Between climate anxiety & climate denial, an untapped world of possibilities.
by Céline Semaan
The three most common emotions related to climate are the least helpful — anxiety, nihilism or denialism. There are so many other activities we can engage in and roles we can all play that are about solutions, and it’s time to get serious about it.
First, anxiety: this is perhaps the overwhelming feeling of especially the younger generations who are coming into this world that was already spinning out of control before they arrived. And no matter how much noise they make to policymakers or industry, the needle is not moving.
Then, nihilism. We see this is either the “giving up” as a resolution to anxiety, or as the default position of those in industry or government who are just focused on short-term profits or the next election cycle.
Denialism is perhaps the most widespread condition. There is a massive, well-funded network of denial from the corporate world, fossil fuel and auto industries and the worst offenders. But even more insidious, the widespread apathy is manifest as denial, as we go about our day to day not truly believing that it’s going to be as bad as “they say”.
This Climate Week and UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) our team at The Slow Factory has chosen to be strategically behind the scenes. Less public facing, we’ve given a lot to our communities in the past ten years, and more behind the scenes and strategic meetings with stakeholders and decision makers. There is a rise in climate denialism but there is an equal rise in climate solutions and in people dedicating their lives to the climate justice movement. We can spend time convincing people, naming the harm, or we can spend time working on solutions. We can obviously do both, and we have been everything everywhere all at once, but that is exhausting and in the long run, unsustainable. And we have found ourselves burnt out and disappointed. This season also reminds us that Climate Justice isn’t just a week, a month or a year. It is the entire significance of our careers and lives, and the choices we have made to build power within communities of color to empower systemic change by engaging with folks beyond activism and voting mechanisms but by training the next generation of climate workers. The roles for collective liberation for instance, aren’t simply a good list of catalysts we need throughout the system, they are the beginning of climate-informed training we have been servicing and will continue to in the next year to come. See below for the incomplete list.
Creative roles /
Advocate: holds a cause or series of causes to heart and carries them to justice Artist: inspires people to be in touch with their humanity Communicator: tells stories that touch the soul of millions of people Designer: works in service to create collective liberation Healer: heals intergenerational wounds and provides a path forward Luminary: inspires people to rise beyond their expectations Problem Solver: engineers tangible solutions to real life problems Trouble Maker: isn’t afraid to ruffle some feathers Visionary: receives downloads from the Universe to guide people Writer: writes books, stories, poetry, films, TV shows, articles, Op-Eds that imagine new paradigms
Practical roles /
Analyst: applies critical and systemic thinking, mapping methods to understand issues Architect: plans, designs new structures for collective liberation Developer: contracts and supervised the building of new structures Engineer: invents, designs, analyzes, builds and tests complex systems & machines Inventor: invents a particular process, system, culture or device that are good for people & planet Negotiator: comes to an agreement with someone else in favor of the collective Researcher: carries out academic scientific or investigative research Scientist: has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural physical sciences Strategist: skilled in planning action or policy, especially in climate crisis, war or politics
In discussing with an analyst recently, they shared that there has been a significant rise in climate denialism, and that ahead of an election year, the results are worrisome. In combating climate denial and climate delay, Slow Factory has identified through a series of research studies that the effect of good communications versus inflammatory ones can make a huge difference. For instance, with the rise of denial comes the rise of shaming strategies and doomism. These communication strategies bear their own results in influencing people’s opinion on climate change. At Slow Factory, our work in Media and Media Strategy led by People of the Global Majority, span two decades preceding the formation of this organization, our practice in media is carefully designed to expand the adoption of progressive concepts and invite more people to the conversation on climate change.
The Slow Factory Media strategy is tied to our education program retaining people beyond outrage into action. We know that so many of us share a similar sentiment, wanting the same things for a better, more equitable world for us, but may not know where to begin, or how to apply our existing skills and talents to the fight ahead of us. Every skill, every role, every talent and knowing has a place in the fight for collective liberation. Slow Factory’s mission has always been to make education and knowledge accessible for everyone, and that includes reminding all of us that our place in this journey to justice is also accessible for everyone.
Céline Semaan is a Lebanese-Canadian researcher, designer, public speaker, and entrepreneur. She is the co-founder and executive director of Slow Factory, an institute and lab that transforms socially and environmentally harmful systems by designing models that are good for the Earth and good for people. She currently sits on Progressive International’s Council alongside Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy and has published in Elle, the New York Magazine and Teen Vogue. Her inter-disciplinary work at the intersection of fashion, climate, and politics has been covered by numerous news and fashion outlets.