The Coach is In — and it’s crunch time for the climate.
I grew up in Gettysburg when the CO2 concentration was 325 ppm (parts per million). I would wander through the fields behind my house, collecting arrowheads, playing with box turtles, scaring pheasants, and pretending that the picnic table was a boat and I would sail away in my imagination to distant lands and safe places. When I wanted to be alone, I would go to the forest behind the field to climb trees and wade in the creek. I was happiest in my own imaginary world surrounded by nature.
When the CO2 concentration was 333, we moved to a Philly suburb where there was more suburban sprawl and fewer open fields, but my backyard was an oasis of trees, plants, birds, and wildlife and I allowed myself to be a wild member of the fauna. My dad and I hiked parts of the Appalachian trail, watched migrating birds at Hawk Mountain, and hung out on the porch watching thunderstorms.
When I became pregnant with my daughter in February when the CO2 ppm was 373, my doctor told me casually to remember to take my multivitamin and to not eat any fish, especially in my first trimester. I can’t eat fish? If the mercury levels are too high in fish to eat when I am pregnant, what is it doing to us the rest of the time?
I soon discovered Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey To Motherhood. Biologist Sandra Steingraber explains through her personal journey how our toxic environment threatens every stage of human development. I was overwhelmed with all I was reading. I kept talking about fish and the environment to everyone, but no one seemed to care, or if they did care, they felt there was nothing they could do. I couldn’t figure out why we were all not protesting and screaming, “Oh my god! We can’t eat fish!!! We have to do something!!!” Even in my crunchy granola groups, moms just shook their heads.
My son was born when the CO2 was 384 ppm, and I had learned to keep my mouth shut in playgroups. I panicked in silence. Parenthood was exhausting, and I was juggling work and aging parents, too, so I had many distractions to keep me from focusing on climate change. Everyone I knew was doing the same.
Fast forward to today, when the CO2 averages over 417 ppm and rises at about 2 ppm yearly. 🤯🤯🤯
My kids and I sit around the living room talking. At 20 and 15, climate change is a big part of their present and future reality. They are jaded. They would say they are realists. They discuss the wildfire smoke from Canada and wonder when more will return. They talk about bleached coral, beached whales, Lahaina, rising sea levels, icebergs bigger than buildings floating by Canadian coastal towns, dangerous weather patterns, and choosing not to have children (not to have my grandchildren!).
I bring up that there are things we can do to save the planet. My son rolls his eyes, and my daughter frowns. “The planet will go on. Once humans are gone,” she reminds me.
When I was my daughter’s age (346 ppm) I was touring Europe on a Eurail pass, waking up in a different city and often a different country each night. I was dancing on the beach, and playing guitar on the roof of youth hostels. When I was my son’s age (333 ppm) I was in the theater club, attending summer camp, and being sleepless at slumber parties. I was not wondering how long the planet would be viable.
The present atmospheric concentration of CO2 is the highest for 14 million years. Can you fathom that? Millions of years? It’s hard for me to wrap my head around it truly.
Every day since my children were little, I think about climate change. I contemplate what matters most, and how I can make the greatest impact. I ferociously recycle, I rarely fly, I feed my kids organic food when possible, and I prioritize buying local. Still, I often doubted if anything I did really mattered.
As a life coach, I help people find their way. My job is to be a channel through which you can find yourself. Martha Beck says, “Be the window, not the door.” I ask questions that help you discover what you really want. My job is not to lead you or tell you what to do. I do, however, have a few exceptions to that rule. Climate change is one of them.
In my culture (we all get to decide what our personal culture is), I follow a solutionary approach and share this with everyone who works with me. Zoe Weil defines a Solutionary as “a person who identifies inhumane, unsustainable, and unjust systems and then develops solutions that are healthy and equitable for people, animals, and the environment. When solutionaries seek to solve a problem, they identify all who are impacted by the problem and the systems that perpetuate it. This includes all people, other species, and the environment.” My coaching and my life are based on solutionary practices.
We know the answer to climate change. What we need to accomplish to get out of our dire situation is not a mystery. The solution to climate change is simple, but not easy. The answer lies in community and soil. I am not so naïve that I think this transition can be made without multiple industries and countries working together, but this gives us a direction. Now, we need to work on the how.
Build Community. Regenerate the soil. Carbon is not the problem if we maintain a symbiotic relationship. We are the problem. Healthy soil is full of carbon. A handful of healthy soil has more organisms than people on the planet. The earth is clever. Very clever.
I am not a scientist, please excuse my oversimplified explanation: carbon dioxide goes into the air, and plants slurp it up and pull it into the soil. Millions of insects and microbes break it all down and use it. The problem is that humans forgot to play nice with the rest of nature. We forgot the number one kindergarten rule: sharing. We became the bully.
Our industries pump too much CO2 into the atmosphere, and we have chopped down the trees and tilled and chemically poisoned the earth making it unable to heal. A large portion of the earth is now dry and barren. We are killing the beneficial nutrients in the soil, bees and birds, marine life, and too many species to count.
Instead of water soaking into the soil, it runs off maintaining drought conditions even after it rains. We are stopping plants from doing their job of taking carbon out of the atmosphere and using it. It is like putting our heaping piles of trash on the curb forgetting that we fired the sanitation department.
Build Community. Regenerate the soil. When we rebuild the soil we restore fertility, replenish water sources, and reverse global warming. We have the responsibility- aka the ability to respond. Response-Ability.
When the soil is rich, plant roots grow deep, and the soil is like a sponge and holds onto water. When farmers practice regenerative farming practices, they can restore the soil, making their crops more viable, more vital, and less drought-resistant. And healthier for us to eat. The current research is clear. Farmers can also make more money while restoring the soil.
We have gone far past the point where maintaining and sustaining will save us. There is too much Co2 in the air already. But there is still hope if we think regeneratively.
What is our part? We need to start by talking about it. To everyone. All the time. We need to put the subject on the table at every gathering. We need to talk about it even if we are afraid, even if we feel we do not have all the answers. Like a song or jingle that gets stuck in your head! This attachment won’t happen the first or second time you have a conversation. We all need multiple exposures until it’s commonplace to speak of the environment, to call out the need for change relentlessly so the intention becomes a part of us.
We need it to play in our minds like a jingle:
Build Community. Regenerate the soil.
Start today. We don’t want to wait
Until there is no food available.
Until it is too hot to go outside.
Until more people are displaced.
Until more fires come.
Until you can not breathe.
Right now, look at your child, your neighbor’s child, your younger sibling, your grandchild, your niece or nephew, or any young person, and imagine them asking, “Why didn’t you do anything before it was too late?” Really try to picture the panic and confusion on their faces. Now tell them how you were too busy. That there was nothing you could do! That it was the government, big pharma, corporations…. Imagine what the environment will be like for their children if we continue to do nothing. Ask anyone in Lahaina what they think of changing weather patterns.
In community we still have power! Stop wasting food. Stop buying single-use items. Start conversations. Ask questions. Vote for change. Talk about factory farming. Talk about the soil. Talk about regeneration. Stop saying there is nothing you can do.
Be a solutionary. Keep looking for solutions that work for you, others, and the planet. Talk about it until we create the tipping point. I coach a lot of people with climate anxiety. Building strong communities in these times is the best medicine.
- Read everything by Paul Hawken, especially Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation. And then talk about it.
- Watch the documentary Kiss the Ground. Learn about regenerative farming practices that are life-saving and profitable. And then talk about it.
- Read Soil, the Story of a Black Mother’s Garden by Camille T. Dungy (the intersection of race, climate, and community). And then talk about it.
- Read Emotional Resiliency in the Era of Climate Change by Leslie Davenport (a great read for coaches and therapists). And then talk about it.
There are so many other sources! Find them and share with others. Start conversations. Find a friend or a coach when you feel stressed and need support.
It is not all gloom. I need to remind myself of that constantly. I go out and walk through my garden when I need solace. I have two huge pumpkin plants on my front lawn that I did not plant. Nature delivered them to me. One of them has grown from a crack in the sidewalk and is now over 8 feet and has produced a half dozen giant pumpkins. Nature knows how to persevere.
After getting off a call with a friend in Hawaii, I feel so much gratitude. She is worried about the next storm and is busy mobilizing into action around the needs of people in Lahaina, but she still has the ability to laugh at her wrinkled pants as she heads to a political meeting without bothering to iron them. What I love most about people is their willingness to keep going. Their ability to hold beauty, and grief in the same breath and allow it all to wash over them and keep going forward with love, joy, and connection.
I pass my son as I head out the door and let him know when I will be back home. He lopes up the stairs, juggling three snack bowls, and hollers back, “Ok. Love you!” and I realize, that is all I need to keep going.
Ashana Larsen is a Life Coach, dreamer, hypnotist, and champion for equity and sustainability. What do you want to change today? Plans for every budget, including psychedelic journeys that can unlock memories, creativity, and foster spiritual awareness, healing, and connections at solutionarycoaching.com (follow on Facebook for updates and engaging content). Read Ashana’s last Local column here.