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. This piece is for the 2022 USA midterm election.
I have not written a lot lately. Not here on Soapbox - not even in my journal. The past few months I’ve been avoiding any thoughts deeper than “what am I going to eat for dinner tonight” and “I really should leave my house and experience the Outside for a bit today.” At the beginning of the summer, I, like a lot of people, felt burnout creep in. The circumstances of my life were not bringing me joy, and my environmental activism - once a source of passion and a creative outlet - began to feel hopeless.
I wrote earlier this summer about accepting that my hope for a brighter future may be false, but choosing to believe it anyway. I wrote that to remind myself, and then proceeded not to follow my own advice.
I moved to a new house picturing a sustainable oasis, where I would grow food in my backyard and commit to environmentally beneficial practices. I thought I would do this with joy and passion that would inspire others. But then we moved in, and it felt like our old house was constantly breaking around us. As far as energy efficiency goes, we basically live in a block of Swiss cheese, full of holes for energy to slip out and every mouse in the neighborhood to slip in. Old windows let in a surprising number of bugs, including one cricket that I am, to this day, convinced came inside to watch Bridgerton with me.
During this time, I found myself stuck on the Twitter hellscape as it dissolved into Elon Musk’s personal Burn Book. And I felt like everyone was forgetting what we all just went through. Neighborhood message boards went back to complaining about insignificant slights, I started feeling like the only person around me wearing a mask, and people seemed to stop caring about the medical professionals and essential workers that got us through the last few years.
And I guess all of this led to a whole lot of “what is the point?” from me. Why should I invest in a brighter future when inflation, corporate greed, and threats to social safety nets are making it increasingly impossible for others to do the same? Why do I have to keep convincing people that lies about the election are not crazy fringe theories, but the leading strategy for one party to take over and deregulate for short term power and profit and long term destruction. Haven’t they made the point for me? When racist insurrectionists stormed the Capitol? When they took away pregnant people’s right to choose what to do with their own bodies?
Don’t get me wrong, I know how fortunate I am to be able to afford a house, and to be insulated from the harshest consequences of global warming and declining democracy. But all of the above, coupled with personal health issues, made it hard to engage in the midterm elections at a level anywhere close to how I did in 2020.
With that came a lot of guilt. I told myself it's all I should be focusing on - this election is so important. I don’t have kids (a subject of a different column, someday). I work reasonable hours. I have the time and resources and should spend them on getting out the vote, or donating more. Or even reading one of the fundraising text messages I get.
But, I have a suspicion that I am not the only one that feels this way. I share this with you to say no matter what your circumstances may be, it's ok if you're burned out and you haven’t been the politically active icon that you were in 2020. It's ok if you don’t even know who is on the ballot. But show up tomorrow and vote. If you don’t know how, check out Iwillvote.com to confirm you are registered and where you should go to vote. The progressive Vote Save America can also help you look through your ballot ahead of time. Or, if applicable in your state, ask one of those people handing out flyers outside your polling place if they have a Democratic sample ballot.
As Stacey Abrams has said, “‘Voting Is Not Magic. It Is Medicine” and after the last few years, we all could use a dose.