The search for environmental hope

David Montgomery’s article in Washington Post draws from climate scientists, activists and writers to explore the notion of hope in the face of the relentlessly macabre news about the state of the global climate. This article asks what action might be sparked if we lean into the pain of witnessing and experiencing climate disasters?

Poet, Naomi Shihab Nye tells a story of a very unusual arctic spell of weather in San Antonio where she lives. After witnessing the confusion of doves around her home in response to the cold, she does what she can to save at least one of them.

Birder and naturalist J. Drew Lanham explores what it might mean to see ourselves magnified in nature and what this loosening of our own individuality might mean for how we understand our impact and action.

The crumbling notion of anthropocentrism is central to many of these creatives, environmentalist scientists and activists expressions of hope. Hope seems to be found, for them, in the notions of laying down selfhood whilst taking ownership over individual acts of improvement.Acknowledging that the broader solutions to climate may be beyond our reach until we first re-orient our lived relationship with nature and the Earth.

The key principle here is that hope is actionRather than hope being a tool to propel action. Hope is also uncoupled from optimism; that is, hope is less about believing something will turn out well and more about understanding the purposefulness of your acts, your beliefs, and your words as you engage with the climate crisis.

The article closes by suggesting that’grief is one of the great unacknowledged paths to hope and compassion’. Environmental humanities professor and podcaster, Jennifer Atkinson explains that we need to allow ourselves to stay with the despair. She highlights the cognitive distortions that happen when we focus on seeking the answer, or abolishing of our own sense of loss, fear and failure. Indeed, Atkinson believes that hope takes root through the embodiment of despair. Read this wonderful and thought provoking piece in full here.

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