Wednesday, February 9, 2022

A Trio of Messengers of Hope

This fall and winter among the slew of books I've been reading, I read the three of these books--all of which made a powerful impact on me:
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the similarities by titles alone to know that they all are tied to hope in the time of climate change. On top of a pandemic (as well as deeply partisan politics and racial injustice), it is indeed is a difficult time to find hope. As authors and environmentalists, these three women (along with Douglas Abrams) had a daunting task as their main thesis. 

For me, the three books acted as different pieces of a puzzle, working together to build a larger picture. All three had ties to the pandemic and Covid--sometimes explicitly, and sometimes in more subtle ways. Additionally, I see parallels in the work to eradicate Covid as well as turning around the trajectory of climate change. Collectively, I needed all three, and I saw them as companion pieces. 

Within each of these books, the general sentiment that signs loudly is that hope comes from taking action. If we all do what we can, it is through all of our collective, individual acts that we make a difference. Even if our own small actions "feel like a drop in the ocean," (as Douglas Abrams said to Jane Goodall in their interview/conversational style book). However, Jane Goodall countered it with this quote: "But millions of drops actually make the ocean," [Book of Hope, p. 134]. Jane Goodall referenced multiple hope studies along with these four reasons for hope: "the amazing human intellect, the resilience of nature, the power of youth, and the indomitable human spirit," [Book of Hope, p. 35].

Katherine Hayhoe is both a climate scientist and a Christian from Texas--sometimes a dichotomous combination in our polarized world these days. She also speaks of the importance in taking action. Thought individual acts and working with others in the community, it perpetuates a cycle of action and support. "It's like knocking over the first domino: action eventually changes us all," [Saving Us, p. 205]. 

Given the title of Emily Ehlers book, hope is a verb. It's active--not wishful thinking not "just something you have; its something you do," [Hope is a Verb, p. 10]. Her book, full of art and a font that feels like you've stepped into her handwritten journal, makes it almost like a graphic novel. Perhaps some of the power comes from these visuals, one of which included this quote that also speaks to action: "We change and innovate when we have no other choice. What if we are about to step into a golden era where everything changes?" [Hope is a Verb, p. 51]. She goes on to say "Hope is not about closing your eyes to the world's problems and wishing they would disappear. It's about imaging a brighter future and then taking steps, no matter how small, to make that vision a reality," [Hope is a Verb, p. 146].

One of the pieces that I feel was powerfully similar in all three books was the concept of stories. Jane Goodall's book was a collection of stories about people she has met in her 8 decades and how their experiences have shaped all she knows and believes in as an environmentalist. She talks about how stories serve to move people more than data-driven statistics (which can often serve to be isolating or overwhelming). One of Katherine Hayhoe's biggest premises in her book is in the power of stories to connect with someone with opposing views. In doing so, then you can find common ground and can really begin to not only hear but also understand and appreciate each other. "Study after study has shown that sharing our personal and lived experiences is far more compelling that reeling off distant facts....Tell them why you care about climate change and others might too," [Saving Us, p. 19]. Emily Ehlers also shares the importance of storytelling by elaborating about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED Talk "The Danger of the Single Story." It is through the stories that we can see different perspectives and work to connect across the divides.

After reading all 3 books, I still struggle with hope sometimes when I watch the news--whether its about climate change, Covid, the angry world of toxic politics, or systemic injustice. But, as all 3 books explain, "hope" is an active job. At our most recent Baltimore Speaker Series event, political journalist Mara Liasson said "vote for everything and run for something"--meaning get involved in being part of the solution and part of the change. 

It can become easy to get overwhelmed by it all and want to run and put our head under the cover, but nothing will happen from there for sure. Even Jane Goodall admitted to having hard moments--but she still has hope. Seeing that, is what causes me to breathe more deeply. I find it comforting that Jane Goodall (just like Katherine Hayhoe and Emily Ehlers) still takes pause in the fighting spirit and determination of others who are taking a stand. Jane Goodall takes comfort and delights in seeing young activists step up as future leaders--she sees the power in active hope and engagement. "Without hope, all is lost. It is a crucial survival trait that has sustained our species from the time of our Stone Age ancestors....Hope is contagious. Your actions will inspire others," [Book of Hope, p. xiv].

What can you do today that will inspire others and cultivate hope?

Image created at using book art from Video from, Quote arts created using and book quotes from the 3 authors.

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