Hope and Climate Change

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?

4 Responses to “Hope and Climate Change”

  1. Wesupportlee says:

    I notice that some people arent talking about the very obvious drought and the dead-dying trees. They are not hiring tree surgeons to remove obvious hazards from yards, and I see dead shrubbery just being left in some yards rather than being cut or removed . It’s almost like a state of denial rather than active adaptation by planting cacti or other drought-tolerant landscaping.

  2. Wesupportlee says:

    Hope about the situation bothers me when it’s a state of denial. It bothers me less when it’s accompanied by strong willingness to adapt bymaking lifestyle changes. Exmplesmight include having few children, xeriscaping around homes, conserving energy etc.

  3. Rosemary says:

    I don’t have hope about stopping climate change. When you read that methane is bubbling up out of the thawed permafrost of Siberia, where do you find hope? All the current effects of climate change seem to include further contributions to it. I’ll look at your link, though. I do have hope that as conditions deteriorate in our country (if totalitarians don’t take over) the suffering that is going to ensue will bring us together and strengthen communities. We can live a more simple, Spirit-filled, caring life whatever happens.

  4. Karen Street says:

    Thank you both for your comments. I hope to hear from people who have other experiences of hope, because this is a source of conflict, as I’ve seen in my workshops. It will be good to hear other views articulated.

    We can’t hope (rationally) for really positive results with no downsides, but we can hope to reduce the harm we do. We can hope to do what we can.