The Climate Movement Needs More Laughter
Or: How to Learn to Stop Worrying and Enjoy Taking Action
Meet Kellie Elrick.
She has been involved in Guelph’s climate movement since high school where she motivated her colleagues to take action and make their voices heard in the community and at City Council. Her work here at eMERGE has been invaluable to us. Now, in a few short weeks she’ll be heading back to her third year at McGill. We’d like to share her reflections on why the Climate Movement Needs More Laughter.
Trying to make climate action fun and aesthetically pleasing can certainly feel like a drug ad listing horrible side effects over clips of children laughing and running though pastures. I’ve searched in vain for positive climate news (something that seems to be increasingly becoming an oxymoron) only to find that the UN Secretary General had announced that the “era of global boiling has arrived.”
Most people I know struggle with despair and anxiety about the climate crisis. This is not what I’m addressing here. I think that climate anxiety is a humane, very understandable response to a large-scale crisis, and that there’s nothing wrong if climate change makes you miserable (Britt Wray articulates this really well). But climate action should not.
Sometimes climate action does make me feel wonderful. Sometimes it feels like a flaming anvil is being dropped on my head every 15 minutes. For the past few years, I’ve been wondering why doing something I’m so passionate about makes me so miserable.
Last weekend I saw Monty Python’s Spamalot in Stratford (I promise this is related and not something completely different) and came to the conclusion that the climate movement should be more like this. Climate positivity (the top left quadrant kind) is not only about positive news and implementing solutions, but also having fun with climate action, which I would argue is a kind of solution in itself. Fighting climate change should not sound like:
FORSAKE EVERYTHING THAT BRINGS YOU JOY. YOU MUST LIVE IN A YURT AND DRINK RIVER WATER. DO NOT STOP UNTIL YOU BEGIN TO PHOTOSYNTHESIZE.
This past April Fool’s Day, I gave my carnivorous boyfriend a vegan doughnut, which he ate happily until he found out it was vegan, at which point he tried to spit it out.
Living sustainably should not mean living joylessly. If you enjoy cooking, cook a new plant-based recipe with your friends. If you enjoy shopping, shop secondhand. If you yearn to relax on soft sands and look out at shimmering blue waters, check out local beaches. If biking up Gordon St fills you with insatiable rage, try some quieter side streets. You just might enjoy it.
I’ve heard many people say that programs like CELP and Headwaters saved them. A crucial part of this is that these programs are not five months of suffering. The key to these programs is that they’re fun. It may sound simple, but there it is. (CELP and Headwaters are local environmental leadership programs for high school students.)
Many parts of climate action are not exactly sexy, and I do not blame you if the phrase “Passive House standard” does not exhilarate you. It won’t always be enjoyable, and some days you might feel hopeless about the lack of political will to meet climate targets. But politicians are people (at least, this is what I’ve been led to believe), with their own passions and impetuses, which I hope will soon include the climate emergency they have so brazenly declared and so ardently ignored.
Climate burnout is all too common, and in these moments, finding happiness in living sustainably can be incredibly powerful. Communicating climate action universally is difficult, but one message remains the same: Do what you can.
After all, we’re not dead yet.