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384: What to do About Eco-Anxiety | Jay Michaelson

2021-10-04 | 🔗

In the mental health community, there’s a new term: “Eco-Anxiety.”

 

Our guest in this episode, Jay Michaelson, has been thinking hard about climate change for many, many years. Michaelson is a meditation teacher, rabbi, lawyer, activist, and journalist. And he is also a core teacher in the Ten Percent Happier app. He’s covered climate change extensively, and has taught environmental ethics at Boston University Law School and Chicago Theological Seminary. He has also been a leading environmental activist in religious communities. 

In this conversation, we talk about what Jay thinks some meditation teachers get wrong about climate change, what he calls the “delusion” that individual habit change can make an impact, how we can use meditation to engage more effectively in the kind of politics he says we need to move the needle on a systemic level, and how to use meditation and deep breathing to handle eco-anxiety.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is the ten percent. Have your bike: Ass Dan Harris, again before we dive in today's world. Personal and professional news, as you may have heard. I recently left my job as an anchor at ABC News to focus full time on ten percent happier. Both this by and our companion meditation up. I had torn on amazing years. At ABC News, I got to travel all over the world and witness history in real time. I'm also beyond grateful for the fact that my bosses supported my wacky little medicine inside hustle so robustly and then graciously agreed to. Let me step aside when it was clear that that was the right thing for me to do. I'm incredibly added to triple down on all things teepee age. We had a lot of note all of you about ways we can up our game in various ways we ve been listen
and so were working really hard on things like creating more meditation challenges, bringing our podcast guests into the apt to teach you how to apply the inside you here on the show and a few other things that I can't share. Just yet I'm pretty sure you're gonna love one thing you may notice here in the pie is that we will continue to run adds including some different kinds of adds. Some of them read by me The goal here, as you might guess, is to make sure that this in turn in my career trajectory doesn't end up with me living in a flophouse in Duluth. That's an inn joke for anybody who read. Ten percent happier anyway, as a reminder, you can always get the ad free version of the pact asked over on the ten percent happier app when you subscribe. I feel incredibly lucky to get to continue this work, and I want to say thank you to you are listeners and subscribers for being here and making it all possible. Ok, let's get
today's episode, I don't you, but the recent headlines about wildfires hurricanes and heat waves have me increasingly concerned about the climate crisis given the dire warnings were hearing for science around the world who are really screaming from the rooftops and who also issued that quite grave report from the United she recently, I know I am not alone in this, in fact, in the mental health commute. There is now a new term eco anxiety So how do we handle this? What is the best move for the planet and for our own minds. In my case, I sometimes notice myself getting so freaked out that I just decide to stop thinking about it. It's too hard. Of course. I know that somewhat dysfunctional, but how to avoid this. My guest today had been thinking Hall and about climate change and eco anxiety for many many years? His name is J, Michael,
and he's a meditation teacher rabbi lawyer activists and journalists he's also a colleague of mine here at ten percent happier. J has covered climate change extensively for the daily beast, where he was a columnist free years and has taught environmental ethics it by. In university law, school at Chicago, theological seminary has also been alive. environmental activists and really the community's while J has written sensibly on how meditation can help us be more effective and more resilient in dealing with climate change, he's also pretty outspoken in agreeing with almost every other meditation teacher about how exactly this works including in an article published this week in our news letter, the ten percent weekly, which J overseas
of you may also know J as the host of teacher talks, which are bite sized recorded talks about ten minutes or less available in the ten percent happier APP teacher talks feature many of the teachers you know and love from this pod cast. In fact, J has actually recorded a special new teacher talk about how to cope with the stress of climate change without becoming either overwhelmed or passive. So, if, after listening to this who here on the show you want to learn more from J, just download the ten percent happier app click on the pod casts tab inside the app and then click on teacher talks to find Jays. Most recent talk, which is called confronting eco anxiety. In this conversation, we talk about what a thinks some meditation, Teachers get wrong about climate change. What he calls the delusion that individual habit change can make huge impact. How we can use meditation to be more to fully engaged in the kind of politics, J, leaves, we need to move the needle Laana systemic level and how
use, meditation and deep breathing to handle eco anxiety. This actually part two of especial series. We started last Wednesday. If you miss that episode with Andreas Vapor go check, it out is actually quite fascinating. Jays can respond to some of vapor comments in this conversation. That said, you don't need to have listened to that episode in order to get this one. Ok, we'll get started with J, Michael Right after this I J Mercosur close to be here tell everybody where here is where, in a very advanced recording studio, located at the secret farms were affected and was just regarding this. The first in person podcast, I have done since
the pandemic, and you know the last in Person Pike S side. It was me with Luanda Marcus. Yes, it back when we said, don't worry about corona virus point of information. We didn't say that we said here is how to manage your worry about exactly and were now near talk about how to manage our worry about something. Even worse. yeah even worse, even worse, before we gave in to the practical. I just want to establish your phone a few days. The apron us as a bona fides benefit is depends on your left. snob. Not ok. If I was a light, is not, it would be both a few days. Ok, so honest, that was your bona fides on climate change. Is this isn't like something you ve got kind of simply interested in from contemplative standpoint. You at least according to what I've seen
published an article about this in academic journal beckoned? Ninety ninety eight. So why did your ears perk up on this particular issue so long ago? Two things, first, that this was this incredibly significant you're challenge and second one that we were failing to address completely and its Does that the restructuring failures that were very hard to get past? I was really pessimistic in the nineties and yet also optimistic that, when the effects of climate change began to be felt that we would make a different sites like all this can be too late. We're gonna have to wait until twenty tens or twenty twenties for there to be action on climate change, because people don't respond well to threats that are invisible, did. I know that even having visible effects of climate change would not be enough to motivate action, because we have very the facts right now. Clearly, it's exactly fulfilling what the more dire prophecies were in the nineties increase, flooding, weather events, hottest years on record, breaking up of and arctic and arctic ice. All of the things which were science fiction,
first started writing about this issue are now fact and yet, as we say that still very difficult to sort of marshal the political will and defeat the opposite that's necessary for meaningful climate action. So it's been at the nexus of my kind of activists in meditation lives for a very long time, and I am not particularly interested in how a lot of folks were allies. People who were who care about climate change were deeply concerned, are really hurting and how some of the ways in which were hurting are actually making. Less effective. What are you saying out there? A lot of paint a lot of what is now called eco anxiety. and is now recognised by. The EPA is an actual thing that this underlying dread that the world that we're leaving our children will be fundamentally different from the one that we inhabit and worse. I feel that we that at attend person happier get email about that all the time, but it's also very difficult subject to address, because
then my take, and I know others have a different view. It involves politics. It necessarily involves politics for reasons we can get into. I don't think we can individually virtuously change climate change we just That's what the scientists say no amount of individual action, even if all the good people in the world did it would be enough to make a difference. We need systemic and collective action, so that makes it hard for ten percent happier and further folks who are interested in helping people cope with eco anxiety, because it's hard to talk about this without talking about politics and that's divisive. You have said that you would disagree with pretty much every other meditation teacher out there on how to approach common changes. This the area of disagreement that using other folks, maybe not Every single one, but other folks are preaching a gospel of individual agency, which makes sense, if you think about what meditation does right. So we are asked like well. How can I transformed myself in order to transform the world and in some problems, that's natural, so you did
serious podcast episodes on racial and justice and seeing internalize racism seeing how we all carry unconscious bias and that's a critical piece of the puzzle that won't self systemic racism. But that's a huge piece of the puzzle to see how I personally tribute through my own, conscious and unconscious biases to this problem, so natural for meditation teachers to focus on individual psychology, and there are a lot of good books out there by really smart meditation teachers who take this view about climate as well. If I look at my own, conduct, and I see how I'm consuming too much on my life is not sustainable enough and Ivan changes that will change the world. That is not what the scientists say. That's what's the meditation teacher say, and then there are other truly brilliant thinkers, including Andreas Faber, who was on
just recently who say that our sir philosophical personal relationship to nature is the problem and that's what needs to be solved. I partly agree with that, but I am also so pessimistic that that could ever happen in a realistic timeframe that it leads me to a place of despair which, under a robber himself, said that he feels when he was on the pot. Cassie feels a sense of despair that it's a lost cause and I just refuse to accept that. I just think that the tools that we need to make it not a lost cause are very challenging tools, political tools. Fortunately, I think that meditation for me personally, I used to be an activist not in the climate change spear, but in the elevator equality feel, I think, meditation enables us to be more effective citizens and more effective activists. there's a lot that meditation in mind from us can do to help but yeah it's different from what almost every other vegetation teacher says to just to go back.
Andreas. They were first. Second, he, if I understood him correctly, was saying we should all right our relationship to nature. He calls for it. Where do you use erotic relationship to major it? You could just add the word enmeshed intimate in There are all these arguing. That's going to solve the climate crisis, cause he's noddies still pretty pessimistic, but we use saying. Yes, you. I agree with him that an erotic, intimate relationship with nature would be good for us in an urgent dated lives and you're, not as pessimistic as him, because the answer is something different: its politics, not your individual relationship to nature. I guess that's right. I sometimes having had these conversations for many years now I get pact as the pessimistic one cause. I say, individual actions really can't do a lot, but first let us not just me, I mean that's the drawdown project, that's all the sort of leading so
just expert, but actually not exactly as you point out, I'm actually the optimistic one, because I do think there is a possibility for realistic, collective action and we should say just for folks. You didn't listen to that up so under his papers and talking about Iraq and the sense of sexual really jeopardy, seeing ourselves, as, as you said, is in messed with nature sing nature as other beings, not as mechanical. I think if I really felt that climate change were lost cause, I guess I'll just have to use different station tools for living in the end times, but I dont think that way. You know, I think, If you look at sort of the map of what Americans think about climate change, there is about a quarter of Americans who are very concerned, the yell centre for climate communication, just Maybe my favorite climate change organization cause us the alarmed those of US A really alarmed about climate change. Of that twenty five percent
there are still almost a third who are really doing anything about it. So there upset, but not active for that part of the population. A reorganization such as the one that under a talking about, could be gained changing it could change their lives. I could make a big difference, but that's a sliver of the overall population and that's nowhere near the sort of amount, that's necessary for action and forty percent of Americans are conservative Christians they're not going to go. for this kind of NEO, pagan, erotic relationship with nature, like that's just a non starter, and so I'm interested in what actually move the needle and chain. whether its increasing carbon sinks or decrease in carbon emissions actually change the situation and again you I once a law, school and wrote about this- that I ran the environmental Protection Clinic in law school in the nineties, and so this has been an obsession of mine for a very long time. I think for me, a lot of it is this kind of polarity that you and I, I think, hold that it's possible to be committed to meditation mindful
Transforming the self upgrading the mind, but also have a consciousness: that's a very real world, practical political kind of nuts and bolts to me. This is very similar. I want a whole both of these sites. I do see the subjective nature of this problem and I gotta have a heart nosed view of what it might take to solve it. I want to start a lot more about meditation mindfulness in how to play a role here, but just on the individual versus systemic is nothing and individual, can do used to drive a priest. Now you drive a Tesla, I eating animal products, although I did not permit early for environmental reasons, but because of animal cruelty is there nothing? Any of us can do that will move the needle in anyway there is no individual behavioral change that you can take. That will make any difference in global climate change. So I mentioned the draw down.
Checked a consortium of scientists and others who are taking a very close look at what is causing climate change and what it's gonna take to reduce it. So just a couple, a numbers, the average Americans carbon footprint is sixteen. and of greenhouse gases a year, that's much higher than any other country, but even that, if you were to reduce that you would get point zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero zero. Three per cent of doctrine and global greenhouse gas emissions. That's one three hundred billion of the total. That is not enough to make any difference, and that's if you got two zero, realistic will you get for us, get your missions to zero, so a no, no individual national. Do it be not enough. People are virtuous enough to be persuaded. Now, it's not that individual action is pointless. There are other reasons to do at first. It reflects your ethical values right I just
I feel I dont want to be part of the problem, but I'm under no delusion that that action is making any difference whatsoever. It's not, and I recognise that that can lead to a sense of helplessness, but that's where meditation and mindfulness come comment. We can with that sense of helplessness. We can be with it and not let a control, as we can do, all the things which meditated is always do and then focus on actions that do matter. set of wasting our energy on actions which may make us feel better. Maybe give us a false sense of agency, but actually change. Anything in the world is also- and this is also from the drawdown project- its also helpful- to engage his actions to communicate your beliefs to others. People often of a very distorted sense about where Americans stand on climate change can seem like fifty fifty. It's not fifty. Fifty again back to the yell centre for climate communication, only ten percent of Americans are total climate deniers. Another twelve percent are doubtful that the scientific consensus is true
only twenty two percent, and that includes people who were like well, maybe, but it's not a serious, I'm not so sure, says it's actually forty one, its eighty twenty practically in american public opinion So communicating Europe values whether its you're, austere lifestyle choices or my curious and dubious, would have choices. That has a value, because that makes us feel like ok, I'm in a community people care about this issue, and just talking about it makes a difference, especially in religious contacts or in social contacts, places where it's not always talked about because it sort of taboo or something like that. That does make a real France, so individual actions are important, but no, they will not make any difference in global climate change, even if all the good people did it and I can roll down more into the numbers which again can pillaged from scientists if that's
important irregularly. So twenty five percent of global climate change is due to the production of energy, not how much we use, but how we produce it. So we need to shift the grid to renewables, solar and wind. If I personally turn off the lights every time, I'd leave a closet. It doesn't do that for small there's, always excess electricity generated, that's how it works, but second, that doesn't actually do anything. It doesn't lower any carbon out but whatsoever, and it certainly doesn't make the systemic change that needs to be made its pointless. It may make me feel good. It may communicate my values, but its pointless in terms of reducing climate change. That's us Democrats, collective issue. That's politics right! Our previous president said he loves coal. If we love coal were killing the planet and until we move as a society from fossil fuels to renewables that twenty five percent of the entire picture will not be changed so that just one of many examples of the collective
issues that have to be addressed and individual action is not effective. How can we use meditation could be more effectively engaged in a kind of politics that you would like to? see to move the needle on a systemic level. So I actually have five, but maybe I wanted five at once. My love, I love a list one if they are a good last year's five ways. One goes back to eco anxiety. People are freaked out it's not helping anyone for us to be immobilized by fear and frozen and terrified. So sometimes here and anger and motions like that, can motivate us to activism. Again, I think maybe it to the racial justice example.
you gotta be a little angry to get motivated, but in climate in particular, the data is that people are withdrawing one of the most important thinkers and the subject is Joanna Macy. There's a noted climate activist and meditation teacher and Buddhists teachers well, and she says I tend to agree with her- that this sort of the pain of climate change is so great that it pushes us to a place of denial. We can't handle how painful it actually is to think about, and so we don't think about it or we deny that its even real where we take actions which make us feel better but published on actually do anything which commission before so for her for Joanna Macy in her work. A lot of it is just feeling into the reality of this tragedy and not being okay with it, but being able to coexist with it so that we don't have to make it go away. Game listeners can't see you nodding, but this is a very familiar meditation move. This happens over and over whether it's your feeling,
feeling anxiety or fear of self judgment any of those kinds of difficult emotions? The move is to feel it's true acknowledged. That was true is true. and then hopefully have a little mental spaciousness so that it doesn't drive the bus we're not trying to repress our feet. Things were not try to make them go away the goal of meditation, not repress your feelings. It's too feel them, but not be controlled by them. So that's number one meditations capacity to enable us to recharge to take our own eco anxiety, to take some of the rage that we might feel and that I think, is a profound benefit. Second, We can endure more political work when we are able to be with these difficult emotions, so it sucks to do politics. How many years did you cover politics? As a journalist you'd on me to write it does not increase your faith in humanity to to and it sucks to do that. It's easier to just compost more right and it feels a lot better and you're connected to the earth more. But if the work is to be involved in the political sphere- and we can talk about what that means in detail later
to be able to endure more of it is a meditation superpower. That's what that word. You used right. You can be in common. at meeting and somebody shouting at you and you don't respond. That's the meditation superpower, and that is a valuable for climate. This number two Third meditation helps us to act more effectively and choose where to put our energy as opposed to things which might just give us a sense of, and say we can communicate more effectively. Fourth meditation can help us. Let us know only had too much so we ve talked- and I know you talked with other guests about the term population around trauma like you go too difficult and then, when you realize you're like ok, this is too much. I need to pull back if all back- and I think that's true for any kind of pilot legation. If I'm wasting hours on Facebook having annoying arguments with people and trying to persuade people who aren't persuadable its helpful to have mine just ring an alarm bell. Like thing this is not helpful. This is not predict
Actually, now I'm gonna going to take some time and meditate and recharge and relax and do what I need to do so I can be more effective and finally, there's something again from the drawdown project. I think it's so helpful and also the pact how to save a planet which is sort of action look like so you can think of it. Then diagram of three circles: what the world deeds, what I might be good at. What are you bring to the table and what brings me by so doing a kind of activism, that's joyless and unsustainable is not gonna long term be effective. Maybe it's contacting people in my community. Maybe it's doing voter registration, maybe it's some kind of hard nosed political activism. Who knows what it might be, finding that in that vein, diagram mindfulness for me as like the main ally I have in those discernment processes like what brings me
joy in the work that I'm doing and what feels really important. Those are things that my fulness helps me discern. That was a long list. Five items not along this is great list yeah. What's the longest buddhist list, there is the hundred and eight attributes of the Buddha hundred need a lot of things. That's a sort of magic buddhist number hundred me well. Yours was considerably shorter, much more like rotation. The J Michaelson right after this, the bottom line. If I'm here, you correctly is that you can use my mindfulness to not be owned by your fear or rage, and hopefully it will allow you to navigate toward figuring out what kind of contribution you can make. That will actually make a difference. and that you can uniquely participate in based on your attributes and affinities. That's right, then you know. Sometimes when we talk about climate, we get angry
messages from folks were more conservative politically. But if there are conservative folks listening who care about climate change, you guys are the envy peace like. We need to shift the report can party away from this really backward, looking reliance on sort of fossil fuels and so forth, there is a great organization called it republican DOT, Org Republic in the orgy, which are sort of pro climate action. Republicans they favour things that Republicans favor market mechanisms and things like that, they dont like a lot of regulation. Fine, that's really valuable places find yourself in that vein diagram. I'm not a conservative do. But if I works, I'm a conservative dude. I like conservative things like market mechanisms, that's where I vote Republic and if I can great that's a great place to fight grant. This doesn't have to be a partisan issue. The way that it is so wherever you find yourself,
if it's your politically socially whatever right, I think meditation can help see where your individual work can make a difference, not again in changing your behavior but Raising awareness round the issue in making this one of the most important issues that Americans vote on you see to think that in meditative contemplative circles, there's an aversion to the quota quote dirty work of politics. If that's true, why do you think that is a bummer? I think there's a couple reasons. One is like for a lot of folks meditation is really valuable as me time and as relaxation time, and I want to denigrate that- I don't think that's the best most productive thing, the commission can do, but that's valuable were still having a very challenging types and give meditation is what enables people to have some more resilience getting through this period. The debts
important- and I am glad that we do that at ten percent happier- and we enable people to do that, but yeah and you bring in things like politics- it's not as relaxing and its deliberately bringing in challenging emotions. I talk about this in a piece and the newsletter that ten percent of your newsletter that bringing anger in your meditation may seem like ruining your meditation, but my suggestion, as that is the training ground for the mind like that's, where the mind can learn to be with these difficult feelings so that we can confront them in daily life. So I think that's one- is that it's a bit of a bummer until there is this orientation that some folks of- and I dont know what percentage of medicine or south, but that the solution to Ray problem must lie within and if we all transform ourselves that that's what will inevitably eventually change the world, that might be sure, eventually than some hundred year horizon, but not in the horizon that we need for climate change, I just don't think it's the case:
that the solution to every problem lies within. We live in coming right. We live in society the solution to shifting agriculture practices does not lie within, even if I you know, farm at home, and even if I'm on subsistence for myself, the rest of the world is not an that's another. Twenty percent of carbon emissions comes from agriculture second to stop deforestation in Brazil. If I change my personal behaviour and I meditate and change my personal attributes, so I think there's just a kind of built in by us that a lot of us have when we spend a lot of time with meditation that that should be the solution. You know some of the best selling books on meditation and climate change and social justice issues have political agenda is that are at best wishful thinking and I'm not talking like you know, Bernie sent. socialism. I'm talking weighed the left of like things which have never happened in human history and are not just left wing political views, but utopian political of used where everybody is
dating, and so we reach agreement on these difficult issues and there's no Marguerite hatred and delusion. Even the Buddha didn't think that was going to happen. If you can get practical about how we can meditate in a way that would allow us to deal with the various emotions that come up in the face of climate change I think anxieties may be the easiest example, because it's one that so many people can relate to There are two ways of working with anyone, I agree, I think in meditation one is to kind of put an antidote to produce it, and the other is the kind of be able to coexist with it. So a lot of of suffering from anxiety, whether its ecological anxiety or any other kind. You just need an antidote. You need to find wait a calm down. I remember you and I and the heat of the covert pandemic. I was teaching box breathing, which is a great breathing technique that can really just help calm anxiety. Since, like the first step, The second and maybe more interesting, or at least more subtle step, is to allow some of that anxiety to be felt and to just investigated see. What's there are so what
simple I outlined in that newsletter. Article is see what it's like when you're, either doomed scrolling or not doomed scrolling you're, making a choice either to look at the news or making a choice did not look at the news and just see what's present, and what are you feeling so you read some depressing article about while fires and these articles are depressing and they are accurate and you readings. the data about you. Don't what coastal areas will experience if the sea level rises, axed inches or twelve inches or whatever what's happening in the body at that time? Is it possible to feel those feelings Unpleasant as they are and just ignore, I urge them. I sometimes used the phrase right now. It's like this. This is our feels. This is our fields in the body here is at the heart rate is like here's the muscles that our tent I can relax this muscles a little bit. I can also just be with what's happening and not be so freaked out that I need to run to get away from it.
because running away from it is the root of so much of this problem. As with many other problems, I can't deal with as I do want to deal with it. It's too much. I can't handle it. I'm gonna just do something else, and get that. I feel that the time that the move, the meditation move is too in the lab of meditation, formal meditation, where you sitting in your allowing these things come up or if you're, just like, I said a moment of mindfulness, while you're on your phone. There's that moment of my from us like. Ok, here's the feeling of fear and not controlled by the fear and aware of the fear and for folks are starting out in meditation. This may seem like baffling or like there's no
thanks, but again you're nodding. You ve been in this situation. It sort of an amazing revelation when you first have this experience of medical condition. I'm aware of the painful feeling or I'm aware of that, raged that I'm feeling towards this population that that raged again sometimes can inspire us of it has its place, but for me at least its generally careers, and so if I can see the rage, that's there I don't have to give that voice in my writing or in my teaching or my activism or whatever, and I can just be with it and not try to make it go away. You mentioned box breathing, and this is on the antidote side, the little less subtle side, which is I'm freaking out. I mean something to just calm down before I can be with any of this. What is box breathing box breathing? I encourage folks to check up on resource for it, which is unusual.
Now is just a way of changing the way that you breathe. If you think of the breath actually having four parts instead of just two parts, there's the pipe for you taken inhale, there's the inhale part when you're full of breath before the exhale and then there's the exit normally we, especially when you're anxious, were inhaling more than were exhaling and were paying no attention to those other two parts of the breath. Southern Botz readings called box, rethink, as you can imagine it being a box with for equal sides. So you could take four seconds on each of those four parts of the breath. The inhale four seconds waiting before exhaling for four seconds, exhaling for a seconds you can even sheet and do a little extracts hail and that waiting before the next in hell on four seconds and the thing at least for me, worked like a charm again, you know this, but it you know in early covered. I was dealing with a lot of anxiety in enough for listeners donation or that you made it worse. I called Dan in my hour of need and eyes like data.
feeling a ton of anxiety. Other people don't seems freaked out by the pandemic, as I do, I'm just afraid of I went into a lot of details about what seem to be happening. Dances you're responsible is that, what you're more freaked out, because you're, right and you're seeing stuff that other people aren't seeing and if they could see it, they be just as freaked out as you. So this me into a cycle of total despair and anxiety, and thanks for that, thanks for that tip, can I do defend myself like others, I have to say that I did say- and I remember saying, but I was trying ham fixedly clearly to valid your emotions is one of the most damage Kind of violent things tat can be done to somebody was anxious and my experience is for people to say, come down just relax or your mealy go into solution mode, and I was trying to be like no, no you're, not crazy, like I get it you're totally right, but they are not was meant well, but right now I was just
bring that I was seeing something wrong at that time. Obviously we're all petrified at that time, but I seem D neatly petrified much more than my partner and others and I like. I must be missing something here and remember. In the early pandemic we thought that surfaces you can touch anything. We thought we didn't know that side was safe. We did not. You don't need to know anything. We literally were sterilizing our groceries at that point in time and ITALY now that there are gonna, be Euro vaccines only twelve months away, not just wasn't clear what the future was gonna hold and that's where I learned box breathing was at that point too. sort of again centre enough to do this other work and we shouldn't- ourselves? People are feeling that way about climate change and a lot of the sort of scientific studies about people. Psychology is that this low level anxiety may just be always there in the background, and sometimes it pops up, then something it doesn't, but there are a lot of psychiatrist who think that this is a chronic condition.
and again I mean, if you think, about the pandemic. As I said it again in the newsletter, article and pandemic was a picnic compared to what's ahead in terms of the amount of dislocation the amount of death. The amount of disruption of the economy. Twenty twenty might end up being one of the really nice here is compared to the twenty thirty or two thousand and forty. So how bad do you think it's going to get and when? Well I'm not a climate scientist? So I fully understand, following what the consensus is, the scientific consensus and now the sort of drop I was dropped dead here, but that is the sort of freshwater that a lot of the scientists are saying is twenty thirty five, at which point the warming sort of enters this kind of death spiral and we ve already sort of seeing that mere warming, it's more warming, so example ice, which you know certain white reflects live sunlight that sunlight gets reflected back out of the earth when that disappears. Is that much more heat? It's trapped such a vicious cycle, the more I smelled, the more
she's gonna belt and other effects of climate change, but we're already and the deaths spiral in a lot of ways we ve normalized living with unprecedented hurricanes, while fires and floods and droughts, We ve normalize the idea that each year, as can be worse than the previous year, that to me would have been unthinkable, and I was starting riding on this twenty five years ago. I naively assumed that when things got visible that action would then be obvious that that would be necessary- and it is true that the number again this sort of Veal centre statistics, more and more people are alarmed category climate wasn't even on the list of the top ten electoral issue in two thousand and eight and two thousand and twelve, and it's not for the top of those who identify as liberal. So there has been a change but Look at just the right number of emissions. Now I mean it doesn't look like twenty thirty five will be. You dont, like an open lives movie. You know like one of those. It's just gonna be a study and what I find most disturbing. I think does that we seem to be putting up with it so far like rats
living in this kind of strange. Matrix like world in which things which were completely unprecedented only ten years ago, are now third item on the new cycle: Velvet Amene Al Gore, I didn't do thousand six in an inconvenient truth about the frogs sitting in the pot of water that solar Your boil the that's true, that's right, dad, it's not that the frog would jump out of the pot, or this is this when the metaphor, if it was super hot right at once, but we just a little bit a little bit a little bit hotter in this case literally, and it does seem as though there is more consensus for action now. One of the very good bits of news again from project draw down is that most of the technology that we need to make the biggest change is present again ups, not all about when I was writing in the nineties per back when people think about this thirty years ago, solar and wind were nearly as feasible as they are now now, they're feasible, but their entrenched interest in
Washington and elsewhere around the globe that are fighting it. So either the fate of our world may depend on a single senator from fossil fuel producing state that has a lot of coal mines, s kind of terrifying. To think about that be the reality that we're living in this particular moment in time What are you doing personally with all this goes out put myself in the alarm category for sure, especially after the summer, and I notice, in my mind, all the things you described as this and urge to none. and then an urge to freak out and that feeds merged. It on and on Having said that, were you with all this, and what do you do too can keep some balance? what one reason the early pandemic was so challenging for me was that a much more of an anchor person than an anxiety person, so I could get the press striking, get angry and
anger level. I feel anger around the pandemic for the moment that we are now that's a different part, just episode, but I have also written about that and I feel anger on this too and again, it's not that kind of anger that propels me to action. It's the kind of anger that freezes man, inaction or makes me you're, really unskilled person to do the activism it's hard to have these conversations, but I do have an optimism that, in this coming two thousand and twenty two election. You know who knows how it goes. The United States there's a lot of issues and is lot of time between now and then, but climate is becoming a key issue its literally I mean I don't wanna, be naive and say that politics can solve every problem, but if the balance for different in the United States Senate right now, we would already have by far the boldest climate action in the history of our country would have already been passed. So I'm actually short term may be cautiously optimist
But that depends on folks or in the alarmed are concerned category making it a priority issue, raising it as an issue with caring about actually getting people out to vote, fighting voters russian. Where it's been rolled out. Some of you, we don't think of voter suppression, is a climate change issue. We think of it as a sort of racial and justice issue and anti democracy issue, which it is, but it has major consequences for climate and Thinking about that lends. As we relate to politics, I find. actually somewhat empowering because the solutions are no longer beyond our reach. The way they were decades ago. The solutions are within reach, but it's so far there not within our political will is empowering because you feel like there are things we can do about this. We can work hard and change our politics. Yet me, that's not like rocket science.
but got involved, whereas it get if we're thinking about the scope of this insolvable problem or just think about cars in a righteous the idea that there would be electric cars to be sustainable or low emission cars. You know so now it's just most during the political will to kind of get back short term subsidies are needed and stop subsidizing inefficient vehicles, stop treating suvs like their trucks and not regulating them. For Heaven's sake you not on the systemic level. These things will make a difference and if all these seem too big to folks, getting involved in one's local politics can make a huge difference. I made a matter of I chain you know something about my personal behaviour, but if New York City does or or smaller towns, as if Northampton does, that makes a huge difference, even in other towns that are switching to solar grids for their local electricity that make such huge difference. If lotta towns do that, that actually will shift that needs collective action. There's somebody solutions that have been proved
to work and that are within our reach. Much more my conversation with J Michaelson right after this. we should actually feel like this. Is it our capacity to deal with it, but not by again return into our kind of me me me mindset. I couldn't have done the activism that I did professionally for ten years without meditation, when I did it so I feel like I have some sense of that, power of being able to be more effective to indicator and not go crazy. Every time. Something terrible happens because terrible things are gonna keep happening. But let's talk about them. As if people are listening this and feeling like, oh yeah, yeah, maybe de emphasise obsessing over my individual carbon footprint and instead to engage politically from whatever political background I happened to emerge
What did you learn in your ten years of algae BT activism, about how to engage Sadly, that might be of use for folks now, so that kind of a jewish thing to answer a question with it Then what do you think? has been shown by people study. This kind of thing to be the most effect Wait? A move, someone from lets a doubtful about climate change too cautiously, agreeing that this is a problem that needs addressing. What's actually worked. The most I figure, when Tagus educated guess, which is with memory, serves what worked in canvassing or deep canvassing for El Gb to queue. Rights was simply sharing we'll stories and then listening. clearly and so at individual go door to door, and this in very deeply too, with the people with whom they are speaking
then share their story as opposed to finger wagging. So that's exactly right when it comes to climate change, what's been shown to be the most effective strategy, someone from doubtful to concerned has been to actually ask them stuff and listen to them rather than preach to the May summit common sense. But if you think about how this issue is usually talk, Sometimes the opposite, like we get shamed fur using a plastic, bagger plastic Strawn set of a paper star, something like that. So for folks who are more doubtful so people listening, maybe it's the relatives or people who they they know in some way or another, sir asking them if they ve seen in aid, changes in their local might not use the word go ecosystem, but in their locally system, so, for example, yeah fish in this pond and now their sphere of fishery hunt. In this thing or I'll, give it a personal example
there were recording this in the autumn and there's an automatic jewish autumn Festival cuts to which involves eating outside a lot and scope. When I was growing up, we ve put on our ski jackets to eat outside and this year's cuz happening as were recording this and others Cheetos out and it's hot, and I see the clear difference in my own life. Unfortunately, the reality is that most folks were on the doubtful side. Do not respond. to California, wildfires or floods somewhere else or the melting of the polar Icecaps or even those images of the polar bears. The polar there is a uniquely ineffective image to persuade some, that climate change is a problem they dont relate to it and it just doesn't work for a variety of reasons. What works is to ask them their personal experience if they ve noticed the difference between now and in the past and just listed
and to listen to what their doubts are. Well, they're, all these scientists before saying this, and then often again this is from the Yale Center for Climate unication. The doubtful will then go to some solution that was forced on them that they didn't want to do. Maybe I'll use the paper straws. and because everybody hates paper stressed there were let why, fellow there tell me after you, there, sir, they told me, I can't fly airplanes anymore, can take my family on a vacation or they told me. I can't do this or that, and it starts to bring up all these wider cultural issues round political correctness or whatever. That means the folks. So it's listening to that maybe get it agreed, disagree whatever and then talking about what we are actually talking about. What if there is no difference to you, but the electricity grid was a power by coal or something like that are back on the effect side. You're here, what's gonna keep happening to your favorite hunting and fishing spot, most likely according to what people are saying
That fence actually move folks. It doesn't move them to be card carrying liberals, but it moves them on this issue, and it is very similar to again what I saw workings and activist fifteen twenty years ago that not shaming people having the wrong views, but listening to what their actual concerns are, and then sharing back then of assuring personal stories. Now it's kind of shit stories of how this has impacted our lives already but be easier said than, Adam because it quite easy to lose it in conversation with somebody who's spouting. What believed to be nonsense and you ve had some pretty traumatic experiences of saying things to you when you were in algae BT. You activists that words way out of line vignette literally all the time. So one example, as I was talking about the sort of stability, fur, intimacy and love and connection and a same sex relationship, and somebody in left me and asked about Bialy wealth. You can
it's too manner. Why and why not? You know best reality as well, so on the face of it. That is clearly a very deeply offensive comment saying that I can tell the difference between love and lost. In that my love. Her husband is no doubt from the last that someone my feel for an animal but the very sort of offensive. But that comment actually triggered some installed software of meditation or mindfulness in me, and I just immediately went to thinking tactically there were about a hundred people when this happened in person was giving a speech, and I just didn't take the bait. You know it's like This guy may not be able to persuade one way or the other, but there's a hundred other people here, and so what can I do in this moment to be helpful, and I done some activists raining, so it's clearly like okay and take the high road and I'm actually speak to my truth and not actually engage with this personally. They were also making a religious argument because of biblical verses
this and stuff, I wasn't gonna, go into any of that and was just going to speak. My experience and my truth. and I can definitely say that's one isolated little example and I was pretty safe, and that moment I was physically threatened. Their other moments were. I reacted less skilfully where there was more of a threat but and just that one moment there was enough mental spacious them. in that moment that I could choose what was obviously the right response, as opposed to like wanting to punch the guy and face, which is definite, but I wanted to do or at least manifest alot of anger. In response to that, And here again you know if we're having their conversation and someone sank: global climate changes, a conspiracy from China or something like that supply. it is also knowing who you're talking with both in the LAPD example and in racial justice and now a climate as well. You know there's that ten percent- that's dismissive that I mentioned before. It's not worth talking to those people there, just they're, not gonna move, but me that's the data anyway, if somebody's a hard core conspiracy theory
about some issue almost nothing that somebody from the other side so to speak, is gonna, say is: is gonna, move them such just not worth focusing on that, whether its, though uncle his political views, you disagree with, or in this case, but again, there's twelve percent, who are doubtful, there's another five percent who are so called disengaged. They don't really just know about this issue. They have an anti view, but they just haven't heard about it. That number is so small, because climate changes so contentious or their stirs about twenty percent of Americans who are concerned, but are very cautious about messing with anything I can theirs a jobs at stake and there's a lot of things to worry about, and we have to do a balancing that kind of you. Those are the ones who are amenable, having a conversation and they may still say things which we find. Really challenging. We, if were true believers, but that's where it's up to us, to rise to the occasion,
And for me, I'm gonna reach for any tool that enables me to do that. Helplessness are feeling of helplessness, just leads to unskilful action and rage, Leads to unskilful communication, so I want to be able to do better because I am freaked out and you know we both have young children. And I mean us almost a clean sheet like I worry about the world that I'm leaving my children, but I literally worry about the world that I'm leaving my child gets me too, and I look at the news again, especially the summer, and I extrapolate out to what its can be like when my kid is thirty. Forty fifty and it's terrifying there's a data point that I think it's about fifty five percent of Americans under the age of thirty think that humanity is doomed. And even if we allow some percentage of that for being like teenage answer for her. That's now fifty
That's a lot of people who really believe that early say they believe it and responds to a survey, and that should really give us pause and they might not be totally wrong, and I may be wrong that humanity is doomed on the whole, but the idea that things might get a lot lot worse and You know. I've shared this before their times was very personal for me, like I really do wonder about my career choice like what am I doing teaching Adaptation in writing and being a journalist like I should just be out doing something you know that Van Diagram, maybe I'll repeated, that diagram of what makes a difference, what I'm good at and what brings a joy like? Maybe I should just be redoing that and is being a professional climate purse. I made it just. Fortunately, I'm in a fortunate Tennessee location, where I think some of what I can do can help people be more effective. binding thereon places to work so that's what I do want to have the opportunity like now me. I should think ear
If I think about the Van Diagram, you are making a difference literally right now, So I mean I really really want to inspire people who are interested in mindfulness and meditation to use it for this purpose and to see that it can help that it can make a huge difference that they can be happier while doing this work. You know. Sometimes the only way to be happy about claim in the context of climate change is to just totally forget about it. And I'm on board with the Heck eight sometimes, but it is also possible to be happy in the sense that we like to use that word happy, not like joyful, thrilled but Europe alike. I can be basically okay, even while thinking about the profound terror of climate change, and that feels like something that low to help people do. Is there a meditative technique, tat you would recommend where we actively call to mind worse.
Hey scenarios and then monitor mindfully, our physiological and psychological reaction to it. Absolutely there It doesn't matter, be worst case scenarios. It could just be this summer's news, so Let's out your meditating have set aside this session to do this work, it could just be informal meditation, maybe like us before you looking your phone, so yeah bring it in and is bringing in this very difficult, challenging. Subject: and my goal in that is not certainly not masochism. It's not to just make myself feel worse its yes, it is it myself lowers little bits, but it's to relate to that difficult feeling in the ultimate safe space right, meditation, tariff, unsafe and physically safe is deliberately to enable the mind to not freak out when it touches that subject and then, when it comes up in a pot gas conversation talking about I can feel the constriction. I can feel that fear
anger or whatever I'm feeling, but I dont handed the microphone necessarily unless I decide said the voice. I wanna hand the microphone to, but I dont do it re actively, so yeah and yet in, and that does mean that that meditation set will not be peaceful and restoring in that way. But what does it feel like? you can get really curious for people who have all of our experience with meditation. You can really nerd out on it. So what is fear like? What's the heart doing, what's the body temperature doing, you can get to know it, as the present moment experience again not to lake revel in the darkness, but to just ok. It feels like this. I got it. I feel like that. Don't like it, you know, but it feels like this and to stay on that present moment experience, rather than
spin. The catastrophe experiences are so. This could be like this. That J said twenty thirty five, I'm only can be this year, is all the more my child, and there can we just going to college, and you know like it's easy to go into the story. What meditation teachers call the story and do not do that too much you're, just we like! Ok here is this present my experience it's coming from place actually of love and concern and compassion whether it's love for my I also refer humanity on human animals as well or for yourself right and coming from a place of concern They can be with it without freaking out, and I can go back to my personal, then diagram and I can donate more money if I have the capacity to do that, the people and organisations who are working on this and trying to shift Baltic surrender or it may be. I have time but not money, and I can think about ways to spend time
again. There's plenty of resources online, drawdown projects, my favorite, you don't a million actions that you can take again, not like switching your toilet, too low flush toilet, but actually like getting involved in the political process. That will make the systemic changes so that every toilet is somehow flush toilet and so that it happens on a systemic level. I think there. these three way that I can think of where this practice, even though its difficult this meditation practice of reading some we'll headline in the newspaper, or actually just during it in Europe on the cook, formal meditation time and being the emotion, I think it a reason three three ways in which can actually feel good. One is doing it successfully. You quorum quote successfully being with your actually being mindful, then you haven't freaked out in that experience. Yes feels good to being aligned with what is true. Even if, like you know, we talk a lot about on the show, but awareness of death
In a way, there is an aspect to it that has some pleasant valence of like yeah. This is really true and then the thing. Is that once you ve done that and then go back to the Van Diagram and are taking action that feels good to that's right? That's great! You just made! your impetus less than spontaneously that wasn't on the notes. People love it's just that. I think that just happen we away talking about. I think it's equanimity, and there is a joy to equanimity it's not our usually used the word joy, but there is a kind of peaceful settle this that comes, in my experience it and that of my students from many years that this experience arises, where your kind of at peace with what is it? Stop, because what is as great your good that climate change is deftly not good, but
is a sort of very subtle contentment and even happiness with just being with what actually is and settling with it, and not that you ve. Let go of the resistance to the difficult thing and is that resistance that often the real source of the suffering. So one of our favorite teachers, Sylvia Borsier, says that in life pain as mandatory but suffering as optional, so pain of climate changes mandatory. If your true, if you're seeing was true, you're gonna, feel pain and these other feelings around, but the resistance to the pain, that's the secret sauce like I don't have to
that to me, I think it's the letting go of that resistance that can feel so good in a certain way, and I want to mention that the deaf stuff- because you ve talked about that before and written about it, that their traditional meditation practices Buddhist another to contemplate death, often in very visceral ways like the process of dying and decomposing, the corpse and so forth, and it's not to be morbid about it, but actually to affirm life. to affirm the of our lives and how much each moment matters in our relationships matter- and I find I do that this is not just a buddhist concept. There's the western concept of the memento, Morey Keith, Richards Guitars rolling stones were a ring with a scowl on it to remind him of death. I've got skulls here, my pocket city, that's that's, got to know and that's too,
be at some degree of peace or equanimity or acceptance with death, the ultimate fear and again it's. I just feel like. I always have to repeat it's not like we're like all great death, that's all some more. Let's have more death by outside that at all, it's just to be at peace with, what's chow, Jane and hard and true about human existence, and I truly cannot think of anything more challenging and true about the twenty first century. Then this cluster of issues- and this issue touches every thing. It's gonna touch. You know for the ultra rich climate change might not be such a big deal by a new country place in Quebec. Or something it's folks were disadvantaged and who are marginalized, we're working to bear the brunt of this book enough up to a billion climate refugees. I mean that's just unthinkable. and with a wave of nationalism, that's already rising in the world, just think about how that's gonna happen when there's a billion refugee,
and every citizen of Bangladesh has to leave because the river delta is completely flooded and then the nation is underwater. Anxious all of the issues that we care about justice, racial equity, everything gets so exacerbated by the climate crisis. That. it's hard to just be with it, but that I think refer Joanna may see it is what were called to do. I want to be sensitive to your time, because you have to leave this house here in Westchester and drive down the layer not help the layer letters are bond layer, Bonneville, Hitler and your daughter and husband. Did I miss anything? Is there something I should have asked but didn't ask? I think I do want to I emphasise that individual action Has a lot of value other than in stopping climate change that are not saying that it's wrong too, lower our individual consumption or it's not wrong,
compost, it's not around town standards. These are all good things and they can be good and yet also not for the purpose of stopping global climate disruption. Under his vapours, erotic, ecology is good, even if it's not a sort of realistic policy prescription for ending global climate disrupts There are a lot of reasons to engage in activities and I recycle. I do turn off the light. When I leave the room, I do drive the electric car. I do all these things as an expression my own personal ethical commitments, and I do think, that's important and I do think it's important. Then being community around that not to be like I'm so great. I drive an electric car, but just to enact our values in how we live and it's important to have some sense of agency, but it really is delusion and harmful delusion to think that, that's what is changing the world. This is not the kind of problem that get solved by each
None of us sweeping the sidewalk in front of our house. This is the kind of problem that requires much harder work: the work of of finding a way to coexist with people with whom we profoundly disagree in order to save life on earth, as we know it, and it's funny to end with terms that are that hyperbolic and that extreme. But that really is what is at stake. So, let's keep doing those ethical actions feel goods. We should live our values, but the solution lies elsewhere. Well done well said, thanks for pronoun again, thank you said the centre of my Van diagram That's up people say I love you these days, you're at the centre of my Vandyke, thanks again to J, always great to see him.
before. I let you go. I have been asked to pass along a quick message from our friends over at the insight meditation society or I am ass, one of the great retreat centres in America, if not the world cofounded by Tpa stalwarts, Joseph Goldstein, chair in Salzburg and Jack Cornfield like most retreat centres. I am s hat temporarily closed its doors back in March, twenty twenty because of a pandemic. Now as they reopen this month, I am s, has a list of onsite jobs. They are looking to fill from housekeepers cooks and kitchen assistance to facilities, workers of facilities, manager and retreat support, fellows. located on four hundred wooded acres in the rural town of Bury Massachusetts. I am ass. Is a beautiful place to meditate. I agree with that. It's a wonderful place to work. As well. I M S offers a robust benefits plan, including health and Dental Insurance retirement plan.
generous paid time off pay parental leave and a staff song. Program, meaning that you get to join the community, have meditated If you're interested in learning more or applying for a job at I M S, visit their website dogma dot, org De H, a r m, a dot, org and click the get involved. Tab on the I am, as homepage, will put a link in the show notes They show is made by Samuel Johns Gabriel's Ackerman, Dj Cashmere Justine Davy came like a mom Maria we're tell and Jan Point with engineering by ultra violet audio. Where does he want? this day for a brand new episode. I really love this episode, its whip Carol Robin and David Bradford, who teach one the most popular courses at the Stanford Business School, which has to do with my term, not theirs: interpersonal hygiene and the students. There call it affectionately touchy Nearly two great conversation will see them for that.
Transcript generated on 2021-10-07.