I stopped engaging with the news in the midst of the 2020 pandemic due to the seemingly endless despair I felt for the world we are living in. At the time, this was the best choice I could make for my mental health and for my capacity to dream up the liberated futures available to us beyond the despair being funneled through the media. I was at peace here and felt I could live the rest of my life giving my energy and awareness to hope and possibilities only.
That mindset changed when I was in California getting my permaculture design certificate. Over 240 wildfires began to spread across Canada, and the toxic smoke blanketed most of the East Coast. I found out about the fires through a Facebook post days after they’d begun and called my loved ones immediately to check in. My time in California exposed me, for the first time, to ecological threats beyond human control as my classmates and teachers shared their experiences and insights around fire prevention and disaster preparedness. A couple of weeks before the fires, I shared that where I lived in Canada, natural disasters were uncommon, so I’d never had to think about ecological threats. My limited experience and awareness made me believe that safety was a given. When that veil lifted, I feared that my loved ones would underestimate how dangerous wildfire smoke was because they’d never experienced it before, and I was right. Many continued living as normal, the smoke reminding them of nothing more than the delightful smell of bonfires until their lungs became irritated days later.
Ignorance is bliss, until it is not. This experience humbled me in a necessary way. For the first time, I had to face the limitations of my climate privilege, the depth of my own despair about the changing world, and how this had to transform my role as a climate-repair activator and as a human being alive in this moment. My commitment to imagining and building a world beyond the one that we have inherited was powerful, but it was also limited by looking at the world as it is from the corner of my eye. I realized that while holding the deep truth of what is possible is necessary for our survival, our most powerful dreams of a new way forward can remain unreachable utopian ideals, rather than tangible possibilities, when they don’t encompass the full truth of what is being lived right now. This year alone, Canada has experienced over 6,000 wildfires, and the numbers are expected to increase for the next few decades.
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Sydney Searchwell-Simpson is an Earth listener, writer, and abolitionist committed to speaking from love and using her voice for truth. Her creations are grounded in serving the world to bring forth collective liberation and unity within and among our relations. Her hope is that our communities unite to take joyous and fierce responsibility for a liberated world and our ways of living and loving so that they may honor those of the past, those in the present, and those yet to come.
Mercy For Animals is proud to support Sowing Seeds as a People’s Fund grantee and grateful for their partnership in our mission to end industrial animal agriculture by constructing a just and sustainable food system.
*This article was written by a grantee of The People’s Fund and reflects her original thoughts and perspective. All questions or impressions of her work can be directed to her online platform.