I'm reading
Hope will get us through
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Hope will get us through
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Hope will get us through
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
20 December 2019

Hope will get us through

“As citizens of the world, it is now our job to be hopeful.”

Written by Nicole Lutze

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

When my five-year-old daughter announced her solution to species extinction, I was nearly reduced to tears. She suggested travelling the world planting trees and photographing every type of animal, even the snakes. Her photographs, she continued, would be so beautiful that humans will decide not to kill or destroy habitats.

It’s a naive plan and overly simplistic, but as a parent, it’s wretchedly beautiful. It’s a plan saturated in the kind of optimism that only a child can possess. Though perhaps it’s that exact mindset that we need more than ever right now.

Each day there is more unnerving and disempowering climate catastrophe news. Glaciers are melting and polar bears are scrounging through city dumps. Crops are dying, rivers are drying, seas are rising, and islands vanishing along with homes. We see the news, feel the news, so we scroll a little faster. We skip the article or switch off mid-point: missing the point entirely.

The climate of our home planet is now destined for change in ways we are still struggling to comprehend. I look at my children and I feel guilty, despondent and sincerely apologetic. We failed; my parents failed; all of us together failed. Yet we won’t even be here when the full impact hits.

There are reasons for not acting, and they’re as complex as the problem. Economics and capitalism are high on the finger-pointing list. There’s also the simple fact that, as Al Gore suggested more than a decade ago, change can be inconvenient. But beyond those factors is a psychological reason 200,000 years in the making. It seems the human brain simply isn’t capable of absorbing disturbing future-based news. In fact, our brains only began to comprehend a future a few hundred years ago. With a focus on basic needs like food, shelter and sex, we seek out ways to affirm that everything is alright, despite the bombardment of facts.

Given that dystopian reporting fails to motivate our fight or flight reflexes, the antidote to climate grief and inaction is optimism itself.

Serving a story sunny-side-up is what we need to motivate the masses. Good stories about good people making breakthroughs and living change. We need to show the possibilities that are happening right now, and thankfully, we don’t need to look far to find the unicorn and rainbow-laden stories.

It might be the couple down the street who transformed their suburban block into a thriving food forest, or the scientists at the local university feeding seaweed to cattle to reduce methane emissions. Its whole nations banning disposable plastics and the rise in demand for renewable energy. There’s the Dutch inventor Boylan Slat, who founded The Ocean Cleanup at age 18. And of course, there’s Greta Thunberg and her young following, emboldened by a youthful optimism and determined their actions can change the world.

And their actions do matter, let’s not undermine them and instead use them as inspiration and an example to us all. Children and teenagers have an innate ability to provide solutions tocomplex problems. Rather than feeling defeated by life, we too should be taking to the streets and loudly protesting. Instead the majority of us are set to business as usual, calmly shopping online, pumping fuel and counting our bank balances. It’s the curse of our society and the plague of adulthood. It’s a sickness that is decades in the making by culture, economics and psychology. Over our lifetime, we have learned to suppress our emotions, swallowing them down like lumps in our throat, that eventually disconnect our heart and soul.

The renowned eco-philosopher Joanna Macy understands this more than most. It is her mission to help people communicate suppressed feelings, saying, “Of all the dangers we face, from climate chaos to nuclear war, none is so great as the deadening of our responses.”

And I’ll confess, I’m not immune. There’s more I could do each and every day, including being more supportive of the solutions my children provide. While I’ll happily fill my purse with a medley of discarded waste collected by tiny hands from dirty suburban streets, I lack the confidence to act when it comes to awkward human interactions. 

When the same daughter who problem-solved extinction demanded to talk to Woolworths staff about putting doors on the fridges in their produce aisle, I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed at the idea. She understood doors would stop the cold air escaping, using less electricity, and could see no reason why her voice should not be heard. Meanwhile, I wrapped her in the pre-packed cardigan and promised to email them later.

Knowing that one day soon, I will need to tell both my daughters what I did to help, I’ve decided it’s time to up the ante. I’m going to acknowledge the feelings of loss as well as the fear. I’m going to be inconvenient and awkward and tell supermarkets to do better. Then, I’m going to be positive. Optimism, or active hope, as Macy prefers to call it, requires dedication. We need to practice it, cultivate it, and provide it air to breathe.

As citizens of the world, it is now our job to be hopeful. We must tell stories of hope, write songs of hope and engage in hopeful actions. We need to put solar panels on our rooves, even though we might move. We need to plant flowers, grow native foods, move our superannuation and banking accounts to invest in a sustainable future. We need to buy less and make it last. We need to develop community resilience and get to know our neigbours. We need to demand systemic change because it can’t come down to the individual anymore. We need to believe in the impossible, as children do, because the world needs hope more than dystopia, and hope will get us through.

Nicole Lutze

Nicole Lutze is a Sunshine Coast based freelance writer for magazines and businesses.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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