"Wild, contagious hope." These are the words of Dr. Elin Kelsey, an author, and environmental consultant. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak just last week here at Western Washington University. Friendly and energetic, Kelsey held the complete attention of her audience. Her warm smile and easy way of speaking characterize her message of optimism. Not only is she experienced in her field, but she is also incredibly passionate about education and activism regarding climate change. She's written multiple children's books, including "Not Your Typical Book About the Environment." Her children's books will inevitably comfort the future generations in assuring them that all hope is not lost! One of Kelsey's biggest achievements is the creation of the viral hashtag #OceanOptimism. Her website provides more background on the beginning of the movement, as well as books, podcasts, and other resources for those seeking hope in the midst of an environmental crisis. Although we are all growing increasingly aware of the terrible path we're headed down in terms of global climate change, we must realize that we won't get anywhere without hope.
In her presentation last week, Kelsey called for the end of generalized slogans; you know, like, "save the whales!" These overused phrases fail to even catch our attention anymore. Sure, we all want to save the whales, but that phrase makes it sound like a daunting, impossible task beyond our capabilities. Of course, saving the whales is a completely attainable goal. In fact, there is a plethora of good news about whales, but these articles tend to fly under the radar. And it's not just whales; there is good news surrounding otters, tigers, bees, gorillas, and so many more animal species with stabilizing populations.
Moreover, there is more good environmental news now than ever. With the rise of awareness about climate change and our 12-year deadline, an increasing amount of action is being taken to salvage the state of our planet. Entire cities have implemented better recycling and composting programs, and environmental activist groups have greater numbers now than ever. Still, all of these incredible, optimistic changes being made would be impossible without one key factor: hope. Kelsey believes that hope is contagious - the fight against climate change will gain more supporters when our messages are prefaced with the idea of hope rather than the depressing image of despair that we so often see. That's why it's critical that we paint the notion of climate change in a more hopeful, positive light.
With that said, I still strongly believe that each of us holds a moral responsibility to protect and take care of this earth that we inhabit. To do that, we must understand the negatives without losing sight of the positives. There is much to be done, but we can do it. I spent time discussing the importance of the balance between hope and despair in order to make progress with some other students. We felt that without despair, we would not be as pressed to make a change. However, without hope, there is zero chance of a change being made.
So, whether it be the wise words of Dr. Elin Kelsey or another source of inspiration in your life, remember to be optimistic, to seek out the good, and to realize that progress is impossible without wild, contagious hope.