This is a guest blog from filmmaker Kai Reimer-Watts. In September 2018, we showed his film Beyond Crisis (2017) at an outdoor screening on the grounds of the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant. With the water beside us and the sky turning a brilliant pink as the sun set, it was a beautiful opportunity to contemplate our relationship to a changing climate and what it looks like to come together to advocate for a #SafeClimateFuture. And thank you to CUPE Local 79 and CUPE Local 416 for providing the equipment and the free popcorn - we couldn’t have put this event on without you!
Kai Reimer-Watts shares his thoughts on the screening below. Please share yours with us on social media - tell us how the screening made you feel and what your hopes are for a #SafeClimateFuture.
In reflection of the phenomenal screening event of Beyond Crisis down by the water, the source of all life, I’ve been spending some time in reflection. As a filmmaker, my first response is that it was honestly a dream come true to host a film that is all about our changing climate system in an outdoor environment where you can feel the very winds and changes that we’re speaking about happening all around us, all the time. While the film was just starting, one could still see the reddish-pink streams of a setting sunset happening just behind us, eventually plunging us into darkness as the story unfolded. This was a very unique way for me to experience my own film, and I owe a very big thank you and debt of gratitude to Ecologos, Water Docs and their partners for hosting such an event!
Following the screening, our audience who had braved the cold for the past hour kindly stuck around longer to dialogue with me on ‘what we can do’ to respond to these dramatic changes. While a very sensible question, I am not quite sure my immediate response did this question justice at the time! So here are a few, more clarified suggestions or “signposts” for your journey, drawing from my own personal experiences – I hope they will be helpful for you:
We are each walking on our own “climate journey”:
Something that has helped me on my way is to recognize that we are each on our own personal journey of climate engagement, for which there is no single “right way” forwards. Engagement with others who have experience on this journey already remains one of my biggest suggestions, as well as a deep willingness to listen and learn from the entire world around us, and to balance a belief in what we know with an ever-present humility to recognize that there will always be much to learn. The climate and nature remains our best teachers! While others can help on this journey, no one can walk your path for you. Bringing people together, hosting dialogues and coming to events like this are critical and important steps forward.
We each have our own existing, personal relationship with the climate
Before climate change suddenly appeared on our radar, many of us may not have put much thought into our broader climate system, let alone how we can “help” it through our personal efforts. Rather than feeling lost and helpless in this, it’s useful to remember that we are each connected to this system through every breath we take, and have been shaping it and shaped by it our entire lives. Whether or not we were aware of it, we’ve been in relationship with the climate for each and every moment of life, and so already have a deep inner knowledge of lived experience on what we need to survive and thrive within this climate system. Tap into this, breathe deeply and keep this connection at the forefront of your heart and mind. Doing this, you will find so many ways to engage with others on our climate, on our water, and on the earth as a whole, bringing these into our lives.
Build on your gifts and link them to climate action!
When thinking of what to do, look to your own unique talents, your voice, your passions and interests. Every one of us has many gifts that we can bring to the world and dedicate to a more sustainable future. Look at those gifts, and then look at how you can best link those back to contributing to the fight for a safe climate future. Don’t have any ideas to start? Then start by joining an active group or community where ideas are being generated all the time, and other people are looking for your support. Stay open to challenging yourself and trying new things, but in the end make sure to build on what you love – it will take you far and help sustain you in this journey.
Join a climate-active community
Having spent some good time on self-reflection, do be sure to join a supportive climate-active community! In isolation, it’s far too easy for any of us to feel small and powerless in the face of a momentous, world-changing crisis like climate change – yet together, we can discover and nurture enormous collective energy that will give us the strength to move forwards, and the power to WIN the big challenges ahead of us. What’s more, community is key to providing essential practical and psychological supports to each other moving forwards, and to reminding us to care for each other throughout this crisis. Climate action is an amazing way for everyone to begin to think of the best policies and paths forward that will allow us to TAKE CARE of everyone as best we can through this transition, particularly the most vulnerable. It is a profound shift in mindset, that reminds us that WE matters much more than ME in life, and particularly in this fight – we need the support of strong communities to win this.
If you’re looking for climate-active communities to get involved with in Toronto, you’ll find an excellent list online here.
Step up to the plate
While society may shape and limit many of our current decisions today, there are still many opportunities for each of us to get involved and “step up” towards action. It’s a sobering reminder that this is simply not true for millions of people around the world, who are already heavily impacted by climate change but are simply struggling to survive, and have no easy opportunity be heard and step up. The United Nations and IPCC have described the challenge of climate change as having “common but differentiated responsibility”, largely because many rich countries and lifestyles today are contributing far more to this problem than the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, who are on the frontlines of the impacts. It is a clear moral challenge for those in richer countries to step up and use our privilege for good, catalyzing change. Through grassroots leadership from millions of people worldwide, we can begin to build a global “culture of sustainability” that will allow each of us to live far less impactful, harmful lives than we are often trapped into living today. Remember, the goal is a better, survivable future! Let’s fight for it like we mean it J
Find joy and connection to dream up a new tomorrow
This is a tough one, but perhaps one of the most critical in winning the different fights that we have in front of us today. I know firsthand as both a speaker and climate activist that there are so many legitimate things to be angry about in our society today, that are moving us backwards instead of forwards on climate change, social justice and other issues. Whenever there’s a barrage of bad news and stupid decisions that are staring me in the face, I know I have to remind myself of the tremendous gains that are also being made forwards, and double my efforts into supporting these. Anger is a legitimate response to many of these challenges and can be powerful, however I’ve learned from experience that we must be careful about how and to whom it is expressed. For instance, we do have a right to describe our legitimate anger to our elected leaders when they are making poor decisions – however, this must be done carefully and connected to what we expect them to do differently. The reality is, when connecting with each other as a community, anger alone often just tires people out rather than motivating them to action – so for those moments when we want to inspire, how can we learn to tap into a different form of energy and expression?
The climate fight brings up a lot of difficult emotions – the challenge is to direct these appropriately, and to attract people into the fight not through anger, but through the critical work we all also need to be doing of building new joy, connection and possibilities. Anger responds to the world as it is, and therefore while it does have a role to play, it often limits dreaming of a different reality. Tapping into our deeper creativity, the joy of connection and the fierce power of love we have for the earth and each other can be difficult when facing such a crisis – yet I am convinced it is these emotions that will best sustain us long-term, and allow amazing new possibilities and solutions to grow.
I hope these reflections provide some clearer ideas from the realm of psychology and social connection for how folks can move forwards, one step at a time, in leading the change we need to see on climate change. Look inside, be honest with your initial feelings – whether it’s fear, anger, confusion, despair, or otherwise. Learn to recognize these feelings and that they too will change, before working to transform them into something productive and inspiring to others. Then go out, build connections with others who are also concerned, and who want to make the world better! There are so many people already active, and we need each other to push us even further.
From time to time, do take a deep breath in and remember, we are each connected to the climate. Life is a gift both worth fighting for and worth treasuring.
With love for the fight,
Learn more about how to get involved at beyondcrisisfilm.com.
Learn more about how you can host your own community film screening of your choice through our Water Docs Where-You-Live program. Take #ActionForWater with us!