Our Brains on Climate Change and Other Confusing Stories ~ Part 3 (My Story)

Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I like the scientific spirit—the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingness to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them: this is ultimately fine—it always keeps the way beyond open—always gives life, thought, affection, the whole man, a chance to try over again after a mistake—after a wrong guess.” ~ Walt Whitman, Walt Whitman’s Camden Conversations

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.” ~ Walt Whitman

Where we come from

Me and my cousins
Me and my cousins

Had I been born in 15th century Africa, I would probably be a slave. The same applies to China, Rome, and ancient Egypt: we are children of our times, the cultures where we are born, our parents, teachers, neighbours and all the myriad of small and big things happening to us and to which we are exposed.

I happened to be born in Argentina, the child of a political and social activist, one of the most truly caring and lucid people I’ve the honour to meet: my mother. I was also exposed to another great woman: my aunt.

Resilience and simplicity were not discussed or explored: they were the dough of our everyday lives. Resistance and social justice were there all the time; I didn’t grow up with a TV: mom would bus and walk with me to a bookstore where we could exchange old books for a small fee. I grew up attending political and community meetings and singing songs on the top of my uncle’s shoulder while manifesting on Buenos Aires streets. When mom finally could afford some land we had our own orchard and vegetable garden…the two-room humble house and outhouse were built in a series of work-parties full of music, guitars, helping neighbours and friends…I know how to build and use a compost toilet, harvest rainwater, use a well and take baths with a “totuma” and buckets of water.

Personality is another component of who we are: not everybody reacts to things the same way: what makes one person may break another…that’s the mysterious fabric of “resilience” and also what is behind “life choices”: in one case, abuse, neglect and losing everything what’s important for you may make you stronger (but it does leaves scars and may shape the ways we relate to people and stuff)…in other cases, it may trigger a mental illness or a life of loneliness and misery.

My story with Climate Change and Resource Depletion

The tree of many choices
The tree of many choices

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” ~ Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

She (Sylvia) couldn’t put it better: life is about choices (or the lack of them)…and for many, choices seem to be already made for them.

For many years, I made terrible choices: I wanted to fulfill grandma’s dream and go to Europe, study at a big university, travel the world around, write books, and do stuff. But, as grandma, I had rent to pay and emotional needs that dragged me somewhere else.

For years and years I thought climate change and resource depletion were something from the future: “one day, millions of years from now, the sun will explode”…”one day all the antibiotics we are feeding our children will create super bugs and humankind will end by giant epidemics” and the stories accumulated one after the other but all belonged to the future: I was very busy trying to build a “career”, raising children and entertained by lots of interesting things.

But a bug was growing: something is wrong, something doesn’t make sense: I was always a rebel and an out-cast, never belonged, couldn’t find “my people”; I didn’t accept the “social norms” around me: I was concerned about social and animal justice and my ethics drove me out of almost every job: I was never kicked out…I would leave because I didn’t stand corruption of the heart and the mind.

I finally immigrated to Canada, tired of trying to deal with systems I didn’t understand: systems where half of the population dreams to be “as Americans are” and the other half has the values so skewed that they may have giant TVs and cell phones instead of feeding their children well…systems where every time something bad happens it is “the government’s” fault but few do anything about it…

In Canada, I had my own story of immigrant roller-coaster and went from a honey-moon to almost clinical depression: I couldn’t believe my eyes with so many “choices” at the supermarket and so much “freedom” and “democracy” as well as safety on the streets…but something was still “wrong” and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Then, a few years ago, my own rebel and strange older kid who is very quiet about what he feels and thinks went on a rant about how we didn’t have any hopes in the world as no virgin land existed anymore. This conversation made me submerge into a “research” that changed my life forever: from an “off the grid” book I bought for him I went to know about Peak Oil and then to peak resources…this brought me to Transition and climate change and then Permaculture. The rest, as they say “is history”.

My reactions

The Nicomekl River
The Nicomekl River

“..there are some things in the world we can`t change — gravity, entropy, the speed of light, the first and second Laws of Thermodynamics, and our biological nature that requires clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy and biodiversity for our health and well being. Protecting the biosphere should be our highest priority or else we sicken and die.

Other things, like capitalism, free enterprise, the economy, currency, the market, are not forces of nature, we invented them. They are not immutable and we can change them. It makes no sense to elevate economics above the biosphere” By David Suzuki, Dec. 4th 2009

With a background that encompasses from anthropology to psychology and from a passion for geography and biology to (IT) systems analysis, I approached the issues of resource depletion first and climate change later the only way I know: digging into them and looking for connections. I couldn’t have enough and read and read, watched documentaries, looked for interviews, articles and peer-reviewed papers, took courses at local universities and through MOOCs…I didn’t sleep much and all the rest (my interest in poetry and literature, for example) was relegated to a corner of my mind…

For some time (and this spells still haunt me deeply) I couldn’t see children without crying: I couldn’t fathom what kind of life they would be living…and I felt terribly guilty for my ineptness and ignorance all those past years. It was even worse because of where I come from and what I had been exposed as a child and teenager: I wasn’t a normal middle-class person: I should have known better!

I also had feelings of liberation: for once, I understood the world. I understood the relationship between resource, energy and social issues and why we were where we were…I understood why I had been feeling so trapped and segregated all my life and always rebelled against what society was selling me as “the attainable dream you should have”.

None of this came in one day: it was a prolonged process, a process that has not stopped (but has slowed down) and made me think about everything I care or thought I cared: from my relationships to who my neighbours and acquaintances were, from where and in what I was working to how I treat my own body and soul.

One of my first “do” projects was to build a worm factory. It was a terrible failure but I still remember the excitement. I was coming back to my roots, my love for the Earth, true social justice and simplicity.

What’s next in store for me


I have no idea…I have tried my old strategies but they have failed: since I started with my experiments my writing (and reading) has changed…I have met awesome friends and people of all ages who are preoccupied and busy building a new world out there as within them…many may be facing the same soul-searching struggles I have…I have changed many things around my house and how I live, some have been there forever like the fact that I don’t drive and don’t own a vehicle, others are newer like all the composting and vermin-composting, cloth feminine pads and cloth napkins and many, many other little things.

While I wait for the next “enlightening” moment to come to me, I continue reading and reflecting…writing this crazy and uneven blog and trying more experiments…I study horticulture (a big change that don’t know yet how it will end or where it will take me) and continue to work in stuff I always loved, such as helping people to be more resilient and find jobs to adapt and feed their families.

I know many may not have enjoyed my last two posts: some people don’t like to be challenged, but some are very honest and open up to the discussion. I love that…I always challenge my clients and can say with certainty that most of them tend to like me more than they would a counsellor who says it all will be ok…I challenge people, that is true. I challenge them but nurture them at the same time: it is not just asking questions and pushing them to think…it is also encourage them to think by themselves and search for what’s worth out there.

I tend to see beauty where others see garbage and garbage where others see beauty…a rare “gift” I was born with: it has allowed me to be surrounded by the most diverse people. I have never been attracted by money, stuff or status and, even when it is difficult for me to express, I love my family and friends much more than they can imagine.

I’ll leave you with a gem I found recently: when I was 15 and we finally had a TV (small, black-and-white and I hated it) I would watch only one show: Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”…this video, made by Reid Gower, summarizes the beauty and awesomeness of what we are, it is a humbling yet encouraging view that keeps me going…beyond climate change and resource depletion.


Disclaimer: The Sagan Series is an educational project working in the hopes of promoting scientific literacy in the general population. Created by @ReidGower http://twitter.com/reidgower

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour…”

~ William Blake

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.” ~ Walt Whitman

6 Comments on “Our Brains on Climate Change and Other Confusing Stories ~ Part 3 (My Story)

  1. I have really enjoyed this series, especially hearing your experiences of discovery and realization. I am going through my own such journey at the moment, although i am still at the beginning. I feel as though i have lived my life with my eyes open,but i was half asleep. Always aware things were wrong, always feeling uneasy, restless, afraid, but unable to make the connection, to realise no one is trying to destroy us except… us. And we are very close to success.
    Waking up is painful: realising the impact that every part of your lifestyle has on the planet, the guilt for my greed and wastefulness, the pressure of what to do next…
    I find your blog very helpful, especially this last series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Susie and welcome to “the club”…it feels good (no pun intended) that somebody can use my blog-posts for something…if anything, what’s left is the love we have inside and finding that there are more of us out there…that’s an encouraging feeling 🙂


  2. Sylvia, thank you for sharing your journey with such eloquence, honesty, and depth. Your story is really a work of art that touched my heart and gave me a profound sense of hope for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Carol. I also find your stories captivating and touching…because they come from your own experiences and how you see the world…I’ve been struggling a lot with “dark” feelings and thoughts these lasts weeks and my writing may reflect that a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dark thoughts are all around us – and I sense them increase during this particular holiday season – perhaps more so this year than in the recent past. The wonder I used to feel as a child is rare to find among people these days in the frenzy to buy “things.” I’m not surprised that someone who has such deep empathy and compassion would be affected. And even when you share the darkness of the present time in your cogent analyses, the counterbalance of concrete solutions and hope are always present in your writing too. Thank you for that. I send you love and healing thoughts, dear Sylvia. ❤


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