In California, many are now considering what only a few years ago was unthinkable: In a time of accelerating fossil-fueled climate impacts, how much longer will we stay? And as ever more human beings are forced to navigate the dual emotions of grief about all we’re losing and anxiety about how we keep ourselves and our communities safe, how do we also maintain a focus on stopping the planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions that are causing this catastrophe in the first place, and keep it from getting worse?
First, if you are considering uprooting your life because of climate change, let that sink in. Let that reality, a scenario that was likely inconceivable to you just a few years ago, radicalize you to the all-encompassing scope, scale and urgency of this existential, all-encompassing crisis.
Process the emotion of it all: that in the year 2021, the climate crisis changed your life personally, fundamentally and permanently. Let the emotion fuel the ferocity of your action. For my family, San Francisco, the place that we loved and built community — the place where my daughter was born and my son learned to ride a bike — brought health impacts from smoke that in the end were too much for our set of circumstances. The only useful way that I have managed to deal with that grief is to use it to remind myself and others of the reality of this crisis and all that’s at stake.
Second, like it or not, you’ll represent what the future may hold for whatever town you may choose to move to — an early warning for communities that have yet to experience the direct and devastating effects of the climate crisis.
Use your climate story to sound the alarm to others about the urgency of our unfolding planetary emergency. Don’t make this move in silence. Broadcast the reality of it to mobilize everyone you can. Do it loudly. Do it everywhere.
Ultimately, we’ll all realize that there is no such thing as a climate-safe place, only places with different climate-related impacts, unfolding on different timescales, to differently-equipped people, interconnected in ways we can’t begin to fathom.
At this pivotal moment in human and planetary history, the question for us cannot only be, “Where might I be safe?” but also, “Where might I be of most use?” This is no time for the most privileged among us to insulate ourselves inside our climate havens. This is a time to open our arms wide, contributing and engaging in every way we can to the global effort to reimagine everything about the way we inhabit this planet. A time to find a way, despite the odds, to come back into balance with the earth’s exquisitely interconnected — and still living — natural systems.