I’ve been very disheartened by everything we’re hearing about climate change, but when I attended a climate change service at Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church, I left feeling better.

It took me a while to understand why, because we didn’t hear any ideas for a miraculous fix, or lots of optimism about the future. Then I realized that the service brought the conversation into the open and allowed us to share our fears in community – and that’s what helped me.

Before, I knew others shared my concerns, but I felt like I was carrying it alone. That sense of isolation makes those fears seem heavier.

When the fear is heavy enough, I feel overburdened. Hopeless. Helpless. It becomes easy not to act because I don’t see how I can make a difference – or because I’m immobilized by the tremendous weight I’m carrying.

Being in community changes that. It reminds you that you can find others to carry their own share of both the fear and responsibility. That’s why I left feeling lighter. Objectively, nothing had changed. If anything, I knew more about how rising seas will affect Portland, and how climate change will displace more people, who will have to find a new life in cities like our own.

But having it in the open made a difference. Others in the service also commented on the importance of community if we’re to have any hope of navigating the changes coming our way, and the ones we’re already feeling.

So I urge anyone who’s feeling similarly bogged down by fear and a sense of helplessness to find a group you can work with, or even form one. It will remind you that you’re not going it alone, and perhaps, together, we can act to save at least some of this precious Earth.

Erica Bartlett


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