Climate optimism may seem like a paradox, but it isn’t. With all the glum stories swirling about, we just need to find those newsletters, podcasts, articles, or videos that show us all is not lost. So, in case the dog days of summer are getting you down, here are some links to perk you up.
I recently subscribed to a newsletter called The Climate Optimist, written by Marcy Franck from the T.H. Chan School’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard. Her latest post asks:
“Is it worth clicking on gloomy links if you know they’ll pollute your psyche with even more terrible news?”
According to a new study, the answer for many still seems to be yes, which is why we get such overwhelmingly gloomy news on climate change. Those headlines are clickbait. We fall for it, so they keep publishing it, and we get more and more depressed. Franck calls this the Equation of Doom:
Our big dumb brains + scary stories + misinformation = climate doom.
And there is plenty of gloomy news out there. Yesterday’s headlines were all about the record world average temperature. It’s getting hotter and hotter. That’s enough to cause lots of gloom. But Franck believes we are not getting the real message from the media that:
“We can do this, in fact we are.”
In a recent Forbes article, Franck also makes two other points about fixing the climate:
1) It isn’t a sacrifice. It will be cleaner, cheaper, and healthier for all.
2) If you are hearing different, ask who profits.
Those are things I needed to hear today. So, I kept looking for more. I found a podcast from The Optimism Institute called: Dan Reicher’s Rationally Optimistic Take on Progress and Potential in the Fight Against Climate Change. Dan Reicher is the Senior Scholar at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability. He believes we can solve this.
Reicher’s process model is a triangle that has Technology at the top, Policy (in government) at the second corner, and Finance at the third. Reicher is optimistic that we are moving on all three points because companies finally see money is to be made in fixing this. Technology is getting a boost from Policy changes—for example in the U.S. with the three new laws Biden signed: the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Chips and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. These laws, in turn, leverage the finance investment needed to move the technological innovation forward into application. He recently taught a class about integrating across all points of that triangle, which essentially means getting all these sectors talking to each other to speed things up.
Of course, Reicher’s triangle leaves out one important area of innovation: the cultural messaging that will inspire people to act. This is what my Climate Story Garden is working to promote through climate fiction. Other people are also pushing this, mainly in movies and television, which is why I subscribed to another newsletter this week called Heated, written by Emily Atkin.
Atkin spoke on a panel lead by Jane Fonda at the recent 2023 Hollywood Climate Summit. I loved this short video clip of one comment she made. She essentially said that no single story can solve this, but that doesn’t matter. We must write the stories that we care about, stories that speak to the people we want to speak to. We can’t solve it alone, but our stories are still needed. That was a real optimistic pat on the back for me.
Still feeling deflated? Here is another link to explore from a woman who will definitely inspire. Watch this Ted Talk from Christiana Figueres of Global Optimism explaining what she calls stubborn optimism. She believes we don't have the right to stay glum. The future depends on us. We need an optimistic outlook—though a gritty, determined one—as we push forward to change our destiny.
And in case you're an Obama fan, watch this video. Obama talks about why he isn’t depressed about the state of the world. Hint: he simply believes no matter how dark the prospects for the future, we can always make some kind of progress if we just get working on it.
Don’t let the grim news slow you down. Check out these links and then do one good thing to move forward.