WORDS BY WILLOW DEFEBAUGH

PHOTOGRAPH BY Ais Setiawan

Welcome to The Overview, a weekly newsletter in which Editor-in-Chief Willow Defebaugh offers an expansive look at the latest events in climate and culture—and how it all fits together.

WORDS BY WILLOW DEFEBAUGH

PHOTOGRAPH BY Ais Setiawan

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“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”—Lao Tzu

Like many Americans, I spent four years waiting to wake up on a morning such as this, when I could open my eyes and know that Donald Trump is no longer president, that I no longer live in a country led by a man who believes I deserve to have less rights than others. I imagined many times what that morning might look like: birds chirping, a light shining through my window to match the lightness of my being, knowing that the violence is behind us.

 

The reality of this morning was…not that. If I’m being honest, I woke up feeling heavy and exhausted. Some of that was due to personal events from the days prior: impatience in the face of a lifelong gender journey that is infuriatingly still unfolding, the parameters of a pandemic that won’t seem to end, and deadline dilemmas at work. And then there was what President Joe Biden pointed out in his inauguration speech, that we are still facing a myriad of crises, any one of which would be overwhelming on its own. All of these factors, connected by a clock.

 

Anyone who has survived an abusive situation knows that trauma rarely affects us in real-time, nor does it dissipate overnight. Our lives don’t begin again the day that we walk away. What begins on that day is a process much more torturous—a mending, the meaning of which often takes years to yield itself. That’s the thing about healing: like nature, it can never be rushed.

 

Rushing is antithetical to healing because, as a friend once told me, rushing is violence. It creates stress, violence stored in the body. And isn’t rushing to blame for that list of crises we face? A history of systemic racism swept under the rug after slavery was abolished? A settler genocide cast aside in order to swiftly build this nation, still so young? A culture of consumerism in which fast and cheap call the shots, even at the cost of our climate? A pandemic that won’t end because we can’t seem to wait for it to? To rush our healing is to perpetuate these very cycles.

 

In the environmental movement, the idea of slowing down is particularly difficult to reconcile, considering what we are up against. We are always feeling the pressure to put out the next story, to push policy reform, to protect what precious biodiversity we have left while we can. And yet, we also know Albert Einstein’s words to be true: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Healing the climate crisis might just require us to adopt nature’s pace—slow and steady, in order to ensure our sustainability and success.

 

This does not mean that we plan on wasting time now that we have the means to make progress, however. In fact, the Atmos team has launched a new initiative this week devoted entirely to tracking the Biden administration’s climate actions. It will be updated daily to reflect the healing that I am hopeful will occur in the next four plus years, even if it happens one day at a time.

 

They say that time heals all wounds, but that’s not the full truth. Healing takes time, yes, and it also takes trust in a path that sometimes seems without end, and patience enough to see where it leads. It requires breakdowns and breakthroughs, the messiness of mending. It asks us to make space for the joy as well as the sorrow, to look our suffering straight in the eye and acknowledge all we’ve been through to make it to this gory and glorious morning, one of many on the road to recovery that’s been revealed to us. To stop and breathe, so that we don’t miss a single step.

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