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Climate Change: Adapting, Accepting and Actually Having a Life (Part One)

Genuinely – I never thought I could be this happy. Weird way to start a climate change post, but how goes it?

I’m currently reading Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World by Jason Hickel, and I’m simultaneously enthralled, numbed and compelled. Compelled to talk about this shit once more, to build upon it, and extrapolate outwards, to how I might begin “planning” for climate change, if there ever was such a misnomer. If what I’m about to say resonates with you, maybe you’ll want to do the same?

Pragmatic Realism > Mindless Optimism

Quite frankly, I don’t have the energy or the interest to foster deep hope about our climate future. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not absolutely paralysed, an emotional wreck, or entirely nihilistic. I typically sit in a purgatory between utterly brain-numbing despair and juvenile belief in 180 degree damage control. Having experienced both extremes throughout my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, I don’t sit in either camp.

My flavour is, shall we say, mutual fascination and pragmatism, laced with an urgent desire to stop the bullshit fairytale narratives and instead plan for the inevitable, if you can even call it “planning”. Spoiler alert: you can *call* it planning, but that in no way guarantees its accuracy or usefulness.

In a nutshell, realism and practicality trumps mindless optimism.

Don’t Tell Me It Will Be Okay

You can think of this as a sequel to my earlier brain dump in 2021 about the future of our climate and society: On Aging, Climate Change and Escaping Nihilism. One with more distance, measured urgency and practical ideas for thinking about the coming decades. If you think I’m being over the top, that’s perfectly fine, but I’m so tired of the reassurance thing that older generations do. It’s their generational guilt mingled with psyche-protecting hardware that makes them bubble up with “it’ll be okay”, “focus on the positives”, “things are changing” affirmations, and it probably does more to soothe them than their (usually) younger audiences.

Nature is Changing

Staring me down in my older adulthood is the vortex of climate change, which is already accelerating with a vengeance and I anticipate it to be worse than we all try to tell ourselves it will be. The most cruel part of it is I’ll probably dodge the most catastrophic aspects of it but it will strike at my children, and their children’s children, assuming we get that far – assuming that in spite of all this, I do the baby-making thing. I think about Z for Zachariah, a book I read for year 9 English, and I think about Sweet Tooth. Those worlds, while fictional, feel hopelessly tethered to a universe that is plowing towards us with no signs of stopping.

Escaping Nihilism

I have found myself at times tempted by nihilism. While that’s an easy place to exist from, it’s also highly unfulfilling. Furthermore, how can I hope to inspire and empower my future students if I choose to actively disengage from their futures? It is nothing if not hypocritical for me to stand in front of a classroom and tautoko these up and coming change-makers only to go home and tell myself that nothing we do will ever be good enough to avoid what is coming. Even if it is the truth – which is something none of us can objectively know, living in pointlessness is still the most futile thing there is. It is boring, and for what? To stand there on the sidelines and say I told you so? I don’t want to give any of my finite time and energy to the idea that we’re fucked. I’d rather focus on how I can acquire new skills, learn new things and figure out how we navigate the reality that awaits us. I’d rather use my time to make good, to have fun with the people I love, and to count all the beautiful things in my life. Time is fleeting. Papatūānuku owes us nothing, but I owe her my deepest gratitude.

From On Aging, Climate Change and Escaping Nihilism

In part one, I’m sharing four of my ten ideas to adapt, accept and actually live well in this rapidly roasting rock we call planet Earth.

1. Be Childless

This feels self-explanatory, but having a child is the single most impactful thing individual consumers can do to increase their carbon footprint. In fact, it’s seven times more devastating in terms of CO2 emissions “than the next 10 most discussed mitigants” we can control. [source]


If I don’t have children, I’m not contributing in this way. That, and there would be no fear, anxiety, or guilt to live with for birthing them into An Uninhabitable Earth (srsly read it) because they don’t exist.

Any biological child of mine would almost certainly be an existentialist and I cannot bear the thought of my future eleven-year-old deep in the throws of depression asking me, “Knowing what you knew about climate change and its consequences – why did you willingly have me?”

As Mr MeeSeeks will tell you: existence is pain. (Yes it’s also a lot of incredibly fucking beautiful, joyful and mind-blowing things too, but a lot of it is different types of suffering in dress up)

In all honesty, I have no idea whether I will remain childless, but I have a strong moral aversion to conceiving a biological child. If I decide that one day, being a mum is all I want to do, I aim to foster, both long and short term. I know that it’s not the same by any means and it comes with significant challenges, but I’d much rather provide for pre-existing children who need stability, love and structure than make my own from scratch.

2. Long-Term Residence Logistics

Ideally, I’d like to look at buying a house in the next 18-24 months. Not only will I consider the typically sought after first home nice-to-haves (like good storage, ample kitchen benches, warm and fully-insulated etc etc), but I’ll be seriously considering controllable factors that climate change will impact – at least as much as I can within my budget range.

For example…

  • non-coastal
  • suburban/urban
  • geographically high altitude
  • installing back up off-grid capabilities
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

3. Experience the Great Outdoors

Nature is healing af. We are so bloody lucky in New Zealand to be a skip and a hop away from lush greens, mountain ranges, waterfalls and other natural beauties. Also, our landscape is changing rapidly. The unfortunate truth is, lots of walking tracks, holiday spots and slices of paradise will not be around much longer – at least, not in the same way. Even so, there’s a humbling and reassuring feeling about being out in the elements. In context, that doesn’t quite check out. My feelings are probably deceiving me… but let’s not worry about that right now. I intend to camp my little heart out wherever I can, and if you’re into that, you should too. I advocate for appreciating outdoor environments for what they are while we can, and honouring them as much as possible.

Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Pexels.com

4. Protect Your Mental Health

Growing up, I’ve had a habit of dwelling, ruminating, overthinking – all these lovely words we associate with negative outcomes. In large part, it’s true. Not much good comes of these kinds of hobbies, and while I think there’s value in analysing and reflecting, it’s not a useful exercise to let your mind turn against you. I have learned to compartmentalise the dread, the fear and the frustration – much of which probably comes across in this piece – and focus on what I can do for myself and others to live a good life. I don’t have a lot of advice here other than: seek help when you are suffering – push through the vulnerability. Foster relationships that help you to grow and learn about yourself, be kind, practice gratitude, and move your body (bodies really like to move). Oh, and eat your greens x (duh)

I’ll say it again. I never thought I could be this happy. Credit to my meaningful relationships with amazing friends and whānau, my gorgeous partner, taking myself for walkies, swims and runs, as well as my boo Bupropion to keep my brain chemistry in check. Moreover, being a teacher has made me reflect deeply upon the impacts that mine made on me. My students bring me so much joy (and occasionally, pain 😂). I like to think that I’m passing on lessons I learned from my educators that have stuck with me.


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