There’s Only One Self-Help Book You Ever Need to Read
Margaret Klein Salamon has some advice for you:
Use your imagination to explore what it will feel like while civilization is collapsing: No water coming from the tap; not knowing whether to stay or go; mass starvations and migrations growing.
She has some more advice:
Stop hiding from the news. Stop distracting yourself from the death of the planet with cheap thrills and toxic wealth fantasies. Stop shaming teens when they cry on TikTok.
Most importantly, stop blaming the deteriorating state of our collective mental health on things like doomscrolling and fearmongering. According to Salamon, that’s not our problem. We feel dead inside because we’re ignoring the truths right in front of us. We’re shirking our responsibilities to the planet and each other.
As she puts it:
Why would we expect to feel good, and good about ourselves, while we are a part of killing all life on Earth, including ourselves and everyone we love?
It’s time to do some real self-help
Believe it or not, Margaret Klein Salamon’s Facing The Climate Emergency is a self-help book. I read it quickly during the early-middle pandemic, not long after it came out, but it stayed with me.
It changed my life.
Now I’m reading it again. The words resonate even more, especially given what we’ve seen this last year. The climate wars turned hot. The world’s rivers dried up. Floods covered a third of Pakistan. Old diseases started striking back, and new ones swept the globe. An entire U.S. city lost its drinking water for two entire months.
A billion snow crabs starved.
I could go on…
Margaret Klein Solomon gives the opposite advice you’d find in all those self-help books. She says don’t hide from the news. That’s what she did for years. It didn’t help. It made things worse.
Margaret’s therapist didn’t tell her to tune everything out and focus on her happiness. Nope, her therapist told her to start finishing those articles and educating herself on the things she was so terrified of. So she did, and it made her a more balanced person.
She faced her fears.
She built up her emotional resilience. She got to a place where she could process her anger, her fear and sadness, and most importantly, her grief over the future she was planning.
From there, Margaret went on to truly improve herself, learning about how to ditch the hyper-individualist, consumerist culture that constantly tells us to ignore the collapse happening all around us, simply in order to keep us producing and consuming for the super-rich. As I’ve said many times now, that doesn’t help anyone.
It’s not self-help at all.
You are not a “doomer”
Re-reading Margaret Klein Salamon has also helped me come to terms with all the trash and mudslinging at doomsayers over the past year. Salamon says we’re living in a time of emergency.
We’re living in a time of crisis.
It does nobody any good to pretend we’re not living in a time of emergency. If anything, it does great harm. It does emotional harm. It does spiritual harm. Passivity will kill us.
As she says:
The claims that “fear doesn’t work” are not only patronizing and cynical; they have also been devastating in terms of mounting any real and timely response to the crisis. They are not supported by evidence. Further, the hollow optimism and positive messaging have tripped the public’s bullshit detector. People can tell when they are being given a canned message rather than the candid truth. We know, with varying degrees of conscious awareness and intellectual understanding, that the Earth’s systems are deteriorating — and rapidly.
As for calling everyone a doomer…
That’s bullshit, too.
True climate doomers are the ones who say we’re all screwed beyond redemption, so we might as well give up and do nothing. Hardly anyone is saying that. When teens cry on TikTok, they’re not dooming. They’re begging their communities to stand up and do something. They’re channeling their raw emotions.
They are, in fact, doing exactly what Margaret Klein Salamon suggests. That’s what I’m doing, and it’s what The U-man is doing. Say what you will about him, he puts it all out there.
If you’re really interested in improving yourself, then it’s time to be honest and demand emergency action.
Start doing things.
We’re living in an emergency
A year ago, Scientific American finally declared:
There’s no other way to put it.
13,000 scientists agree.
We’re out of time. We don’t have until 2050. Every day matters now. Everyone should be imagining what societal collapse will mean for them personally, and they should be thinking about what they can do both as individuals and as part of a collective.
These superficial exercises in self-awareness and gratitude are worthless if they can’t motivate us to save the most important thing. It doesn’t matter how rich you are if you’re going to wind up having to spend all of your money on simple food and water. It doesn’t matter how positive you are if you’re living in constant denial.
It doesn’t even matter if we can “stop” it now. That’s an irrelevant question. We know that every single action we take can make things better, or they can make things worse.
Nobody is perfect. Nobody can save the world 24 hours a day, and nobody expects anyone else to do that.
Nobody can immediately extricate themselves from the web of hyper-individualism and consumerism that has robbed us of ourselves, and our planet. Doing that is going to take the rest of our lives. The sooner we get started, the better.
We can just try.
Start improving yourself for real
Real personal growth isn’t about what you say.
Real positivity isn’t about beating up on doomers in order to justify your own inaction and wishful thinking.
If you want to improve yourself, do what Margaret Klein Salamon says. Get used to crying. It’s healthy. It’s good for you. Get in touch with all the negative emotions you’ve been taught to repress.
Learn about the collapse happening around you. Welcome your negative emotions, and then get off your ass and start trying to do something about it. If you can afford it, get solar panels or some other kind of alternative energy source. Start learning how to conserve water and electricity. Change your diet, not just for yourself, but for everyone’s sake. Start a garden, even if you suck at growing things.
Read about climate change. Start with Margaret’s book. Then get Regeneration, by Paul Hawken. They go together.
That’s what all the grownups are doing.