A Message of Hope Amidst a Sea of Climate Doomism

Hope_Matters by Elin Kelsey
Elin Kelsey’s latest published book is available through Village Books or on Amazon. A more extensive collection of her work and media is available on her webpage.

During a lecture at Western Washington University on Tuesday, March 5, author and scholar Elin Kelsey, in collaboration with the Salish Sea Institute, shared the importance of maintaining a spirit of hope – evidence-based hope – amidst disheartening climate news.

Media stories of climate change rarely feature a solution to the problems they report on, which feeds into “climate doomism,” the mindset that human-induced environmental change has gotten to the point that its negative effects on the planet are unstoppable. Kelsey believes we still have time.

“The climate crisis is also a crisis of hope,” said Kelsey.

The core of Kelsey’s work as an educator and thought leader is to foster hope-filled practices that she herself uses to counter a tendency towards climate doomism. Here are eight of the practices she mentioned:

  • Ask yourself, how are you feeling? Keep in touch with yourself.

“We have so many feelings around the environment”, said Kelsey.

It is okay and even understandable to be experiencing all sorts of emotions because of the environmental problems that seem impossible to surmount. Sadness, anger, frustration, disappointment, and confusion are all common emotions when facing climate change, and Kelsey believes in acknowledging those feelings and turning them into motivations.

  • Check the expiry date on what you are sure you know.

Make sure the climate news you’re consuming is current and up to date. For example, a Smithsonian article from last September reported that after 20 years of habitat revitalization, the Azores bullfinch population in Portugal has increased by hundreds of individual birds, giving conservation biologists hope for its future: a news story to celebrate!

Kelsey suggested that her in-person and in-Zoom audience bookmark the website of Swedish educational organization Gapminder, which combats misinformation and common misconceptions about issues such as climate change, poverty, and unemployment.

  • Expand what you measure.

Instead of focusing on the negative, measure what is getting better. For instance, comparing the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) endangered list with their green status list reveals how some previously endangered species are making a recovery.

  • Immerse yourself in Solutions Journalism.

“When we immerse ourselves in knowing what things are shifting, we feel quite differently about these issues,” said Kelsey.

The field of Solutions Journalism, as Kelsey explained, is gaining traction because of its emphasis on positivity and on finding and reporting specifically on solutions to global issues, which is rare in the notoriously negative landscape of modern news. Many organizations and publications, including The Solutions Journal, Seeds of Good Anthropocenes, and The Beacon Today, specialize in publishing or promoting solutions journalism.

  • Do everything you can outside.

“I do everything I can outside,” said Kelsey.

During the lecture, she points to a slide with a photo of herself sitting by the shore, bundled up and typing on her laptop. Kelsey referred to the various emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual benefits of spending more time outside, including healthier breathing, lower stress, better focus, and improved sleep. Being outside also lessens the environmental and financial costs of heating and cooling, electricity, and other amenities we use by spending the majority of our time inside.

  • Notice the resilience of other species.

Of the at least 8.7 million species on the planet, some that were previously endangered are making a comeback. Humpback whale sightings in the Salish Sea reached a record number in 2023.

Sea otter recovery also creates kelp bed recovery. Coastal Voices explains how this recovery benefits the ecosystem in profound ways. If the non-human animals on our planet are adjusting to and combating the changes in the environment, then surely we can too!

  • Act from your unique identities.

There are many identity-based activist groups that focus on environmental work. A few nationally-recognized organizations are GreenLatinos, Out for Sustainability (O4S), and faith-motivated Operation Noah.

  • Create Cultures of Belonging.

Kelsey encouraged people to find meaningful purpose in the community you belong to. The Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley works in a variety of areas, including Climate Justice, to disrupt divisions of society that prevent meaningful progress on the problems humanity faces. The concept of Convivial Conservation looks at environmental conservation with a vision that integrates all factors affecting people and biodiversity. 

Kelsey believes in finding joy in climate action, and in doing so, building community around a shared goal towards bettering the environment.

“Hope is not complacent,” said Kelsey. “It is a powerful political act. When you’re hopeful, you’re more likely to take action.”

This article was written collaboratively by Josh Hernandez and Annette Townsend.

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