How we source our energy will define our future.
This is true for how we power our homes, our travel, our days and nights. Globally, we recognise that in order to survive, the way we power our lives must be sustainable, renewable and inclusive.
Anything less will burn out. Anything less will run out.
Reflecting on these principles, what can we learn about how we power our fight?
Climate activists across the world give us hope that voices are persevering, in passion, hope and power.
(And by activists, I’m not limiting it to those who have the courage and dedication to commit most or all their time to the cause. It's anyone who acts in whatever small way to preserve life and justice. You don't need to call yourself an activist to act.)
For Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, addressing the UN in 2014 with her poem ‘Dear Matafele Peinem’, it was imagining her daughter’s future that inspired her continued struggle. For the thousands of striking students in Australia this week, it was imagining their own.
This energy, this power, resonates through pages and screens, and across the world. It is a collective energy that shines together.
But we all lose energy. We drag. We falter. We lose hope in what we’re doing. We wonder how much harder we can push against the wall of climate denial and apathy. In the face of climate breakdown, we may wonder just when that wall will crash back down on our heads.
Of course the fears are real. They don’t even need to be named - for many in vulnerable countries, they are already real enough. It is mass injustice on a global scale. It is the challenge of our times. Of our lives.
And this potential for disaster could prompt us to act from a place of fear.
We’ve all heard the arguments that come from fear. The apocalypse that’s coming if we don’t change our ways.
As a tool for persuasion, it can be a powerful bucket of ice water to throw over someone who just won’t wake up.
But we ignore what can happen once they do: they freeze.
Energy wholly derived from fear is temporarily powerful but ultimately unsustainable. Fear is like an oil well: dark and secret and buried. It pumps thick liquid dread. It skits in our veins, fizzy and caustic. It makes our actions cautious, reactive and shrill, in terror of any potential outcome.
It is dark and it is finite. It is poor fuel.
We can only handle so much fearful energy before we succumb to paralysis, despair or denial. This despair in turn can drain us, limit us, suck up more of our energy.
Of course the facts are startling. Biodiversity loss. Species genocide. But the fear of what is to come cannot help us recover what is lost.
In fear, we forget the potential of the world we’re fighting for. Fear tells us to fight for survival, that our main aim is to avoid disaster, destruction and death. If our main aim is limitation, we have already conceded.
If we only aim to blur the picture that fills our minds, what room is left to imagine the world we want to live in? And how do we create that world if we can’t imagine it? Too often, revolutions focused on overthrowing the system have no clear concept of the aftermath. What fills the vacuum is chaos.
It will take a special kind of energy to imagine this potential future. One that has the urgency to mitigate impending disaster, but still leaves room to construct the future we need.
If we really want the energy to see this through, we need to fuel ourselves in the same way we want the world to be sustained.
Sustainably. Efficiently. Collaboratively.
That means embracing hope at the same time as we acknowledge fear.
We can only use fear as a spark, not an ongoing flame. The urgency it creates can ignite hope for a future where we value what we know we can no longer afford to lose. Fear and hope are a powerful pair – without one, there is only conceit. Without the other, despair.
Hope that takes action and imagination, that recognises fear whilst maintaining control, has been called many things. Active Hope. Radical Hope. Or just plain courage. Passion, love and justice are the fires we must then hold together to keep it alive.
Never forget that our energy is power. Our energy is powerful.
Now, as individuals and movements, where can we extract this hope?
Shouting the same chant at the same time.
Sharing any success, however small, with others.
Standing on a pocket of wilderness protected for the future.
A clean beach.
A clean breath.
Telling our children, or our friends’ children, we never gave up.
Birdsong. Even if it's your own.
Looking out of your window into the darkness, and knowing wild things still exist.
Thinking, then doing.
Nobody laughing at you anymore.
Your 'anomaly' becoming a force.
Your 'fringe movement' becoming policy.
Above all, justice.
And a many other places besides.
Our vision of sustainable power will only be achieved when we realise that our own power as activists and individuals must also be sustainable, boundless, and able to be passed onto future generations. Our children should not inherit fearful energy.
Our children need visions. They’ll have their own, as they should. But they also deserve adults who believe that there’s a difference between visions and illusions. That fearful imaginings more often produce nightmares than productive dreams. That dreaming is not a crime.
They need to believe that their energy is power. That it is powerful.
That the energy will not run out.