Melissa Harris: This is The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry. After nearly an hour of discussing the global climate crisis, I'm pretty clear that the REM ear worm will be banging in my head all day. It sure seems like the end of the world as we know it but the song holds a promise. Somehow we can still feel fine but how? Here's one thought from Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, speaking earlier this year in an Earth Day message.
Deb Haaland: We all have a role to play in leaving this land better for future generations. We must each commit to work every single day to take care of our Earth.
Melissa Harris: Here with me to talk about some of those actions that we can take is Katharine Wilkinson, co editor of All We Can Save, and co host of A Matter of Degrees podcast. Welcome, Katharine.
Katharine Wilkinson: Hi, Melissa, thanks so much for having me on.
Melissa Harris: Let's get a little climate empowerment going here for folks who might be feeling distressed at this point. What is the very first step that you lay out in this piece in time?
Katharine Wilkinson: I think the first thing is just to be with those feelings. It is a lot to be a human on Earth in this moment with eyes wide open. Here we are in the midst of another summer of intense climate impacts, droughts, heat waves, floods, all of it. To be present to that is A, just really important for being human but also, all of the things that come up, whether it's grief, anger, anxiety, maybe depression, all of that is actually really good emotional information for us. I think when we're present to it, rather than numbing out, it can actually move us into action.
Oftentimes when you dig beneath those emotions, what we really have going on here is love. A love for the places that we call home, for one another, for this planet and the non-human beings that also live on it with us. That tenderness and fire of ferocious love I think is a really critical climate solution that we don't talk about often enough.
Melissa Harris: Thank you for giving us that language of love in this moment. It is of course helpful to remember that if we actually don't care when something is unimportant to us, then it isn't really hard to feel your feelings because you don't have any. On the other side of that love is that panic, that desire to save, and yet also sometimes that feeling of helplessness. What are some first steps to move us from love that is feeling a little helpless and distressed to love that is actionable for the earth?
Katharine Wilkinson: I think the first thing is to recognize that a lot of the suggestions that we've been given when we ask that question of what can I do are pretty consumerist, pretty trite and often not going to get the job done. We should totally change our light bulbs and take reusable shopping bags with us to the grocery store, but at the end of the day, we're talking about wholesale transformation of the global economy.
In late 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change laid out the need for unprecedented changes in every aspect of the economy. Well, you could do everything you could do at home, Melissa, and so could I and that is not going to even begin to get us to the transformation that's required. To me, that means thinking about how can I be most powerful in my part of this big ecosystem of transformation?
That means thinking about what am I good at? What are my superpowers? What are the things that I can contribute that are different perhaps than someone else? Your knowledge, your skills, your resources, and really thinking about what are the things that give you a sense of power and joy, because I think we need to be bringing our biggest, strongest selves to this work and not getting caught up in the little tweaks that are often on those top 10 things you can do to save the planet sort of list.
Melissa Harris: I appreciate the, by this not that, always kind of leaves me feeling like, "Yes. No, that isn't going to do it." One of the things you write about in this time piece that, oh, I love it, is you talk about cultivating your climate squad. I'm a big fan of squad care for the self. Now you've given me the language of squad care for the earth. Talk about what our climate squad is.
Katharine Wilkinson: As I write in the piece, when you're facing a planetary crisis, it's probably best not to go it alone. We need each other. We need each other in community both to cope as we face these increasing extreme weather disasters that are brought on by climate but also as we try to do the work to make change. Again, we need to think about the biggest, strongest we we can possibly be, leveraging collective power.
I think that there have been a lot of social movements in the past and the present who have had a better attention to the critical threads between us, that we are only as strong as our relationships to one another. That hasn't been as present in the climate movement historically. That's something that through the work we're doing at the All We Can Save project, we are really trying to center that. That community building is a necessary foundation for building a better world.
One of the ways that we're equipping folks to do that is through resources for All We Can Save reading circles. A lot of folks are thinking about the climate crisis, but we know from social science that we're not talking about it. So how can we come into deeper dialogue about the moment we find ourselves in, but also begin to plant some of those seeds of solutions and action together?
Melissa Harris: Speaking of solutions and actions, what I'm hoping is that right at this moment, as folks are listening, they're like, all right, I'm ready. I'm ready to get out there and do something. If somebody wants to do something today that didn't involve purchasing something, what is something specific that they could do?
Katharine Wilkinson: There's a great thing people can do today because we are seeing this summer an opening for federal climate policy that we have not seen in a decade. The best thing to do is to go to the website, call4climate.com. It'll walk you through calling your senators to ask for support for a big bold climate bill that actually invests at the scale of the crisis, and does some of this radical systemic change work that is really required if we want to get out in front of this thing. That's call4climate.com. Super easy, super important. Let those folks know that that's what you care about.
Melissa Harris: All right y'all, feel your feelings, build your squad, consider your context, get your superpowers together, and go ahead and make those calls. Just a shout out to my friend and colleague, Crystal Dixon, who is definitely on my climate squad. Katharine Wilkinson, co editor of All We Can Save, which is out now in paperback. Thank you so much for joining us.
Katharine Wilkinson: Total pleasure.
Melissa Harris: Now, what about you? Are you grappling with climate change in your own life? Are there specific things you're doing to reduce your carbon footprint?
Nicole Srinivas: This is Nicole Srinivas. I'm calling from Sacramento, California. In order to reduce our carbon footprint our family buys used as much as we can, used clothes, used furniture, and then we donate our old clothes and furniture and household items and try and keep as many of the items out of the dump as possible. But we're just one family and we need corporations and other big money to take climate change seriously so we can start turning the tides of the damage already inflicted.
Charlie: Hi. This is Charlie. I'm calling from Edmonds, Washington and we are an empty nest of two adults. We're just trying to use less of absolutely everything. Neither of us have flown in years. We try to combine our trips in a car. We're using as little water as we possibly can just to keep some plants alive. Less laundry run, shorter showers.
Margaret: I'm Margaret and I'm from Coatesville, Pennsylvania. I am very stressed about climate change. I shop local, eat mostly plant-based diet, minimize my use of plastic and recycle everything I can, limit my driving, limit my use of air conditioning, conserve water, buy from Goodwill and Facebook marketplace, and anything else I can think of.
Courtney: Hi, this is Courtney. I'm calling from Omaha, Nebraska. The climate crisis keeps me up at night. It's always sort of in the back of my mind. I do little things where I can. I don't eat meat. I compost. I try to buy products with less plastic packaging, but at the end of the day, I feel pretty powerless.
Felicia: Hi, I'm Felicia from East Los Angeles. I'm really distressed by the trash we produce as humans. I try not to buy any plastic or at least only plastic labeled one and two, but I'm constantly shocked by how much plastic packaging there still is from grocery stores.
Kevin: Hi, my name is Kevin [unintelligible 00:10:33] and I'm calling from Queens, New York. In my life to prevent climate change I've been biking and walking to a lot more places, generally not taking my car and also reducing waste. I don't think that it's going to have an impact on preventing climate catastrophe, but I do think that it helps at least raise awareness in my life and the people around me.
Pete: This is Pete from central Florida. Several years ago I was making a big effort, biking, composting, recycling, et cetera, but that all seemed to stop during COVID and I've not restarted because I've been feeling like Sisyphus as of late, hard to see any progress being made.
Participant: I'm terrified about climate change. I'm afraid for my health. I have asthma and I'm not sure how it will be effected. I'm terrified for my children, their children. I've actually asked them not to have any kids. I try to reduce my time in the car. When I'm stopped for more than a few minutes, I try to turn the car off and incorporate more changes all the time.
Renee: My name is Renee and I am calling from Orem, Utah. I try to find productive ways to deal with my climate anxiety otherwise I would be paralyzed. My husband and I have decided to reduce our footprint by only having one child. Being that we live in the US that's probably the best way for us to make a difference in cutting down our footprint.
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