What Optimism Can Do For Us

According to the Journal of Adult Development, Professor Larry Froman claims that “virtuous organizations infuse an ethical perspective into their cultures…promote self-determining, emotionally intelligent, and team-oriented behavior patterns and develop supportive leaders that enable others to succeed, all of which can lead to productive and creative outcomes” (Froman, 2010). Success, then, requires a level of positivity from individuals and their surroundings. Let’s take a look at a historical example when optimism and sustainable action have led to a prosperous outcome.

In the early 1970’s scientists began investigating the effects chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) had on the ozone layer, and they discovered that since CFCs release chlorine when they break down, they damage the ozone. CFCs and the chlorine within them are incredibly stable, unlike chlorine from swimming pools, sea salt, and volcanoes, so there aren’t any natural processes that remove CFCs from the lower atmosphere. The newly-learned concern about the depletion of the ozone layer in the 1970’s led to a ban on CFCs used as aerosol propellants in the US and many countries throughout the world. In the 1980’s, new laws and terms including the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol were adopted in order to reduce the production of CFCs into the ozone. As a result, the amount of CFC production into our atmosphere decreased.

This is a perfect example of optimistic action resulting from learned consequences. The US could have overlooked the ozone depletion issue in order to sustain their regular lifestyle so they could avoid change and sacrifice, but the country’s hopeful outlook on the potential of a less-depleted ozone resulted in sustainable action. In the words of Bob Doppelt: “If effective change strategies are employed, the destructive qualities of humans can be controlled and positive traits can be mobilized and strengthened. Change is possible.” We have overcome environmental crisis in the past. And we can do it again. We have to do it again.

Where will this optimism come from?

Optimism, encouragement, and respectable leaders are the necessities for global action against the climate change crisis. In The Power of Sustainable Thinking Bob Doppelt writes that “The most urgent need is for all of us to look inside and decide if our core beliefs and perceptions, and the behaviours that they spawn, match the nature of today’s reality and if we are living up to our most deeply felt values and aspirations” (Doppelt, xix). Our thoughts and our actions need to unite into a synonymous pair of movements.

“Our DNA is designed to focus our thinking and behavior on just our own immediate needs and to ignore the consequences for others or the climate and physical environment. Constant vigilance is needed to overcome these traits” (Doppelt, 54). I’m done ignoring the consequences. I’m done being cynical about our efforts towards ending the climate crisis. It’s my job as a human being, as well as yours, to overcome this negative attitude about the future of our planet and transform it into focused change. We cannot surrender our efforts to fight against the climate crisis. We simply have too much to lose, and too much to potentially gain.

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