The climate crisis feels like an unsolvable problem. No matter how far we’ve come, looking to the future only paints images of failure and catastrophe. We all want to do something about it; we all feel the need to do something about it, but we also feel powerless and unable at the same time. No matter how many bottles of water we recycle, some are going to end up in the ocean. Only legislation can actually manifest change, but governments are slow to even make promises. It’s too much to handle, and nothing any one person does is really going to change anything, right?
Well, yes. If any one person tries to take responsibility for the entire world’s problems, they will be overwhelmed because the pressure of the world is too great. We cannot function at our best if we are bogged down by so much weight. Instead, we must find something that frees us and enables us to make an impact.
For me, I feel most free when I spend time in the Santa Monica community gardens. There, I see a world of natural beauty; the flora, fauna and earth interacting so naturally, so smoothly it makes me smile at its magic. The whole process of watching a plant grow from a seed to a sprout to a flower and die explodes a sense of wonder, filling my soul to the brim. It gives me courage and breath and warmth and frees me from worldly thoughts like doubt and fear. The community comes together to grow and harvest in the enchanting place, all free and smiling like flowers on a sunny day. Seeing that kind of place in real life is a true treasure for me.
But how does this solve the climate issue? And how does smelling a few pretty petals turn despair into hope? It’s because that is what makes me happy. I don’t do my part because I’d be killing baby sea turtles if I don’t, but because I feel free enough to let go of that kind of guilt. Because I have something that frees me, I am able to imagine a day where climate change is a thing of the past, and can work up to my potential in getting us there. In this way, there is hope. But just because I can feel free in one place doing one thing doesn’t mean everyone will. Instead, finding what it is that makes you, your true self happy is what is important. That is when your human potential may be unbound by guilt and fear to let you achieve what you want in life and for the planet.
Solving climate change is easy not because it’ll take little effort. It’s easy because we can do it ourselves without worrying about whether or not we can succeed, only what we can do now. Just do however much makes you feel good, and if more makes you feel better, then do more! You recycled a plastic bottle? You just did the world a favor. You drive an electric car? We all breathe a little cleaner air. And if you say the right words to the people in power? You just might save the world.
Cunningham is a sophomore at Samohi and has worked in the community gardens as a CASM Climate Corps member