This morning, I stood in front of a sun-filled window butt naked and called that my Earth Day activity. It is fifty degrees (it was 70 yesterday) in the city today, and I am thinking more inward. This isn’t just today’s event. This past year plus of a pandemic, and fears of scarcisity about, had me think a lot about climate and sustainability as deeper inner factors of our lives. For so very long, my relationship to sustainability was rooted in conscious choices. I now believe that position was incorrect. We need Earth to be well and good, but if the people are divided and economically so disproportionate, what does it matter? Sure, we can make choices that may pick up the weight of others, but the larger impact is still there. Two things must constantly exist at once.
I have never been more in my body. Whether it has been exercising or seeing that very fine line of well and unwell. A line of net and no net. Last winter in the height of the pandemic when I went grocery shopping for elders in my neighborhood, I realized something; their worries were simply about sustaining. They didn’t care if the milk was organic, or if I got two boxes of rigatoni or one. They somehow were sure that if I got one box they could stretch it into the week using generational leftover methods. They didn’t care that I went over my money for the cost, as long as I didn’t go over their money for the cost, because they couldn’t afford even a dollar more.
When shelves were empty, the elderly held onto the rolls they had and traded what they could with neighbors. I worried endlessly about the kids in public housing near me. I furiously texted with friends about food lines at the Barclays Center. I’m not sure any of it solved anything.
On the contrary, just like you, I saw how folks gathered around Zoom for weekly workout classes, and how those of us that could, focused more on what we did and how we consumed things around our home. When I think of the spirit of Earth Day and all that she does, I think of these things. I think of the vast waters, mountain hills, and the places I want my kids to visit one day. But the space between what happens in our backyard and what happens across the ocean is far smaller than we often believe.
Sarah Jaquette Ray recently wrote,
“The prospect of an unlivable future has always shaped the emotional terrain for Black and brown people, whether that terrain is racism or climate change. Climate change compounds existing structures of injustice, and those structures exacerbate climate change. Exhaustion, anger, hope—the effects of oppression and resistance are not unique to this climate moment. What is unique is that people who had been insulated from oppression are now waking up to the prospect of their own unlivable future.”
Here’s a list of things that I’m thinking of and purchasing, when it comes to easing my own climate footprint:
Why yes, it is as simple as taking public transportation if possible. But it also means riding your bike, using bike shares, using recently reinstated community compost pick-up, and even just sharing your views on it for readers and for family. I’ve been so inspired by folks who join their local mutual aid groups, invite others, and get in their community. While Mutual Aid has been a cornerstone of sustaining Black life for generations, I hope the overwhelming use of it by all people as a way to support our neighbors, sticks.
Going public also includes eating local. This not only means dining at your favorite restaurants, it means switching to local foods that are readily available to your state. If food has to travel less to your kitchen, that equals less carbon emissions. Bonus: it’s fresher. We go to our local farmers market weekly, and many of my friends shop at their local CSA. Of course, there are food deserts (racism), but I’ve been encouraged by community fridges that are filled by neighbors and are free to whomever may need. The kids and I have made filling them an activity. Speaking of public, there are companies on a mission to teach residents of public housing how to not only grow their own food, but build a sustainable horticultural career. Maybe you can support them?
If you’ve been here long enough, you know that I often repeat clothes. Wearing them in a different way allows me room to be creative, but also allows my mind and heart room to be at ease with their lifecycle. For adults, I love local vintage stores, The Real Real, and little shops on Etsy. I’ve also noticed that a few bigger companies are making sure they add a pre-loved section on their website for folks looking to spend less money and lessen their overall footprint. For the kids, we just purchased cute things at The Playground store, which often tie dyes jeans, socks and t-shirts, making pre-loved kids clothes unique and fun. One of my favorite children shops with plenty of options is Smallable. Recently, the kids have been cycling through clothes like crazy, so we’ve been gathering their things, putting them in reusable bags and leaving them on the stoop. The bags are always gone within minutes! A good selection of their “new” things are pre-loved by dear friends.
Of course, I don’t always have the right answer when it comes to clothes, so I often tap into the stories of The Slow Factory, that balance all of these thoughts so clearly.
Finally, I like to think how simple and how complex the basic rules of life are, especially during a pandemic. It takes a lot to provide for a family. It takes even more effort and room to think of what, how, who, and when. Capitalism, which we all participate (and benefit) under, is the biggest climate crisis we face. I believe it is impossible to dig ourselves out of these identities without truly undoing and giving room simultaneously. Years ago, I couldn’t pay my rent. I grew up not having these conversations, except only hoping that basic needs were met. My story isn’t an anomaly. My adult way of thinking (fundamentally supported by being an adult and a movement in class) requires a gauge of my own relationship to moral purity. Earth is a giver, and there’s so many ways we can be part of sustaining her and all the creatures who call her home.
In terms of climate anxiety, I’ve been thinking of this piece from Sarah’s essay, “Instead of asking “What can I do to stop feeling so anxious?”, “What can I do to save the planet?” and “What hope is there?”, people with privilege can be asking “Who am I?” and “How am I connected to all of this?” The answers reveal that we are deeply interconnected with the well-being of others on this planet, and that there are traditions of environmental stewardship that can be guides for where we need to go from here.”
Hoping you had a wonderful Earth Day!
(Graphics by Grace)