4 Ways to Embrace Climate Optimism
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Climate change, global warming — whatever you choose to call it — has the alternative name “climate crisis” for a reason. The situation is dire, and every day spent ignoring its impacts and dedicating humanity to action is potentially catastrophic. Climate optimism does not mean ignoring reality. It is about refocusing the conversation to hope and transformation when it has been bogged down by indifference and misinformation for too long.
How can everyone from governments to budding climate activists perpetuate more optimistic perspectives about the planet’s healing journey?
1. Remove Negative Language From Your Speech
The way the planet’s advocates speak changes the attitude of environmental discourse. Industry experts must lead by example too. It is almost default at this point to react to climate change conversations with statements like the following:
- The world is going to burn anyway.
- It’s already too late, so why even try?
- I’m one person, it’s not like I will change anything.
- Companies are greenwashing, so making an effort is pointless.
The defeatist attitudes are so pervasive that the sector has a term for it — peak indifference. How many people reacted to the 2023 wildfires ravaging Canada with a moment’s attention before thinking it was just a symptom of the unstoppable climate crisis? Humans have become numb to disaster — it’s a part of everyday life. Complacency is toxic, and it embeds into language.
Replace the previous statements with climate optimism — the way humans speak about climate change could look something more like this:
- The world isn’t in the best shape right now, but humans are trying and making daily progress.
- It isn’t too late because experts still say climate change is reversible. We have to act now.
- Everyone makes a difference, whether they’re a person or a corporation. The actions of millions of households could add up.
- We know companies are greenwashing, so we should hold them accountable by advocating for change.
2. Promote Humanity’s Successes
“The weather is out of control. Therefore, it is too much for humans to stop.” Thoughts like these are an oversimplification. Humans are stopping the wildfires and subsequent hurricane and drought tragedies all the same. At the same time, the efforts of sweeping projects like the Paris Agreement to social media hashtags promoting zero waste all culminate into positive climate action.
The media prefers clickbait-worthy headlines that incite fear or anger. The panic will overwhelm people, so why not celebrate some wins?
Here are some figures you may not know about the world’s progress toward positive climate progress:
- Lithium-ion batteries have decreased in price by almost 90% since 2008, making electric vehicles the most affordable in history.
- Deforestation hit historic highs in the 1980s at 150 million hectares — it has decreased since. The 2010s only saw a loss of 47 million hectares, dropping every decade.
- Coal production is falling in every major nation worldwide, with countless defunct plants becoming subjects for renewable energy retrofits.
- Conservation efforts have saved almost 50 bird and mammal species from extinction.
- The most influential climate change legislation has occurred worldwide in the last several years, including the US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s Green Deal.
3. Stay Educated and Spread the Word
Misinformation and falsehoods litter the climate conversation. Climate optimists exist in the first place because they know the reality of climate change. It is an issue, but the difference is real and tangible. Humans dedicate themselves to progress, and there are results to show. Most think the hope is rooted in flights of fancy, but spreading the word about accurate figures and legislative action can help balance perspectives.
It also means battling climate skeptics with science-backed evidence. Climate optimists can educate others and spread the truth. Question people who question you. What was your source for that statistic? Was it a business? How might they profit from potential misinformation?
People might also think they must sacrifice aspects of their life to become more environmentally friendly. It’s climate optimists’ job to assure people they won’t lose anything by committing to positive change. People can still have their favorite foods and go shopping. Fighting for the planet isn’t a sacrifice because everyone ultimately gains better health and wellness.
4. Make the Invisible Matter
Many climate metrics, like greenhouse gas emissions or energy usage, are invisible. They don’t have a physical component humans can see to witness the change they’re making. The fact many make an effort and don’t receive rewards or instant gratification incites pessimism.
Instead, everyone can do their part in understanding that these side effects are not essential to climate advocacy. In fact, they cannot be for climate optimism.
Instead, environmental justice must be its own reward. Carbon emissions will never become something humans can grasp, nor can we hold every pound of waste we save by composting food scraps.
The more powerful change will come with finding inherent worth in climate action instead of needing tangible incentives. You can also understand the side effects of protecting the planet more deeply, which include defending the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Every intangible metric you help for the earth will contribute to:
- Ending poverty
- Eliminating world hunger
- Improving health and well-being
- Increasing access to clean water and sanitation
- Helping install and increase access to clean energy
- Promote green job openings
- Improving infrastructure
- Reduce inequality
- Build sustainable cities and infrastructure
- Rewire humanity’s habits for sustainable consumption
- Save biodiversity
- Encourage global collaboration
All of these benefits arise from simply helping the planet. That should be enough to convince anyone.
Climate Action Needs More Optimism
Positive progress cannot happen with optimism alone. Assuming change is inevitable because you have hope is a falsehood in and of itself. Climate optimism should catalyze change instead.
Transitioning mindsets will make the planet heal faster.
Finally, discussions can be more productive and proactive because participants see the value in making an effort. Climate optimism is a necessary component of being an environmental ally, especially when spreading the truth, staying motivated, and encouraging more people to make a promise to the planet.
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About the author
Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.