The AtlanticThe Atlantic

The Utility of White-Hot Rage

By Emma Marris

25 Jan 2022 · 6 min read

Usually, a story like this starts with a quick roundup of alarming statistics and a reminder of all the latest climate disasters: heat domes, floods, hurricanes, etc. I’m going to skip that part. Most of us get it already. We understand with our rational minds that the climate is changing, and we feel that it is changing in the deepest pit of our gut, where dread and fury live.

A poll conducted by Yale and George Mason University researchers in September found that 70 percent of Americans are worried about climate change, and 47 percent describe themselves as “angry” about it. I’m in both of those groups. In my 15 years as an environmental journalist, I’ve always been able to ground myself on a bedrock optimism that humanity will get its act together. Lately, though, as the pandemic has dragged toward its third year, the West has continued to burn, drought has parched my part of the world, and climate action has stalled at the federal level even with Democrats in control, that has changed. I am burned out. For some people, this might manifest as fatigue, or disengagement. For me, it’s anger. On a near-daily basis, I can feel my blood sizzling in my veins.

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