Can we be hopeful in the face of the climate crisis?

The Wolf Staff

It can be easy to get caught up in the feeling of helplessness that has increasingly defined our generation’s view of climate change. The hopeless acceptance of disaster has become so popular it even has its own name: “Climate doomerism,” or the shared feeling of inescapable dread, that no matter what we do, the world is going to experience the worst of global warming and that’s that. 

This position can’t be labeled as an overreaction to climate change or as a misinformed view of the world. It’s an entirely rational response to the wholly inadequate options we are presented with. But just because it’s understandable doesn’t mean it’s the right way to approach this issue.

On the left, there seems to be an unrealistic climate-optimism used to disguise its protection of fossil fuel industry and our traditional economic structure with insubstantial reform carried by performative virtue signaling. The G20 delegates’ tradition of throwing a coin into a wishing well to symbolize their hope for a “better future” after completely failing to agree on any good reform paints a clear picture of this. Conversely, the other side offers only flat out denial and downplaying of the problem, with consistent attempts to undermine the minimal progress made. The recent Supreme Court ruling that has substantially limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulating power shows this well.

These “solutions” we are presented with have created the hopeless climate position, the feeling of malaise with our future and the common response of, “I try not to think about it,” when you ask someone about climate change. Empty words, half promises, distorted expectations and unbelievable amounts of propaganda have compelled this generation to almost give up. But while things seem bad, the embrace of this hopelessness can only make them worse.

The paths to solving the problem of climate change, minimizing its effects and innovating around its damage, are still available to us. The ability for the world to find a way out is still there, and while the challenges to progress seem insurmountable, there is more than enough to remain hopeful about. 

In fact, hidden within this generational cynicism on the issue is the most hopeful point of all: the care. Collective care that is so deep and well understood it has scared a generation into giving up is proof of an acknowledgement we’ve made that previous generations didn’t. The acknowledgment that climate change is real, is dangerous and needs addressal. This confession so many of us have made shows real change is coming. Watered-down reform and complete ignorance will eventually become things of the past when a generation so disturbed by this inaction inevitably grows into the positions of power. While things may seem hopeless, it’s far from over.

It’s an understandable response to give into this defeatist attitude, but it isn’t a correct one. The progression of technology, the new awareness we have of our world and the understanding of our failures at achieving a better future makes the potential for this highly-motivated generation to be the drivers of radical change better than ever. 

To be hopeful about climate change is realistic, and it’s the only effective path. Without a continued hope in the face of this crisis, we can’t also have the actions that help end it. The new and powerful concern for our world will ultimately ensure its protection. We just have to keep trying.