Thesis

REFOCUS

Back in September, the focus of my thesis was to entice my somewhat apathetic audience by suggesting a possible utopian future as a result of climate action. As I moved through the work, I became increasingly interested in the cognitive barriers that prevent even those people who view themselves as concerned about climate change from taking action. However, if we were to go all the way back to the beginning of this work, we’d find me four years ago, face-down and sobbing on my bed after an abrupt initiation into the consequences of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

So much of the work I am doing this year is actually motivated by a deep and true utter sadness about the state of the world. I came to PoD looking for the tools to create social impact after becoming disillusioned with conventional protest and disgusted by the corruption in government that prevents the kind of legislation and regulation needed to protect the planet’s life, on all levels of the eco-system.

The last few months, but especially the last ten days, have brought about much uncertainty. The ascension to the highest office in the land of a megalomaniacal narcissist has brought into question, or at least up for public debate, many of the rules that have seemed settled for years, if not decades. One that I always considered settled US discourse since at least 1945—if it is ok to punch a Nazi? (My take: the question is not one of “if” but “how soon”). Seemingly everyday, from the White House to the streets, disgusting bigots, racists, and sexists are pushing the boundaries of our social contracts more and more, with no consequences. This has many people who value justice questioning what the future holds for us.

Before, I wrote about the user group I selected; people who have strong values but equally busy lives. Who, until recently, could depend on the rules and norms that have for so long governed our discourse, but now find the floor dropped out from underneath them. Trump’s presidency is proving to be just as bad as was feared, with executive orders raining down in a barrage of assaults on freedom and democracy. The user group I identified two weeks ago as my target user, middle class and newly politically activated, join the ranks of people like me: alarmed by this dangerous new turn our country has taken, but also steeped in a long time sadness about the disparity between the world that should be and the world that is. All of us with progressive or liberal values find ourselves lopped together so from now on, my thesis will address an audience of people who stand in resistance to the current regime, seeking to accept their distress as a tool for motivation.

For so long, the only thing that consoled me about the many injustices of our world, was the belief that society was slowly creeping towards progress. Each of the justice movements have had their own setbacks, but the last 10 years have seen renewable energy become increasingly more affordable, equal marriage defended by the Supreme Court, and the emergence of new and powerful discourses around race, gender, and class. To have all of that and more stymied by a regressive, greedy, and hateful administration is to call into question our possible futures. Now more than ever, we must recognize the interconnectedness of the struggles for justice. Environmental justice is racial justice is class justice is economic justice is species justice is social justice.

In an effort to contribute to the struggles for justice, my thesis work will shift from focusing on harnessing newfound political will exclusively towards climate action to creating opportunities for for activists to channel their distress and sadness, ensuring long-term commitment to our struggles and to prevent burnout.

FINDING MEANING

The following is just the beginning of the lexicon which is sure to grow as my work expands and refocuses.

solastalgia
psychoterratica
eco-distress
climate crisis
climate action
action
alarmed
concerned
cautious
middle class liberals
distance
channel/ing
distress
weltschmerz
healing
burn out
self-care
activism
justice
environmental justice
racial justice
social justice
economic justice
class justice
dystopia
utopia

Karen Vellensky