When you look at climate change in the news, it is easy to feel hopeless and discouraged. It is impossible, especially recently, to open your phone without seeing headlines on social media about how the climate crisis has already begun to devastate communities around the world. From natural disasters like Hurricane Ian, which has been named the second deadliest hurricane to hit Florida since 1935, to the large-scale flooding in Pakistan that has left over 30 million people displaced, it can seem as though we are already too late.
It is easy to feel powerless in the fight against climate change, and when you keep seeing people with plastic water bottles in their backpacks while you try to carry your reusable one every day, you might feel like your actions are pointless. When you and only a handful of other students attend ECOPC meetings on a campus of over 4,000 students, it is just as easy to assume that you’re the only one that cares.
Climate optimism does not mean ignoring the news and the reality of climate change or not advocating for sustainability because everything is going to be okay. It is definitely not a form of denial, naivety, or ignorance. Rather, climate optimism requires us to do the opposite and be aware of what is going on. We need to acknowledge what humans have already done to mitigate climate change. It is a form of hope for our future.
There are many actions that have already been taken to help slow the effects of climate change, all of which should inspire climate optimism. The governor of New York recently announced that the state is going to ban gas-powered cars by 2035. This means that all new cars in the state will have to be zero-emissions vehicles. Other states including California, Massachusetts, and Washington have set similar goals. In other news, the founder of Patagonia has recently decided to give away his company and donate all profits to help fight climate change. Additionally, the Biden Administration announced plans to plant one billion trees in an effort to combat deforestation. At the end of September, researchers reported that because of conservation projects, grizzly bears, white-tailed eagles, and gray wolf populations in Europe saw a 44 percent, 445 percent, and 1800 percent increase, respectively.
As the generation that will be responsible for dealing with the climate crisis and its consequences, it can feel overwhelming, especially for young people. It can sometimes feel like the fate of the world is in our hands. While this is true, it does not have to be intimidating. We still have some time left to fix the problem, but having a constant doomsday mindset will not get us anywhere or help us come up with solutions. If we continue to be pessimistic about our future and claim that humans are too late to reverse what we’ve started, we cannot expect the problem to be solved. Optimism is what will ultimately inspire, change, and save our planet.