Is Environmental Hope The Key To The Survival of Our Planet?

Is Environmental Hope The Key To The Survival of Our Planet?

The constant "doom and gloom" message about the environment in the news can get depressing, but it doesn't have to be that way.


"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.

Popular Right Now

Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?


When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

Cover Image Credit:

Vinicius Amano


FollowVinicius Amano

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

We Need To Get Over Our Fear Of Science Before It Kills Us

Lives are lost when we fear instead of think.


Anti-vaxxers. Climate deniers.

They are all the butt of internet jokes and memes. They are the focus of (too) many news stories and TV reports.

And their ignorance is going to kill people.

Yes, I said it. People who outright deny the scientifically-proven, data-measured reality that is climate change are either influencing the decisions of politicians or are themselves politicians working to hinder any policy that addresses the global crisis.

From not transitioning to clean energy to removing the United States from international accords and everything in between, climate deniers are setting America further down a path that will only exacerbate our climate problems and lead to a very different planet for future generations.

The refusal of vaccinations is already wreaking havoc across America. Twelve states currently face a measles outbreak. An unvaccinated boy nearly died of tetanus in Oregon.

Disease outbreaks, especially outbreaks of illnesses thought to be eradicated in the U.S., are more common now than they have been in decades.

It is the 21st century and one of the most developed and wealthiest countries in the world is facing diseases it worked tirelessly to never deal with again.


And why is it still considered "okay" to deny climate science?

Because we are afraid. We are especially afraid of things we do not understand.

For many people, science is one of those things we don't understand.

People without a background in science might look at climate reports and not understand a single thing other than the fact that the world is seemingly going to end. Or maybe the only thing they can take away from wordy, technical reports is that we need to completely change every facet of society in order to avoid something 50 years away.

If there is one thing people fear as much as they fear what they do not know, it is change. The future also tends to scare people a lot.

The refusal to vaccinate children also stems partially out of a fear of science. When one report debuts about how vaccines cause autism, the public panics. Why?

Because many people don't understand how vaccines truly work, and we fear what we do not understand.

Now that fear has embedded itself within the minds of too many people, it is hard to explain how vaccines work, and how beneficial they are to society.

Which means our fight to protect the country from previously-gone diseases is really just beginning.

It also means our fight to save the planet from destruction isn't going anyway any time soon, either.

So, this also all means science education needs to exist before college. It isn't enough to have members of society trained as engineers or chemists or environmental scientists or doctors.

It is possible to teach climate science and the basics of how vaccines work, among many other scientific inquiries, in K-12 education. We should learn about our planet and our health from the time we learn about our times tables and our history.

The only defense against ignorance is education.

The only way to combat the societal fear surrounding science is to create a society that is educated enough to not fear the science in the first place.

We need to kill this fear before the fear kills us.


Related Content

Facebook Comments