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George Monbiot: how I escape climate despair

The climate crisis is terrifying. But kayaking off the coast of Britain, I still find joy.

There is one question the environmental journalist and author George Monbiot is asked more than any other: how do you cope? When your job is to report on the climate crisis, where do you find hope? Monbiot’s answer is a very personal one: he goes sea kayaking – alone, often far off the coast, with (if he’s lucky) a pod of dolphins or a flock of shearwaters for company.

In this evocative essay from the New Statesman’s summer 2023 issue, Monbiot explores the sea off the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, his former home in Cardigan Bay, and his new home in south Devon – a coastline “featuring cliffs and rocky coves, clefts and chasms, reefs and skerries, sandy and shingle beaches and several estuaries”. He relives the dangers and joys of battling the waves in a very small boat, most recently with an underwater camera fixed to the hull. There is no permanent escape from ecological distress, he writes, from the warming seas and the waste pumped into them, “but for hours at a time, I lose myself”.

Written by George Monbiot and read by Chris Stone.

This article originally appeared in the 28 July-17 August 2023 New Statesman summer issue. You can read the text version here.

If you enjoyed listening to this episode, you might also enjoy Rebecca Solnit on hope, despair and climate action.

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