Pillar I - Environmental
Climate anxiety is a real thing and it gets me pretty good on a fairly regular basis. There are more people on this planet than I can fathom. Every one of them has an inherent right to everything I have a right to. I consider myself an almost decent person, but I don’t know if I can combat a personal fear and selfishness for the sake of doing my part in protecting the planet against what we as a species have done to it. I don’t know how we are all going to put our selfishness aside and do the right thing so everyone in this rock can have guaranteed food and clean water and clean air. But I believe we have a responsibility to do it.
Aldo Leopold, an American Forest Serviceman, ecologist, and professor said in 1923 regarding climate change "the first thing to know about cause is whether we are dealing with an 'act of God', or merely with the consequences of unwise use by man". This is a shockingly relevant question for being almost 100 years old. Fringe "scientists" and commenters will say that disasters we are seeing all around us have no link to climate change, call these events unfortunately natural, and deny that human activity has played a deadly role in creating current catastrophes. Unfortunately, almost everyone who studies the data agrees that humans are indeed contributing to current environmental instability. For anyone interested in looking at the data I'm talking about, the EPA has a website that is super accessible and full of lots of reports and articles.
We see the effects of climate change all over our planet, and the effects are not just to the land and animals, but the effects are felt by the most vulnerable among us. Soon, no one will be able to deny that climate change is happening as people with health, wealth, and status begin to feel its effects. None of us can untie ourselves from our dependence on the land.
The Amazon and Australia are ravaged by uncontrollable wildfires, Cape Town, South Africa is still experiencing a water crisis. People lose their lives, their health, and their homes in these disasters. Resources are threatened, people's access to food and water is restricted when lands can no longer be used to produce what is necessary to human life. The mass movement of displaced people and animals goes on to affect economies and the ability of people to make money. Our carbon productions are affecting the atmosphere, we are burning vital parts of intertwined ecosystems with our bare hands. It's honestly hard not to be affected emotionally.
Even here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I see the effects of climate change. Temperatures have been rising steadily for decades, our essential snowpacks are depleting year after year, our reservoirs are shrinking, the Rio Grande is not even a grand trickle some years. We are vulnerable to wildfires, and as an agricultural state, our economy is at risk as water becomes a scarce resource. New Mexico is a place with so much pride and such a deep, rich history that far precedes the founding of the United States. I can't imagine what I would do amid a mass migration from this magical place if the land can no longer support life. I hope I'm long gone if that ever happens. A great, accessible paper on New Mexico climate change data can be found here, and 350 New Mexico is a great resource for facts, outlines of the problem, solutions and ways to get involved in combatting climate change, you can find more information at https://350newmexico.org/.
I'm prone to anxiety and empathy is my superpower, so I'm in a perfect situation to worry about things like this. I haven't been able to turn it off. I don't know a time in my life where I didn't worry about water. Even as a child, I felt the weight of every wasted drop, every leaky faucet, every minute of a shower gone too long. Sometimes, the weight of the worry is so heavy I feel hopeless to do any good. Some days I can't go to bed unless I've thought of all the things I care about in my life that require water and mentally grieve the loss of them all. Sometimes I spend hours researching water desalination and its implications. I know I'm not the first person to feel this way, and I'm so relieved to know that I won't be the last.
On the other hand, sometimes I feel like climate solutions are so tangible and possible that I can't help but be excited about the future. I feel energized by the people around me who care about the things I care about and who are fighting to see a world in a better place. It's not just the professors and students in my Sustainability Studies classes, the protestors, the activists, that give me hope and motivation, it's the "regular people" that are trying to make a difference! Businesses like Cut & Dry Lumber Co (which was just featured in the Albuquerque Journal! Rangewood Reclaimers, Aloe (Albuquerque based furniture restoration and design shop), Noihsaf Bazaar (Instagram based clothing community that posts and sells used, sustainable fashion brands) and artists like Stella Maria Baer who source environmentally friendly materials, minimize waste, and promote environmentally healthy business practices are the people and companies I look up to not only personally, but in the context of Oakenwell as an artistic project and small business.
One of the great things about woodturning is that I can almost always get materials for free, materials that would be taken to the dump or destined to be firewood. I check Craigslist at least once per day to look for those "Free Firewood" posts. I've found some really good green and dry wood from Craigslist and I don't even have to leave my neighborhood. For a beginner who is concerned about waste and guaranteed to be making mistakes, I'm in a pretty safe place to learn how to turn. My reclaimed inlay pieces are also reasonably sustainably sourced, most of them come from thrift stores! I'm especially drawn to the damaged ones that are often overlooked or eventually discarded. So many pieces I've found just need a little bit of sanding and a good inlay and they're good as new, or in my opinion, better than they could have been before.
If sustainability is important to you, and you want to support businesses that value responsible and ethically sourced materials, have conversations with companies you patronize! Make sure you ask where the material is sourced, what their company-wide environmental values are, who is performing the labor, and the company's labor policies and values. Sometimes it's hard to find businesses that value people and the environment over profits and it's hard to walk away from businesses we are used to supporting that don't align with our values, but I know if we can vote our conscience, shop our conscience, eat our conscience more often than not, we can see positive effects that can be felt globally, all starting local and starting small. These are the things that bring me hope and fight my anxiety.
Informative videos about Cape Town's water catastrophe can be found here.