kumbaya and climate change: how the warming planet could warm our hearts

I like running. No, let me rephrase that—I love running. After a solid morning run, I find that I’m more productive throughout the day, I feel better about what I eat, and I’m able to relish in the soreness knowing that I’ve done something that makes me feel better.

What I don’t love, however, is my tendency to do nearly anything and everything to avoid going for a run. I may wake up on the wrong side of the bed. I may feel that I don’t have enough time to spare for 20 minutes around the block. I may have blisters or other unexplainable ‘injuries.’ I may be too sick/tired/bored/lazy/busy/hungry to devote the time I’ll spend on Facebook to doing something actually good for myself. Simply put, I focus on all the things I dread about running instead on how amazingly good I’ll feel as a result.

Here’s the thing—we’re all like this. We all focus on the obstacles presented to us without prioritizing the benefits. We tend to moan and groan about the 6:30 am wake-up for work without contemplating all the things we’re able to do with the money earned during the day. Our minds are filled with thoughts about french fries and ice cream when we have to ‘suffer’ through quinoa or broccoli—without any consideration for the physical, mental, and sometimes financial health benefits we’ll gain by eating something that’s actually good for us. We’re quick to see the bad in people, situations, or circumstances without appreciating the yin to each yang, or the shimmery silver lining of the darkest cloud.

This way of dealing with the problems life presents us can be seen a lot today, particularly when it comes to climate change. We are quick to feel anger, repulsion, fear, and downright depression when considering the current and future threats brought about by global warming.

When dealing with the 107F/42C heat wave experienced in Melbourne yesterday, I was quick to feel helpless when thinking about temperatures like this becoming all too common in a world with an anthropogenically changing climate. Similarly, my blood pressure rises like the sea level when I hear about global leaders sticking their head in the sand to avoid dealing with environmental calamities. It’s all too easy to narrow our focus on the horrible and distressing aspects of a warming planet.

But what if we reframe the way that we attempt to deal with the greatest problem ever faced by humanity by instead referring to it as the greatest opportunity ever presented to the people living on this planet?

What if we think of climate change as a 10K? We may experience blisters, we may argue with friends and family about it, and we may hate every single second of the race, but there’s a chance that we—along with the thousands of other runners with us—may actually cross the finish line feeling better than we did before we started.

Not that I would totally argue against doing it, but I don’t want to come across as someone advocating for a worldwide circle of hand-holding. That being said, however, climate change does gift the world with a unique opportunity. It provides us with a chance to consider our neighbors—both in the non-airconditioned house down the street and on the Pacific island thousands of kilometers away. It allows humans to take the time to consider non-human species and our role in saving the 10,000 species that go extinct every year. It presents a way for countries and individuals who are better off to provide tangible and essential support to other nations and communities. It is arguably the one ‘problem’ that welcomes actions by literally anyone and everyone. It transcends age to situate younger generations (as young as 11!) as influential activists and change-makers.

Ultimately, it’s a way for you and me to leave a permanent mark on the world, to do something that could positively impact the future generations of the earth.

Climate change may be daunting and scary, but it may also be exactly what we need to change the world and how we live and care for each other. The planet is warming, there’s no doubt about it. We could either feel anxious and angry and scared about it or we could lace up our running shoes and come together to save ourselves and the planet.

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