Turkey, stuffing and all the fixings? How are YOU feeling this Thanksgiving? As I woke up to begin the day with my daughter and husband I felt a great ache, missing my son and extended family and friends who are regularly a part of this special day. My first thought was not to celebrate. But celebrate we must, at least that is my choice and my decision for today. I am thankful for so much even as we collectively live this unique, stressful, exhausting and immensely sad year that 2020 has been and will be remembered for, forever.
This Thanksgiving Day feels like a crossroads to me. Which way will we go? Partial lock downs vs personal freedoms, masks vs no masks, in-person family celebrations vs zoom cocktails and virtual turkeys, the economy vs public health. I have lived these kinds of contradictions and tug of wars in my day job – not only for the past year, but for the past decade and longer. As an educator, author and activist on our climate emergency, I am fully familiar with sayings like: “it’s the economy or.. ” and “the science isn’t settled.” My colleagues and I are dumfounded. We know the science on how to slow down our climate crisis is clear – through peer reviewed studies and multiple scientific paths, climate scientists are bringing us their reports, studies and data, whether we want them or not. Now, the same is happening with the scientists studying COVID19. The science, in particular on how to slow this health emergency down and protect ourselves, is evident and clear.
Yet in our divided country – because of the news we choose, our families and friends, or the neighborhoods which become the echo chambers we live in – the science and the facts of our climate crisis and our health emergency, remain muddied, and purposefully unclear. Once you are on one of these one way conveyor belts, it’s difficult to get off or to try to travel in a different direction. When it comes to our climate crisis, the longer we don’t begin to slow things down, the more harm there will be – to our health ,our future, and yes – to our economy. We can only look away for so long before Mother Nature forces our eyes to come back into focus. She is meticulously touching each of us or someone we love, directly. We are living our future now. Yet, as a country, for the most part, we still want to shut our eyes. It feels easier, even in the moment, to rest, to look away. Similarly, with COVID19, if we pretend it isn’t so bad, or that the science isn’t settled, we can close our eyes and forget. Yet, as we close our eyes to the facts, so many are suffering.
My husband is an oncologist. The cancer center where he works has stayed open every single day during the COVID19 pandemic. He and his colleagues are trying so hard to ensure that their patients, who are among the most vulnerable, remain as safe as they possibly can, so that they can continue to see their doctors and get treated; because they must. This past spring, the hospital set up an emergency COVID ward in the staff cafeteria. Many staff members were sick, some died, and most were and remain highly stressed. They, like my husband, continue to worry about their patients, themselves and their families. In our home in the spring, my husband would change his clothes before he entered; his clothes would be washed that day – as if we could wash away the sickness that surround him and all of us. We would say hello when we greeted one another, but we would not kiss or hug as we had done every day, for more than 20 years. My husband felt he was protecting me – and in a warped way, I felt protected too. We still lived in the same house, ate together, slept in the same room, yet we created an artificial barrier. We now kiss and hug when we greet one another, and he doesn’t automatically change out of the clothes he wore to work. But, with COVID infections rising across the country and our region, I wonder what new hoops we will set for ourselves, as fresh rules are set in our city, in my husband’s place of work, and in all of our lives. We can be as careful as we can, and things still happen.
No matter what turns our lives take, it is important to point out to our children and to remind ourselves that science matters, telling the truth matters, even if it’s painful. And by not telling the truth we are all suffering in innumerable direct and indirect ways. It’s past time that we demand that our elected leaders, our family members, our colleagues and our friends listen, hear and act on science – there is too much at stake not to.
A heartfelt and personal note of thanks, from me, to all our Climate Mamas and Papas. I am so thankful for each one of you in our ClimateMama community, for keeping my climate hope, alive and growing.
Be well this Thanksgiving season. Hold your family close, even if that means you are holding them from a distance on a zoom call, or feeling your love for them in your heart rather than in your arms. There will be time when we are physically together again, and we will remember this time and make that time more precious.
Your Climate Mama,
Photo Credit: Graffiti Thanks, Samuel Regan-Asante, Unsplash
Photo Credit: In this House, Robin Jonathan Deutsch, Unsplash
Photo Credit: Crossroads, Justin Luebke on Unsplash