Hope is a natural resource too.
In recent years, the fossil-fuelled climate crisis has brought with it fires raging from Siberia to the Amazon; floods devastating communities in Pakistan, South Africa, and California; and extreme heat waves increasing in frequency and intensity around the world. Meanwhile, the ongoing crisis of a global pandemic intersects with accelerating biodiversity collapse, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the latter exacerbating energy and food insecurity. All the while, Indigenous Peoples continue to find their rights and their lands under threat. It’s no surprise that even the most dedicated climate defenders can experience moments of grief and anxiety.
It’s a LOT. Like, so much.
So, you know what, it makes sense that each of us will sometimes experience what is being called “climate despair.”
Don’t blame yourself for feeling this way or worry that such feelings mean you’re failing as an activist, as a neighbor, or as a parent.
It’s OK to feel distressed sometimes because the climate crisis is real — and it is here, and everywhere.
But, don’t forget, people power is real — and wherever you are.
Hope is wherever you are, wherever we are, together, as a movement, right beside each other even when any one of us feels the most alone.
Amid the continent-spanning wildfire smoke and distressing trending headlines, there are genuine glimmers of hope for the future and many reminders of the power that we have to make a difference.
For more than 50 years, Greenpeace has put hope into action with the backing of millions of supporters and, working alongside movement allies and local communities around the world, we have helped achieve meaningful victories, from thwarting nuclear weapons tests and winning a commercial whaling moratorium in the 1970s to being part of a landmark legal victory finding Shell liable for climate destruction in 2021. If you ever need a reminder that people who believe in a green and peaceful future — and who are willing to take action — can change the world then please visit this timeline of Greenpeace victories over the years.
Whenever you feel like challenges of the climate crisis are too big and the fossil fueled-powers who want to lock in the worst-case scenarios are too strong, draw strength from the words of Greenpeace founding member Dorothy Stowe:
“It is amazing, what a few people sitting around their kitchen table can achieve.”
Think of those words and remember that together, you and I, we will make a difference. Greenpeace and our allies in the environmental movement will keep making a difference. Indigenous Peoples and frontline communities will keep making a difference. All of us, together, through acts large and small, will lead the just transition to a fairer and more sustainable world beyond fossil fuels.
The challenges we face are huge. But so are the reasons to be hopeful!
As we keep pushing for the safer, more equitable future that we need, let’s draw inspiration from these signs of the progress that people power has recently achieved:
- A victory for oceans! After almost two decades of negotiations, an historic Global Ocean Treaty was agreed at the United Nations in March 2023. This is a huge win for conservation that opens the door to the creation of a network of ocean sanctuaries across the globe, areas where fragile ecosystems and marine life can recover and thrive. The goal of protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 is alive!
- Up next: A global treaty to break free from plastic! The UN Environment Assembly announced the adoption of a historic resolution to end plastic pollution in March 2022 and the first Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC1) meeting took place in December of that year. Negotiations are scheduled to continue through 2023 toward a Global Plastics Treaty that would be one of the most significant environmental agreements in history!
- A warning sign for corporate bullies: In a massive win for free speech, a US federal court recently dismissed a seven-year lawsuit brought by Resolute Forest Products against a number of Greenpeace staff members and entities, including Greenpeace International and Greenpeace USA. The Canadian logging company sued the Greenpeace defendants for CA $100 million in an attempt to silence and bankrupt them, after criticism of its unsustainable forestry practices.
- People are winning in courts: Movement-led climate court cases are bringing justice to those most impacted. In recent years climate litigation cases have dramatically increased, resulting in an unprecedented number of key judgments with potentially far-reaching impacts, including on the cases against Shell and against Germany.
- Indigenous-led resistance is stopping pipelines: In the United States and Canada, 21 fossil fuel projects were prevented or delayed by Indigenous-led resistance during the decade leading up to 2019. That’s the equivalent of 400 coal-fired power plants’ worth of pollution, according to analysis from the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and Oil Change International.
- Even the International Energy Agency sees credible pathways to 1.5°C: The IEA, a body created to ensure the security of oil supplies, sees an energy system dominated by solar and wind, coming with “huge benefits”. The group has big influence on business and investment strategies and has said there should be absolutely no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, and no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants, and by 2035 no sales of new cars running on oil.
- Solar and wind became the cheapest forms of new electricity in most of the world in 2020. Three years later, wind and solar power were cheaper than fossil fuels, according to the Global Electricity Review.
- The financial sector has finally started to wake up: Some of the world’s largest bond purchasers and asset owners are now pursuing to align their strategies with the Paris Agreement and 1.5°C limit, and some top global investors are moving away from the massive climate-related risks associated with fossil fuels, into building renewable energy.
- Some of the business strategies are starting to look different: Car companies are announcing combustion engine phase outs, energy utilities early coal phase outs and an oil giant announced cuts in their oil and gas production.
- Scientists confirm there is still time to make a big difference: In a final report summarizing its sixth assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of the world’s top climate scientists convened by the United Nations, confirms not only that human influence has unequivocally warmed the climate but also that we still have time to stave off the worst-case warming scenarios if we achieve rapid and widespread reductions in carbon emissions. We know what we have to do — we just need to do it.
I know that none of this is enough, not even close. Not yet. But all of it points to new potential for change. All of it gives us reason to keep hoping and to keep putting that hope into action.
Remember that most of these developments would have seemed impossible not too long ago. We are making progress. Now we must speed up and scale up for good, with massive public pressure.
Hope is not a strategy but it’s still a necessity.
We need to believe we can — and will — win if we are going to practice the radical honesty, empathy, and creativity needed to move beyond incremental action toward complete system change. But believing doesn’t mean ignoring the devastation around us or shutting down feelings of sadness at what is lost or even anger at those responsible.
Climate despair is real, but so is climate hope.
This is not an easy moment, but it is our moment if we seize it together.