A Personal Journal about Trying to Do the Right Thing in a Climate Emergency

by Rev. Domyo Burk

Today was a beautiful day. By that I mean it was sunny, and the temperatures were mild. After a full day, I took my dogs for a walk around the block and relished the trees with fiery colors.

In the meantime, California’s on fire.

How is it I can let my heart be still and calm, while I let my dogs speed me up and slow me down as they wish? They trot along for a while, then stop suddenly, attracted by some scent. The two of them vie for the best spot to sniff, rapt and unmoving – except for slowly wagging tails – for minutes at a time. My mind empty of any compelling thoughts, I just stand and watch, breathing.

Here in this suburb, far from the fires, dusk is falling. Everyone is snug in their homes. We are at peace. Primary concerns are what to do with all the leftover Halloween candy, and whether to rake up all the leaves or blow them into piles with a loud machine.

But I also know our planet is dying. Or, I should say, the living things and systems on the planet are dying. Every day I read something new that tells me we’re in the middle of a climate and ecological catastrophe, and I believe it. In fact, it’s starting to sound pretty stupid to me to even say something like, “I believe it.” It’s like saying, “I believe germs cause illness.” Or, “I believe electricity can power a light.” So in the midst of my pleasant evening walk, I also think about extinction now and then.

I think about how, when my beloved dogs pass away, I may not get another dog, even though dogs are one of the great joys of my life. To get another dog under these circumstances feels irresponsible… I know the carbon footprint of pet ownership is considerable. And besides, if I have no pets I’ll be more available for the struggles to come.

Okay, so my mind wasn’t entirely empty of compelling thoughts as I walked… but these morbid contemplations related to our planetary ecological emergency were rather light and dreamlike, feeling no heavier in my mind than my speculations about whether anyone has moved into that blue house yet. And yet I wonder about the state of my heart, really.

Refusing to Take No for an Answer
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