I saw an image recently on television that just seized me inside. It was a little koala, crying. His face and paws were burned, he on the side of the road, just saved from a devastating bushfire.
A victim of climate change.
I saw many images of climate change before. People standing on the top of their roofs as they were escaping a flood or standing by a dry field, with lifeless cobs of corn in their hands. These images also spoke to me. They told me how serious the situation was getting and that it tore apart the lives of those who were vulnerable.
However, no one image have touched me as much as this one did, showing this koala suffering. This was a defining moment. For me and for many others, to wake up to what is really happening as part of climate change. This was a similar moment to when the whole world woke up to the migration crisis. That was also the impact of an image. A three-year old young child washed ashore, dead. His father still alive, his mom and brother not anymore, as their boat capsized on sea. His little soul did not make it through to the other side, he has passed away before reaching the land of promise. The world took a deep breath and was speechless. The image of a vulnerable child’s deadly fate opened its eyes to the horrors of the migration crisis.
The call of the most vulnerable
You could ask, what connects these two, seeing the dead child and the burnt koala? What makes us wake up when we see this? I think that it is the loud and clear call for compassion, to the deepest of our hearts.
We understand, on a primal, instinctive level that children and animals are vulnerable. They cannot speak up or fight or protect themselves. Children though, as small humans, can still hope that adult humans come to save them and as they grow up, they get more and more tools and power to help themselves.
On the other side, animals, and nature in the broader sense, have no opportunity to stand up for themselves, to seek help and are even unaware of the danger that is being brought on them by climate change. They are the most vulnerable to what is going on right now.
As you watch the images of the fires burning in Australia or the dried up Victoria-waterfall, you can realize that we are all affected by this. And by all, I mean the lives of humans, and the lives of all living creatures and all natural systems that sustain them.
We are in this together, this is a joint crisis that effects all sorts. So our compassion should be there for all; for ourselves as humans and also for the most vulnerable who depend on our actions. We often call ourselves the top species and behave as we were above or beyond this world. If we think that we are the rulers, than we are also the guardians. When we realize that we are part of this web of life, then we must see that as the web unravels, so does our life. So if we think that we are a part of it all, then we need to play our part.
I wonder, as the world sees helpless children and animals suffer and die, will the world move to save them? As we realize that it is about everyone, will we move to save us all?
Waking up and taking action
National Geographic reported that ‘this decade, many people around the world woke up to a grim reality: Climate change is here, it’s happening now.’ People woke up as they saw deadly hurricanes and wildfires, such as the one still raging in Australia of which the koala has fallen victim to. ‘The physical patterns of climate change are becoming clearer and clearer. Alongside those physical changes, attitudes are also shifting.’
The most active of all, who are calling to stop this crisis, are children. Young adults. Likely realizing their own vulnerability and grim propects, ‘youth climate activists are gathering, millions deep, to bring attention to their stolen futures’.
One of their leaders is Greta Thunberg, who has just been chosen as Person of the Year by TIME magazine. Greta says, it is in our hands to take action. We can stand up and do what needs to be done. We do not need to wait for our leaders.
At the backdrop of an unsuccessful climate top, the recent COP25 in Madrid, her words ring true. They remind me of the powerful phrase ‘Be your own leader‘. What an energy it creates, as you suddenly have everything in your hand that you ever needed to act. You have your own blessing to go out there and live the way you want to live and make the changes necessary. You only have to look into your eyes and answer your call. No one else’s. This is the energy we need to take action.
Healing ourselves and healing the Planet
Fighting climate change is about compassion – realizing that we, all living beings on this Earth are in this, together. We have the responsibility, the opportunity and the mandate to act – all of us, in our own personal leadership capacity.
Seemingly we have it all to do something about climate change.
How do you look at this? Do you want to act and still feel helpless? Do not know where to start or feel paralyzed?
Here comes the last bit of the puzzle – self-compassion. Understanding yourself and what drives you. A way to look at yourself, as if you would be looking in the mirror and recognizing your own suffering, your own failures and your own negative emotions. Recognizing that you need to heal as you help to heal others and the world. Recognizing that compassion needs to extend to ourselves too.
Where to start? I recommend that you watch the Tedx talk of Irene Shamma, Healing the healer: A promise to the Amazon. Here she talks about her personal journey of reconnecting with nature to act on deforestation, which could give you ideas and ambition. To help you look into the mirror and start to heal, you can read and start to work with Debbie Ford’s book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. Both are of great inspiration to me.
I hope that they will help you to get started or to continue to fight climate change. Let’s show our real self, our deep compassion for all who live on this Earth and act today.
Will we stand up to show our best selves? What will you do?