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The climate change pit of despair

Everywhere you turn, you are bombarded with concerns about climate change. Whether the weather is sunny, windy, hot, cold, dry, wet, blizzard-y, hurricane-y, or somewhere in between, “climate change” is the default reason for the season.

And climate change, we are told, is all our fault. Humans – especially the wasteful humans living in Western nations – are solely to blame for anything and everything weather-related. Never mind geologic history depicting changes through time. It’s always our fault.

In 2017, the World Economic Forum took its annual Global Shapers Survey of 31,000 18-to-35-year-olds from 186 countries on key issue, and concerns about climate change were hands-down the winning worry, with 90 percent of young people agreeing humans are responsible.

The younger generations are fed a constant and never-ending diet of propaganda about climate change, from kindergarten through graduate school. “It’s pretty terrifying to realize that we are ‘the first generation that knows we are destroying the world, and could be the last that can do anything about it,’ as the WWF puts it,” notes an article on Mashable. “However daunting it is, when it comes to thinking about climate change as a whole, being overwhelmed and shutting down makes zero sense, because individual acts can make a huge difference.”

The article then lists the usual “small, everyday” steps everyone can take to reduce their impact on the planet.

These individual actions are well and good, but such advice is usually followed by despair at how ineffective it is in the overall grand scheme of things. Can going paperless save the planet? Of course not. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go paperless, but you must also recognize the planet’s climate will continue to change – and somehow, somehow, it’s all your fault. You exist, therefore you’re to blame.

Now multiply this message a thousand-fold, and you’ll start to understand the lesson young people are internalizing. There’s never any HOPE that thanks to your green lifestyle, things will be OK. Rather, the message is one of hopelessness. No matter what you do, the planet is doomed.

This accounts for an opinion piece I recently came across entitled “How to avoid that climate change-induced pit of despair.”

This was a genuine cry of pain, a recognition that every storm hitting the planet can be narrowed down to each individual’s personal responsibility. Written in September of 2017, it states: “Watching hurricanes rage through the Caribbean and United States this month has been deeply disturbing to the many people who believe that climate change plays a major role in the development of these mega-storms. Add to that the uncontrollable wildfires in Montana, British Columbia and Australia, catastrophic monsoons in Southeast Asia, and horrific mudslides in Africa, and the global situation often feels too overwhelming and depressing to comprehend.”

And you – yes, YOU – are personally at fault for those mudslides in Africa and monsoons in Southeast Asia.

“For many, this has resulted in extreme environmental anxiety, paired with a sense of profound helplessness,” continues the article. “A single person’s lifestyle choices are puny in the face of planetary disruption. … What can a person do to avoid feeling utterly inconsequential?”

I’m not dismissing the pain behind these words. It’s genuine. There are even “environmental psychologists” out there who devote their careers to handling “environmental melancholia.”

“Sufferers might try to avoid those feelings [of helplessness] by focusing obsessively on a behavior they believe can be effective,” notes a Grist article entitled “Climate anxiety doesn’t have to ruin your life. Here’s how to manage it.” “Thus, the environmentally woke can fall victim to recycling fanaticism, vegan evangelism, bicycle zealotry. The urge to convert others to the cause grows: If everyone knew the human-race-eliminating consequences of climate change, why wouldn’t they take the actions to prevent them? Soon, you’re bullying the not-yet-converted: ‘You must do this too, you see – because if you don’t, we’ll all die.'”

Among much else, this accounts for the hysteria behind activists’ behavior: their fanatical hatred of President Trump, their destruction of private property (butcher shops, cars, etc.) of anyone they believe does not display suitable environmental stewardship, and of course the more extreme eco-terrorists who engage in bombings, arson, tree spiking, etc. Many refuse to have children, not only because of the “environmental impact” of kids, but because they don’t want their progeny to suffer from the catastrophic results of climate change.

I’ve long felt public education is responsible for more than just progressive indoctrination; it’s a major contributor toward mental illness in young people, and nowhere is this more evident than in the attitudes of despair about climate change.

I understand something of this hysteria (remember, I used to be a liberal). When I was in college in the early ’80s, it wasn’t climate change that had everyone on edge, it was nuclear war. I remember being too terrified to watch a documentary on the subject, literally cowering on my bed while my roommates gathered to watch the television program. The world was spinning away from my control and I could do nothing – nothing! – to defuse the potential for conflicts among nations. These countries would fight with nuclear weapons, and we (the little people) would die. That’s what it came down to.

I wasn’t alone in my despair. Those of a more melancholy disposition were suicidal, preferring to kill themselves in a planned and predictable manner rather than being incinerated by nuclear bombs beyond their control.

But that’s no way to live a life when you’re young – not then (with nuclear war), and not now (with climate change).

To raise impressionable children to believe the problem is so massive that there is no hope is more than bad; it’s evil. (It also shows the dangers of science coupled with atheism, but that’s another subject.) It’s a form of mental torture: convincing young people they’re all going to die of something so far beyond their control that there is nothing they can do about it. Sure, you can convince them to live a zero-waste lifestyle and eat vegan; but is that enough to change the planet? Of course not. Ergo, the despair.

If that’s not mental torture, I don’t know what is.

This is why activism is so extreme. “By focusing too strongly on the ethics of each personal lifestyle decision, I fear we lose many a would-be environmentalist who would support policy-level action to transition to a low carbon culture which in itself would do more to discourage fossil fuel use and overconsumption than any individual lifestyle decision ever will,” notes this post.

So what’s the alternative? To spend your life bashing your head against a brick wall, then despairing because the wall isn’t breaking down? Apparently, yes – according to activists.

The point of this column isn’t to address whether or not climate change is man-made. The point is how far progressives are willing to go to send young people spiraling into an abyss of desolation about something over which they have no individual control beyond their lifestyle choices. If you’re in a pit of despair, something is wrong – not with the planet, but with your attitude. “There are things that people can control and change, and things that they cannot,” admits a Treehugger post.

And therein lies the key – knowing what you can change and what you can’t. You cannot change the behavior of anyone else – all you can do is change your own behavior. Individual actions are enough, because it’s all you can do. You cannot be personally responsible for global problems … so let it go. Take the weight of the world off your shoulders. As long as your lifestyle reflects your beliefs, you’re good to go.

The Serenity Prayer is invaluable in this instance: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Atheist environmentalists ignore this at their mental and emotional peril.