Reflection for July: Sustaining Hope in Face of Mighty Challenges
It is July 18th! It is 95 degrees outside, and that is cool given the temperature in the Northwest USA, or in Death Valley, CA or on the Arabian Peninsula or the Gobi Desert. There are terrible forest fires in the western USA, terrible floods in Holland and Germany, not to mention the human tragedies unfolding around the globe: Ethiopia, Yemen, Palestine, Western China, Venezuela, Brazil, and so many more. We are facing so many challenges, challenges that are new for our species, for our planet. It can be overwhelming to consider, and quite natural to simply push it all to the periphery of our days and not think about it. If you are able to set aside these challenges, even one of them, so easily, you enjoy a profound privilege.
We have to think about the fact that a mother bear led her two cubs to Lake Tahoe, to cool off with the human beings who were doing the same. We have to think about the over 150 people in that Surfside, FL building who are either known to have died or are otherwise unaccounted for; a building that came down very likely because of the corrosive effects of salt water from a rising sea. We have to think about the families of the Northwest USA whose homes are being destroyed by wild fires, racing through the profoundly dry forests, a manifestation of changing climate. We have to think about the families of those lost in the catastrophic flooding in Holland and Germany, due to a 1,000 year rainfall that overwhelmed the rivers and dams of those countries.
We also have to think about the people in the cities of the world, in heat sinks, who have little by way of tree canopies to cool things off, who often don’t have air conditioning, and who often live near industries, or lots filled with illegally dumped debris, that emit odorous and often toxic substances into the air that children and elderly people breathe. Rising temperatures, rising seas, more violent storms, all the result, in large part, from human activity, particularly over the last 140 years. It is always the most vulnerable who are most exposed to the impacts of the changing climate, and so the least capable of adjusting, adapting, cooping. We have to think about these things.
Why? Because we can do something. It doesn’t have to be this way. We have the capacity to move more quickly away from a fossil fuel based economy. We can mitigate the worst impacts of the changes that will take place over the next 100-200 years. We can act, as a species, to make the planet more hospitable for our children and grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. We can work to ensure that no child grows up breathing polluted air. We can ensure that no child goes to bed hungry or scared. Every economic and political obstacle to doing right by our planet and or brothers and sisters is a human made obstacle. Anyone that says different is either lying or ignorant.
I know that things can be different, but I also know that many days my confidence in our capacity to make things different fails me. Hope is a powerful virtue. It enables us to move into the future, even an unknown future like that confronting us, with confidence that “all will be well.” I have to admit that sometimes I falter in hopefulness.
This past week I had the privilege of sitting at the Atlantic Ocean, enjoying the beauty and majesty of the waves as they came crashing down onto the shore. The constancy of the waves, and of the ocean that sends them, calms me. I am now home, and I look out my kitchen window, at a riot of color in the flower gardens of my house. They are a bit wilted in the noon day sun, but they protect themselves in that “wilt,” only to be more beautiful tomorrow. There is much that I get from attending to the living, breathing planet that I share with all of you. I need to “attend” more often, to feed my hopefulness. T
here is much to think about in this world, and so much to do.
I’m interested in how you maintain your hopefulness in the face of so many challenges in this world, not to mention personal challenges. I invite you to visit this site and answersome questions. I’ll report back next month. I’ll leave it up til August 9th.
I hope I will seeon you August 21st, at the With Our Powers Combined Festival at Liney Ditch Park in South Camden, from 1-4PM. While there is much that challenges us, there is much to celebrate, and we intend to do that, together. Join us!
Peace, and much hope,
Mark Doorley, Ph.D.
Chair, Board of Trustees
The Center for Environmental Transformation