Does the environment have a case for hope?

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It’s pretty hard to be hopeful for the environment sometimes.

I’m a pretty natural optimist, but I’ve got to call this one like I see it. The planet’s outlook can be pretty grim.

Deforestation rates are high. Projections show we’re just months away from irreversible climate change. There is no political willpower to act in the places that most desperately need to. We’re also entering an era of mass extinction for many species, and that’s especially concerning.

Don’t take it from me, take it from one of the world’s most effective environmental advocates, Greta Thunberg, who just so happens to be a sixteen year old in Sweden. 

“I don’t want your hope,” she says. “I don’t want you to feel hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

I think Greta’s advocacy work is awesome, and I get so excited about the enthusiasm towards environmental stewardship that today’s students have. It goes far beyond the enthusiasm when I was in school. But there are some other ways in which we’re different, one of them being that I do need a degree of hope.

Thankfully, I have hope. I have hope for the environment. Against all odds. Here’s why.

The Earth is ridiculously resilient.

I don’t mean this to say that the planet will just take care of itself so we can keep living the way we’ve been. I mean this to say, it’s amazing we haven’t created more damage.

The planet, being the miracle that it is, seems to keep providing the conditions for life. I’d think that if people were more aware of how specific those are, and this, how fragile life is, a whole lot more respect would be warranted.

There are so many ways to make things better.

Planting trees just might be our biggest weapon in the fight against climate change. They help attract water, they protect soil, and they absorb carbon.

It seems like a slow process, but you can easily look online and find story after story of a farmer in rural Indonesia, Brazil, Tanzania, the Philippines, etc. who committed to planting a tree every day. The before and after pictures of these cases are astonishing.

And that’s just one example of a way for things to get better. I’ve been obsessed with Project Drawdown, a ranking of the top 100 solutions for climate change. The list is surprising, informative, and encouraging.

Educating girls is one of the best things we could do for the environment. The number one biggest area for improvement is getting better at refrigerant management. Lowering food waste is also a really big deal.

Hope is the theme of the newest Grassroots Podcast Episode. I finally interview my boss, Plant With Purpose Director Scott Sabin. I also talk to Kent Annan. All season long I’ve been asking my guests what gives them hope, and I’ve gotten answers like these:

I get a lot of hope from feeling we're not alone in this. I get a lot of hope from you all. Jesus' longest prayer was that we would be one as God is one. So that's my constant prayer and hope. Is that we're carrying the weight of this and imagining and building something together.” (Shane Claiborne)

It’s not something I’d call easy, but it’s something we see in the places where we are working. We see poor soil become good soil. We see poor people have their lives improve- they go to school, they eat better. It’s possible and we’ve started doing that.” (Dezo)

Grassroots’ entire first season is out now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other major podcast platforms. Check out Episode 6, The Environment’s Case for Hope.

Philippe Lazaro