After the reports released in October 2018 by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, I experienced many unsettling feelings and asked myself: how can we remain hopeful during such times? To refuse to call it a climate "crisis" is unrealistic and dangerously comfortable. We need to call it what it is so that we may act accordingly and with haste.
Greta Thunberg, 16 year old climate activist from Sweden and the inspiration behind the #fridaysforfuture #climatestrike global youth movement (more on that below!), says:
"I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire. Because it is"
- Greta Thunberg at the World Economic Forum on January 25th, 2019
This quote gives me chills every time. The report emphasizes the importance of maintaining global temperatures from increasing more that 1.5 degrees Celsius. It states that at our current rate of temperature increase, it is likely that global warming will reach 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2030 and 2052.
It describes the trends in intensity and frequency of climate and weather extremes that have already been detected. Additionally, impacts on natural and human systems, as well as changes in land and ocean ecosystems, have already been observed. According to the report, some impacts, including the loss of some ecosystems, may be long-lasting or irreversible.
This biocultural information is crucial to my well being as a young person and the way I imagine my own and my Community's future livelihood. It is unavoidable to feel fear and anxiety about this, if you are alive.
We are irrevocably related to the Earth. We are the Earth. And we are deeply impacted psychologically by the persistent bad news of climate change and ecosystem degradation. Even if you have not registered the impacts of environmental stress or "ecological grief" on a conscious level, your body, on a subconscious survival-instinct level, has.
It is these very feelings that Greta wants us to stop denying and running away from. Climate change is happening now, in real time. It is a part of our encompassing environment as living beings and it is unavoidable. Feelings of guilt, fear, anxiety, stress, and depression are expected and already being studied across the world.
Dr. Courtney Howard is the lead author of the Lancet Countdown Report 2018, recommendations focused on the links between climate change and health, and implications for Canadian policymakers developed with the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Public Health Association.
In an Ottawa Citizen news report, Dr. Howard says that, "anxiety can relate to fear of the future and feelings of helplessness in the face of approaching calamity." This impacts all of us, but it tends to impact Indigenous Communities in northern Canada first, where the effects of climate change are visible and already impacting daily life. She says that "taking action to reduce greenhouse gases, as the UK has done with its 2007 climate change act, can reduce anxiety," (Source: Ottawa Citizen).
As we put solutions in place to reach zero emissions and a just transition into renewable energy, it is important to hold spaces to collectively feel our uncomfortable feelings about climate change. Not so that we may sit in fear and stay immobile, but so that we may take actions as Communities that reorganize our world, bringing solutions and hope for a livable future.
Hope is a critical component of resilience, mental health, and building healthier Communities which is why it is a main objective in our mission at Minds For Humxnity.
Here are 3 Ways to Build Hope + Resilience for Environmental Changes in Your Community
1. Talk About It
Avoiding the issue won't make it go away. It's important that we work to increase awareness throughout society. But how do you talk about climate change with people who are in denial, or just plain pessimistic?
While its not your responsibility to change people, you can still make a positive impact by talking about climate change and the things you are learning, or leading by example.
Most people are only learning about environmental changes through main stream media, which means they are likely missing out on important information about the many positive shifts that are happening on a global scale.
Mainstream news tends to focus on the bad, so we need to create and share more uplifting news ourselves.
There are many nations that are breaking up with fossil fuels and committed to producing renewal energy using solar, wind and geothermal methods. The nations leading the zero emissions economy include Iceland, Sweden, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, UK, Germany, Uruguay, Denmark, China, Morocco, USA (surprisingly!), and Kenya. There are also many Indigenous nations taking the lead in the renewable energy economy, creating resilient futures for their Communities.
2. Highlight The Opportunities
When talking about environmental changes, don't get stuck in the gloom. Neuroscience shows that when people are hopeful or happy, they are more likely to take action in positive ways. So you see, being hopeful is a powerful strategy for resilience and sustained action.
The IPCC report states that reaching and sustaining net zero global CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions would halt the impact humans have on global warming and have positive impacts that would last for decades.
That means we have a huge opportunity to play a beneficial role and be a part of the greatest social changes in our lifetime.
As individuals, and collectively as Communities, we can strengthen and build biocultures that respect the relationships and balance of biological and social biomes.
There are things we can do everyday that impact society as a whole and support the movement to zero emissions.
For starters, you can check out and share the Earth Guardians' epic #action guide on 50 Simple Things To Cut Carbon in your home, while eating, bathing, cleaning, shopping, transportation, and more. What's more, Earth Guardians Youth Director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez has published an inspiring and informative book talking about the growing youth movement, entitled We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Build a Movement that Restores the Planet. AND he's a dope musician, so there are many ways to follow and support EG's revolutionary work!
You can also support the plethora of climate organizations in your local Community. Remember that making change where you are is the best place to start! Here are a few links to get you started.
Below are opportunities for youth involvement in environmental action:
And check out these busy organizations, too!
The possibilities of getting involved are endless. Pick what you're most passionate about and get to work! We need you. This is a collaborative movement on all fronts.
3. Share Stories of Local + Global Change
Wherever you are, there is bound to be local activity moving towards environmental just transition...and if not, what a great place to start some! These stories serve as lighthouses guiding the way and building positive connections in our #minds about climate change.
Acknowledging these positive changes regularly helps keep us hopeful over time, the same way recognizing what you're grateful for helps keep you grateful.
Sharing stories of local successes are a great way to connect to the larger global picture of environmental transition. When we take time to do this, it becomes clearer the way small actions grow into and shape larger cultural activity, and ultimately, social change.
In Tkaronto, I see more vegetable gardens in backyards and community spaces. I see solar panels popping up on churches, street sidewalks, and school buildings.
At Centennial College and Seneca College in Toronto, there are programs already training Solar Electricity Technicians to lead a new energy economy. Hybrid and electric cars are also becoming more mainstream, advertised in magazines and showcased at malls (have ya'll seen the Tesla store and electric cars at Yorkdale?! #energygoals).
Farmer's markets and a concern for healthier, more sustainable food choices are making their way through Toronto communities, too, bringing food places to do business better, and community spaces to create their own food spaces.
There are many places, organizations, groups, initiatives, and social conversations shifting their lens to center the ideas of a just environmental and social transition. Have you noticed the biocultural changes around you?
Globally, corporations are being forced to follow the demands of the market if they want to stay alive. People want solutions to the issues that plague them. They want opportunities to be more socially and environmentally responsible, and they are looking for these opportunities in their purchase choices. Due to this mounting pressure, companies are getting creative about how they manage their ecological footprints and are beginning to show their markets that they care, too - FINALLY.
And lastly, but definitely not least...drumroll please!
This past Friday, March 15th, over 1.4 million students across the globe organized local events to join together for #FridaysforFuture #schoolstrikeforclimate in an epic display of powerful and hopeful leadership. The strikes call on decision-makers to take impactful, urgent action towards zero emissions goals and to prioritize the livelihoods of young people.
If that's not inspiring you to get on board this social movement, I don't what is! As I always say, #youthknowwhatsup! They really do, and it's time we listened. You can add to the actions by these courageous students by writing a letter of support at this link.
So there you have it, (way more than) 3 ways to build hope and action towards environmental change in your Community.
Have some other ideas? Want to shout out another great organization or expand on some of these concepts? I'd love to hear from you. Comment below!
Stay tuned into new Minds For Humxnity's Blog + Podcast to hear about more young leaders + changemakers, ways you can contribute to building healthier biocultures, and opportunities to get involved in Tkaronto and abroad.