What Climate Change Taught Me: Live in the Present

Leslie Garrett by Leslie Garrett | November 13th, 2009 | 1 Comment
topic: Green Living, Personal Growth


Being green isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Sure, I’m healthier now that I eat better food and reduce my exposure to pesticides. I ride my bike, which makes me not only healthier but happier. I’m wealthier now that I make much of my own cleaning products, use less gas, cold-wash and hang-dry my clothes, and eschew AC for open windows.

The problem? I know too much. I’m all too aware of just how serious a threat climate change truly is. Bill McKibben, with his 350 campaign, is determined to ensure that we all understand how urgent an issue climate change is. We must bring greenhouse gas levels down below 350 ppm. We’re currently at 390 … and rising. We’re like the patient whose blood pressure is rising. We may not have had the heart attack or stroke yet … but it’s coming.

Today becomes so much more precious

The upside? With tomorrow looking tenuous at best, I’ve been forced to focus on today. Not that it was that easy. I cycled through my stages of grief — denial, shock, despair, bargaining — before reaching acceptance. Nor have I stopped working for and hoping for the global will to rescue ourselves. But with such a fragile future, today becomes so much more precious.

It’s easier to overlook a messy kitchen in favor of playing Snakes and Ladders with my 6-year-old. It makes more sense to turn off the computer to rake piles of leaves with my 8-year-old. And when my 11-year-old daughter strolls into my office, I can stifle my exasperation at being disturbed mid-sentence and give her my full attention.

This is new for me. While I’ve understood the “now” stuff theoretically, putting it into practice was a challenge. It was much easier to imagine appreciating the present later — when the house was tidy, the laundry done, my deadline reached, my ideal weight achieved, a cure for cancer found …

So, with many of the world’s leaders in Copenhagen in December for the Climate Conference, a meeting that will largely define our future — for better or worse — I’m able to hope for the best, though my optimism is being sorely tested.

And I understand that, no matter the outcome in December, today is mine to savor.


  1. Raking leaves? You will have memories, like when my sons and I had all the leaves in neat piles only to find our dog(shelter rescue) running full throttle through the piles, grinning from ear-to-ear. Yes, savor the day — they pass so quickly. The time period was the last time there was a push for organic healthier cleaner living for the planet — truly hope that more will be done this time as it most likely is our last chance.

    Joanne | November 16th, 2009 | Comment Permalink

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