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The tightrope of hope
On all the feelings conjured in a climate crisis.
Kia ora, welcome to Future Proof. I’m Ellen, thanks for joining me.
Each week, when I sit down to write this newsletter, I sift through the week’s news and links and headlines and I try to find the nuggets of hope – the solutions, the beacons of promise, the good people doing good things for the planet. I purposefully seek out positivity while staying up-to-date with the immense problems we face. Partly this is to protect my own sanity, and partly, I hope it helps readers find that cosy middle ground of empowerment – tiptoeing a tightrope of hope, with complacency on one side and despair on the other.
But of course I don’t feel upbeat all the time. I often feel angry and sad and worried. I wouldn’t dare to tell you or anyone how to feel about climate change – but I’d argue that channelling whatever you feel into action can be an antidote, and a seed of hope.
Turning anger into activism
A new study from Norway found that anger is seven times more powerful than hope at spurring intention to participate in a climate protest. Most people surveyed were angry about human actions causing climate change, and humans’ failure to stop it. If anger motivates you like this, all power to you. But it’s not for everyone: there’s also ample evidence that fear-based messages can disempower people.
We can’t afford doom and despair
Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki calls despair “a luxury we can’t afford any longer.” He tells The Guardian that “trying shows that we believe there is a different possibility – that we can make a difference. But hope without action – if we say, ‘well, shit, there’s nothing I can do, but something will happen’ – that’s giving up. We can’t afford to do that.” Similarly, writer Rebecca Solnit is unimpressed by doom and gloom about climate change. “I keep saying I respect despair as an emotion, but not as an analysis,” she writes in a recent opinion piece. “I wonder sometimes if it’s because people assume you can’t be hopeful and heartbroken at the same time, and of course you can. In times when everything is fine, hope is unnecessary. Hope is not happiness or confidence or inner peace; it’s a commitment to search for possibilities.”
The new head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Jim Skea, is also keen to focus on solutions – while being realistic about the unknown territory we’re wading into. “There are things we can do… So we wanted to pick up much more of the solution message, which is not the same as saying we should be complacent about the risks. But we should be positive,” he tells The Spectator.
Hope through small actions
Back in a very early edition of Future Proof, I talked to psychologist Niki Harré about the key ingredient for change: positive emotions. Another recent study finds some evidence linking hope to enhanced engagement with climate. One expert suggests that rather than hope spurring action, it might be the other way around: “It may be less that hope comes first and then brings action, but rather that people act and then hope arises.”
That’s what one climate scientist, grappling with climate grief, finds as a method for navigating the unfolding crisis: small actions that remind us that we’re part of this world and its ecosystems, that we are part of a place.
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No new oil wells for Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park
The people of Ecuador have voted: a majority 58% voted in favour of a referendum to cease new oil drilling in Yasuní National Park in the Amazon. The region is home to two uncontacted Indigenous tribes and is a biodiversity hotspot. “Finally, we are going to kick oil companies out of our territory!” said Nemonte Nenquimo, an Indigenous Waorani leader. “This is a major victory for all Indigenous peoples, for the animals, the plants, the spirits of the forest and our climate!”
Kiwi handling ‘unlawful and unnecessary’
You probably remember the palaver around Paora the kiwi at Zoo Miami in the US, who was handled excessively under bright lights as part of a kiwi encounter experience available to visitors. Turns out, some kiwi here in Aotearoa have also been subject to similar inappropriate treatment. An independent report into practices at Cape Sanctuary in Hawke’s Bay found that kiwi handling during tours was “unlawful and unnecessary”. RNZ’s Kate Green outlines the report’s findings, which include deeming the Department of Conservation’s systems “inadequate”. However, the report also concluded that 25 kiwi deaths at the sanctuary between 2016 and 2018 could not be attributed to handling.
Scientists call for more monitoring of ‘data desert’ Southern Ocean
The Southern Ocean, which encircles the great icy continent of Antarctica, is a crucial piece of the climate puzzle – for example, it controls the melting of Antarctic ice sheets, which in turn dictates sea level rise. Yet it remains “one of the most under-observed regions on the planet,” according to Sian Henly, one of more than 300 co-signatories on the joint statement. Craig Stevens, a principal scientist at NIWA, says New Zealand’s proximity to the Southern Ocean means it’s vital we keep up observations. “The risk if we don’t is that we will have far less warning of future changes that will be felt throughout the globe."
The company transitioning businesses to a low-carbon economy
On When the Facts Change, Bernard Hickey chats with CoGo founder Ben Gleisner about the potential to use bank data on spending to help businesses and consumers monitor and tweak their climate emissions.
Investment firm BlackRock appointed the CEO of the world’s biggest oil company to its board just two weeks before announcing a $2 billion fund for clean energy in New Zealand, Eloise Gibson reports.
Should we be eating grass to meet our protein needs? A report suggests which non-animal protein sources New Zealand should be pursuing.
More than one million people in France have attended a “Climate Fresk” – a trendy workshop teaching participants about global warming and solutions.
In a three-part, in-depth series called Cow vs. Crown, RNZ’s Kirsty Johnston investigates how plans to regulate agricultural emissions crashed and burned.
While government regulation of agricultural emissions may have ground to a halt, dairy giant Fonterra is facing mounting pressure from overseas markets to improve sustainability.
Catch crops sowed in winter can reduce the amount of nitrate leaching into waterways by up to 50%, according to a project featured on 1News.
Ecologist Mike Joy argues that the degrowth movement is essential if we want to stay within finite planetary boundaries.
To finish this edition, wētāpunga are making a comeback. New Zealand’s largest wētā species clung to survival on Hauturu-o-toi Little Barrier Island until a captive breeding programme kicked off in 2008. Last week, 300 juvenile wētāpunga were released onto two islands in the Bay of Islands, RNZ reports. Populations of the giant insects were reintroduced onto the mainland last year at Shakespear and Tāwharanui predator-free sanctuaries north of Auckland. Ecologists are particularly excited at the prospect of wētāpunga poo returning to the bush, cycling nutrients from the treetops to the forest floor. The AM Show managed to capture a wētāpunga poo live – it’s surprisingly large for an insect turd.
Hope you enjoyed this news-wētā,
Got some feedback about Future Proof or topics you’d like covered? Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org