Act Now (or Forever Hold Your Peace)

 

Every Friday, Atmos editor-in-chief William Defebaugh reflects on the week in climate and culture, sharing stories of insight and inspiration.

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Today, an estimated 2,500 climate strikes are taking place around the world, with millions fighting for a singular cause: the future.

 

From Australia to Manila to India to major cities across Europe, the strikes are well underway, with thousands pouring out into the streets. “The atmosphere is unbelievable, it’s full of young people who are demanding action. It’s inspiring to be here among students, workers, and people young and old from all walks of life,” said one protester in the UK. “We are united in our demands for urgent action to save the planet.”

 

Meanwhile, New York City is just waking up—where officials announced that its 1.1 million public school students can skip class for the strike without any ramifications. It is also where the UN climate summit will be held just next week, the reason for Greta Thunberg’s voyage across the Atlantic. And while the strikes started with students skipping school as part of the #fridaysforfuture movement, adults are joining them, along with businesses and trade unions.

 

According to new research published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, just the act of going on strike can promote the most integral psychological factors needed for fighting against climate change—with belief being directly correlated to action.

 

Whether in legends, literature, or cinema, most of us grew up with stories centered around an epic fight for what is right, in which the often unlikely hero must face impossible odds and look terror and tyranny straight in the eyes to restore order to the land. Well this is that fight, the fight of our lives—only it is very real, and it is very much in front of us.

 

What is perhaps a lesser known trope in these types of stories is that the villain almost always represents some aspect of the hero—a quality that, should they let it, might take them down a darker path. In this story, those qualities are greed and complacency—qualities that exist in all of us. But what defines a hero is their willingness to rise above: to take the harder action, and make a stand for what is right. To answer the call.

 

The most catastrophic effects of the climate crisis do not belong to some distant future, they belong to our lifetimes. The only thing mythical (as in, fictitious) about the situation we are in is the belief that we are powerless to stop it. This is the great lie found in lore throughout the ages, in which the protagonist is told that they don’t have what it takes. As long as we call ourselves a democracy, the people will never be powerless, and this fight is only just beginning. As Greta Thunberg has said—and proven—activism works. So act.

 

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