If you drop the phrase “climate change” into a casual conversation, chances are the minds around you will flood with images of destruction and tragedy. Hurricanes, species loss, droughts and pandemics have become our collective mental image of the future whenever the topic arises and we’re already seeing it happen ie. the most recent extreme weather events devastating communities in Texas, the Caribbean, Florida, Mexico, Puerto Rico, etc. The result of these events are described as apocalyptic and the best available forecasts tell us its only going to get worse if the world continues on its current path. With news like that what else would one feel but a sense of hopelessness, however even with great defeat I believe there is hope in the anthropocene. Hope means to trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial, or desired in the future, people do hope.
The part of that definition that struck me the most is that we look to people who give us reason for hoping. Similarly in class the question is there hope in the U.S. arose? I answered that we see hope in current activism and marches on marriage equality, minority rights, women rights, science etc. its what our country was founded on. However, people are also looking to our government administration and leaders of our nation for change, but I feel the inaction of our government and administration is what is creating an atmosphere of hopelessness. I’d truly like to think that our government could galvanize action and be the reason for hoping however at this point in time it is not. With that being said, we also look to leaders like Naomi Klein who have made their names popularizing the idea that climate change is an existential threat to humanity that demands immediate and decisive action. She argues that our hopes rest on drastic change to our society and a mobilization of industry unlike anything we’ve seen. However, Climate Change for most people is just far enough removed from its consequences to make urgency difficult. Thus in the face of this creeping, uncertain crisis, we must place our hope in the victories of everyday people, in our varied paths to justice, and in the future’s uncertainty. In doing so, we guard against worsening forecasts and the emotional weight of our own setbacks, and we turn our focus to the power of individuals and communities.
This past September I attended the IUCN World Conservation Congress where numerous leaders in Hawaii shared their hope for the anthropocene with people, scientists, students, and leaders around the world, comparing the people, places and ideas to flowers of a Hawaiian lei. As people engage in the environmental issues we are facing today, this “lei of hope” begins encircling our Island Earth, Lei Kaʻapuni Honua, this growing community of people who, together, can create a pathway of hope for future generations, we can string a lei of action to challenge the world to join us in these commitments. At this conference Hawaiʻi recognized that we believe we are stewards and navigators of our environment. We believe that the betterment of humanity is inherently possible. And we believe that the perpetuation of the health and well being of our people is inextricably intertwined with the health and well being of our environment. We acknowledge that the immense environmental issues facing the world are upon Hawai‘i. And so it is with a sense of urgency that we defy the role of “canary in the coalmine,” and instead embrace the kuleana, responsibility, of being the guiding light out toward a healthier and safer future. The strength of our commitment is demonstrated in this partnership, both unprecedented and necessary to Hawai‘i. We are strengthened with the knowledge that by laulima, working together, we can and will reach our shared destination – an environment worthy of our future generations. There is hope.