Lately I have been experiencing extreme Solastalgia – ‘psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change’. I see it in the burnt out snow gum trunks on The Razorback (burnt three times in a decade). I see it in longer fire seasons and more erratic winters. I see it in the summer baked woodlands around my home in Central Victoria. I see it in the receding glaciers and icesheets.
Some days I feel inconsolable. As a day to day activist, I work as hard and as strategically as I can to get real protections in place, but I know that all my efforts are just about slowing down the reality of what is coming … and no matter what you achieve, its never enough. This week I heard a Coalition politician, Matthew Canavan, talk about ‘beautiful’ coal and how we need to dig more coal and drill more gas, and I had one of those dark nights of the soul moments where I felt that we’ve already gone off the cliff – that we are well and truly fucked. There is such obstinate, wilful ignorance about climate change by people like Matthew and so many of those who are in charge of our governments, such powerful vested interests blocking action, and such ecological destruction locked into the momentum of our high consumption lifestyles. It seems quite beyond hope.
Sometimes it’s heartening just to be reminded that there are many other people who are also paying attention and taking action. This reflection on the changing face of Alaska really struck a deep note with me. I made my first journey to Alaska when I was 20 and fell into the deep, wild beauty of that place. It was like a lucid dream, and I felt drawn into the mountains and the silence. This piece by composer John Luther Adams is heartbreaking. He asks what will fill that space in our humanness when the cold and wild Alaska is gone? I don’t just want to reflect on what we are losing. I also want to fight for what we still have. He reminds us of our shared complicity in the world we are creating. I fully agree with John: “We must find new ways of living on this Earth. The changes we make must be profound. They must be worldwide. And they must happen now”.