Sustainability Practicum Essay 4

In a later chapter in his book Flourishing, John Ehrenfeld says that the question of whether one is optimistic or pessimistic about the future is the wrong question. The right question about the future, he says, is, “Are you hopeful?” Why might that be an important question to ask if you are thinking about engaging with issues of sustainability as a young adult?

And what is your personal response to that question? Are you hopeful? If so, why? From what source or feeling do you manufacture your hope? And if not, what motivates you to pursue an educational path that includes an emphasis on a study of the environment even though you are not hopeful for the future?  The best answers will be ones that draw specific information or support from the readings, interviews, and/or case studies we have engaged with throughout our time in the SoE this year, including our week in Washington, DC, with Planet Forward.

Post your essay as a comment to the relevant post of the MSoE’s blog, The Stream, by Friday, July 28th, by 5:00 pm.


  1. Elissa Edmunds says:

    The question “are you hopeful?” is a complex one to answer, but is an important one to ask. The reason this question is crucial to ask is because whether or not you are hopeful will determine what you believe your work is going to lead you to. On one hand, there’s belief that education, dedication, community collaboration and hard work will promote and make sustainable change, while on the other hand, there’s belief that we can do the absolute best that we can do, but that may not mean that anything will actually get better or change. I find this question to be important to ask myself as a young adult because my career path and education is all about trying to promote and facilitate positive change, but I also have to realize that there is a possibility that nothing I do will actually make a difference. If I am too hopeful, I will always get my hopes up, and end up burning myself out. If I have hope but also recognize that bad can happen, I will be able to pick myself up and continue. Personally, if I were not hopeful, I would see no point in me continuing my education or pursuing my career path.

    I’m hopeful in people, and believe that there is still reason to have hope. I am, however, a little distrusting of institutions, which combines people, law, mindsets, history, and more. One concept that gives me hope is sitting in class and listening to all the students around me in classrooms who want to desperately fight for people’s rights and the Earth’s rights. I interact daily with people who want to transform our institutions to truly be for everyone. I have met people who have not had an easy life, and yet still have the motivation to keep working hard to take care of and to love others, including non-human others. By saying all of this, I am saying that I am hopeful. There is an abundance of work to do, but there is an abundance of people to do that work. Everyday people are fighting out about causes that set their souls on fire and motivate them to continue to learn, make connections, and work towards paths that could help them to make a difference. That gives me hope.

    Although I am hopeful, lately, I have been struggling with really keeping that hope energized and mobile. I draw hope from my faith, from the community that I have surrounding me, and from education. One specific instance that gave me hope recently, though, is from an email we received from Frank. In his email, he said that the students (us) are magic. I had to sit with that word for a bit because for some reason, it made me emotional. It made me feel like other people had faith in our generation, instead of bashing it all the time. The word magic made me feel like I could do anything, and surrounded by the incredible people I have and the access to education that I have been blessed to receive, I can keep moving forward. I have hope because even in times that feel like we cannot do anything, there has been immense power that has risen out of times like these historically. I am leaning on those leaders and that history to keep me motivated.

  2. Matia Whiting says:

    The manner with which we frame our questions about the future shapes our own thinking of what is and isn’t possible. As I see it, John Ehrenfeld’s condemnation of posing the question in terms of “optimism” or “pessimism” is a critique of giving two polar options in regards to a widely uncertain future. How could one ever be strictly one or the other? And when one chooses “pessimism,” do they not close off any potential for positive growth? It is easy to feel “optimistic” or “pessimistic” about the future, but these feelings do very little to guide us into action. Thus, I agree with Ehrenfeld’s statement that the right question to ask is, “are you hopeful?”
    Hope is a powerful sentiment, a driver of inspiration, at once a manifestation of and a jumping-off point for positivity and growth. To ask, “are you hopeful?” pushes people to contemplate possibility, which is perhaps the most important framework of thinking in regards to sustainability and our future. In shaping our prospects around possibility, we open up to innovation, ideas and technologies that have the potential to positively influence both the human population and Earth’s ecosystems.
    Am I hopeful? I think I have to be. In my eyes, to give up on hope is to give up on life. Hope drives so much of what I study and work for; my motivation in almost everything I do is rooted in some sense of hope. I also acknowledge that from my position, it may be very easy to be hopeful. I realize that in many ways, I come from and live in incredible privilege. Of course I can be hopeful about our Earth when I can retreat to my grandmother’s beautiful, rustic, lakeside farm. Of course I can be hopeful when I watch the sun set over the Adirondacks every day of the school year, when I breathe clean air and have the options of fresh food and clear water, when I know that I at night I will have a roof over my head and that during the day I can hike mountains and swim in rivers. In many ways, my circumstances fuel my own hope. This unfathomable privilege, coupled with the amazing leaders we met in Washington D.C.—leaders who have pushed the limits of possibility to give underprivileged communities clean power and nutritious food—have constructed positive realities from what was once hardly even conceivable. These leaders allow me to put trust in my imagination, to believe that ideas that may seem barely plausible are in fact potential keystones of our future. To take this train of thought in a different direction, I believe that some of what I learn and read, some of the people that I meet, threaten to damage my sense of hope. Even with its extreme hyperbolic tone in mind, reading “The Uninhabitable Earth” instilled within me a deep sense of unease. Talking to Bill McKibben, hearing that “winning slowly is losing,” and learning about a massive ice shelf breaking off of Antarctica is similarly terrifying. Sometimes I feel that the more I learn on the issue, the direr our situation seems.
    Maybe the fact that I see positive potential for our Earth, even with these massive hindrances in mind, validates my own sense of hope. Maybe it makes it naïve. I’ve always thought that in order for an opinion to be truly valuable, it should also be complex, with a sense of empathy for both sides. For me, the only certainty is that if I can ever hope to make a difference, I must have hope. It is with this mindset that I go forth into the sustainability world, hoping for positive change…

  3. Lydia Waldo says:

    I am hopeful about the future, and I don’t think there’s any option other than to be hopeful. It can be incredibly difficult to stomach the news when it’s constantly filled with headlines of environmental disasters, statistics about how it’s too late to reverse the damage, and icebergs calving into the warming oceans. However, as Frank Sesno told us last week in Washington, D.C., news focuses on the negative stories because they are the ones that draw the most publicity and views. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a weight of hopelessness and anxiety about the future every day, but either I will grow up as part of the generation that finds solutions to these problems, or as one of the last generations to have clean water, green grass, and blue skies. The only power I have in the situation is how I decide to react, and I choose hope.

    As I continue to compile my leadership booklet from our workshops this semester, the themes of fearlessness, having a vision, waking up every day ready to fight, working hard, and iterating continuously stand out, among others, such as active listening and storytelling. More than anything, these themes and qualities remind me to stay grounded and focus on the tangible: what we can do as individuals – students, professors, professionals, citizens, advocates etc. – rather than what’s too overwhelming and will result in inaction or apathy.

    The question “Are you hopeful?” is important for everyone to think about, but it is particularly important as a young adult in 2017. We are the ones engaging most directly with the future and its sustainability, because we are the future. If our generation chooses hopelessness, it will be another twenty or thirty years until the next generation comes along and has the opportunity to engage the question of hope, at which point it may be too late. Sustainability, as Rick Leach of World Food Program-USA describes it, is any project where there is a true exit strategy. Right now, there’s no exit strategy to the project we call climate change. However, huge strides have been made in the direction of sustainability within the last few decades, and unless people remain hopeful all of the progress will be lost.

    Yet, sustainability for the planet is larger than climate change. Violence, poverty, hunger, continued discrimination, and so many other issues must be addressed if we hope to make this planet a place that’s welcoming to all lifeforms, human and otherwise. It is from this lens that I draw my hope. I may not be able to develop an affordable and implementable alternative energy that changes the future or a way to clean up the oceans, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help to shape the planet’s sustainability moving into the future. It’s the small donations – or actions, words, ideas, passion, and fights – that will ultimately guide the world towards reaching sustainability, and these small things I can engage in on a daily basis, beginning with waking up every morning ready to work hard and resist throwing in the towel. That is why I choose hope, even when it isn’t easy.

  4. zoe zeerip says:

    Hope is not something I get questioned on much. Rather I get questioned on how do I stay motivated and that is simple to answer. I point to cases where success is being made and use that to prove I am capable of doing something good in the world. Hope though, is what underlines my motivation. I am hopeful that my motivation will stay high and I am hopeful that better actions can be taken in the world.

    As most people acknowledge, being hopeful can be hard is the era we are living through currently. But being hopeful is my only way to stay motivated to pursue what I believe is possible. I am hopeful because I see others working towards the same passions as myself. I am hopeful because I know that no big business or government has the final say, it is the people. I am hopeful because I surround myself with others who believe change is possible.

    It’s important to know why you are hopeful because I believe that it is your stem for motivation. I know that I would not want to get up at 7am for class everyday if I was not hopeful that my learning would pay off. I would not be pursuing environmental studies and sustainability if I was not hopeful that our governing body won’t one day support my ambitions.

    More recently, my hope was reinvigorated by Frank Sesno’s energy. He has seen many nasty showdowns in this news day and keeps going. His hope to change the way stories are told proved that a system is flexible and new ways of thinking are acceptable. Secondly, Richard from the World Food Program had the most energy I had experienced in a while. He works for an organization that deals with poverty, famine, and war yet he sees the positive impact this organization is doing and feeds off that.
    Finally, being able to come to a program on the other side of the country that is teaching the similar values about nature and protecting is as schools in Utah are make my heart sing. Environmental studies is being tackled all around the world and that is bound to overflow. I cannot wait to see how many people care about the environment down the road!

  5. Rayna Berger says:

    Growing up as an “environmentalist” as a millennial can be one of the most depressing life paths. It is also the most inspiring. We are taught and told that our own species are causing the 6th mass extinction, the most damage not only to the ecosystem but ourselves. We violently extract resources, pollute the Earth, drastically decrease biodiversity, along with murder, rape, and enslave our own race. From the 5th grade I knew I wanted to be apart of the sustainability movement, I just didn’t know how. To be honest, I was extremely turned off by the facts and figures of climate change, it didn’t feel like I could do much as a highschool student in Owings Mills, Maryland. The damage is done, right?

    And then I traveled the country.

    I fell in love with the farmers across America. White, brown, old, young, trans, single, polyamorous, disabled, there is no limitation to a relationship with the Earth. Gaia welcomes all. I learned permaculture, practiced natural building out of recycled materials, built a black water drainage system and garden, and worked with so many different animals. I realized the pride in physical labor along with the dirt under my nails and the calluses on my hands from pulling weeds all day. I became empowered by driving a tractor and operating a chainsaw, and also by planting native plants and harvesting herbs for tinctures. I saw, what seemed to be, a secret network of people engaging with their communities and working to better the Earth by living minimally yet bountifully, spiritually, while also teaching. I learned more in one year of traveling than I did in all of my schooling combined. I reconnected with myself through the Earth and these wonderful communities and individuals. I found hope.

    Our week in Washington, D.C., working with Planet Forward was an interesting addition to my journey. I remember walking into the first day disappointed when I saw an array of “swag” gifts laid out at every seat: sunglasses from Thailand wrapped in plastic, a selfie stick, stickers, and a cloth bag. I couldn’t help but to think what a total waste!! I did not accept the gifts. Throughout the rest of the week I deepened my understanding for just how complex this environmental movement is. While yes there is an “underground” movement of local farmers and homesteaders, environmentalists in big cities and suburbs abroad are also working to enhance sustainability. Organizations like Planet Forward do great work connecting sects of the issue, but there is always work to be done (like getting rid of the “swag” gifts), and they are open to progress. I have hope to be a part of this positive change towards a more sustainable, ~radical~ future!

  6. Joshua Yuen-Schat says:

    The question of hopefulness when face with issues of sustainability is often something that I ponder upon as my generation enters the era of Anthropocene. In my opinion, many roots of environmental issue ultimately trace back to our capitalistic economy and climate change. These two abstract ideas are deeply rooted in the fundamental problems of our society today. It is easy to fall into the trap of hopelessness and negatively but hope is a crucial tool to balance the negativity, like the yin yang. There’s light and there’s dark, it’s interconnected and interdependent. There will always be challenges in life but I see each challenge as an opportunity to learn from failures and successes. Only through adversity can you truly learn and stretch your boundaries.

    A person with hope has the determination and will to achieve a goal. But having goals isn’t enough, you need to have a plan of action and the mindset to continue to preserve onwards because there will always be obstacles. Life is an uphill battle, once we overcome one obstacles, another will arise. With these tools, it will increase your likelihood of achieving the goal. As an athlete and musician, I am often met with obstacles of time management, opposition, competition, prioritization, etc. Hope is what keeps me going especially during times of doubt, and it’s reinforced by my family, friends, identity and faith. I am constantly reflecting and reminding myself of all the people that helped me get to where I am today because without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Having this mindset engrained in me as a child, it supplies me with another source of energy to combat the obstacles I face.

    The Washington D.C. trip was an eye-opening trip for me because of the opportunities to interact and engage with people that are at the apex of their respective environmental fields. The overarching themes and lessons that I have heard repeatedly from many of these individuals were the importance of working hard and staying nimble. These are traits that I have been constantly reminded of throughout my childhood and to hear it from the CEO of World Food Program USA or EPA Toxic Release Inventory staffs, it reinforces my own values and beliefs. Therefore, Yes, I am very hopeful for my future in the environmental field and my comrades in arm as we face the ultimate battle of humanity to protect our planet. I just hope it’s not too late.

  7. Colleen Dollard says:

    I would not be in this program today if I did not have hope for the future of human and non-human life on this Earth. Let me reiterate on this Earth. Searching for oxygen levels that will support human life and water on other planets merely implies the attitude that humans have already degraded the Earth to a point of which there is no return- an incentive to just keep cruising along the destructive highway of capitalism, leaving slime trails of globalization. Though we are nearing the limits of what this Earth can sustain, there are so many reasons to not give up on this planet. Sentience that remind us all why we are here like love, humility, grief, and happiness all working together creating local and global senses of community and kinship. Our humanity connects us all to each other, no matter the political or environmental boundaries. It reminds me every day why I do not only hope and fight for a better future for my five year old nephew but for the children of Syria and Yemen as well. If not only for the human side there are so many more reasons to protect what lays before us. There is no known planet with a forest as vast and full of incredible biodiversity as the Amazon Rainforest. No known planet with an ocean with points as deep as Marianas Trench, an ocean full of life lurking in its depths still not entirely known to humans. Both marine and terrestrial environments have been adversely affected by the dominating human species; that is why it is our duty to save it, not abandon it.

    In today’s political climate in the United States, every day there is a new attack trying to force us to take ten steps back in our progress as a nation, whether it be on human rights or the environment. It would be easy to believe that my voice doesn’t matter or won’t make a difference amongst the nearly 323 million people living in this country. It would be easy to give up hope, sit in the back of class or watch the news silently, thinking that someone else might take it upon themselves to fix this wreck that my species and most importantly my country and ancestors have made. I believe that my generation will be the ones to stand up and strike down the oppressive systems plaguing our world. Being with other students in this program, who each come from different backgrounds, inspires me, brings light to the intersectionality of environmentalism, and gives me hope for the future to know that we are each working selflessly for a better for future for all.

    I chose to pursue environmentalism because I know that there is hope. Through storytelling this hope can extend to and inspire others who may not have the same optimism for the future. Sometimes there seems to be so much bad going on in the world that it seems unstoppable. But there is also so much good happening every single day. I think that each individual can do their part in contributing to the good in this world with mindfulness. Storytelling is a medium we can use to create reverence for all life, human and non-human, in this world.

  8. Sadie Rose Zavgren says:

    I joined this movement because I have hope. My hope is often renewed when I hear about specific moments of activism occurring; Standing Rock, the raising of the ‘Resist’ banner above the White House, the energy committee in my hometown advocating for a solar array which would produce energy for the downtown buildings, and when on June 28, 2017, a judge issued a trial date for a youth group who filed a constitutional climate lawsuit against the U.S. government (the youth group, aged 9-21, filed the lawsuit because they believe the US government has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property by promoting the use of fossil fuels).

    But it is also easy to feel overwhelmed by imagining all of the people, especially shadow place communities, who are affected the most by big economy countries who use fossil fuels without much consideration.This overwhelming sensation was somewhat relived when I attended discussions on how to address these gigantic issues in Washington D.C. last week. The most important information I learned from the Planted Forward team was how important it is to find an approachable way to translate complicated information in a more accessible and welcoming digestible format. This idea is centered around being an effective narrative storyteller who can creatively breakdown often inaccessible facts and figures that look like gibberish to the general public. In order to organize a strong movement, we must tell a compelling story that will make someone say “Oh, wow, I need to do something.” People approach environmental issues personally, therefore having a strong story with compelling characters, an emotional component, relatable experiences, and some sort of tension that needs to be resolved, will make someone care. I have hope that with the stories shared about the displaced mother from Hurricane Katrina and the families in sub-Saharan Africa who cannot grow food due to the drought, will generate a global political movement that will challenge governments all across the world to impose laws that limit fossil fuel use, make organic and local food accessible, and public transit systems available all across the world, including in rural communities. Yes, I have hope because I’ve seen how social/political movements have occurred in the past. The Civil Rights Movement had a compelling story to share with the American people in 1955 when 15 year old Rosa Parks took a seat in the white section of a bus in Montgomery. Everyone knows this story because it is memorable. It is time that the environmental movement find a truly memorable story and begin repeating it over and over again until everyone knows that action is not being taken on reversing the destruction of the earth because a handful of rich and powerful people don’t see profit in doing the right thing.

  9. Thomas Wentworth says:

    I don’t feel particularly hopeful. Digging through the National Climate Assessments, watching documentaries about a skin-encapsulated manifestation of capitalism bulldozing the largest community farm in the entire United States, and hearing somebody from the DoD recount their proposed budget increase of over $100 billion in front of an EPA representative has not been the most uplifting curriculum. However, I strongly believe that a simple acknowledgement of these injustices and immense suffering around the world is the first step towards making positive change. So while I am not currently feeling hopeful, through processing all of this information and moving forward towards concrete actions, perhaps I will become so.

    One of the most impactful moments for me during our trip to D.C. was the conversation with Barrett Pitner when he said that he thought that some of the most influential people were borderline depressed. Although I don’t think this is necessary to make positive change, it was the first time somebody had said to me that it was okay to feel overwhelmed and unsure. This leads to what I believe to be an important distinction between feeling hopeful and feeling grounded. While I don’t necessarily always feel hopeful, most of the time I can return to the present moment and find some joy in that. Whether this is through exercise, meditation, or simply taking a moment to look at the sky, I find a level of peace simply by being grateful that I am alive. This sounds incredibly cliché, I know, but currently is how I ensure that I don’t fall into a trap of pessimism about the world. For me, the combination of dissatisfaction with the status quo and this sense of groundedness still allows me to feel inspired while approaching difficult issues. Ultimately what matters is that we are all working to move forward, and I believe that is achievable without necessarily having endless hope and faith in humanity.

    The most influential reading I have done this semester was Val Plumwood’s article about shadow places. I am still having a difficult time justifying the leisure of our lifestyle here at Middlebury (and in the global North), when it is so heavily built upon the injustice in the global south. Hardly anything we do on a daily basis is “pure,” in the sense that it can be traced entirely back to just and environmentally friendly roots. The unavoidable acceptance that I participate in these actions every day has been sobering. In summary, I pursue study of the environment and am firmly committed to doing pro-environmental work in my career because I believe it is the best possible thing that I can do with my short life, and because if I can have a positive impact of the life of a small community, it will have been worth it.

  10. Dakotah Kimbrough says:

    Framing one’s perspective toward the future in terms of hopefulness rather than optimism/pessimism is essential because the latter only deals with an emotional stance towards events that may or may not come to fruition. The willingness towards action is incorporated into hopefulness, as one can choose to influence those events in a manner that is meaningful. Life does not exist independent of us; through our daily thoughts and movements, we steer the future. It is important that the youth view sustainability this way, as it is all too easy to get bogged down in sensational media reports and ineffective political action. Although the media is crucial in spreading information and checking institutions, it often serves a large part in distracting and dismaying us from effective action. It is true that the problems facing us are complex and intersectional in many dimensions, but we do not need, and cannot afford complex solutions. In order to act now focus must be placed on simple, though not easy, solutions. We need to be on constant guard against inertia and apathy because sustainable systems will only be effective through the intentional efforts of all who participate in them.

    Our trip to Washington D.C. was a tour of the complexity we have constructed surrounding our political, economic, and social systems. Personally, it was a bit disheartening to see these powerful institutions engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse, each trying to solve the problems another had created. For example, the World Food Program is currently engaged in alleviating the effects of four global famines. These have been driven by political, not ecological issues, and the institutional forces that led to such conditions are what have also birthed the WFP. Additionally, the misperception that foreign aid takes up a large proportion of the federal budget has led to the WFP being tragically underfunded. How are we to tie the knot when every string thinks it can hold it all together? This experience has only strengthened my resolve to return to my home community in North Carolina and work for change on that local scale. I get satisfaction and inspiration knowing that I have contributed to the well-being of my neighbors and my land, for seeing the tangible effects gives me hope. In D.C., people said that they had worked for years just to get one bill sponsored or some act passed, and it can be struck down at any moment. I feel that I require a stability and predictableness in my approach to problem-solving, and this contributes to my cultivation of hopefulness. Working at a community garden, I’ve cultivated not only food, which brings health and well-being to those who consume it, but relationships that have given me strength through hard times. Our world is going to experience a real hard time with climate change in the coming century, and we simply cannot act alone within our own spheres. It’s the people, not policy or programs, that give me hope.

  11. Dinatalia Farina says:

    Am I hopeful? That’s an interesting question, because everyone has different definitions of hopefulness and there are different scales of hope. There is small scale hope; this is hopeful that someone’s city starts composting or getting a restaurant to stop using plastic straws. Large scale hope is banning plastic bags country wide or even implementing urban gardens in every neighborhood in New York City. This is how you know hope is multifaceted and a lot goes into feeling hopeful and acting on hope.

    Optimism vs. Pessimism; we may feel both ways at times depending on specific factors. Whether or not you experience it is completely subjective to the person. I tend to try to be optimistic about environmental issues, but there are others out there who are completely pessimistic. As an environmentalist, I also think it is completely healthy to experience some sort of pessimism. If there is one person out there who is hopeful about everything, I want to meet them and have a conversation. My pessimism may also be attributed to the known fact that our world is obsolete. I understand that everything is temporary and that it well end eventually. Maybe not in my lifetime, but during a lifetime. Though, I try to be more optimistic than pessimistic, if I was the opposite, I should probably change my major and I probably wouldn’t be in Vermont typing this. But because I am hopeful for our environment and I have the mindset to want to see it thrive; here I am.

    When meeting with the EPA’s toxic release inventory, they told us to basically refrain from looking for work there, but suggested to search for some at nonprofits. The nonprofits are the ones creating grassroots change, and that is what we currently need. Frank Sesno of Planet Forward would not be doing the work he is doing if he wasn’t hopeful in our generation or the environment. He has the will and the want to make a difference in the environmental sector through story telling. That’s exactly what I want to do; to tell my story of joining the environmental movement, optimism and pessimism included. In doing so, it keeps me realistic and accountable. Which is also what I want to enable the world to be, accountable and mindful of their actions.

  12. Maeve Sherry says:

    I choose hope.
    To young adults like us, a one-word answer to Ehrenfeld’s question, “Are you hopeful?” is a window to how we feel about humanity and the environmental movement we have tacked ourselves onto. Whatever pops into our heads, yes or no or anywhere in between, is a step-off point for evaluating where we individually stand. For those people like myself who’ve experienced dissatisfaction with the direction the world is going, it’s an important question for understanding what we want to see change. Pondering this I realized that my answer didn’t neatly fit into a yes or no box. Although I don’t have faith in many of the people in power right now, I choose hope because at least with it, I have a chance at success.

    Frank Sesno described himself as a “glass half empty optimist.” He elaborated that this means that he believes in our species, but as of now, the glass is still empty. I resonated with this because I also have faith in the ability of humans to invent and adapt, but we are not using our abilities to do so effectively today. Members of society have designed elaborate oil pipe systems and devised complicated methods to extract oil from the earth, but unfortunately these efforts were toward a cause that will hurt us. I choose hope because I have an imagination of what the world could look like if the funding given to these operations were redirected toward sustainable energies.

    I have a refreshed sense of trust that fuels my choice of hope as well. The most impactful takeaway from DC for me was seeing incredible problem-solving going on that the media doesn’t show on TV. For instance, the DCSEU’s program to involve underprivileged communities in renewable energy as well as help them save money was powerful to me. It’s rare to hear about a success story on the news, so seeing one with my own eyes inspired me to keep moving forward. I remember getting the chills at one point during the US World Food Program visit when I thought about the achievements that can happen when people in power use their power for good.

    I choose hope because by making that choice, I am pointing myself in a direction where success like what I saw at the DCSEU and WFP is possible.

  13. Gavi Kaplan says:

    I believe that hope is the fuel that drives the engine of the mind. Hope becomes even more paramount if the mind in question is fighting an uphill battle. When all data, or logic, or life experience, or scenario planning points to failure, all one can do to persevere is to hope that it can, or will, see a positive outcome—against all the odds. Creating a sustainable planet, which will require both a societal paradigm shift from overconsumption to mindfulness, and a level of awareness and connection with the natural world (our ecosystems), is an uphill battle. The task is daunting. Generation after generation has failed to create this society. So, yes. In the face of all logic telling us that we will continue to fail, it is necessary to embed within the minds of whatever generation is tasked with carrying on the baton of “effort”, that they may find a solution anyway. Without hope, it is far too easy to succumb to the massive weight of our societies past failures. We have gotten so much wrong. Hope is what allows us to stair those mistakes in the eye and say, “we’re going to behave differently this time. We’re going to try something new, something better. Something that may just work”. Hope leads to optimism, which awakens creativity, which in turn leads to viable solutions. I believe the process of innovation starts with hope. So, if we fail to teach hope, there can be no innovation. I have no proof to back this up, it’s just a feeling. But an intuitive feeling, at that.

    Asking whether someone does or does not have hope requires the question be reframed under the proper spatial scale: to what exactly do you have or not have hope? I have hope that scholars and educators will continue to stimulate young minds until one of them actually breaks through, and finds the solution(s) and the means to truly change our societal paradigm. Do I have hope that this will happen before we have done irreparable damage to our ecosystem as we know it? Absolutely not. Do I have hope that whatever catastrophic change we bring upon ourselves will, for better or worse, destroy the human species as we know it? Oh, you betcha. Do I have hope that this planet, and the human species, will survive past this global catastrophe and adapt into something new? Of course. Do I hope my children or grandchildren will not suffer because of our present and past mistakes? Yes. But am I confident in this hope coming to pass? Undecided. It brings me hope that organizations like the School of the Environment, and Planet Forward, and the Climate Solutions Caucus, and individuals harnessing algae for biofuel, and Exxon/Mobil actually investing in algal biofuels, or Goldman Sachs advertising on twitter in support of wind power—it brings me hope that these things exist, today. It brings me hope that our vast body of literature required for this school, from Rittel and Webber’s “Wicked Problems”, to Val Plumwood’s “Shadow Places”, to Bruntland and Ehrenfeld, have been written across decades. These ideas are not new! This is not groundbreaking stuff. The fact that these questions have been asked for decades, and their frames continue to evolve gives me hope that if we just keep pushing, and reading, and learning, we may break through one day.

    Woah. I’ve just talked myself into hoping again!

  14. Road and Tracks says:

    Asking whether someone does or does not have hope requires the question be reframed under the proper spatial scale: to what exactly do you have or not have hope? I have hope that scholars and educators will continue to stimulate young minds until one of them actually breaks through, and finds the solution(s) and the means to truly change our societal paradigm. Do I have hope that this will happen before we have done irreparable damage to our ecosystem as we know it? Absolutely not. Do I have hope that whatever catastrophic change we bring upon ourselves will, for better or worse, destroy the human species as we know it? Oh, you betcha. Do I have hope that this planet, and the human species, will survive past this global catastrophe and adapt into something new? Of course. Do I hope my children or grandchildren will not suffer because of our present and past mistakes? Yes. But am I confident in this hope coming to pass? Undecided. It brings me hope that organizations like the School of the Environment, and Planet Forward, and the Climate Solutions Caucus, and individuals harnessing algae for biofuel, and Exxon/Mobil actually investing in algal biofuels, or Goldman Sachs advertising on twitter in support of wind power—it brings me hope that these things exist, today. It brings me hope that our vast body of literature required for this school, from Rittel and Websters “Wicked Problems”, to Val Wormwood “Shadow Places”, to Brunt land and Greenfield, have been written across decades. These ideas are not new! This is not groundbreaking stuff. The fact that these questions have been asked for decades, and their frames continue to evolve gives me hope that if we just keep pushing, and reading, and learning, we may break through one day.

    1. Stephen Trombulak says:

      Well said! Spatial and temporal scale are critical considerations with respect to any sentiment about the future. And for what it is worth, your road map for hope is quite similar to my own!

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