Fruits of Labor

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”

—Audre Lorde

This weekend, together with Twenty Summers, Atmos hosted our first three-day gathering. Thought leaders, organizers, scientists, artists, and other members of our community convened in Provincetown, Massachusetts to discuss queer ecology, activism, conservation, storytelling, landback, and more. I left feeling more inspired than ever by the wisdom and dedication of people giving their all for this planet. I saw the best of humanity—but it was short lived.

On Monday, I returned to the news that Israel used U.S.-made missiles to strike a refugee camp in Rafah, killing at least 45 people, directly after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to immediately halt its offensive. The attack brings the death toll to 36,743 in Palestine and 1,139 in Israel since October 7. As was recently pointed out at the latest UN Security Council meetingif we were to hold one funeral a day for every Palestine killed, it would take us 100 years.

One hundred years does not seem nearly enough for the grief and anger I feel over a genocide that has gone on for more than seven months, an occupation that has gone on for far longer, and every single life killed or taken as a result. I recently learned that part of my ancestry is from Palestine—that I have relatives there I have never met. This feels personal to me, and yet it has always felt personal to me. I hope it feels personal to all of us, because our humanity is at stake.

In the last few days, all manner of discourse has unfolded online around how to use your voice. An AI-generated image saying “All Eyes on Rafah” was shared over 45 million times, which some critiqued as an artificial form of activism that overlooked the horrific images that many Palestinians have risked their lives to share from the rubble and ruin of their home. I saw many people speaking out for Palestine for the first time, while others asked why did it take so long?

As valid as these critiques and questions are, I am not sure how productive it is to police each other’s activism. Israel’s occupation of Palestine began long before October 7, and more people than ever before are finally paying attention. We need everyone that we can get. In my years of climate work, I have found that shaming people into caring about a cause is rarely effective. Let’s invite people into the work of liberation, of envisioning a different future, rather than creating a divisive atmosphere in which people are afraid of saying the wrong thing.

Over the weekend, we had a panel on embodied activism that left the audience feeling motivated to take action on behalf of people and the planet. Directly after, I had a keynote conversation with writer and philosopher Bayo Akomolafe who explored the edges of activism and asked: what if how we respond to crisis is part of the crisis? He shared a story about his autistic son who got overwhelmed in a public place, and while he tried to find a solution to the situation, his wife simply laid down with their son among the crowd—a moment that changed him forever.

I don’t know what our path forward is, but I know that it will require us to put our fingers on the wound. To both stand up for what’s right and lay down with what feels wrong. To be present with the best and worst of humanity and know that the brokenness of our world lives alongside our work of growing a new one. To be detached from the fruits of our labor and trust the seed we carry, nurtured by our hope and sorrow and rage, of a future in which we are all free.


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