When I was an undergraduate at Yale, I experienced a latent anxiety about climate change. But I did not act on this anxiety; this campus felt like its own neatly contained world and bringing climate change into daily conversations felt irrelevant, even impolite. It was as though I and everyone around me were living in a state of double consciousness: both aware and living as though we were not aware, making plans for a future that was preposterously unstable.

But almost as soon as I left Yale, this co-created illusion fell apart. After I graduated in 2015, I read book after book, article after article, all citing the world’s best climate scientists, and still felt I must be misunderstanding, overreacting or hysterical. I did not understand the silence all around me — even in the most liberal, climate science-accepting communities. No one seemed to talk about it or acknowledge the problem that undermined the premise of nearly everything we did.

I spent the year after graduation trying to understand climate science, but also trying to understand my own sense that discussing it remained a taboo. I still am. Being back in New Haven, I am confronted daily with the contrast between the narratives about my future that I received at Yale, and the way I spend my days now, trying to spread the truth that climate change stands to collapse human civilization within our lifetimes.

This truth, if we embrace it, gives our voices unique moral authority in this time. The adults in power today have gotten to live full long lives, have already held their children, maybe even grandchildren. Most of us have not, and many of us want to have the same chance.

After months of not knowivng how to grapple with this knowledge, I began working with a group called The Climate Mobilization, which is dedicated to ensuring the U.S. government launches a response to climate change actually commensurate with the current reality of the crisis.

Governments have waited so long to act that for a good chance of avoiding irreversible levels of warming, we must reach net zero emissions within the next decade. The kinds of gradual cuts that would leave us emitting into the middle of this century embraced by most politicians are no longer feasible.

TCM is a social movement startup that has largely worked behind the scenes to bring the idea of an emergency climate response into the political mainstream. They and their allies were responsible for the Democratic platform this year declaring that we are in a global-climate emergency and must respond at wartime speed, on a scale not seen since World War II.

On the heels of that success, TCM launched the Climate Year program (kind of like the Americorps of climate activism) in an effort to recruit skilled leaders and rapidly scale up our outreach and organizing operation. TCM has a comprehensive strategy to build a massive, unified social movement that will make sure leaders commence the kind of just climate mobilization we need — at the speed that we need it — within the next year.

Such a mobilization would require changing our economy and society on a speed and scale we have not done since we retooled our entire industrial and consumer economy during World War II. The good news is that it’s happened before. There’s no reason we can’t change everything again. We just need the will, and the will should be easy to find if we let ourselves feel what is truly at stake.

I am part of Climate Year’s inaugural class, repurposing the skills I learned working as a Managing Editor at this very paper. It’s not what I planned to do when I left Yale, but it gives me great clarity and a constant source of hope.

Student movements have changed history before and have already moved trillions of dollars in investments out of the fossil fuel industry. It seems important that we who are young and stand to live out our lives in a crumbling world fully embrace the truth of our situation, let it change the way we live and ultimately withdraw our consent from institutions and structures that do not dedicate themselves to helping us survive.

But if we do not acknowledge the truth of the climate emergency in our daily lives, we cannot even support one another as we wrestle with it, let alone act. Gestures as small as starting conversations and creating pockets of sanity and open discussion are important because they break us out of our individual units of anxiety and create the seeds for joyful, beautiful and collective resistance. And if you’re interested in starting such a conversation, my email is below.

Anya Grenier ’15 is a former managing editor for the News. Contact her at anya.grenier@gmail.com.

  • http://TheClimateMobilization.org Margaret Klein

    Great article Anya!

  • ShadrachSmith

    Fossil fuels are man’s greatest gift since fire itself. The AGW political agenda now earns ridicule and scorn = to an I❤Hillary button. I consider that progress 🙂

    • 1xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx1

      So.. greater than medicine, education, hydroelectricity, the EV, the Internet, science, hope, faith, love, peace..

      It appears you have some very odd priorities.

    • John Salmond

      yes, they were a gift, but a gift with a hidden poison, which now we fully understand

  • Kira

    You may learn to like a warmer planet! Personally, I was cold last winter. Also, a longer growing season and higher CO2 would help my tomato plants.

  • bilerga

    Great article! You described exactly how I felt once I understood what was happening – the climate silence is so strange, as is the soft denial. I am spending most of my free time trying to spread the word and working with our local climate action group which acts in many ways: slowing down fossil fuel infrastructure, working on state legislation, and trying to wake up the general public. We are reading and sharing the TCM documents. I am definitely operating in “emergency mode” and hoping to spread that feeling. Sending all my best wishes to you from an alumni – Yale ’85!

  • Kyle MacDonald Samejima

    There are lots of us ready to acknowledge the issue, feel the pain and act. Thanks for the article.

  • Climate Mobilization

    For more info, check us out at http://www.theclimatemobilization.org!

  • 1xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx1

    So, are you collecting what you’re owed by fossil waste dumpers?

    Supporting the Whitehouse-Schatz American Opportunity Carbon Fee Bill?

    Drawdown DOT org?

    Citizen’s Climate Lobby?

    TheSolutionsProject?

    WA-I-732?

    Boycotting companies that have not paid for their fossil waste dumping?

    Telling companies that do pay for fossil waste dumping that you prefer to buy from them?

  • Trakar

    Though the DNC platform does include some statements regarding climate change, there is no call to arms and the party’s nominee are more interested in green wash than green solutions to actually address the problems we are faced with, this is the source of apathy and disinterest in a political solution to the problems the same ones who are dragging their feet (in both political parties) are largely responsible for.

  • John Salmond

    a very fine piece

  • Anna Lee

    “Gestures as small as starting conversations and creating pockets of
    sanity and open discussion are important because they break us out of
    our individual units of anxiety and create the seeds for joyful,
    beautiful and collective resistance.” Yes! This is powerful, thank you for inviting us into the conversation.

  • Richard Reiss

    “I spent the year after graduation trying to understand climate science, but also trying to understand my own sense that discussing it remained a taboo.”

    The year Anya Grenier spent learning about climate sums up 10 years I’ve spent, beginning with producing an interview with a pioneer of climate science.

    Yale should retool the curriculum to make new requirements of classes on energy literacy and the future. The social, political and economic ramifications of climate change are rapidly making the rest of the curriculum obsolete, as you can see from a close read of this document, from the European Union’s climate research consortium, HELIX:
    tyndall.ac.uk/sites/default/files/twp162_0.pdf

    Two generations of graduates have come out of Yale without an essential understanding of climate, energy, and the scope and timetable for a meaningful response. As I began to do research myself (like Anya), one shock was discovering how long, and how well, the problem has been understood by institutions, including universities and the government, as shown in reports produced before my class graduated in 1981. See, for example:
    https://www.nap.edu/read/12181/chapter/1
    https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/virtuallibrary/releases/jul10/56.pdf

    Everything we need to do technically is also known, not that many people, including environmental groups, like to describe it.

    Sir David MacKay’s book would be a good starting place for a Yale class that everyone should take:
    https://www.withouthotair.com/c29/page_229.shtml

    Bill Gates might agree. (Ask him to fund it.)
    gatesnotes.com/About-Bill-Gates/Remembering-Sir-David-MacKay

    MacKay, who did everything humanly possible to help share understanding, also led the development of a simulator for the world’s energy system, so we can practice coming up with the right answers:
    globalcalculator.org

    Saul Griffith would be a terrific program advisor:
    longnow.org/seminars/02015/sep/21/infrastructure-and-climate-change/

    Is there a ‘spiral of silence’ on climate change?
    http://www.popsci.com/six-charts-show-why-no-one-is-talking-about-climate-change

    A good observation from that article, and a call to arms:
    “The problem is (1) that there isn’t a set of routinized events that bring it to into public conversation, and (2) we don’t have a clear notion of what we can each do about it.”

    I’m a fan of Climate Mobilization. Thank you, Anya.

  • muggers

    Wonderful article. But who is it that will tell the masses they must stop all travel (bicycle excepted) and cease all manufacturing… to return to a pastoral existence?