Hope, in this age of cynicism masquerading as science, is a scarce resource. We often treat it poorly — as if hope is the hallmark of New Age lunatics or wide-eyed children. As if it’s naïve. Passive. A longing … without any intention of rolling up its sleeves.
It’s particularly tough to be an optimistic environmentalist with such a steady accumulation of bad news: birds dropping from the sky from starvation because wetlands that served as avian drive-thrus during migration have been replaced with houses; renowned climate scientist James Hanson’s prediction of “game over” if the Tar Sands are developed; oil spills; nuclear meltdowns …
Shiva knows all this. Yet she’s hopeful.
With a world increasingly under environmental threat and corporations and lobbyists that peddle misinformation, hope isn’t a luxury. It’s all we have.
And to dismiss it as passive is to ignore the biochemistry of hope, the measurable changes that take place in our body when we choose to focus on possibility rather than impossibility. Hope might be a feeling, but its impact extends to the physical world, in more ways than one. Hope might take root in our hearts and brains but it’s expressed through our words and actions.
Or, as Deepak Chopra says, “To rekindle hope, [we] must find a path to the extraordinary.”
Shiva lives this “extraordinary.” Despite corporate greed and seed patents that have led to the suicide of a quarter-million cotton farmers in her native India, she points to the many small-scale organic farmers around the world who are quietly resurrecting seed banks. Thanks to her background in quantum physics, she explains, “I know that nothing is fixed.” Everything is open to change, she says. And that possibility, of course, changes everything.
Recent research into the brain’s plasticity — or ability to rewire — has revealed that in the presence of hope, the brain responds with greater innovation. Hope harnesses our resources to move us toward success.
Vandana Shiva’s hope drives her to speak around the world, sharing what she knows to be true and inspiring hope in others of a better, fairer world.
Her hope sparks hope in others. It gives us a glimpse of the possible, of the “extraordinary,” and reminds us that we can create that too. And so we do.
Hope is the opposite of naïve. It speaks of a deep knowledge of a greater truth. It is the mark of ordinary heroes, whose hope has lit the fires of change to create the extraordinary — Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel, Mother Teresa … and Vandana Shiva. Every one of us who chooses hope over despair each day is part of a powerful movement. It puts each of us on a path to the extraordinary.
Vandana Shiva, recipient of the Right Livelihood Award 1993, at the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag 2007 in Cologne. Photo credit: Elke Wetzig
We asked experts, authors and readers like you to share their stories of Hope. Every day for the next month, you’ll find new tips for optimism on Gaiam Life, the Stream of Consciousness blog and our social media sites: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. And don’t miss the GaiamTV.com Hope Film Festival, with FREE films all month long.