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Climate Change, Love, & Social Media

The climate crisis cannot be ignored. Throughout each month, Milk will be focusing on solutions and stories from the environment’s biggest supporters; via essays, photo stories, updates on the latest technologies, and tips to combat the climate crisis, we’ve got you covered. This week, LA-based writer and photographer Zoé Lawrence pens an ode to the earth, sex, and social media.

It starts in the shower.

I’ve been thinking a lot these past few months. It’s a particular type of brain buzz that makes it hard to get anything else done. It makes my day job more difficult to focus on, gets in the way of responding to my friends in a timely manner, shows up during my showers and follows me like a hungry dog. In short, it makes itself known. When left unattended it doesn’t make a fuss, doesn’t yell or cry but it’ll curl up next to me while I’m on the couch until I decide to put my phone down and ask “it” what it wants. It reminds me a lot of myself when I was a child. I’ve grown louder and more pressing about my needs over the years but at eight, I was timid and slow to speak. I cared more about silence and drawing in my notebook. The words came later on. A few weeks shy of my 25th birthday and it’s easy to spot when a next fixation is forming. It’s usually somewhere festering in my anxieties. If I pay close enough attention to what crosses my mind during a shower I can detect the next rock I need to look under. When the brain buzz gets too loud, I have to pick up 1) a book 2)find an article that articulates what I can’t just yet or 3)reach out to a friend who knows more on the subject and 4) ask every and all the questions until the buzz subsides.

I’m anything but high-functioning when I need a question answered.

I’ve been thinking about wetness, humidity, and the quality of our air. How different species mate, sea slugs, snails, and love that feels like time loops, or cocoons (safe and away from the outside sphere.) It still throws me how each love is a world and how easy it is to get lost in them. I’m thinking about things that most 24-year-olds are. Sex, love, and what I want it to look like in my own life. It’s an impressionable time, special and deeply personal. It forces me to pick up more books. Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown and The Integral Nature of Things: Critical Reflections on the Present by Lati Mani are both bibles on any given day.  I owe these two pieces of literature most of my peace. The most reoccurring thought that feels almost cyclical, clocking in for its shift  (promptly! I might add) is how the earth around me is decaying. As it always has of course but now moving with a different vigor during the last couple of decades. I’ve never been big into color with my own work but now everything I develop resembles a heat map. It shows up in my writing, bleeds into my photos and of course, follows me into the shower.

I’m reading a book (I won’t recommend it just yet because I haven’t finished it, but so far so good) that speaks on geoengineering, a term coined for large scale manipulation tactics to the environment in an effort to offset climate change. Like most schemes (whether interpersonal or when dealing with a whole ass planet) it doesn’t tackle the issue by the root. Some of the methods are so bizarre, I have to reread a passage two or three times to make sure I read it correctly. From what I’ve learned so far during my 24 years is that short cuts sometimes work, but most times they do not. When I think about climate change, I mostly think about one small island. A mass of land perched proudly in the Caribbean. In my mind, a wave angry enough could wash it all away. My family, my history, an island I know well but as the years go by, I start to realize not well enough, is growing increasingly vulnerable. The infrastructure of most buildings isn’t made with natural disasters in mind— a self-evident gauge on the lack of resources stemming from systematic displacement that’s been brewing since early colonial days. There are no tangible reparations to the people that were found or brought (void of all consent) to the isle in sight. The worry I have for the country revolves in my head like a synth. I try to filter it out, pay attention to other thoughts but the worry falls in line. I think about crowds of Black and Brown bodies and long lines with white volunteers serving food at the beginning of them.

I mostly think of grief.

That’s what climate change feels like it’ll bring the most of: mostly loss and mostly grief but instead of making me hopeless, it does the opposite. The thought is freeing, most days. It helps me say no to anything that feels like a chore. It morphs the art that I create which feels a lot more visceral and urgent then what I’ve made in the past. It allows me to move faster while simultaneously making me want to move slower and with more intentionality when I’m with the people I love. I was raised on an island, deep in bush, with the sea less than a mile away. I was also raised on the southern banks of Florida. Ask anyone who comes from sticky weather, the heat forces you to slow down. From the outside looking in, our movements can come across sluggish. Sometimes they are. The humidity beats into us at an early age that we should try our best to take our time. The world is growing hotter and it makes me leave situations that feel like a dead-end, quicker. A silver lining to an earth in decline.

It reminds me that there’s never been much time for any generation but especially not for mine. It also makes me want to know more about the people who look like me and who are probably experiencing the same shower thoughts that I am. So, I go to an app that’s been giving me access to communities outside of my reach since I was 17. I open up my Instagram and start the familiar downward spiral. I start looking through the people I follow and the people they follow, etc, etc.

Mandy Harris Williams’s (a LA superhero and downright genius) feed is always a regular stop on the way. Gem Nwanne is also a constant these past few weeks. The way they treat TikTok (RIP Vine) as an art while breaking down dense concepts with humor and grace feels comforting during moments when the political climate can feel overwhelming. It’s on their page that I find K.D. who introduces me to the concept of Black Radical Ecology and what water restoration/water quality activism can look like through a lens that feels closer to my own. Nothing completely eradicates anxiety associated with the end of the world as we know it today (lol mostly drama but also FACTS) but these are the people who inspire hope. The world is heating up and it’s getting harder to look away but there are pockets of comfort that spill from the mouths of them and countless more that make this all easier to digest.

Images Courtesy of Zoé Lawrence

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