WORDS BY YESSENIA FUNES
Photograph by celeste ortiz
What comes next? First, some rest. Welcome to The Frontline, where we’re taking a pause and recharging.
A little rest goes a long way.
People across the globe have been grappling with a strange reality as the coronavirus pandemic has pushed us to live inside our homes in isolation for most of the year. In the U.S., tensions around the presidential election have led to even more stress and exhaustion. I’m sure you’re all with me in wanting a damn break from the never-ending dumpster fire that is 2020.
Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing, so I’m sorry if this newsletter is a little short! I’m taking a day to rest and recharge (by sleeping in, playing video games, and perhaps baking some apple pie) because let me tell you—ya girl is drained. Covering the climate crisis is tiring enough, but covering it in the context of marginalized communities and an election watched by the world is… well… a whole other level.
Welcome to The Frontline, where I’m urging y’all to rest up. I’m Yessenia Funes, climate editor of Atmos. This week, we’re looking at what comes next following the elections. That involves taking the time you need to recharge. I recognize this is a privilege many don’t have because of work and family responsibilities, but that’s why a future rooted in justice—with a living wage, paid sick days, family leave, and paid time off—is so critical to ensuring communities can thrive. I hit up a few environmental justice leaders to ask them how they recover when they can. Take notes, sweetie.
Mustafa Santiago Ali
Vice President of Environmental Justice, National Wildlife Federation
“I run, and I meditate.”
Santiago Ali works 19 to 20 hours a day, so he doesn’t have time to rest. However, he makes the time to run five days a week and meditates when he needs it. When we could travel, Santiago Ali used to take time to recover in the outdoors, hiking up mountains, and then rappelling down.
Keep It in the Ground Campaign Organizer, Indigenous Environmental Network
“I force myself to disconnect from social media at least for two hours every day. It allows me to be present and not doom scroll the social feeds.”
Goldtooth recognizes the value of recharging because frontline organizers are in a “relay marathon, not a solo sprint,” he says. The long-term fight for climate justice requires a moment to step back so that organizers have the energy they need to get the work done.
Executive Director, UPROSE
“We find time to check in with each other, tell stories, joke, and share food every day.”
At the heart of how Yeampierre takes care of herself is taking care of her community and loved ones. That means showing up for each other when someone is sick and being anchored in love.
Tamara Toles O’Laughlin
North America Director, 350.org
“My rest is meditation practice where I wrestle with all the things, journaling, and long walks in green places—whether I’m in the city or not.”
Before any campaign, mobilization, or training, O’Laughlin is sure to plan some rest from day one. Otherwise, her work is not sustainable, she says. Another way she combats burnout is through dark humor; luckily, climate change offers plenty of opportunity for that.