We should stay positive about climate change

A case for optimism during a crisis

Strike for the climate, Halifax Nova Scotia, September 27 2019

In a speech made by Greta Thunberg in October of 2018, the young activist said “the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have the facts and solutions. All we have to do is wake up and change.”

Greta is bringing up a really important idea, a simple one, and one we shouldn’t forget: we can do better. The solutions to so many problems are within reach, we just have to stretch a little farther. In other words, the problem isn’t what we have — it’s how we use it.

The climate movement isn’t in short supply of solutions for climate change, there are tons of alternatives available for fossil fuels and plastic packaging.

The one thing we are lacking is optimism.

Young activists give in to climate fatalism all the time. We see more people saying things like they won’t have kids because of the crisis, and dictonary.com named existential the word of the year for 2019.

Tweet from April 2020

The idea that there are solutions to climate change should cause excitement. We should be bursting with enthusiasm, not just for preventing climate catastrophe, but for what the world could look like after. We should be talking endlessly about what our post climate change world could look like. Our protest signs should read like writers room pitches for a Star Trek episode.

‘Imagine how safe green sector jobs would be compared to the gas sector! Picture the slick, eco friendly technology of a post climate change world! Imagine the beautiful landscapes we could preserve by slowing deforestation! Imagine what an economy could look like that is based on justice and safety rather than endless, unstable growth!’

History has shown us that good activism is about having a dream, not having a nightmare. Of course, dreaming is getting more and more difficult. In 2019, Greta Thunberg said “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to Panic.” It’s really easy to feel this way, but is it productive?

Greta makes an important point again: we should have urgency, but we should also be cautious of where panic could lead us. Maybe we will get more done if we have an idea of what we want earth to look like, not just what we don’t want it to not look like. If we keep the idea in our minds that we have the solutions, and we let those solutions guide our eyes into the future, we can access our secret weapon against climate change: optimism.

The truth is, like solutions to climate change, optimism is abundant in the climate movement. If climate activists really had no hope, none of them would bother taking to the streets or protesting, there would be no incentive to strike, there would be no movement at all without optimism.

As Noam Chomsky says in his book Optimism Over Despair: “We have two choices. We can be pessimistic, give up and help ensure that the worst will happen. Or we can be optimistic, grasp the opportunities that surely exist and maybe help make the world a better place. Not much of a choice.”

Journalism student at the University of King's College, Halifax N.S Canada. Writer, music enthusiast, and cautious defender of the Oxford comma.

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