How Can You Be Optimistic About the Environment?

Leslie Garrett by Leslie Garrett | April 8th, 2009 | No Comments
topic: Green Living

istock_000006081888smallI recently had dinner with a friend who teaches environmental science at our local college. “I feel like the voice of doom,” he confided. “Everything I tell them is depressing. I just wish I could find something to give them some hope.” He asked how I keep myself hopeful in the midst of so much bad news.

I admitted it wasn’t easy; that many days it was simply a conscious choice to look past the day’s headlines and instead look out the window. My crocuses are popping up, I said. And the birds are back. But when I began to really educate myself about environmental issues, I was aghast. How had I not known how dire the situation was? How had I not recognized the magnitude of the problem? The more I read and listened to the experts, the more I wrung my hands and felt hopeless. Seems paradoxical — the more I realized I needed to do something, the less equipped I felt to do it. I was too busy worrying.

Then one day, after berating my preschooler for tossing a recyclable into the garbage, my husband looked me straight in the eye and told me I needed to get my perspective back. “None of us knows what tomorrow brings,” he reminded me. “But you have today.”

It was a pivotal moment. After storming off, insisting I was not a wacked-out eco-loon and offering up some sarcastic remark that he seemed to be channeling the Dalai Lama, I was left with the feeling that he was right. And I resolved to stop fretting and start acting.

The beauty of taking action — whether it’s getting involved in saving local wetlands, greening up your kids’ lunches or biking to work – is that it spurs you on to further action. Rather than becoming tired from the effort, I feel energized. I feel excited. I feel engaged in my local community and with my global family.

I feel … dare I say it … optimistic.

I told my friend this and shared with him a quote that I keep posted near my computer … courtesy of Paul Hawken:

“The great thing about the dilemma we’re in is that we get to reimagine every single thing we do. … There isn’t one thing we make or system we have that doesn’t require a complete remake. There are two ways of looking at it. One is, ‘Oh my gosh, what a big burden.’ The other is, ‘What a great time to be alive.’ Because this generation gets to … completely change this world.”

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