30 October 2016

Looking for Hope in All the Wrong Places

"Beyond sad," said the friend who sent me these headlines

Hopemongering. I don't know if I'm right or wrong on this, but I have a very strong sense that it's a disservice. 

Okay, a disclaimer up front: I guess I'm already showing my bias, since the word "monger" comes with negative connotations. According to my computer's dictionary, it means "a person who promotes a specified activity, situation, or feeling, especially one that is undesirable or discreditable (such as a rumormonger or a warmonger)."

So what, you might ask, is undesirable or discreditable about people wanting to promote hope in the world? Well, if you know me, you'll know that I don't see hope as as an action verb. I see "hoping" as a kind of hand-wringing distraction from action. "Oh, I hope everything will be okay." "Fine, but what are you actually doing to make it okay?"

Furthermore, hope (the noun) is a privilege — and one that much of the world no longer has access to, or never did. If you have hope in this day and age, it's because the climate change emergency hasn't knocked your world flat ... yet. It hasn't ruined your crops, swept your home into the sea, or killed your baby daughter ... yet. It just hasn't hit the fan where you live ... yet. 

But there's no time for resting on hopeful laurels. If you have the privilege of still "having hope," then you are one of the few in a position to be doing something about the climate change emergency. Not collecting hopeful stories. Not using magical thinking. Not creating Twitter storms about optimism. Not hosting optimism summits. Not constantly seeking some magical balance between "doom and gloom" and hope. Not celebrating the micro successes that are just going to be undone by rising temperatures and the resulting climate chaos.
No! We should be spitting mad! We should be standing up and demanding IN VERY LOUD VOICES that OUR CHILDREN DESERVE A VIABLE FUTURE! We should be standing in solidarity with Standing Rock — and with anyone else who recognizes the dangerousness of the fossil fuel economy and is brave enough to stand up to Big Oil and Big Money. 

Research likes to show that appeals to fear can lead to "defensive avoidance" or desensitization and disengagement. But who has studied appeals to anger? I mean, good gawd, they are stealing the future from your children for the sake of greed and profit! They are making the biosphere inhospitable to life! They are turning 10,000 years of a relatively stable climate (that gave us agriculture and civilization and Twinkies) to ratshit! Get angry, people! For Earth's sake! You're being ripped off!

If you're not convinced that anger is the "proper" emotion to be feeling and expressing right now, consider watching PBS's People's Century, Part 19: Endangered Planet. Watch it with just one question in mind: What role did anger play? (Minute 26 is an excellent example, but watch from the beginning to understand the context.)

Or let me put this another way. If a young child comes to you, with tears in his eyes, and says, "We're killing Nature, aren't we?" will you respond, "Gee, I hope not." Or will you say — and know it to be true because you are one of those people — "Sweetheart, there are thousands of adults around the world right now working very hard to make sure that does not happen."

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?