Fifty-year-old Buddhist climate activist Wynn Bruce set himself on fire at the steps of the United States Supreme Court this past Earth Day as an act of protest against the ongoing climate crisis. As the Earth continues to warm and the climate crisis worsens, many activists have taken on a “doomer” mindset, believing that the Earth is too far gone for anything to change. People often avoid speaking about climate change to dodge awkward political conversations, while a man who set himself on fire as an act of protest received minimal media attention.
With the overwhelming aura of gray surrounding climate change, many are left wondering if it is, in fact, too late. The problem with activism surrounding climate change is that there is no leadership. Often at the spearhead of substantial social movements for change, there is an organization or a cluster of people pushing toward a common goal; however, there is a lack of a central purpose with the climate crisis. Every country has different years they plan on lowering carbon emissions by, or swapping to renewable energy. These plans are also the result of wishful thinking, with most governments failing to improve the situation in the slightest. Last year, global carbon emissions leaped immensely, and the presence of pollution in our atmosphere has lept to match those pre-COVID-19.
With climate change, awareness is the least of our concerns. We have all heard Greta Thunberg pleading for governments to take action. We watched Don’t Look Up and saw a very probable version of what the future may be. We saw NASA climate scientist Peter Kalmus chain himself to a Chase bank in hopes that anyone would listen. Despite all of these demonstrations, everyone is acting normal because no one knows where to begin in solving the climate crisis.
In the wake of doomerism ideology, climate activists must rise in defense of the environment and the Earth. Doomerism robs the people of agency, an agency we so desperately need in order to create a cleaner future. Rather than channeling energy into a doomer mindset, climate activists need to channel their energy into a common goal and create policy around said goal. The fight for Earth must begin with something, and until the people can determine what to fix and how to solve the problem, we will continue to sit burning in the fire together.
Wynn Bruce’s act of climate activism provided little media attention or effect to the overall cause. In Bruce’s honor, two memorials were held with many attendees speaking of his overwhelming “kindness and friendship.” The motivation behind his suicide was quickly swept under the rug and regarded as a “terrible curiosity” in the media.
Most people are not ready to give up on the planet just yet. “People are still going to college, planning retirement, doing all the things as if the future will look just like the past when we know that’s not true.” In this diluted normalcy, people also fear that there might not be a tomorrow for their children to grow up to. In the media, we are often reminded of the burdening sense of urgency presented with the climate crisis and how, with every passing moment, the temperature rises, and Earth cries just a little more.
Despite all the atrocities surrounding climate change, there is still hope. Climate scientists and activists worldwide agree that doomerism ideology has no place in the discussion regarding climate change. Scientists argue we cannot let a wave of doomerism become paralyzing to avoid the worst consequences.