Spaceship Earth: A climate conversation

As a way to get to know us, the writers, and gain some insight into the minds of two different organizers, we thought a conversation would be a fun way to cover some interesting and under-discussed territory.

Noah Mills (NM): You just came off of being a great contributor to putting together the climate strike movement here at Tufts, how do you feel now?

Caitlin Colino (CC): I feel happy and proud overall, but also stressed about everything else in my life now. During the final week of preparations I let myself have one priority, and I let that priority be making sure that as many people on campus [as possible] knew about and were able to attend the climate strike. Unfortunately that meant sacrificing some of my school work, and now I am facing the consequences — still worth it though. 

Last year, you were an organizer of the tier-town action (a performative protest demonstrating the extremely inadequate amount of housing on Tufts campus), did it make you feel hopeful or was it disheartening?

NM: Since tiered housing was so new, we had to raise awareness and opposition to it in a very short amount of time. It took a lot of work and a lot of late nights to try to get the level of action needed to respond and ultimately we got a lot of people to protest, which was nice — but it also didn’t change the administration’s mind which was really frustrating. We also all got burned out after it, which is obviously not fun for anyone. 

What would you say to people considering becoming organizers about how they might expect their mental health to change? Thoughts on ‘burnout?’

CC: I have found that action is the best antidote to the feelings of apathy and hopelessness that come from reading today’s headlines. So in that respect organizing can be a really healthy tool to channel those negative feelings and improve mental health. On the other hand, there is always more work to do when it comes to the massive problems our world is facing. It’s easy to get caught up in the never ending list of to-dos and often hard to see the results of your work. To avoid burnout it’s important to work in teams, seek help when needed and focus on concrete achievable actions. Finally, it’s important to remember that the cause you are fighting for needs you to be physically and mentally healthy to be an effective contributor, so take care of yourself! 

To finish, what helps you continue the organizing fight? 

NM: The reason I started organizing was to fix problems in society that make real people’s lives worse. Be it a lack of affordable housing, climate change, labor rights, mass incarceration, LGBTQIA+ advocacy: people are hurting. For me, until those problems are gone, organizing cannot stop. The same problems that cause me stress are the same things that help me bring meaning into my work, and if I’m ever discouraged I just have to remember who and what I’m fighting for, and that really helps me re-energize and keep up the fight.