I gave a reading at Oblong Books and Music, the bookstore I went to and bought books at when I was growing up, and I invited the audience to write alternate histories for each other’s climate anxieties. These are what they shared with each other and with me.
As with the climate anxieties people share at the booth, I want to make it clear that I don’t endorse these, necessarily: rather, they’re expressions of what people are able to imagine for each other, part of the picture of how people are thinking, and what they think change and responsibility and possibility are.
CLIMATE ANXIETY: Less rain, water will become more and more scarce, more droughts, harder to garden, grow food and bathe.
ALTERNATE HISTORY: I read an article in the Times that some MIT student resorted to Kickstarter to get funding for his Rainmaker. No conventional grant givers were interested, since they don’t believe in global warming. But on his own, he made it rain on the farms in California last month, and he’s on a path to everywhere. He tested it first in his own garden. It does not require clouds, or even sky. Sometimes where there is a quirky smart guy, there is a way.
CLIMATE ANXIETY: I fear that in the next 50 years, 100s of millions of people will die because of climate change–what will happen to compassion?
ALTERNATE HISTORY: In the process of losing everything, people will suddenly awaken to their true nature as children, and will make their first priority to go outside each morning, kiss the ground and then bring something yummy to their neighbor. All extras will be brought together and shared as needed.
CLIMATE ANXIETY: Losing my inherent instinctual connection to nature because of habitat and/or species loss such that when looking at my cat one day we both realize something crucially important is gone even as this loss bridges a potentially powerful and unknown connection between us.
ALTERNATE HISTORY: Knowing the love and connection you have to nature, do not dismay. Mother Nature thrives and survives, is deeper and more regenerative than our comprehension. The ecosystems which may be dwindling now create an environment for an evolved version of its ancestor.
CLIMATE ANXIETY: My child is too gentle, kind and anxious to survive in this harsh, harsh world
ALTERNATE HISTORY: “Global” anxiety may be at an all-time high, with resultant aggressive and defensive emotions and behaviors by [adults? illegible] in difficult situations around the world. The only saving grace for society, some will realize, belatedly, is to foster a new tenderness and gentleness in children. Your child will be an ideal person to help others in pain and denial. The talents of your child/growing adult will be more and more valued with each year that passes. A child of peace grows into an adult of mercy, compassion, love and health. It is only from such souls that the cosmos continues. NB: A delicate perennial may appear too vulnerable to possibly survive the predatory vicious freeze of an intense northern winter, but survive it does–and can re-emerge next spring even more lush and powerfully beautiful than before.
CLIMATE ANXIETY: Political corruption is everywhere. Politicians working to better themselves and not the common people are everywhere. We can’t do much about this.
ALTERNATE HISTORY: 3 children in a desert devise a mind-altering “helmet” that is so beautiful, everyone needs to put it on. It tells the wearer to share, not thinking about rewards. Soon, everyone has all they need. All feel compelled to uplift, educate, feed, heal, comfort … la dee dah.
CLIMATE ANXIETY: I fear the powerful corporations that produce much of our food because so much of it contains things like sugar that bring on diabetes; individually people suffer and require medical care.
ALTERNATE HISTORY: There have always been toxins (although we have not always been aware of them). Life did go on–perhaps in forms yet unknown to us–but it survived–and we will–but we might not recognize now what it will be then. I only wish I could visit then to see now what will be–
– Werewolves in the White House
– Death camps for dissenters
– Disappearance of hedgehogs
ALTERNATE HISTORY: In the same way that smoking in public places went from being desirable to nearly gone, those who have the sensitivity for compassion will overcome their fears and provide safety and kindness.
CLIMATE ANXIETY: I’m worried that we don’t teach our children enough self-love and compassion, and that we let magic and imagination not take enough importance.
ALTERNATE HISTORY: In this world you cannot succeed. You are not helped to jump over the wall–you are helped to laugh at the wall or sing to it. You never want to win or get it or manage it. You never think it is now compared to then. Everything is liquid and inviting and sweet and amusing.
CLIMATE ANXIETY: In a world of resource abundance, I feel hopeless that some take so much without caring [for] those who need.
ALTERNATE HISTORY: People will share what they have. New resources will replace old resources, no longer needed.
CLIMATE ANXIETY: My anxiety is that people will never stop thinking that time is what they think it is. My anxiety is that everyone will forever be imprisoned–trapped–by the idea that it is now.
ALTERNATE HISTORY: One day, the sun rose and every single person rose to greet it. People woke up and breathed in peace and felt peace. And exuded peace to each other and all of life on the planet. And every single living thing sang the song it was born to sing.
CLIMATE ANXIETY: My fear is that we will run out of drinkable water in the foreseeable future.
ALTERNATE HISTORY: Drinking water is being synthesized from the rising sea–billions of gallons of fresh water pours from international spigots. Everyone bathes three times a day and drinks all they want.