The most painful experience that I have ever been through. We had been to a baseball game. It was a wonderful day and my child was holding my hand. One of his friends took out running across the street. I didn’t realize it because I was so busy. I looked back not fully aware of the moment then the hand… slipped… free… from mine. And then the tragedy unfolded ––The story has a happy ending — it was a full recovery despite everything. But it was a long experience of worries, dark and fearful thoughts. “One of my children were dying.” I was praying over what appeared to be a lifeless body. Suddenly two nurses showed up with their bags. They had been to the baseball game and they took their bags with them just in case there might be an accident. And there was. The ambulance came immediately.
The next 30 days and nights I spent in the hospital in the intensive care unit not knowing for much of that time what the outcome would be. And during those days and nights I remember so vividly going over my schedule and I looked at all these events that were scheduled for the next days, the next week, the week after that and the month after that. I remembered how many of those events that felt extremely important when I wrote them in my schedule, how much preparation I would be asked to do. How serious these matters were. They just blew off the pages as they were lighter than a feather — they no longer mattered at all… and I remember thinking about the agenda of action that I had mapped out for myself, issues that I was engaged in. There were so many of them. The only one that did not blow off that list was the climate crisis, because in some place it was connected in my heart to the main challenge of my life scoring the good health of my child.
And when I went back, finally, the healing continued outside the hospital, and full recovery began long after that. When I went back dealing with the climate crisis, it felt different to me, and I could not put into words what it was that felt so different.
Some 15 years passed after the incident, and during the making of the first movie “Inconvenient Truth,” the director David Guggenheim, during a very long day, interviewed me without a camera but continued to ask deeply personal questions. The conversation was so intense it was almost like a psychiatrist conversation. In other ways he was like a child that replied to every question with a “Yes, but why?”. During our conversation the day turned into night, and nobody moved or turned on the light because it was so intense. It was during that conversation I finally found the way to put words to describe what it was that felt different to me about the climate crisis after the event of this terrible tragedy that had happened and the aftermath of that terrible incident.
And here is what I learned.
We as human beings naturally protect ourselves against imagining or thinking deeply about the most terrible thing that could happen or the most unimaginable loss. If we did not protect ourselves against such thoughts life would be drained of a good deal of its joy. So it’s a natural phenomena. But I was confronted face to face brutally with the prospect of losing someone especially precious to me and it left a raw place in my heart. I learned so much from those who came up to me from all walks of life, sharing elevators with strangers, servers in restaurants, people I did not know who had read about this and told me of experiences they had had and reached out to me.
I figured out that one of the secrets about human condition of people that have suffered is that it binds people together and people that had suffered instinctively reach out to those they feel that is going through some difficult experience that really changed my life.
But it’s something else that was made clear to me. When I went back to really thinking deeply about the climate crisis it touched that one place in my heart and gave me a feeling that I was not capable of having before the pain that I had previously experienced. It caused me to feel for the first time this beautiful nature that we live in. This beautiful planet that’s ideal for living. The conditions that lead to the flourishing of humanity. We could lose these conditions. We could lose what is most precious to us.
I actually think that one of the many reasons for climate deniers is that human instinctively push away such thoughts.
But we could lose it! We have not lost. It is still here. Damage has been done to which we must adapt. But the great loss that would be the most tragedy in the history of human species and many other species as well is still retreated, it could still be protected.
So go along with the knowledge that you been through. Go along with all the new relationships that you have established here. Go along with the feeling of passion why you were here in the first place that you must keep in your heart. The most valuable resource you have.
I want you to… I wanna share with you… this feeling that this precious earth of ours is…. beginning to slip…….. from our grasp. It has not slipped away. Now is the time to make sure it does not. So I close by asking you to hold on. We are going to win. With your help we will win. God bless you and thank you!