Thursday, November 2, 2023

Accessioning Joy

We need your help, and it should be fun. But first, some scene setting.

It is summer 2023, but it could be last summer, or the next, or the one after that. People are dying in droves from unprecedented heat, flooding, violence, drought and food shortages, among other climate-change-induced disasters. And yet people keep telling us there is no need to lose hope.

And they’re probably right. However, they’re right for the wrong reasons. We will all die in the Anthropocene. But we needn’t die submissively and without joy.

Many great minds are working on climate mitigation and adaptation science, policy, and implementation. We hope they succeed. Whether or not they do, we have a parallel approach to climate change: A climate haven. No, this isn’t about relocating people to different regions that are more suitable for a warmer world (about which one of us has written). That would be a physical haven where people could go for shelter, sustenance, and bodily perseverance.  We’re creating an emotional haven. A place where people can go to escape the psychological toll that our inevitable extinction brings.

When it comes to climate change and the future of life on Earth, there is a lot to worry about. The first worry is the unknown. Are we looking merely at economic turmoil and unprecedented death in far-off countries or a worldwide post-apocalyptic hellscape? The second worry is a lack of control. When it comes to climate change, no individual has control. These are the roots of climate anxiety.

We believe we can create a climate haven that will do absolutely nothing to “solve” climate change but will do a lot to relieve climate anxiety. Our goal is to create more certainty and empower people to take control. Psychologist Dr. Stephanie Collier wrote, “As uncertainty and a loss of control characterize climate anxiety, the best treatment is to take action.”  We have a plan of action, for ourselves and for you.

We want to empower people to have more control over their state of mind as they die in the Anthropocene, by creating a haven. A sort of museum of joy. Our goal is to design an infrastructure and process for building this museum. We want this to be a place where people can go—both virtually, so long as we still have the internet and electricity—and physically. It is to be a place of refuge when hope for survival is lost.  Our team includes a museum curator and archivist. We are developing an accessioning and collections inventory process, securing space, and, starting with this post, conceptualizing the collection.

This is where we need your help. Our vision will not be entirely our own. Sure, we have ideas for what can bring each of us joy in the Anthropocene. One of us wants a rollercoaster. One an analog collection of sitcoms that we can watch even if our digital infrastructure fails. Another wants a diverse collection of outdoor showers. Imagine a museum with rollercoasters, sitcoms, and showers, carefully cataloged, maintained, and freely accessible to bring you joy. What would you want to add to this collection? Think creatively but also think within the bounds of the slow but steady climate apocalypse.

Think about the sunshine on your face. It is a little too warm, almost hot. You squint slightly and reduce the glare as the breeze blows across your face. The air was humid but now you are cool, and slightly distracted from what’s about to come. The breeze stops. You’re still for just a moment. You open your eyes and are looking down at the tops of the trees, red and yellow tracks gliding across your view. A moment of excitement, and now the breeze picks up again, quickly turning into a gust, blowing away the humid air as you tumble forward, floating toward the ground. The adrenaline carries the excitement forward as you pull to a clanking stop. Time to rinse off.

When you leave the coaster you walk a few steps. Directly in front of you is a deep and wide wooden stall. The broad slats are weathered blue and a chrome showerhead faces down from the ceiling. To the right is a stone wall, whites and browns and grays with little flecks of gold and silver. Two curved stone walls on either side and another chrome showerhead, this one handheld with a long modernist handle. To the left of the stone shower sit three more options. You choose the stone. The cool water washes over you and splashes down to the floor. It rolls over the stones and jangles like a small brook to the grass beyond. You twist the handle to the right and the water slows to a drip then stops. You let the air wash over you for a moment while looking up at the sun coming through the tree canopy. The leaves overlap and the rippling, crisscrossing shade might remind you of lying on your back in childhood in the woods or in the park. Few concerns beyond the afternoon.

As a kid, on a summer afternoon, you might wander home from your adventure bug bitten and sweaty but nevertheless joyful. You open your front door, have a drink of juice or water, a snack, and turn on the tv. The thought brings you back to the present. You towel off, put on clean clothes, and off you go to check out the selection of classic sitcoms.

If this isn’t your joy, what is? We need to know if we are to create our museum of joy. Please email Josh Galperin ([email protected]) to share your ideas.

-- Bruce Carpenter, Josh Galperin, & Francis Hicks

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