The Clean Water Blog

Grieve, gather, listen, forgive, speak up, choose hope

This week, many of us who hoped and organized for a different outcome are reeling with shock, numbness anger or despair. We are facing the prospect of environment and energy transition team leaders who hail from the coal and oil industries. The questions of “What next? Where do we go from here? What do I do now?” are on everyone’s mind. And indeed, where do we go from here?

There are half-joking comments that this is the apocalypse.  But to quote a facebook post from close friend of mine, “Our country has made a mistake of unfathomable proportions, but this is not the end.” In fact, we have a long and full road ahead.

First, we grieve together.  I’ve seen a lot of people sharing the slogan “don’t mourn, organize,” and I disagree!  I think we need to mourn.  And in the mourning there can be organizing when we do it together.  Hold someone close, dare to un-numb, let yourself feel the fear, sadness, anger or whatever is hiding behind that numbness, and let it out. Have a good long cry, pound your fists into the bed, or let yourself tremble in fear. However you can, get all that out because holding on to it all will just get in your way.

Pull in your community. Spend time with your family, talk with your neighbors, call your friends, smile at your bus driver. Remember that you are not facing the next days weeks and years alone.

Listen to each other.  Listen to learn. Listen so someone can be heard. Listen so that someone knows that he’s not alone with the fears in his head. Listen so that someone can think aloud and get to clarify her next steps. Listen to your children, your partner, your friends, your neighbors, the grocery store clerk, your co-workers.

Practice compassion and forgiveness.  Everyone is under a lot of stress this week. Everyone will be under a lot of stress for the foreseeable future.  Remember that and be the one to brush it off and respond with compassion when someone snaps at you, or forgets something, or in any way appears to you to fall short of perfection.

Use your voice. When you see racism, sexism, islamophobia and other oppressions playing out; when clean water is threatened; when the fight against climate change is interrupted; when war is imminent – don’t go quiet, speak up. Your voice is needed. 

Fight discouragement.  For everyone who cares about ending of climate change, racism and all injustice, this election is a big loss. But we know that the fight for a rational future is a long term fight. And that long term fight is fueled by hope. Recently, a campaign I worked hard on was lost to inertia in the state legislature and the same good friend said to me, “the campaign is important, but the fight that really matters is the fight against discouragement in people’s minds.”  So make a decision not to give in to the discouragement in your mind and help others to do the same.

Instead, choose hope.  Let’s face it, approaching the future with a hopeful perspective is the most interesting option.  And there are lots of reasons to be hopeful.  The climate change denial, the racism, the prioritization of profits over people – those have been here the whole time.  Now they’re just more visible and out in the open. And so is people’s determination to keep those things from running our country and our future.

Finally, repeat all the previous steps as often as needed. That’s where I’m going from here. I hope you’ll join me.