Earth Day and the Importance of Being Optimistic
Each year on April 22nd we measure our shortcomings, repledge our commitment to a healthy Earth, and assess the work yet to be done. We’ve been doing this for more than five decades. Some years we have reason to be proud, other years we see nothing but doom and gloom.
For many of us, the past several years have seemed like a never-ending nightmare, with bad news accumulating on top of an already bad situation. And because of this, environmental activists and ordinary citizens alike have become disparaging of our inability to fix things. We are at a low point in the up and down cycle of hope for a brighter future.
We need to change our attitude towards the importance of Earth Day.
This past year, the attitude towards the problem of climate change has soured. The most recent Climate Change Conference in Glasgow ended with vague pledges that fell short of what’s needed. Limiting global temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C is not going to be possible. We need to retarget our goal for the 21st century to 2.0°C.
The failure to make progress, again, led climate activist Greta Thunberg to stand at the podium and excoriate world leaders with “Blah, blah, blah.” Her exasperation was well-founded, and we all looked down in shame. It was hard to watch.
Yes, she was right. But a tantrum like that only expresses frustration, it doesn’t express any of the desires and actions needed to change the outcome. For that reason, it was a missed opportunity on her part.
After that speech the attitude among people who care turned negative. People who had grown weary of the fight began to despair. Somehow, our leaders seemed to have lost the courage to lead.
But this is not the time to give in to these types of negative sentiments. This is precisely the time to redouble our efforts.
- Activists need to freshen their message.
- Governments need to implement bold action plans.
- Consumers need to ethically choose what to purchase.
- Citizens need to flex their power by voting for change.
- Educators need to teach us how to care for the only home we’ll ever have.
This Earth Day, let us change our attitude. Let us stop framing the message in existential terms. Let us stop implementing weakened action plans. Let us stop purchasing things based on price alone. Let us stop voting for candidates who aren’t fully committed to change. Let us start teaching ourselves to be proper stewards of Earth.