My deadline for this article is looming and for the life of me, I cannot turn my passion and urgency into words. Instead, I fumble on my thoughts. I keep deleting, retyping, starting over, and stopping. I even considered skipping this assignment. And yet, I keep returning to the blank page, knowing that I must choose action over apathy.
I decided to start this piece by telling a story about younger Danielle, not related to running. I was 19 years old, living in Rochester, NY. That year, I was fixated on the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the horrifying scenes proliferating the news coming from New Orleans. While this was not my first experience with changing extreme weather patterns, watching the horrific video footage chilled me to the bone. I felt drawn to better understand, and compelled to follow the news coverage obsessively. I met with my therapist tear stricken and asked how people, how society, could live with the knowledge of others dying because of climate change. Although she was trying to help, she wrote off my concern as ‘anxiety patterns.’ She suggested I focus on what I could control, which in her view was my media consumption. While there is some truth to my anxiety taking over my sense of self, my therapist missed a really important opportunity to teach about climate change and how I had an opportunity to counter my fears by supporting a cause I deeply believe in. Now that I am a therapist myself, I want to take that opportunity in writing about climate change and voting.
Let me take you back even further into the life of Danielle. At a very young age, I developed a keen sense of awareness of the world around me. Whether it was my own trauma, being raised as a Jewish American, or my biological predisposition to anxiety, I found it utterly impossible to pretend that everything is ok. I couldn’t ignore my sense of the truth – despite society continuing to tell me I am overreacting. Have you read The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen? In case you haven’t, the CliffNotes are essentially that the Emperor was swindled into believing he was being made new clothing. When in reality, he was just walking around naked. This folktale examines how society ‘pretends’ or believes that because the emperor was in a position of power, all the others must not believe what they could see with their own eyes. Everyone looks away until a little kid blurts out the truth: “The emperor is naked!” I am that little kid – I see something and I shout from the top of my lungs until I am heard. This mentality has gotten me into trouble overtime. Like so many of us who feel strongly about climate change, I am often told I am making a mountain out of a molehill.
And for a while, I believed and hoped that was the case – my molehill. However, year after year, the disasters caused by climate change have worsened. Forcing me to trust what I have believed all along: we can no longer sit and wait. Now is the time for action. The question is what are the actions we can take? As I debated writing this article, I wanted to make sure I targeted the individuals who feel hopeless or helpless. I want to reach out to you, those who are ambivalent and think that your voices will never be heard, that voting is irrelevant.
As I pondered which climate story I wanted to highlight when writing this article, I realized I couldn’t actually choose because they are all impactful – and I can’t know which one will resonate with you. From the first time I saw a wildfire erupt, to watching glaciers disappear in my backyard, I can no longer remain quiet. None of us can afford to remain quiet in a society that is trying to normalize the climate crisis and to keep things at status quo. We aren’t in the status quo; we are in denial. “This isn’t a molehill!” Without immediate action, nothing will be better tomorrow. The situation will only improve when we turn our full attention to the crisis, those it impacts the most and the social norms that have allowed the situation to fester. And one key way to initiate critically needed action on the climate crisis is to speak with our vote.
As athletes, we are deeply impacted by climate change. Even if we forgot about the suffering and destruction the climate crisis is causing, we can see each season the way our sporting world is changing in the face of climate disaster. As athletes, we should be investing in our future planet, our future trails, our future races and the next generation of athletes who may not be able to experience the wild freedom and beauty that the trails have brought so many of us.
After reading this, I hope you are asking yourself, “Okay, so what next? What can I do?” And the answer is to vote in the midterm elections. On November 8th, despite your misgiving of the political system, we don’t have time to waste. Please join me in fighting this battle by voting for the future – by placing a vote for our climate.