adrienne maree brown talks about the fractal nature of our world — how its complexity emerges from the repetition of simple patterns at every scale[i]. We see this in the prevalence of spirals, or “Fibonacci patterns,” throughout the universe, from ferns, to nautilus shells, to galaxies. We see it in deltas, in our veins, in lightning bolts, in snowflakes. We see it in humanity today, as our rates of depression and loneliness escalate while the living world around us is dying. How we are on a small scale reflects how we are on a larger scale.
While our individual existence may seem, on the whole, insignificant, our embodiment of the planetary condition shines
a light on how deeply connected we are to the rest of the world. And our interconnectedness reminds us that the
relationship goes both ways — just as the world feeds into us, we feed into the world[ii]. If we can change who we are on
a fractal level, we can change who we are on a global level. And we have the conscious agency of choice to achieve this.
If we all choose to think differently, to embody a new way of being, we can cultivate a new global state.
We — the individuals — are at the heart of change.
As such, embracing our role as the individual involves us developing a new sense of individuality. As Joanna Macy describes, “interconnectivity does not mean loss in individuality”[iii], but rather re-understanding the role of
the individual as a critical part of the collective and a source of diversity, not an isolated entity. While we must
not get lost in our individuality, it is essential that we embrace and explore it, and do whatever we can to
strengthen this source of resilience by following our hearts, feeding our spirits, and embracing
our truest sense of self.
I’m aware this is a vague call to action. It’s hard to discretely define this process. But we all
know what it feels like to be in touch with who we truly are. When we listen to a song that resonates
with us, when we say something that feels true, when we cry with a loved one. And most of
us also know what it feels like to not be in touch with ourselves, when we numb our
emotions to reach a deadline, when we lie about how we’re feeling to avoid conflict,
when we criticize and fix ourselves to meet society’s standards.
We obviously can’t abandon deadlines, work or obligations to society — particularly
in a time when we need to organize as efficiently as possible. But we can work to figure out
how to incorporate ourselves into a sustainable future in a way that is true to who we are, and that highlights our individual
strengths. We can find our roles in global change through what we’re passionate about, what were good at. Whether we’re
artists, accountants, skilled workers, engineers, organizers…. Change is needed on every level of society, and you can address
the climate crisis through whatever tasks you are best suited to perform, through whoever you are meant to be.
A perspective that helped me embrace climate change and step into my individual role was learning to come from a place of responsibility rather than guilt. Once I started to realize that anthropogenic climate change was a “product of the
totality of human actions over time”[iv], of generations of exploitation and derangement, and not necessarily me forgetting
to turn the light off, it became much easier for me to take action. I stopped being clouded with utter shame when I saw
headlines about climate news, and was able to see issues and next steps more clearly. I still feel an unconditional
sense of responsibility, and often, heartbreak, especially as a white, privileged woman, and this sense of responsibility
only grows the more I learn about the state of our world. But I work to make it an empowered, vigilant, and hopeful
responsibility. It is much easier to take action in this state of mind.
Ultimately, however, I believe one of the most important things we must do as individuals is to simply talk
about the climate crisis more. In our day to day lives, with our friends, our family, our loved ones. We should talk about
our fears, our uncertainties, the latest news, the latest discoveries. We should face the unjust impacts of climate change,
and how privilege protects some of us, while putting others in harm’s way. These are the conversations that will make us
act, and we must stop being scared to have them. As a wise wizard once said (for all you Harry Potter fans out there), “fear
of the name only increases fear of the thing itself”[v] . The climate crisis, and the mass injustices it is exposing across the
globe, can no longer be ghosts haunting us — they are our reality, and we cannot afford to be out of touch with
The easiest way to face your fears is to do it with your loved ones by your side,
facing them with you. Conversation will let you in, and once the door is open, if you
foster a constructive conversation, I promise you will see opportunity for
change – in yourself and in the world. You will feel
more ready to search for what you can do.
[i] From “Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds” by A. Brown, 2017, p. 51. AK Press.
[ii] From “Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy” by J. Macy and C. Johnstone, 2012, p. 73. New World Library.
[iii] From “Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy” by J. Macy and C. Johnstone, 2012, p. 92. New World Library.
[iv] From “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable” by Amitav Ghosh, 2016, p. 115. The University of Chicago Press.
[v] Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone