Getting personal about climate change made me a better reporter

Sammy Roth, Feb 3rd 2022, Columbia Journalism Review and LA Times

THE THIRD WEEKEND OF AUGUST 2020 was a hectic time for California. Wildfires raged, smoke filled the air, and power shortages had forced state officials to order rolling blackouts, meaning hundreds of thousands of homes lacked air conditioning during a brutal heat wave. That Monday, I scrambled to cover the fallout, writing about one state agency blaming another for the power shortfall. The next day, I hurried to report a piece on clean energy technologies that could help California keep the lights on, hoping to offer solutions during a bleak moment. By Wednesday, I was mentally and physically exhausted. So I wrote about that, too.

In that week’s edition of Boiling Point, the email newsletter I author for the Los Angeles Times, I discussed climate despair and my strategies for coping with it, in hopes that readers feeling similarly fatalistic would find it useful. I described what it was like for me personally living through those hellish few days, and offered some Jewish wisdom from an ancient rabbi that had helped me keep perspective: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”

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