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Democracy, Climate Change and Active Hope

Democracy, Climate Change and Active Hope

The critical state of American democracy and the climate crisis have many people feeling despair, frustration, outrage and a sense of urgency.

The threat to our democracy and the crisis of climate change are most pressing for me though there are many social problems that are also critical.

Where do we find hope? How do we keep going? Jane Goodall has always been an inspiration to me and here are parts of an interview with her that help keep me going. The interviewer comments on the prevalence of negative stories that bring out fear and anger. He asks Jane if those are useful emotions to tap into. She replies, "No. It’s one of my big complaints when I talk to the media: Yes, we absolutely need to know all the doom and gloom because we are approaching a crossroads, and if we don’t take action it could be too late. But traveling the world I’d see so many projects of restoration, animal and plant species being rescued from the brink of extinction, people tackling what seemed impossible and not giving up. Those are the stories that should have equal time, because they’re what gives people hope. If you don’t have hope, why bother? Why should I bother to think about my ecological footprint if I don’t think that what I do is going to make a difference? Why not eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die?"

When asked about "retiring," she replies, "I have to go on doing [my work] because I care passionately about nature. I care passionately about children. If I didn’t make a difference, I wouldn’t do it. I don’t say that to brag. It’s just that every day people say: 'I read your book and I changed. I heard your lecture and I changed.' So if I care, then I can’t stop."

Clearly she knows we each make a difference. Whatever problem we address we can make a difference. As someone has said, "Despair is not an option."

Another inspiring teacher and activist, Joanna Macy, author of Active Hope, puts it this way: "Active Hope is a practice; it is something we do rather than have. First, we take a clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we'd like things to move; and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction. An action that might seem inconsequential by itself adds to and interfaces with other actions in ways that contribute to a much bigger picture of change."

As planetary citizens we are each called to some action and work that contributes to the common good. Our task is to follow our heart to the action that fits for us, and then engage.

To help myself out of a time of depression and despair I often imagine myself on my deathbed. I want to be able to feel that I have done everything I can to help create a better world. And then even if I am feeling gloomy I get up and go about my day with as much good cheer and balance as I can muster. Doing something usually makes me feel better.

Remember Margaret Meade's famous quote: "NEVER DOUBT that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Here's an excellent blog by author Bruce Berlin which addresses the "monumental challenges" we face, and how we can engage without losing "our health or our minds." "The Struggle for the Soul of America

Here's my newsletter on Active Hope for more on this topic


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