We all know that hope is crucial to acting—if we’re doomed to failure, only a few of us bother. Yet, too frequent expressions of hope can have their down side. I remember when my aunt was dying, as she wasted away, she expressed her sense each time we met that she was getting better. I never felt like we got a chance to talk honestly.
Here are two examples that bother some about expressed hope. Then I want to hear what you have to say.
• I taught a workshop several times in which I gave people space to respond from their own personal experience, their own heart, about how they feel about climate change, right after showing slides on the facts of climate change, climate change to date, and predictions from scientists—mainstream to worst case—about what changes we could see this century. Go to Public Concern and Scientific Warnings Diverge for sample items on the prediction list (worst case).
Some spoke of grief or sadness, some of feeling a need for a beer. And twice in four years, young people (teens to 20) talked about hope. Once the hope was general, and one year more than one young person said they had hope because people their age would protest climate change and coal power, and so all would be well.
Both years, older adults complained to me about this sharing. One felt reprimanded for feeling grief, and all felt that expressions of hope felt so much like denial that it interfered with listening to and expressing their own feelings. Ultimately what I did is forbid people from expressing hope, likely the only such prohibition in the history of this exercise! People told me that they needed the prohibition to feel safe.
• People I know working on climate change sometimes say how much hope they feel. Eg, young people are taking such and such an action, which may be meaningless in itself, as a desire to respond to climate change. Recently someone became upset when I found little hope from this, instead I find hope when people listen, and respond after listening. I hear her example as people doing what they want to do, and hoping that it somehow addresses climate change. Hoping for a result doesn’t feel like hope to me.
So please help! How do you hear people expressing hope on climate change? What gives you hope on climate change?