As the past few springs turned to summer, my annual anticipatory glee for my favorite time of year has been shrouded by my ever-growing dread of climate change and the season’s increasing heat, which makes reconciling with reality even more unavoidable. While milder winters are equally dark, hotter summers are reminiscent of a sort of apocalyptic heat, leading my imagination to picture a burning Earth; unwelcome visions of a Wall-E-like land decimated by global warming intrude my thoughts.
This summer began in a way which looked to build upon the tumult of those previous; the political climate, in regard to climate legislation and otherwise, was dark, with SCOTUS rolling back the EPA’s authority to protect against climate change. This was followed by all Senate republicans and democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s initial opposition to President Biden’s historic health care and climate bill.
Outside of the U.S., things were equally grim, with global climate disasters occurring at every turn. It was impossible to read the news or, depending on your networks, to check social media, without being blasted by the harrowing reality. In the U.K., record-breaking temperatures with insufficient infrastructure caused chaos, while the government and many news channels reacted with indifference.
@dylan.page Damn UK been put on blast!😳🔥 #ukheatwave #tiktokuk ♬ original sound - Dylan Page
I spoke to Meghan Flood, an Irish citizen who recently relocated to London for work, about her experience in the city this summer. While temperatures were over 100°F, Meghan notes that being outside was the greatest relief as homes in the region are built to trap heat inside due to the characteristically cold and dreary weather. A nation with inadequate infrastructure for such conditions, working from home was miserably hot. When I asked about the political response to the heat, she responded that amidst national political disorder, climate legislation or discussion did not seem to be on the agenda and the government’s strategy was essentially just to remind citizens to find shade and drink lots of water.
I recently saw a clip on Twitter of newscasters in the U.K. speaking to an expert about the heat wave, and when the expert raised concerns regarding climate change, the anchors brushed him off. In what appeared as an attempt to keep audiences calm and content, it eerily reminisced scenes from Don’t Look Up, which other Twitter users noted.
Meghan tells me that while she has been very busy, and perhaps avoidant of the news, what she has seen this summer is similar to that broadcast; mimicking the government’s apathetic response to the crisis, and instead attempting to turn the heat into something to celebrate after months of rain and cold in the nation, it feels as though the U.K.’s response to the crisis is yet another blow to the climate movement. The first step to addressing any problem, as they say, is to address that the problem exists.
I know what Meghan is experiencing all too well; before Biden’s climate bill passed, reaching any sort of national climate action felt like swimming towards the shore, and being pulled back out to sea by another tide just as the sand came into sight. But still, my experience with climate change, though mentally consuming, is one of extreme privilege. I can mitigate the daily detriments of climate change by sheltering in AC on the hottest days, using my car to escape to safer places amidst oncoming disaster, and by having access to resources and healthcare in the wake of ongoing physical risks.
I can only imagine the stress on those who are most affected by climate change, those who are subjected to the most extreme effects and afforded the fewest respites. And, yet, we all face an uncertain but dangerous future. While we may not be picking up the pieces of a home ravaged by flooding or fires now, we could be soon. But, if we accept that we are headed for unchallengeable doom, we are destined for a self fulfilling prophecy of failure. Rather than harp only on the devastation around us, we must relish in the absolute magic of the planet that we have yet to lose, and harness our amazement into energy towards saving it.
We must celebrate the generations of activists and policymakers whose work made Biden's historic climate bill possible. But we must also remain aware of how much more work there is to do, and use this as a jumping off point. My conversation with Meghan reminded me that the United States is just one of so many other nations that, too, aren’t doing enough. It reinstated in me a desire to commit my resources not only to my communities, but to the global climate movement, as well. Rather than face impending doom head on, as it sometimes feels we are left to resign to, we have no choice but to recommit to the cause in whatever ways we can.