Here's my take on climate shame

I’m packing for a trip. Tomorrow morning I leave for a ten day work trip to the Caribbean. We’re running a pilot for the environmental education program I’ve been working on for the last year. It’s a project I have poured blood, sweat & tears into. Something that (I really hope) has the potential to make a dent - a way to engage kids in the environmental issues we’re facing with optimism & curiosity. I haven’t seen the finished print workbook yet - it’s being couriered to the airport tomorrow morning in London so I can grab them before I get on my next flight.

I’m feeling relieved, excited, nervous and …. guilty.

The relief is understandable - it’s been a long, and at times, arduous mission (we were on version 26 when we went to print). I’m excited because up until this point I’ve not really given myself permission to think about the next phase of this project - and now I can start that work, and I’m psyched for it. I’m nervous because - what if no one likes it? What if it turns out to be dreadful? What if kids just aren’t into it (cue me falling down the rabbit hole of panic)?

But the guilt is the most interesting feeling of all.

Why guilt? Because I’m about to jump on a flight to go deliver education about climate change.

It’s somewhat ironic no? And yet when I delve into it further I ask myself, is it true guilt or is it a fear of being shamed? A fear of being judged. Ugh, this is hard to write. There’s a part of me that’s screaming ‘shut up Linz, you probably don’t need to say this out loud’ but hey, that’s not really my style. I’d rather get this out and then have a conversation about it.

So yeah, when I’m super honest it’s not guilt. It would be more socially acceptable if I told you about my climate guilt. If I said I was grappling with the idea of having to get on a long flight whilst trying to protect the planet. And of course, I feel it. But actually what I’m talking about today is the fear of being judged. The fear of people thinking I’m doing a shitty job as an environmentalist. The idea that someone, somewhere is dismissing my work because of the way I’m about to deliver it.

Here’s why I’m feeling like this - As society at large has become more aware of the environmental issues we’re facing, we’ve also become really good at judging, shaming & blaming people. In our attempts to make ourselves feel better we push the blame around and in the process (whether we’re doing it consciously or not) get a little self-righteous hit of ‘I’m-doing-a-better-job-of-saving-this-planet-than-you’.

I get it - I really do. There’s a whole heap of behaviour that needs to drastically change in order for us to shift on to the right track. But I’m curious as to how useful this shaming & blaming really is. The reality for most folk who work in the sustainability space is that we are acutely aware of where we’re screwing up. We’re feeling a sense of climate guilt pretty much 24/7. And so when, on top of that, we add a fear of being judged - well, it’s enough to make you go completely incognito and not share anything about your work.

There’s a Roosevelt quote that resonates with me more than any other. One that I lean on when times are tough.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

And I guess I’m leaning on it now. Roosevelt was on point when he said ‘It is not the critic who counts’- and Brene Brown, in her book ‘Daring Greatly’ suggests that we shouldn’t pay too much attention to the folk in the cheap seats of the arena, who are eagerly throwing their judgement our way. We should in fact, be paying attention to those who stand alongside us, in the arena. Whose faces are also marred by dust and sweat and blood. It is their opinions that matter most.

In the last few years I’ve had the privilege of working alongside a whole bunch of incredible environmentalists, ocean conservationists & change makers - and here’s what I’ve learnt: No one is doing it perfectly. There is no one single solution that will get us out of this mess. We need scientists, creatives, entrepreneurs, technologists and everything in-between. We need everyone to do their best.

And in order to support one another, we need to be nice human beings. Who’s with me ?