Feeling Hopeless About Climate Change? Here’s How To Stay Positive Like The World’s Climate Leaders

You’ve seen it on the news: heatwaves, drought, flooding, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, political inaction, denialism, the list could go on…

That’s what we see every time you look at the news. And on the one hand, it makes complete sense, the climate crisis is the largest existential threat to humanity in the modern era and urgency is needed; but on the other hand, it makes it so easy to feel completely helpless.

In the recent special series of our podcast, Impact in the 21st Century, we learnt that there are still so many reasons to remain hopeful about the fight against the climate crisis. Each episode featured an environmental leader, including:

  • primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall
  • conservation photographer Cristina Mittermeier
  • My Octopus Teacher filmmaker Craig Foster
  • and author of A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency Seth Klein.

Each episode, host Aaron Friedland asked these guests how they remain hopeful in the face of climate change, and how we can all play our part to protect our planet.

From left to right: Dr. Jane Goodall, Seth Klein, Cristina Mittermeier and Craig Foster.

Cristina Mittermeier: A Vision of the Future

Believing in hope for a prosperous future of our planet is one of the first steps in making an impact. In Episode #15, Cristina Mittermeier (Conservation Photographer and Co-founder of SeaLegacy) shared how her vision of the future is the foundation for making an impact:

“Martin Luther King didn’t start his famous speech by saying I have a nightmare, he told us what the dream was…so I want SeaLegacy to be that vision of the future of where we can go if we actually take the steps that are needed… because if you can imagine a planet where there’s a living ocean and wildlife everywhere, then we can make it happen.”

Cristina also expressed the surge of hope that keeps her motivated:

“I don’t peddle hopelessness because I don’t feel hopeless. I actually feel quite hopeful…Maybe I’m hearing the conversations that are happening that most people are not but I can assure you that the world is thinking about this. Corporations and governments are looking for the solutions and I want to be part of that future.”

Cristina taught us that there’s every reason to feel hopeful — if we can put our minds together and imagine a greener future, we can make it a reality. But now you might be thinking: what can I actually do in the meantime? How can I play my part in combating climate change?

Jane Goodall: Taking Action Locally

Taking action on a global scale is daunting, and for most of us, it’s just unrealistic. After all, is there really that much one person can do to change the pace of climate change on a global scale? Here comes that hopeless feeling again! According to environmental leader, Jane Goodall, we need to shift our mindset. We need to “think globally”, keeping the broader climate movement in mind, but “act locally”, and do what we can in the small spaces around us.

“Think about where you live — is there anything that bothers you there that you feel strongly about? …well why don’t you get some friends and see if you can do something about it? You do something about it.”

And these actions don’t have to be complex or huge in scope, they can be as simple as writing to your local representative or member of parliament demanding a greener change in your local area!

And the best thing about these small, local actions? They’re the perfect antidote to hopelessness, just as Jane told us in her analogy of hope as the light at the end of a long dark tunnel:

“The more you do the more you inspire others. So you’re taking others with you and we’re going down this tunnel — everybody doing more and gathering more and more until we tackle the problems together.”

Jane continued, “When you do something like that and you succeed it makes you feel good and the great thing is when you feel good you want to feel better so you do more. The more you do the more you inspire others.” In other words, if we each do something small, together we can achieve something big.

Craig Foster: Protecting Your Own Environment

In Episode #16, Craig Foster, the filmmaker and subject of Netflix’s hit documentary My Octopus Teacher shared a similar concept. Despite his acknowledgement that the loss of biodiversity — the “immune system of our planet” — would be the “ultimate horror” and “extremely dangerous to the human species, Craig also emphasized the hope that can be found in the local sphere.He explained how extraordinary it would be if each of us could take a moment to think: “what could I do in my little sphere of influence to care for the biodiversity in my little patch and my influence?”

Craig urged, “whatever it’s possible to do in your little place, big place, ocean, or city…we have to allow nature to move amongst us.”

Seth Klein: A Collective Movement

The fight against the climate crisis requires each of us to do what we can in our own community. And we have to do it together if we want to succeed. In Episode #17, Seth Klein, the author of A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency shared how it is more than possible to get everyone involved in a common cause. Why? Because we’ve done it before.

Seth Klein recalled how measures implemented almost 80 years ago during the existential crisis of the Second World War set a precedent for what nations can and should be doing to combat the catastrophic effects of climate change:

“We have mobilized a common cause across class and race and gender to confront an existential threat, and in the process we surprised ourselves by what we were capable of accomplishing.”

With Cristina Mittermeier’s positive vision, Jane Goodall and Craig Foster’s strategy for making an impact in our local spaces and Seth Klein’s reminders from history that we can do this because we’ve done it before, we have the tools necessary to protect our planet, divert the direction of climate change, and remain hopeful in the process.

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