The honor I feel in these awful times


My man, Glen Retief.

Are you Afraid?

I hear this a lot from friends and people I meet as I travel around.

You read a lot about climate change and the social justice threats on a rapidly warming planet. You read the science about what is going on–Does it frighten you? Are you afraid?

I can say I am concerned. So concerned that I took a year off to study climate science. These days I spend almost all of my time devising creative ways to get people see they have skin in the game. I work hard to convince them they have the power to make a difference.

Yes, I see risks ahead, more suffering in the world, climate instability. These are serious issues. But typically I do not feel gripped with fear. I am concerned but not frightened.


Open ceremonies of National Museum of African American History and Culture

What is the opposite of fear?

Instead I feel: What an honor to be one of the people on the planet today. What an honor to join in with fellow earthlings to pursue solutions, not simply to avoid a catastrophe, but to work together to make the world a more stable, just, and peaceful place. It is an awful honor in ways, but one all the same to be not only witnesses to these vast global changes, but to also be able to take part in looking after each other as we provoke our specie to be humane in a time of climate change.

img_5427And strange as it may seem, I feel hope and faith–particularly in humans. I know it is the default setting these days to expect the worse in everyone. We have carved out our lives into warring camps. It is easy to lose confidence in government (corrupt! rigged! dysfunctional!)

Looking ahead and behind

But in addition to looking ahead to what the future may hold for us, I also study history. I look at how our ancestors faced massive challenges. They never responded perfectly. They made mistakes. At times there were outright abuses by some. But so often they rose to the challenge. They acted in extraordinary ways. They committed extreme acts of humanity.

I do not feel fear. I feel hope. I feel determination. I feel honored to be on the planet today. And I feel confidence that you will be historically significant in these strange and uncertain days ahead.


This post has 2 Comments

  1. Chris Wiegard on November 1, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    In the science fiction novel “Dune”, there is a scene in which the young protagonist must put his hand into a box while a poisoned needle is held to his throat. In refusing to pull his hand out, he passes the test and is allowed to live. “fear is the mind killer”- he is told.

    Fear can actually help us make a choice to survive, or it can degenerate into panic that causes us to fail. We have been afraid of climate change for over twenty years. It is time for that fear to drive us to act. If we refuse to act on our reasonable fear, that fear will drive us into panic. It will then be game over.

  2. Peterson Toscano on November 2, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Thanks for the comment, Chris. Yes, fear is a tricky thing. It can motivate us to act quickly. Fight or Flight. I know for climate advocates it can give us the necessary shocks to keep on the path and focused on doing the work we must do. But for those not yet convinced about the seriousness of climate change, studies reveal it can have the opposite effect and actually drive people away.

    Fear is one of the many tools we have and can use wisely. For my part I check in with the studies that look at impacts. They are terrifying and motivate me to act. But then I am already motivated. Still for me I cannot live in a state of constant alarm. It messes with my brain. In these bizarre days of climate change, I guess we are all learning how to manage and balance living with fear with being crushed by it.

    Thanks for all your many contributions and your support for what I do.

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