Hope for the Planet: How to Feel So Much Better About the Fate of the Environment

By Matthew Dickson, www.MindAid.ca

If you are worried about the future of the planet’s environment, I know two books that have helped ease my worries so much. They are:

  1. “Hope Matters” by Elin Kelsey (testimonial by Jane Goodall) click here to see on Amazon

2. “Saving Us” by Katherine Hayhoe click here to see on Amazon

They may be in your local library. If you are in Canada, in case you don’t know, any library in Canada will bring in books from any other library in Canada — not just from other libraries in your province — if you simply ask them. These two books are in libraries in my province, so you should be able to get them no matter what province you live in.

Why should you read them? Most people, when asked to picture the future of our planet, can’t picture a positive future, oddly enough. Most people can only picture an apocalypse. These books have helped paint a picture in my mind of a positive future!

This is crucial for people with eco-anxiety. Therapists are seeing more and more people with eco-anxiety. I have no mental health certification (I have an engineering degree and that’s it). I can’t guarantee these books will help those with eco-anxiety. All I know is they helped me immensely to stop worrying so much about the planet’s future.

With the announcement a few years ago of the 2030 global ecosystem collapses, this was put on billions of people’s radar. We have a timeline now. Scary. Also useful. Imagine if we didn’t have a date for it, and by the time 2030 came around and ecosystems started collapsing, we would never have seen it coming, as we would have continued to carry on as we have for the last 20/30/40/etc. years.

This date, as sad as it is, can kick us into action.

The large majority of people believe in climate change in countries around the world. Governments are already committed to doing something about it. I believe the world will take action on this in large ways. There is too much pressure around it not too. People are basically good people. Yes, there is bad stuff that happens, but most of us want to do the right thing.

If the honeybees collapse, we lose 30% (roughly, I think) of our food and humans become malnourished forever. Global fish stocks could collapse and then we never get to eat fish again. How can this not weigh on people’s minds intensely?

In the coming years, I see this pressure building from the people to make governments take action. I think it is only a matter of time. This is where Malcolm Gladwell’s “tipping point” will happen. Picture this tipping point happening in 2022. Or 2023. Or 2025. Whatever year, it’s going to happen, I believe it will happen. It will also happen quickly, as tipping points, I believe, tend to do.

In the early 2000s (I forget which year), I already saw this tipping point happen for the environment. We all did. An environmental report came out (I forget which one), and literally in the news the environment went from being in the top 10 of important things on governments’ agendas (where it had been for decades) to essentially number one.

A friend of mine said a week later after this report, “I have been talking to people about the environment my entire life, but I have never talked to as many people about the environment as I have this past week.”

We’ve seen it happen before; let’s see it happen again!

Jane Goodall, the environmental and chimpanzee advocate, says that the planet is like a fine tapestry, such as you’d see in a museum. Every person on Earth represents a string in that tapestry. But many people think they are too small to make a difference. Jane says that if you start removing some of the strings from the tapestry, pretty soon the tapestry starts to look tattered.

Everybody plays a role. We all are important. We all make a difference.

This is my thought, but what if all 7.8 billion people on the planet gave up? No one was doing anything? We all just sat here. Think about that. Would that make more people than there are today take action?

Putting the environment aside for a second, to be a human on Earth, we all have an element of freedom in our lives. But for millennia, every one of us has been asked to contribute to our community to a certain degree. We have all needed to do our part long before the environment became such a hot topic.

And now is no different. We all need to do our part to help re-balance nature.

Scott Harrison in New York City gives clean water to developing countries through his charity:water nonprofit. He is raising $100 million a year (2021). The largest portion of his donations are from $5/month, $20/month, $40/month, and up.

People donate to his monthly donation program (called “The Spring” - click here to view) and small single donations make up the bulk of his donations. Who says you can’t make a difference?

So what does this future look like that no one can envision?

Picture many more solar farms in your cities and towns. Picture more wind turbines. Picture more micro-hydro in your local rivers and streams.

Picture electric vehicles everywhere. Norway now (2022) has 49% of its vehicles electric. Go on GoogleMaps StreetView and look at charging stations for electric vehicles all over Norway’s cities. That’s what your city will look like. In North America, there are already staggering numbers of charging stations all over the continent. Many other countries are the same.

So in your city or town, by 2030, let’s say, this is how your local area will look. Many, many things won’t change. Many things will look the same. But these solar farms, wind turbines and micro-hydro sites located nearby will supply electricity to your very own community. Some communities are already getting their own battery storage banks for their community to store all the electricity generated in their area.

This is the biggest picture I want to paint. Don’t try to complicate it much further than that for now.

There are so many environmental products/initiatives/things going on in the world it can seem incredibly confusing and overwhelming. Just try to picture your own community for now, and maybe communities nearby where you travel to frequently. Keep it regional!

You will be living here, in your home, and we have done it. We have saved the planet. We took massive action and brought global emissions and the world’s CO2 level back down to safe levels. We did it! Breathe a sigh of relief!

Back in the 1980s-1990s, Africa was very divided. People were scared there was going to be a bloodbath. But when apartheid ended, there was no bloodbath. (One of the two books, Elin’s or Katherine’s, talks about this. I can’t remember which.)

Picture us saving the planet peacefully. No bloodbath. No apocalypse. Countries went about the issue peacefully. We built this infrastructure peacefully.

What will your homes look like? Smart homes could be using the battery in your electric car to store the electricity from possible solar panels on your house for later use or to sell back to the grid through net-metering. Heat pumps also seem to be the most efficient way to heat/cool your home, so you may have one of those (electric baseboards are less efficient).

You will rise in the morning, have your cup of coffee, check the news, see what’s on social media, and start your day. You’ll get into your electric car/truck and head to work. After work, you’ll come home, have dinner, enjoy the evening, and go to bed.

Okay, so there may still be stress in your day — at work/home — life won’t be perfect, I’m sure. But you get the point. Just another day.

Most people can’t picture this. I hope I’m painting a good picture for you.

As you go to sleep that night, you’ll lie there thinking, “Wow, remember when we were all stressed about the fate of the planet! Hmmm, seems silly now. All that fuss about it. We should have known we could have done it!” (Please note: If you have eco-anxiety, I am by no means calling that silly. Anxiety can be horrible. I’ve gone through anxiety myself. It’s rough.)

How many times have you looked back on things that everyone was worried about, like Y2K, for example? Our worries can fade into the past. Think how much everyone during the world wars were worried about the future. We rose to the challenge back then. And I believe we will now. We have just had time to spare before any apocalypse would hit. Until now. We have a date. 2030.

The 2030 date isn’t set in stone, I’m sure. Maybe it is a year or two early or late. Maybe it is 2028. or 2032. Hard to say. One thing to remember is that the global ecosystems won’t collapse all at once. From the best I understand, they would happen one-by-one in a slow domino effect over the next 20 years or so. But let’s try not to think about that, right now. We are being bombarded by negative images and stories about the environment. We are looking for hope!

We need to picture what we are striving for, like an Olympic athlete visualizing in their mind over and over a perfect routine and performance.

Elin Kelsey says it has been proven that negative stories can lead to apathy. Show someone too much negativity, whether it’s about the environment or not, and they will start to believe that there isn’t anything they can do about it.

She says that we have been seeing way too many negative stories about the environment and much fewer positive stories for decades. Many people, young and old, have become apathetic. Yes, many youth, she says, have given up.

But we need all hands on deck! Everyone has a role to play! How do we break this apathy? Watch less news (news can be addictive, Elin says), and if you do see a news story on the environment, ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. Is this a positive or a negative story on the environment?
  2. Are they offering any steps I can take to help the situation (call-to-action)?

By being more critical of the information you take in, you can more closely monitor your thoughts and feelings and not let them get swayed by the news and make you more apathetic. Elin says many people aren’t even aware how the things that happen to them every day affect them emotionally or cognitively. So try to pay more attention to how things affect you, in general, and because of news of the environment.

I started doing this with the news, asking more critical questions, and I found I was quickly much more able to see how it was playing out on my thoughts and feelings. I felt much stronger, because I knew what was going on! Knowing is half the battle, they say!

Now what Katherine Hayhoe says is this: the number one thing anyone can be doing to help the environment is to be talking about the environment. Even more so than putting up solar panels or any action that directly affects the environment. Conversations! We need everyone becoming less apathetic and TAKING ACTION!

Katherine says that many people think the environment is like a boulder at the bottom of a hill, and we have to push it up the hill and let it roll to the bottom. But where we are actually, she says, is the boulder is already at the top of the hill. In fact it’s rolling partway down the hill and gaining speed, with hundreds of millions, if not billions of hands, pushing it downhill.

The only thing is, she says, is that we need to go 10 times as fast as we are. (She gives no factual reasoning for that “10 times” number. Maybe it’s more, maybe it’s less. She doesn’t explain.) This is where Malcolm Gladwell’s tipping point will help become very helpful.

She says there have been millions of people working on the environment for decades and we are much further ahead than most people think.

So back to taking action: conversations. One man came up to Katherine at a talk she gave in England. He had seen her TED talk (click here to watch) and decided to start talking to people about the environment.

He showed her a list of all the people he had talked to. It was 10,000 people! His community had also gone on to take great strides in becoming more eco-friendly.

Some people think you have to be loud and extroverted to be an advocate. Katherine says that even just one-on-one conversations, spoken in a normal voice, not a cheerleader kind of voice, can have profound impacts.

Both books have many examples of things going on around the world that are having large, positive changes environmentally. All these examples in the books really helped combat the negative stories that I, like you, have been bombarded with for years. The books made me feel much more positive about our future.

Am I convinced we will save the planet? Like one of the authors says, there is not one person on the planet alive today who knows what is going to happen. All I know is I am much less worried about our future and I feel armed with knowledge going into the future. I read these two books in the fall of 2021 and the feeling has been long-lasting! I still feel as content about our future as I did last fall.

I have my worries from time to time, but they are minimal and I am able to push them aside pretty quickly.

I really hope this has been of some help to you. This is information which most people aren’t aware of (as of early 2022). I sincerely hope that changes and this information is common to most people as soon as possible.

That’s why I encourage you to watch any environment news story more critically, and start having more conversations! Oh, and start looking up electric vehicles. There are many different kinds now and some of them get over 400 km (250 miles) on a charge. Consider purchasing one as soon as you can! And read these two books!

I would absolutely love if you shared this article. I also have made some videos on eco-anxiety and what I have been discussing here on my Mind Aid YouTube channel (link at www.MindAid.ca). Please feel free to share those videos as well!

Thank you for your time, and let’s do this!

— Matthew Dickson, www.MindAid.ca

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Matthew Dickson

Matthew Dickson

Advocate for people with mental illness in developing countries at www.MindAid.ca. Bicycled across Canada, books, nature, fitness, learning, dancing!