Gabrielle Nebeker, Soapbox Climate Communication Fellow, is on a mission to talk about the cultural moments that matter, because everything we choose to consume (or not) has an impact on the environment, including every pop culture moment and meme that crosses our timelines. Welcome to Pop Climate.
Drew Barrymore loves the rain. And I mean she really loves it. In the last few months, Drew has posted multiple TikToks of her soaking wet, elated from having the rain fall down and wake her dreams, as Hilary Duff would have put it in 2004.
The internet’s reaction to the videos, as with everything, varied. While most seemed to embrace and admire Barrymore’s child-like joy Barrymore, some responded with eye rolls or something along the lines of “easy for you to say, rich person.” What struck me most about the videos was what Barrymore said as she stood in front of her window, capturing the rainstorm behind her: “If it's raining anywhere you are, just run out in the rain. Don’t miss the opportunity.”
This, my friends, is when it hit me that this video was a perfect metaphor for climate action.
It seems nearly impossible to find a few moments of joy strung together in current ~ unprecedented ~ times. Deadly heat waves sweep India, wildfires blaze across Europe, and a certain 51 senators (including at least one coal baron) keep killing all our climate legislation dreams. In her TikToks, Drew embraces weather - which most of us would find a hassle - and sees a moment of unadulterated joy, an opportunity for laughter. It is no secret that she has had a tough upbringing in show business - she had been in and out of rehab more than once by the time she was 14 - and yet she still seeks joy. In a 2015 interview Barrymore reflected “no matter how dark shit got, I always had a sense that there should be goodness.” And we should strive for goodness now, too.
While the research is mixed, I personally feel motivated by a more hopeful and joyful message when it comes to our chances of turning this planet around before it's too late. Not only that, but joy is a critical part of avoiding burnout and keeping us fueled to fight another day. As Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, the executive director of Indigenous Climate Action and a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, told Fix, “laughter is a really key part of our culture…Because if we don’t have that, and we’re just fighting all the time, that’s not good for your spirit.”
The climate crisis is an opportunity - an opportunity to reimagine a better world. A world where our infrastructure and habits lend themselves to happier people and lives. Imagine you had a 7 minute commute on a safe bike path: wouldn’t you be happier and healthier than you would be after an hour sitting on the highway? We could have a world where you know the family that farmed the affordable and healthy produce you picked up at the farmers market last week. We could have a world where communities have more control over their utility bills because they own the means of production - the solar panels on their homes!
I know what you’re thinking: I sound just as crazy as Drew Barrymore raving over the rain. None of this is possible, and rain isn’t that great. It's true, it is very possible that we do not have long before a complete and catastrophic breakdown, and things aren’t looking good for 2050. But as social justice advocate Mariame Kaba said “hope is a discipline.”
I don’t think there is anything wrong with false hope as long as you are still working towards your lofty goals. And If I turn out to be wrong, you can yell “I told you so!” at me from your Mad Max desert vehicle during the water wars (full disclosure: I have not seen this movie and I do not want to, I think it would bum me out). Until then, I do not want to miss this opportunity to fight for something better. We can do this not just by voting, calling, and marching. We can find a way to help that best uses our own unique passions and talents (Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson has a great exercise to find your role in the climate fight).
This also means I am protecting my moments of joy - I am committing to the discipline of hope every day. For me, this has looked like “controlling my content” - less doom scrolling and reading bad news. I stopped watching shows or movies that scared me, because they gave me nightmares. There’s one song on Bo Burnham’s Inside that I simply skip because it caused a small existential crisis the first time I heard it. I have also taken up creative pursuits like embroidery and painting just for the sake of creation (not all creation need to be productive! that’s just what the capitalist hellscape wants you to think!). Some of my moments of joy include actions that reaffirm my commitment to the earth - like the satisfaction I’ll feel when I finally find a dresser that I love on Facebook marketplace, because I am trying to avoid buying new stuff.
Maybe next time it rains, I’ll run outside. Your moments of joy likely look different based on your time, abilities, and community. Maybe you don’t love the rain quite as much as Drew Barrymore, that’s ok! But by committing to joy whenever possible, you are able to cherish those moments with friends, family, or even yourself when you have the chance - and fuel yourself to fight for the future of our planet. Don’t miss the opportunity.