“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something is worth doing no matter how it turns out.”
You’re up to your eyeballs in eco-anxiety. Headline after headline spelling out the apocalypse and the exact way we’re going to fry and it’s easy to see why hope can feel in short supply.
But Václav Havel, the dissident Czech statesman and playwright quoted above was right. We need hope — and before your eyes roll so far back in your head you can see the inside of your skull, understand this: having hope is radical and it’s essential.
We live in an unequal world that favors, to borrow the title of Oxfam’s 2023 report on inequality, the survival of the richest. For the first time in 25 years, poverty has increased. Meanwhile, the richest 1% grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth (worth $42 trillion) created since 2020, almost twice as much as the bottom 99% of the world’s population.
So while some might be able to afford to be a nihilist because giving up hope is an abstract concept, giving up hope for people fighting for their homes, their lives, and their children’s lives on the front lines of climate change just isn’t an option. Having hope drives us to take action and that action is sorely needed. Not just for ourselves, but for those for whom not having hope is not an option.
Here’s some food for the mind and soul at a time when it’s needed more than ever.
What to Watch
1. Renée Lertzman: How to Turn Climate Anxiety Into Action (TED Talk)
Feeling anxious or overwhelmed by climate change isn’t just normal, it’s the appropriate emotional response to a very real threat. But psychologist Renée Lertzman believes that psychology unlocks the key that can turn anxiety into action.
In her affirming TED talk, Lertzman discusses the emotional effects of climate change and offers insights on how psychology can help us discover both the creativity and resilience needed to act on environmental issues.
2. 'Generation Green New Deal'(Documentary)
Trumpeted by its supporters as the path to avoiding planetary destruction and vilified by opponents as a socialist plot to take away your ice cream, the Green New Deal is an umbrella term for a series of public policy proposals to address climate change along with achieving other social aims like job creation and reducing economic inequality.
A prominent 2019 attempt to get legislation passed for a Green New Deal was sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey.
It defined, according to The Atlantic, the terms of the global climate debate and was perhaps more successful than any other climate policy in history.
Generation Green New Deal is a feature documentary film about that campaign — and it packs a punch. Rent it on Vimeo.
3. 'Demain' (Documentary)
You’ve probably seen The Day After Tomorrow and been appropriately horrified by the picture painted of what our future could look like if we don’t make meaningful changes to our rampant burning of fossil fuels and destruction of the natural world.
French directors Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent imagine the flip side of the coin in Demain (French for “tomorrow”). It identifies initiatives that have been proven solutions to the environmental and social challenges of today.
“Without question,” environmentalist and activist Paul Hawken said, "this is absolutely the best and most creative film on the future of humanity and the environment.”
What to Read
4. 'Saving Us: A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World' by Katharine Hayhoe (2021)
Katharine Hayhoe has the zeal of a missionary. But while she is, in fact, a Christian, she spends her days evangelizing in pursuit of climate action.
For most of her career, Hayhoe has embarked on a broad public education tour to help people to understand the stakes of the climate crisis — and see that it's in their best interest to do something about it.
Her book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, is her most explicit call to action yet. In it, she describes how we all have a profoundly personal interest in taking action to protect the planet and argues for the saving grace of hope.
“Hope is that small chance, however improbable, of something better,” she told Global Citizen. “How we get there is recognizing that it’s not guaranteed, but it’s possible. The only way it’s possible is if we do everything we can.”
5. 'Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants' by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013)
Robin Wall Kimmerer isn’t a novelist or even a writer. She’s a botanist. But in case you were thinking that this makes Braiding Sweetgrass a niche book, it’s sold 1.4 million copies in print and audio, been translated into nearly 20 languages, and sat on the New York Times bestseller list for 129 weeks.
Kimmerer is a Teaching Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at the State University of New York College and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, a tribe located in Oklahoma, US. In Braiding Sweetgrass, she weaves Indigenous wisdom with her scientific training. The book is at once contemplative of the natural world’s abundance and resolute in its call to action on “climate urgency.”
Kimmerer asks readers to honor the Earth’s wonders, restore rather than remove, and reject a capitalist economy and culture rooted in always acquiring more.
6. 'Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility' by Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young Lutunatabua (2023)
Co-written by Rebecca Solnit ("the voice of the resistance" — New York Times), climate activist Thelma Young Lutunatabua, and a chorus of voices calling on us to rise to the moment, Not Too Late is an energizing book that will guide you from climate crisis to climate hope.
It’s accessible, encouraging, engaging, and an invitation to everyone to imagine the future more creatively.
7. 'All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis' edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Keeble Wilkinson (2020)
Women are experiencing the worst of climate change.
They’re also underrepresented in the rooms in which decisions about climate change are made.
And yet, when women are at the decision-making table, they make climate solutions stronger. Countries with high representation of women in parliament, for example, are more likely to ratify international environmental treaties.
All We Can Save brings together women’s voices, spanning culture, geography, and ages in a series of provocative and illuminating essays from scientists, farmers, teachers, artists, journalists, lawyers, activists, and others at the forefront of the climate movement.
They explore how to confront the climate crisis and the damage already inflicted, but most importantly, how to bring about positive change.
What to Listen to
8. 'Climate Curious'(Podcast)
The UN’s latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report was intense to say the least.
Published on March 20, 2023, the world’s leading climate experts predict in the report that the 1.5°C temperature rise is likely to take place around “the first half of the 2030s.”
Before you despair, have a listen to the Climate Curious podcast’s bite-sized episode on the IPCC report and why there’s reason for hope. Listen now.
9. 'Outrage + Optimism' (Podcast)
Face the climate crisis head on, but understand that we have the power to solve this. That’s the premise of Outrage + Optimism, a podcast that goes behind the climate change headlines, interviews the change-makers turning challenges into opportunities, turns an eagle eye on greenwash, and gets to grips with the difficult issues.
From former UN Chief Christiana Figueres and the minds behind the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change, Outrage + Optimism will inform you, inspire you, and help you realize that this is the most exciting time in history to be alive. Listen now.
10. 'Jane Goodall: The Hopecast'(Podcast)
Scientist. Activist. Storyteller. Icon.
Jane Goodall has blazed many trails and been many things. Now, she’s turned sociologist and her new subject is — humans.
Her new podcast, Jane Goodall: The Hopecast sees the national treasure take listeners on a journey towards hope. Climate change being the hope-sucking issue it is, there are many episodes about how to nurture climate hope.
Try the interviews with Adam McKay (the director of Don’t Look Up) all about how hope can be found in climate action and the community created by laughter; and with Christiana Figueres, an internationally recognized leader on global climate change, about how hope is changing systems and protecting our connection to nature.