Avoiding climate burnout – top tips

I have spent my lifetime face to face with some of the most brutal and inhumane acts ever committed, but nothing has been as traumatizing for me as trying to get action to tackle the climate crisis.

As a long time human rights defender and prior Executive Director at WITNESS, I helped produce and direct films on rape as a weapon of war and amputations in Sierra Leone’s recent bloody conflict, I conducted an undercover investigation into the Russian mafia’s involvement in trafficking women for forced prostitution, I investigated hit squads in apartheid South Africa, and I spent countless hours in editing rooms watching first hand images of death, destruction, and devastation.

But spending my days and nights trying to get our country to tackle global warming is more emotionally demanding than any job I have ever done.

When I was at WITNESS, people used to say “The work you do must be so difficult. How do you manage?” to which I would respond “Well, I can see the results. And it’s not as bad as environmental work would be!” What I meant when I said that five years ago is that I felt overwhelmed by our inexorable march to “pave it all” — parking lot by parking lot, McDonald’s by Wal-Mart.

But seeing former Vice President Al Gore give his now famous slideshow at the TED conference in 2006 convinced me that nothing mattered more than tackling global warming, and that climate change had massive humanitarian and human rights consequences. There was no looking back, so in mid-2007 I leapt, knowing that I was headed straight towards my deepest fears and concerns.

As I started to immerse myself in the science and early impacts of global warming, I became increasingly distraught. But I soldiered on, hoping against hope that I would be so busy in an ambitious new start up campaign at 1Sky, and so relieved to be trying to do something about it, that I would not be overwhelmed with existential angst and despair. Looking back on the last year and a half since I started as 1Sky’s Campaign Director in the fall of 2007, my wish has generally come true. But since President Obama’s inauguration and the 2009 clock started ticking on the countdown to Copenhagen, I feel myself slipping. And I know I am not alone.

Read more: Grist

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