Katie Rock

We need to build community around an attitude of hope and action, and create a culture of healing, nurturing, mending, creating and justice. In the face of so much destruction, it is a radical attitude to hold.

In the fight against climate change we are bound to feel distressed and disheartened at times. We’ve been through so many challenges already, just in the past year, and as we move forward we should resist numbing ourselves to reality. We need to build community around an attitude of hope and action, and create a culture of healing, nurturing, mending, creating and justice. In the face of so much destruction, it is a radical attitude to hold.

As Campaign Representative of the Sierra Club’s Iowa Beyond Coal Campaign, I am not immune to moments of hopelessness but have no problem setting them aside in order to address climate change. We are part of a national campaign pushing for the retirement of the U.S. coal fleet by 2030, and my role is to ensure that Iowa’s coal plants retire on that timeline. Many people think since coal is no longer the cheapest form of energy, the market will move away from coal power on its own, but this is not the reality. Global retirement of coal is just one action needed to meet the goals set by both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Paris Climate Accords. It is a major feat, but we can do hard things. I stay motivated knowing that I am not alone in striving toward this singular goal, every day.

We still have time to fight climate change. But our leaders need to stop relying solely on market-based approaches in the shift from fossil fuels, and focus on approaches that are centered on community investments and justice. In doing so, our government would show us the full possibility of living in a climate-resilient future. Each of us play a part in setting forth a vision about how we can deal with climate change. When my son’s glove split completely open this winter, I took a needle and thread to it and it felt so good to fix just one broken thing. That was one tiny thing I can do as a mom to set the right attitude for others in the face of grief and despair, particularly around climate change. I try to embody this attitude in each of my roles every day, and I know that it can be even more powerful when adopted by our leaders. 

Looking back on 2020, I realize I had numbed myself to what was happening week by week. Each time I’ve done this to cope with hardship in the past, it’s only in hindsight that I recognize how I had desensitized myself as a way to deal with adversity, and to protect myself and those I love. But this comes with a cost. We miss an opportunity to name and face our hardships. Numbing ourselves to a harsh reality is a survival strategy in the moment, but we risk missing the little changes happening every day and recognizing real growth as it happens. When we finally leave our own protective fog, the pain, anger and grief we blocked suddenly hit like a wave. We may wonder why we ever accepted what was happening, we wish we had acted differently and feel a new wave – one of regret. I fear that we are numbing ourselves to the harsh reality of climate change in 2020 too. Are we getting too accustomed to warmer winters and extreme summer temperatures? The intense storms that decimate entire towns seem unique to us now, but if we numb ourselves to it we block ourselves from growing into a more resilient community.   

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