I remember when the terror of climate change first sank in for me in early 2008, and the seemingly stable world I thought I knew suddenly became a much more scary place. Everyday actions took on life or death consequences. For a while I was paralyzed by this fear, but as I moved forward into action and community, I began to feel empowered and equipped for this dangerous world.
This year a similar kind of fear took hold of our whole society. For many people, even a hug or a handshake can seem terrifying right now. Just today I listened to someone describe the sense of panic she felt when someone approached her without a mask. We have been taking necessary steps to protect each other from a very real danger, and at the same time, we have also been practicing being afraid of each other. As climate activists should know well at this point, even when the danger is very real, we still can’t allow ourselves to get lost in our own fear. Thinking out of fear too often makes us feel small and inclined toward dogmatism.
At some point, likely in the coming year, we will get past this pandemic. But there is no guarantee we will get past the fear. After 9/11, rights and freedoms were sacrificed in the name of one scary threat, and they never came back. Whether it’s the mass tracking of movements through cell phones or just the practice of seeing a person’s face as a sign of danger, we cannot allow this fear to become normalized.
At the Climate Disobedience Center, deepening the potential for courage in the climate movement has always been central to what we do, and that work is needed now more than ever. When we block a train or fight a court case, we put a lot of intention into making sure that we take that action in a way that leaves everyone bolder and more resistant to fear. We always try to keep the bigger picture of essential culture change in mind as we do direct action to address urgent needs.
Over the next year, we will be called to take a range of strategic action, from fighting pipelines and police brutality to continuing to keep each other safe from COVID. But one crucial aspect of the cultural work will be resisting the normalization of fear. The Climate Disobedience Center has a wealth of experience with walking the fine line between acting out of fear and acting out of love in response to a dangerous situation, and with your support we can continue to bring that experience to the world’s challenges. In 2021, we are committing to unmasking ourselves, we will show our faces again, confront powerful institutions again, and even (gasp!) hug each other again.
We know that uncertainty itself is one of the toughest challenges we face. We don’t know when the pandemic will end or the psychological, emotional, and structural toll that it will take. However, one thing that we can always be certain of is our collective ability to support one another. This time of year in particular - we ask for that support to look like financial gifts to keep us connected and resolute to face whatever comes our way.
Tim and the Climate Disobedience Center