I almost had a panic attack the day David Roberts of Grist.org announced his hiatus from writing about climate change. On August 19, 2013, Roberts announced:
So as not to bury the lede, let me begin with the big news: I’m taking a year off.
As of Labor Day weekend, I am going underground. I won’t be writing for Grist (or anyone else); I won’t be reading or responding to email; I won’t be on Twitter; I won’t be following the news cycle or reading PDFs; I won’t be spending all day every day attached to a computer. I won’t be answering the phone, either, but then I never answered the phone anyway.
Then, on Labor Day of 2014, I’ll be back! With any luck I will be rested, renewed, and ready to return to blogging duty.
Indeed, Roberts returned to action this past week. In a brilliant piece for Outside Magazine, he discussed what he’s been doing for the past year, and the lessons he has learned:
First, I’m holding on to the three most centering, mind-calming practices I developed during the break. There’s yoga, of course, which I can no longer imagine doing without. There’s walking. And there’s bass guitar, my delight in which is undiminished by lack of skill. (If I accomplished nothing else this year, at least I learned the Game of Thrones theme on bass.)
For at least one or two hours every workday, I’m going to use an app called Freedom to cut off my Internet connection entirely. That will be my time for deep focus…
I don’t plan to swear off social media. Unlike some disconnectionists, I don’t view online relationships as toxic or inauthentic. I benefit from them enormously. But I do want to keep that ping time corralled, so it doesn’t smear into everything else. That means turning off all push notifications and checking e-mail and social media only when I’ve decided to, not when they buzz at me. The ideal cycle, in my hopeful imagination, is a period of singular concentration, followed by a limited period of pinging, followed by a period of rest, exercise, or social interaction, away from screens. Four or five of those cycles add up to a productive day, with rhythm and variety.
When I’m writing, I want to write with full focus. When I’m pinging, I want to ping without angst or guilt. When I’m with my family, I want to be with my family, not half in my phone. It is the challenge of our age, in work and in life: to do one thing at a time, what one has consciously chosen to do and only that, and to do it with care and attention.
I hope I’m up to it. That any of us are.
I’ve missed hearing his voice over the past year. It’s great to have him back, especially as the debate over the economics of climate change intensifies. As I’ve argued before, there are two contrasting visions of how to address carbon pollution: one that says that the worst effects of climate change can be avoided without having to turn away from the dominant Western economic system (a point of view embodied by Thomas Friedman), and one that says the worst effects of climate change can only be avoided by moving beyond the dominant Western economic system (a point of view embodied by Naomi Klein). Roberts has written eloquently about the economic choice we face, and I look forward to more of his observations about the economic elephant in the roasting room.
His post-comeback Grist posts can be found here.
Welcome back, David. We need you now more than ever.