Can the things that are coming together — which, of course, for me would be the positive things, the climate movement and the changes we’re trying to make — outrun the negative things, which are both climate change and its catastrophes and destruction?
By doing everything you can to mitigate climate change and prepare for its inevitable impacts, you can hope to make yourself, your family, and your community more resilient. That hope is not misplaced.
It’s in the cauldron of sharing our grief with our community, of gazing at it together and not looking away, that the heartbreak turns to hope.”
I call these framing strategies “unconventional optimism” – forms of optimism that are not grounded in a firm belief that victory is nigh or even highly likely, but that emphasize aspects of the future or the present that are nonetheless motivating.
If there is any hope worth having, in a time when we are rightly haunted by the thought of an ‘uninhabitable Earth’, then I don’t believe it lies in the triumph of reason, nor in the recovery of an imagined past. If I have any clue where it lies, I’d say it’s in the difficult work of learning to feel and think together again; to come down off the high and lonely horses that some of us were taught to ride, to recognise how much has been missing from our maps, how much has gone unseen in our worldviews.
Let’s put our hands in the earth and our shoulders to the wheel. Let’s live up to the standards we set for each other and forgive one another when we fail. Let’s cultivate new relationships with one another and the land that honor the dignity of both. Let’s take it easy, but take it.
The fight we signed up for is now the fight for what’s left and the people who get left with it. That’s all, really. But it’s also everything. And you, my weary friend, will never stop.
No single thing, and quite possibly nothing at all, can get us out of the epic mess we’ve made this time. Let’s stipulate that at the outset. It’s pretty obvious that situations like “the Anthropocene” and “climate crisis” are here to stay. Yet try we must, and try we do. Let’s stipulate that too, at least for some of us.
Neither hope nor its cousin joy are to be confused with optimism. The latter tends to be more a quality of temperament than a realistic assessment of prospects. As for the former, well, you have to go looking for them, or even, laboriously, construct them for yourself, at best in the company of other people.
What does it mean to live in this time, and how might we keep some sanity?
Let’s lift the lid off the A-word, take a peek inside, and examine how it affects our everyday lives.
Whenever I look around me, I wonder what old things are about to bear fruit, what seemingly solid institutions might soon rupture, and what seeds we might now be planting whose harvest will come at some unpredictable moment in the future.