Defining EcoOptimism

Ecooptimism image
© David Bergman/Lori Greenberg

In my new role as a Treehugger contributing writer, the idea is to adapt some of my recent posts (as well as future ones) from my EcoOptimism blog. As I review those posts and topics to determine which ones are best suited for Treehugger, I’m finding – no big surprise - a lot of them refer to the EcoOptimism concept. So I guess I’d better explain what that is.

Subtitled “Finding the Future We Want,” EcoOptimism seeks to show how we can come out the other side of our concurrent ECOlogical and ECOnomic crises (ECOoptimism, get it?) in a better place than we started; that not only will the planet be healthier, but we, as individuals, as families, as communities and as a species, can feel fulfilled and be more prosperous. It breaks the presumption, the false dichotomy, that environmentalism is at odds with our well-being and our happiness. It posits instead that we can eat our cake and have it, too.

EcoOptimism attempts to cut through the negativism implied in so much of the environmental movement and explore the flip side – the opportunities that are presented by what appear to be constraints. The hope is that we’ll help enable a movement forward rather than backward, to a win-win solution in which both the environment and humanity are not only sustained, but can thrive.

It’s not enough to say there are solutions (though it’s a good start). We need solutions that are desirable; not solutions that are adopted only because they are necessary.

David Roberts of Grist made a related point: “I’d like climate hawks to talk more about creating a new world. I want the public to be pulled in by the possibilities of a future that makes sense, not just terrified by the risks and dangers of the senseless present.”

I firmly believe there are futures – futures that we both want (the EcoOptimism subtitle) and make sense -- that simultaneously save the environment that nurtures us while allowing, indeed helping, us to flourish as individuals and as the species homo sapiens.

That doesn’t mean my posts are always optimistic. I’m not that unrealistic. I have my moments of despair, or at least frustration, and they’ll occasionally creep into my posts. But I think it’s essential that we not subscribe to fatalist views of pending apocalypse. (Though I confess to a weakness for post-apocalyptic literature, TV shows and movies. Unless they’re based on zombies. Climate disruption, biotech wars and evil aliens are much more probable than mindless reanimated corpses that, for some reason, crave human flesh.)

Fatalism, by definition, is unproductive. In a sense, it asks: what’s the point? Well, the game ain’t quite over, in spite of Hansen’ s Keystone pipeline warnings. Unless that is, we do take a what’s-the-point attitude.

As Greenbiz.com recently asked: “Does sustainability need to cheer up?” My personal answer is yes, but I acknowledge that fear is a powerful driver and, therefore, we need a mix of both fear and desire. EcoOptimism is about creating the desire.

Tags: Activism

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