One of the best parts of living in New York City is the sheer number of things happening, all the time, everywhere — and how somehow almost all of the events I attend are amazing.
This week I went to a discussion on Ben Stewart‘s Don’t Trust, Don’t Fear, Don’t Beg: The Extraordinary Story of the Arctic 30. And while I’ve only just begun devouring the book, it is already a fantastic read (review to follow I promise). In addition to Ben Stewart, the panel also consisted of Peter Willcox, who captained the Arctic Sunrise* when it was seized, and Robert Eshelman, Environment Editor of VICE News**.
I’m going to leave the talking about the Arctic 30, the incredible group of Greenpeace activists Stewart’s book chronicles, to the book itself. Instead, I want to talk about something I saw at this panel that I had not seen since Bill McKibben spoke about the Keystone XL protests: Inspiration in the face of certain defeat.
Peter and Ben didn’t pull any punches. They know we’re screwed, we’ve already irreparably damaged the earth’s climate. People are already dying in climate related deaths. We’ve already extracted more than enough oil to raise the earth’s temperature 2°C. Companies are still drilling. They aren’t stopping.
And I think that a lot of folks in the environmental movement struggle with this. I know I do. I look out at the world and see a lot of sucky things – smog, dirty water, oil spills, apathetic or even greedy people – and wonder, is anything I’m doing going to matter? I want to grasp on to some kind of hope. But maybe that isn’t the right way to think about it.
Peter sat in a Russian jail for over 2 months and still is eager to start on his next mission. Throughout the evening he repeated several times: “We’re not going to win it, but we can try to mitigate it.”
“We’re not going to win it, but we can try to mitigate it.”
Maybe it is better to look at the environmental movement or climate action like a marathon. If I were to run a marathon I wouldn’t come even remotely close to winning, but I might finish if I trained properly, kept myself from getting injured and truly dedicated myself to that run. I’d still come in several hours after the lead, but I could finish. Perhaps what we need to do is get the earth past the finish line so that we (and perhaps more effectively the planet) can start the work of repairing the damage people have done.
The best advice: “Do Something!”
**You know why I like VICE News? Because unlike some news organizations *cough* the one I work for *cough* they actually have an Environment Editor