This past summer, I was fortunate enough to go on a backpacking trip in the Emigrant Wilderness area of the Sierra Nevadas in California. It was nice to get out of the house after being stuck in quarantine, not to mention the scenery was beautiful. I went fishing with my dad, and we hiked about 30 miles.
This trip coincided with the beginning of numerous wildfires throughout the state, so I was incredibly lucky to get as much fresh air as I did. But being trapped inside again, this time by smoke, watching my state burn, I felt incredibly grateful to have gone backpacking in the first place.
Naturally, my first thought was about climate change. I thought about how terrible it was that people were losing their homes, and that it would continue to be terrible for years to come considering our current emissions trajectories.
As an environmental science major, I have a vested interest in the environment, to say the least. Climate science is always interesting, but it's not always happy or optimistic. Climate anxiety is a tangible reality for many people across the world today.
In an attempt to escape this fearful state of mind, I was reminded of a speech I’d read from Edward Abbey. Abbey was many things, namely, an environmentalist and a writer. It seems right then that he would have some advice in this regard:
“It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here.”
That backpacking trip reminded me about that passion for nature and the natural processes that are responsible for the world we live in. For the first time in a while, I was compelled to think about why I was so upset. When there’s so much negative news, the emotions can easily become overwhelming, and then burnout and apathy creep in. Just turn off the news, turn off the lights, let me sleep through the next few months.
With the United States election coming up, and emotions running high from a year already filled with public strife, now more than ever, it's imperative to know your beliefs.
It’s important to examine what you believe and why you believe it.
Remind yourself exactly why you joined all those clubs, or are spending thousands of dollars on your degree, or why you feel the need to vote in this, or any, election. What do all those credits and tiny letters in Degreeworks really mean? What does coloring in the circle next to some name on your ballot do? Don’t just fill in the circles because you have to, or even because you should. Ask yourself, “Why am I against this proposition or supporting that candidate?”
As I filled out my mail-in ballot, I found that asking myself why I was voting strengthened my compulsion to vote. Knowing what my own intentions were made everything far more clear. For many people, there are unquestionable, fundamental truths that underpin their view of the world. I’ve got some of those too, like climate change is real and we need to do something about it. It is really easy to get mad or overwhelmed about that specific issue right now, I’ll tell you that. But I'm trying not to get mad or overwhelmed.
I’m trying not to forget what I’m fighting for and why, because I’m so busy fighting for it. In the same speech, Abbey has some more advice on this:
“Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive.”
So, get out there, make change, make your voice heard wherever people will hear it. But don’t do it all the time. Get some sleep, drink some water, turn off the computer and phone for a bit. Maybe go for a hike. I know I would.
Will Mulligan is a reporter for the Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have something to say about this? We’re dedicated to publishing a wide variety of viewpoints and we’d like to hear from you. Voice your opinion in The Beacon.