I sometimes have this conversation with friends - what gives us hope for the future of the world. As Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson puts it, this is just a way for people to seek hope. Here are some headlines just from the last 2 days:
- Seattle continues to break heat records, hits 108 degrees
- British Columbia sees 195% increase in sudden deaths during Canada heatwave
- Five Asian countries account for 80% of new coal power investment
- India’s death toll from coronavirus crosses 400,000; vaccination drive falters. This is an undercount by many orders of magnitude.
Hope only makes sense when you have a long time for it to motivate action. Climate change and its impacts are not theoretical, they are not our future. We’re living through them right now. With climate change at our doorstep, we just don’t have that kind of time. People don’t even talk the same language or share the same level of emergency1. Hope to me feels like a blanket to hide from reality.
I tell people not to look to me for hope because I have none to give. I just have fear and grief. Fear for the people that will have to live through the changing hostile planet, and grief for what could have been. The lack of hope doesn’t necessarily mean inaction either. The fear, the grief, and the guilt motivate me to donate both money and time.
None of this is to say that the millions of scientists, educators, journalists, engineers, activists working their asses off to address climate change don’t matter; they are our only saving grace. I will take all the wins that we can get - criminally holding liable oil companies and their executives, closing down dirty energy production plants, expanding public transit, technological breakthroughts. They are not however a substitute for the rapid global action that is needed with justice and equity at its core.
To some this seems pessimistic. But to me this is just being realistic.
1: I’m not talking about climate change deniers here (I don’t care for them). I’m talking about disagreements about everything from attributing blame, to agreeing on solutions, and to enforcing accountability.