Disaster Movie is Starting: Which Side Are You On? – Dr. Plastic Picker

Disaster Movie is Starting: Which Side Are You On?

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Memory before the hurricane hit.

August 20, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

We knew the hurricane was coming, so we made some memories. We had two cousins still here from New York helping with the summit, beautiful girls that I’m their aunt. They are at a beautiful age in life, young and their futures in front of them. They took some of their summer to visit their family which is their cousins and grandparents and uncle (and me), and to help with the summit. But because Hurricane Hilary was coming, we had to have their parents change their flights and we got them out before the Hurricane. They are from New York City, and they had many of their family memories destroyed during Hurricane Sandy. Climate fueled disasters are real, and they are aware of them as are we. Can we take a moment and acknowledge something? There is a Hurricane coming to Southern California! This is 100% climate change.

But my heart is at ease because I’ve known the disaster movie was starting. And at some point, you have to decide for yourself what character are you going to play in the movie. Are you on the side of chaos? Or are you on the side of justice? I picked my side four years ago. So we’ve filled our reusable water bottles and we have enough water. We didn’t really need to get more food, because honestly I think everyone has enough food in their house. Mr. Plastic Picker filled up the PRIUS with gas in case we need to evacuate. It will be horrendous trying to get out of Pacific Beach honestly but we have many places east we can drive to. We’ll weather the storm fine. But this scenario is going to be more common now. Hurricanes in Southern California. Extreme Heat Events. Climate migrations.

My heart is at ease because I’m continuing to organize. The H3SD Summit was 100% the right thing to do, because so many like-minded climate doctors met that day. Many new projects have emerged. Many new collaborations have started. We did something amazing last weekend, we really did. A group have started email discussion of a San Diego based on-line scientific journal based on racial and health inequities. I have mentoring meetings with several climate and health doctors who want advice about how to advance to the next stage of their careers. I’m surprised I’m at this stage, but I’m happy to give advice and to mentor those who want to be mentored. We have many papers we need to start getting out as a result of the summit. I gave an interview already to a youth journalist on the h3sd summit. I have made plans already to travel up to UC Berkeley to do a talk with some premedical students and my son on climate anxiety, and also have gathered a group of 5 climate and health physicians to network with the UC Berkeley students. This intergenerational collaboration is very powerful. Plus I can go spy on my son (with his full knowledge of course!) during this freshman year.

But as the winds are gathering strength and I’m looking out the window at the rain, I’m grateful we took some time to live life yesterday. Our tomorrows are never guaranteed. And yesterday I loved. I loved my daughter. I loved my nieces. I loved my mother and father in law by getting the girls all dressed up in the traditional Korean dresses we already had. Each hanbok my mother-in-law had special made for a particular wedding, and mine was sewn in Korea in celebration of Mr. Plastic Picker and my wedding over 21 years ago. My mother-in-law was recounting when each of the dresses were sewn, and she choked up a bit with some rare tears. Yesterday her pretty granddaughters aged 20, 17 and 15 dressed up. She got to dress up with them. She told them to take off their bras (you don’t wear bras underneath I guess), and tied the restrictive hanboks that flatten your breasts. She lovingly showed them how to tie the skirts and put on the multiple top layers. She put on her own hanbok and we took pictures in the garden and had the girls fan their skirts out while they sat on the grass. It was a beautiful and simple moment, and we have beautiful pictures.

I went for a walk with my one niece, who I did not know that well and now I know better. She’s a beautiful child and I got to tell her some stories that I’ve been wanting to tell her since she was little. We picked up trash on the beach, and heard the waves and had adventures yesterday morning.

You can never get these years back, and indeed we will never get yesterday back – so we lived yesterday to the fullest knowing the hurricane was coming today. They girls are tucked away safe back in New York now. We are safe in our house, and we are prepped as well as anyone can be for this hurricane. But my heart is at ease, because I’m living each day taking action regarding climate change and climate resiliency. I’m trying everything I can to influence the world toward the arc of sustainability and justice. But I’m also allowing myself to be a mother and be an aunt. I give my college boyfriend big hugs, and he’s so happy with how I love his family and his nieces.

I miss our son terribly, and he is worried about us. But I told him we’ll be fine. Someone in the family had a dream about my death. It was an anxiety dream. And I honestly told them, mommy has no regrets. I’ve lived such a wonderful life, especially the last four years. I haven’t held back the love I have for the world, but tried to pour it forth. I’ve sent innocent emails to my friends still dreaming of my daughter and her future. But I told my family honestly, I don’t think I’m going to die soon? I have too much work to do. The earth needs to me to do all the projects that I have planned. I’ll be here to see the ending of the disaster movie. And I hope that it will be beautiful filled with love and healing, and big smiles from all the climate families that I’ve gotten to know. Thank you for following along with me on my emotional journey in this emotional work.

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