Caring at the End of the World
Featuring: Meghan and Joni
April 13, 2020

3-Part Zine Series:

We released a video based on this zine series when we launched the Eco-Anxious Stories site in February, and ever since, I’ve been so excited to share these images. Late last year, I asked creator Meghan Mast about each page of this three-part series (some of which were created by her friend and collaborator, Joni Sawatzky), and some of her thoughts and reflections are included below. If you haven’t already seen the video, check it out here.  -RMC

When it feels like the end of the world

When my friend Joni and I decided to make this zine series, we were really feeling very overwhelmed, and afraid, and angry about the state of the world, and we were feeling helpless to do anything. So this zine series sort of grew out of an attempt to focus on what it is that we did have control over.

The things that we do have control over in our life include the way that we take care of ourselves, the way that we take care of other people in our lives, and the way that we take care of the world. Zines are a very accessible form of creativity because you’re working with other people’s images and other people’s words.

We were finding so much comfort in the words of other people who’ve been thinking about these things already before us, and sort of paving the way for the rest of us as we get to the stage of feeling just intense grief and anxiety over the state of the world.

(Real) Self-Care

The first zine is about real self-care at the end of the world. We don’t want to talk about self-care in the sort of the spa and manicures kind of way, but more in the daily tending and caring for oneself.

At the same time as Joni and I were both feeling very scared, and overwhelmed, and angry about the state of the world, I found myself feeling very lonely because a lot of the people around me didn’t didn’t seem to be realizing how serious things were. It’s very hard to connect with other people in a meaningful way when it doesn’t feel like they’re concerned about the same things.

I think that taking care of ourselves in a holistic way is actually pretty radical, because capitalism grinds us down so much and makes us feel like we’re just worth what we’re able to produce. The idea that taking care of ourselves is pretty profound. Burnout is huge in activism circles and organizing circles, so I find myself asking, “How do we sustain ourselves in this work?”

How do we make this pleasurable work? All of that is really crucial because we’re talking about a sustainable planet, but we need to be sustainable human beings too, I think, at the same time.

I love this quote by Mary Oliver because it feels like permission to enjoy life and not feel guilty about it. As a compassionate person there’s always more I could be doing there’s always more to be done, and I think Mary Oliver has this beautiful way of just distilling what’s the most important.

I think that society so often tells us that our bodies aren’t beautiful or that our bodies could be more beautiful and it’s just a lie really. Think about how our bodies are vessels – they do so much good for us and they move us through our work and our life.

Community Care

I think because we live in a capitalist society there’s a lot of emphasis on the individual: “Take care of yourself. Make sure you and your family have what you need.” But as we explore the idea of care at the end of the world. I think it’s really important it’s just so crucial to talk about community care looking outside of our own families and our own immediate circles. To the larger community.

I think that we can benefit so much by taking care of each other, because capitalism makes us feel like we’re alone in this struggle against the climate crisis. But the vulnerability of sharing our grief with the people around us can be a pretty quick way to form community.

Our organs are not meant to carry all the loneliness that we feel. We’re meant to share that in community with each other, I think. What does that look like?

We have no control over how hard and painful this world is sometimes, to us and the people around us. But we do have the ability to be kind. A friend recently told me, “No matter how hard things get, we will always be able to be kind to each other. We will always have that option.”

We’re all connected, and I think we forget that. Right now we’re living in very divisive times politically, socioeconomically, there’s this huge inequality between rich and poor. I think when you distill it down, we have to remember how connected we all are.

I remember clearly when Joni and I became friends, because we were in the kitchen at work and I was getting some tea, and she asked me how I was doing and I just started crying. And she just stayed with me and asked more questions about what was going on. She wasn’t afraid of my sadness, my grief, my fear. She just listened, and it turns out she felt some of the same things.

Earth Care

Just imagine if we all took responsibility for each other, and the well-being of each other. I just think the world would look a lot different.

I think that Indigenous Peoples have a much better concept of this idea that the earth is our body. Just the connectedness between the earth and us. I think the rest of us are starting to realize that the earth sustains us. The well-being and health of our own bodies are very much wrapped up in the well-being and the health of the earth.

I think we’ve gotten so distracted by things that actually don’t matter. Capitalism and colonialism have done a good job at distracting us from the fact that the land gives us everything that we need.

It’s an invitation to stop and realize – what an amazing thing it is that we can take a breath. Air can fill our lungs and keep us going for a little bit longer until we need the next breath, and the next breath, and I think it’s a reminder to stop and slow down. Try to see people and their humanity amidst our lives of rushing around. Take the time for kindness, and wow, like be grateful for being able to take another breath.

The trees put down roots deep into the soil, and we don’t even see that, it’s beneath the surface. The history it took for the trees to get to that point to be as deep as they are. That idea of rootedness and strength I think is quite powerful.

A lot of climate justice work is talking about what we’re fighting against, what we’re trying to stop. But we wanted people to think about what we are building towards, what would we like to see. It feels like we’re very much in a moment right now of change and uncertainty. And that’s where a lot of the fear comes from too, it feels like we could go any direction, and some of the directions would be better and some of the directions would be a lot worse. We wanted people to think about what that looks like for them, put their own image in place.

A note from Rachel

When we look at Joni and Meghan’s zines, it reminds us of how beautiful it can be to reflect on what this moment in time means to us all. A lot of pain and loneliness went into this project, and now it helps to spreads compassion, introspection, and courage. Our climate emotions are doors to deeper connection, and we’re so grateful for those willing to share a glimpse into the visual language they use to make sense of things. If you’d like to share your works with us, let us know. Peace to you, friends!

I DUNNO: Reflection Video

More from Meghan Mast:

“I think most of us who’ve felt grief and anxiety over the climate crisis have felt very isolated in those feelings at some point. Going about daily activities and making small talk feels empty and discordant when ecological collapse is occupying your thoughts. Gabby’s words here struck me and stuck with me because they spoke to the fact that these feelings matter and are important, but to try not to let them isolate us from other people. I’ve formed some meaningful and deep friendships through sharing my feelings and grieving with other people. I hope that other people hear and resonate with these words like I did.” – Meghan Mast, Filmmaker and Community Organizer