I was exposed to climate reality in 2006. I didn’t recover since then.
A handful of friends in university, 2007 onward, we organized flash-mobs, public events, and we participated in climate marches and direct actions. In 2009, in Copenhagen, the climate movement committed suicide. It was the manifestation of its lack of political analysis. Then, we fell asleep.
Lots of talk about urgency. Even more talk about capitalism. Sleep talking. Murmurs over a nightmare.
From 2009 until 2014. That’s five years. My friends who understood the climate crisis, they either shut down or entered into depression. Daily life didn’t make sense. So, some accepted to pursue a senseless life, others decided to live without their senses. I lingered in between.
Climate anxiety wasn’t a term. My feelings of impotency were off-topic. I did a Masters in contact topology and a PhD in symplectic geometry.
I was one of the lucky ones. I lived through Geração à Rasca / Que Se Lixe a Troika in Portugal and the Gezi Uprising in Turkey. Both made sense. Both also left me with a deep frustration. A frustration about myself.
Later, a handful of people came together to launch Climáximo in Portugal in 2015, as more groups were emerging in other parts of the world. It was tough. We were so few. Meetings with 3 people, sometimes 4, some meetings were canceled because I was alone in them. We had no idea what we were doing. I had no idea what I was doing.
In 2016, I started a diary. I called it: Decade Zero.
One single correct anchor: Knowing what I know, what will I do?
In 2017, I was a completely different person. In 2018, another person entirely. In 2019, even I couldn’t recognize myself. Knowing what I know, what will I do? Knowing what I know, who will I become?
I remember going back home, to Foça, in summer of 2015. You know how it is when you are with family: you have to eat everything and all the things, at all times. One night, I got sick. I started vomiting. It didn’t stop even when there was nothing in my stomach. By morning, I was vomiting water. We went to the hospital. They gave me a serum. Lying in a room just next to the reception hall of the emergency ward, I was simply resting, exhausted. Suddenly, noises from the outside. I didn’t understand what was happening. Nurses rushed through the room. Shouts and cries. Then somehow the sounds stopped. In the meantime, my time was up. I got up, went to the doctor to get a prescription, and then went home.
That night, while I was vomiting, a boat full of Syrian refugees turned over in the Aegean sea. Coastal guard found 20 of them by chance, and brought 13 of them to the Foça hospital. No one speaks any of the languages they speak. They don’t speak any of the languages the nurses speak. They are in shock and in panic. They are completely lost. Lost in space, lost in time, lost in history. Two of those, two kids, aged 6 and 9, died of hypothermia, in the emergency ward, while I was resting. Knowing what I know, who will I become?
(Do you remember Alan Kurdi? Please remember Alan Kurdi.)
In 2019, I was lucky again. Climáximo had 100 activists, not to mention loads of other collectives that emerged in the meantime. We did Camp-in-Gas, the Lisbon Rebellion, Global Climate Strike, and the By 2020 We Rise Up campaign. Even through the pandemic, we held our position, with the Glasgow Agreement, Anti-bodies, On Fire and Collapse Total.
We tried making sense of a world that doesn’t make sense.
In September 2019, we told ourselves the truth: if capitalism was causing the climate crisis, then we were the ones who were supposed to dismantle it – and dismantle it on time. We declared a state of climate emergency inside Climáximo. Everything changed, and from then on everything kept changing.
In short, I did something. It was difficult: insisting in radical action, in climate-anchored commitment, in organizational discipline, in accountability and transformative justice, in honest anti-capitalist politics, in learning and changing. So many people were keeping the gates to the movement. I pushed them open.
I have been a climate activist for 15 years, which is a fancy way of saying I failed. I did some thing, but I didn’t do the thing.
Today, I am lucky again. I am surrounded by a new generation of movement leaders who are more intelligent, more skilled and more creative than me. Today, I am the one at the gate.
Knowing what I know about the climate crisis, having done what I did, not having done what I didn’t do, here and now, what will I do and who will I become?
Everything I love is at stake. Everything I care about is at stake. Stepping out is out of question.
Stepping up and into a fog, I shall discover myself anew.
PS: Throughout the text, I use the word “we” inconsistently to refer to (a) group of my friends, (b) my climate collective, (c) the movement or (d) the working class.