The challenge of changing with the weather
By Rose Davis, Communications Officer Forest & Bird
Climate change makes the air heavy with guilt.
Filling my car with toxic-smelling petrol is bad enough, without seeing Greta Thunberg’s accusing eyes in my mind or hearing her warning – “how dare you!” – as I disembowel my wallet at the gas station checkout.
Obviously the guilt points to a need to change. Fast. Yet often we don’t change – we squirm.
Guilt fascinates me. The wave of uneasiness as I approach an action that induces guilt. The blind I pull down in my mind to avoid facing my own conscience. The armour of rational arguments I slip into because my guilty pleasures must be justified. I know I’m not alone. I listen to my friends explaining they haven’t had a holiday overseas for years or they know they shouldn’t buy those cheap clothes from China but it’s just so easy.
Every now and then, I experience a moment of bliss when I finally do the right thing and don’t have to face a slimy battle with my higher self any longer. And I notice others glowing with a rush of virtuous pleasure when their beliefs and actions line up at last.
What shifts so I no longer shut down and refuse to hear my guilty thoughts? What transforms me? Sometimes it’s wisdom or willpower, but oddly enough it’s more often serendipity.
Like a few years back, I was driving along in a bit of a daze on a road trip from Waiheke Island to Ruapehu when a cow suddenly ran across the road. I slowed and watched a second cow battling her way over a slightly leaning fence where the first one had broken free. Their desperation struck me as I drew to a stop, wondering what these crazy cows would get up to next.
Then I noticed a farmer towing a trailer cage full of young calves behind his ute. I’m a mother. My heart hurt as I watched two mothers act with a fierce maternal instinct I recognised. No mother takes the theft of her babies lying down.
My daughters were about 11 and 13 years old, but they still drank about a litre of cows’ milk a day. For years, I had pushed back pangs of guilt and reached into the supermarket fridge to buy my kids milk. Never mind that new-born calves died so my babies could suck their mothers’ milk. Never mind that dairy farming was playing a part in making rivers too filthy to swim in when we went camping, or contributing to the increasingly dire storms flooding my neighbourhood. But that night the cows ran across the road in front of us, the milk stopped flowing in our household. Elements of existence seemed to have conspired to spell out a message loud and clear – so I listened.
We’re not vegan – changing for the better is hard for me. We feast on blue cheese and brie every week. But slowly, we have discovered oat milk, rice milk and soy milk are yummier than cows’ milk any day. I’m experimenting with making coconut cream ice-cream and we don’t crave any other kind anymore.
When I change so I’m doing less harm to this gorgeous planet, there’s a sense of relief like a cloud has stopped obscuring the sun. So I’m trying not to close my mind so fast when guilt presses in these days.