily a single night; it can be much longer) when one is undergoing a crisis of faith and feeling utterly abandoned. For the non-religious, this can translate into a crisis of identity, of meaning, etc.
tl;dr is that it really depends on where you live as to what zero waste products are available and what end-of-life recycling and disposable programs there are for the region.
I’m not unaware of the problems of plastic. I’m also not unaware of the fact that the problem is generated by multibillion dollar companies and the fossil fuel industry, and that it will take collective action to change that. But I’m also keenly aware of the fact that our investment in using disposable products is not actually conscious and, for many, many people, not a choice that we have the power* to make.
I think it can make people angry. I think sometimes, I might also have anger that comes from grief, bubbling under the surface. Despair seems to lead very easily towards frustration and anger at the situation. I think if anger is galvanizing and directed in the right ways, it can be very healthy. I do not want to turn the needle spray of my anger on to my fellow travellers, not at all, but I think sometimes that happens because I am too wholly wrapped in my own sorrow.
Eco-grieving, and eco-community, more specifically. I received a notification today on Facebook from The Edmonton Eco-Grief Support Circle that I am part of, and I wondered if there were such communities for region where I have just moved to. I did a quick search, and it turns out that no, there don’t seem to be. However, there are some general eco-grief groups, and I wanted to put them here for posterity and also so that I have links to go back to and research when I have the time for it if I can (some are private).