Everyday Enviro with Elise - Maintaining hope during tragedy
Author: Elise Catterall
January 2020 has seen Australia embark on a new year and a new decade in the midst of an environmental tragedy. It is impossible not to feel the weight of this as an Australian, as an animal and nature lover, and as an occupant of planet earth.
As the bushfires bring the climate reality to our literal and figurative backyards, it is understandable that so many of us feel overwhelmed and heartbroken. It is also important though that our heartbreak doesn’t descend into hopelessness because, right now, as far as I can see it, hopefulness is the best chance we have of having an impact.
Climate scientist Michael Mann has stated that ‘despair and hopelessness lead us down a path of inaction in the same way denial does’ and inaction is obviously the last thing any of us needs or wants. The problem is that holding onto hope in the face of such a tragedy - especially when you understand the broader environmental implications of that tragedy - is far easier said than done.
So I wanted to look at ways we can sustain hope and these are some of the strategies I found:
- Take positive action and focus on solutions - as we talk about so often at Planet Ark, there are so many positive actions you can take to have a positive effect on the environment and doing so is key to feeling empowered.
- Make a contribution – turning your focus towards, and doing things to benefit, others (and that includes all living entities – humans, animals and plants alike) is incredibly uplifting.
- Self-reflection – focusing on what is positive in your life and what you are grateful for – is pretty much hopefulness 101.
- Surround yourself with hope and positivity from the outside – good news stories (and there are lots out there), likeminded people, uplifting and inspiring speakers, books and stories.
- Avoid indulging in pessimism by actively avoiding negative thoughts. When bad news comes, feel it, talk about, but don’t let yourself dwell on it. It’s very easy to get caught in a cycle of pessimism that is disabling and hard to break out of, so willpower might be needed to keep those thoughts at bay.
- Avoid the haters but when faced with them, exercise compassion. Anger, dogma, and condescension aren’t likely to bring those with a differing point of view around to yours and can end up making you feel worse. If we deal with others from a position of kindness, we are bound to make more progress.
- Find strength in numbers – one of the positives that comes out of a tragedy like these bushfires is the community spirit that invariably comes up. People come together at times like this, so make the most of it - make connections, work collaboratively, create a groundswell, build on the momentum and make ripples that can make change.
- Lastly, spend time in nature; never before has it been so fragile and so precious. Find ways to celebrate it and let it inspire positive change in those around you.
It is understandable that the losses we have experienced might overshadow the many wins big and small that there have been - and continue to be – but in the face of the losses, it is the wins we need to hold on to to keep us going and working towards a brighter future.
Author: Elise CatterallElise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.
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