Monday, February 10, 2014

Keeping Hope Alive

From the bean of Green Bean.

Last week, I was feeling particularly down. The mosquito police dropped by to inspect my rain barrels and wildlife pond due to a neighbor's complaint. The gentleman down the street blissfully hosed down his driveway in the middle of California's biggest drought on record.  Massive swathes of the planet will be uninhabitable in 50 years. Just the usual stuff that makes a green girl feel blue.

It was a Monday and we had planned on a attending a Keystone XL Pipeline rally that evening.  Except that I no longer wanted to go. What was the point? I'm not a protest person. I do better behind the keyboard or stovetop but my kids were excited, having never gone to such an event.

So, when the time came, the boys and I grabbed a couple of thrifted candles and trundled down to the vigil in my Prius. We pulled up to a dismal showing. A couple of older women and middle aged one on a bike. "We'll park the car and wait," I advised. "It is cold out." "It isn't quite time." "Let's just see what happens." I held out hope that we could turn around and go home.

The boys, with their faces pressed against the quickly fogging glass, counted person after person arriving. Some with candles. Some with signs. Some with dogs with signs. (Might I add that nothing is less depressing than a dog with a sign!)  Let's do this thing, I declared and we did.

We joined nearly two hundred kindred souls, chanting, singing, waving candles and affirming to ourselves and to each other that we are not alone. That we can make a difference. That hope is not dead.

I intended to write this article with a less activist bent.  A couple of weeks ago, a fellow tweep told me: "It's pretty easy for people to lose hope... though the best time to plant a tree was 20 yrs ago, the 2nd best time is today. " He was right. In the face of overwhelmingly devastating environmental news, we do need to keep hope alive. So I planned to make an innocuous list of activities that do just that. Planting trees, growing a garden, canning food.

All of those things are worthy. All of them should be done. But, in my experience, the most successful way to keep hope alive is to speak out. To get active. And make. some. noise.

We will stop this pipeline. We will shift toward a more sustainable future. We will preserve something habitable for our kids. People power will prevail. But only if we make it happen. Who's with me?


Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

A friend from Mississippi said she had trouble taking the drought seriously (wondered out loud how her neighbor could consider tearing out their front lawn) if water still comes out of her sink when she turns on the faucet. I had no response.

This is an important issue -- I've heard discussions about how one of the big reasons people are climate deniers is that they can't handle the idea psychologically. It's too doomsday scary, and I think there is some truth to that. It shuts people down. We have to come up with better approaches to engaging a broader group of people in the cause...B/c I don't think the scare tactics (legitimate and accurate as they are) are working.

Anonymous said...

That is all true, Betsy. I do think the idea is so overwhelming and terrifying that it (1) is hard to handle and (2) sounds almost like science fiction or dystopian movie.

I think that all the paid disinformation is one of our biggest enemies. If mainstream media doesn't report on climate change, then how can it be real?

As much as I agree that the scary predictions don't work, I don't know what will. I used to try the happy, living the green life is great approach but that doesn't seem to work either. But we do need to reach more people and quickly. :(

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

I think the reason the disinformation campaigns work so well is that people want to believe it. Easier than the truth.

I do think we need to move beyond the "happy, living the green life" approach as you say. But what about celebrating amazing accomplishments on a grand scale - b/c there are some!

I'm not really sure what the answer is exactly -- I've heard some interesting things about the psychological issues with addressing the problem. Here are a few:

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Another goodie!

Apparently what we are up against is the human brain :)

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

And Exxon.

Green Bean said...

LOL, "and Exxon"

Interesting articles, Betsy. I think there is something to the idea that it is too much to face or people think what can I, as one person do. Honestly, I think the biggest obstacle is the speed at which it is happening. You are right that many good things are happening and people's attitudes are changing - but fast enough?


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