My friend “>Renee Lertzman has been studying the psychology of the environment and climate change for more than 20 years. She tells us that we need to establish a way of acknowledging and making space for what we are feeling, not just what we know about the climate crisis. In this time of increasingly stark reports about the global climate, Lertzman believes it is important to develop a literacy when it comes to how we are feeling or responding to our climate crisis and to environmental threats.
In fact, as you look back over the last 20 years, we have seen the language and terminology shift and change. First, it was global warming, then climate change, and now we are seeing the rise of climate chaos and climate crisis as how we frame the reality of catastrophic weather events, species decline, and the environmental diaspora of those most affected. Words matter. So do feelings. Renee’s work is specifically about how important it is as communicators to create the space within our work so that humanity can express feelings of anxiety or ambivalence before we turn to the creativity and innovation needed to mobilize and change the direction we are headed.
A beautiful piece in Ecowatch by Erika Spanger-Siegfried expresses beautifully how to move from anxiety and despair to hope – because in the end, hope is rooted in love. “However poorly we tend it, however fragile we think it, this hope thing will not-really, cannot-quit. We might feel anguish, but despair just won’t stick because it’s not over. Maybe it’s an evolutionary impulse to save our own skin and our loved ones’; to quote a friend, ‘Hope is a discipline for survival.’ But I’ll call it love. I’m not sure they’re different. And therein lies hope’s unstoppable power: if you love-anything-you hope.”
I think love’s hope is behind Extinction Revolution and the climate marches, and all the action we are seeing in the world. From Gen Alpha to Boomers, people are starting to act. And there are signs that we are making progress. This April, for the first time ever, renewable energy supplied more power to America’s grid than coal-the clearest sign yet that solar and wind can now go head-to-head with fossil fuels. In two-thirds of the world, they’ve become the cheapest forms of power. Solar and wind will power half the globe by 2050, based on Bloomberg forecasts.
Two-thirds of Americans believe climate change is either a crisis or a serious problem, with a majority wanting immediate action to address global heating and its damaging consequences. “Americans are finally beginning waking up to the existential threat that the climate emergency poses to our society,” said Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Climate Mobilization Project which fielded the recent polling. “This is huge progress for our movement – and it’s young people that have been primarily responsible for that.”
Isn’t it interesting that some of the sharpest minds in the climate dialogue are psychologists and behaviorists? Because the facts are clear. An emotional, soul-level response to this data is what’s needed next. What activists are showing us is the authentic expression of rage, sorrow, disbelief, anxiety and….. in the end, hope. Just follow Greta Thurnberg on Instagram – she is the personification of the emotional and intellectual response to the climate crisis. As she winds her way across North America, you can see the full range of human emotions on her face as she speaks at the UNGA or sits in stoic solidarity every Friday for the climate strikes. Her later visit to an animal sanctuary clearly evokes love and hope if the smile on her face is any clue.
According to Gen Z research recently release by Porter Novelli (my place of employment), this place of hope and love is the power behind the new generation of activism we see all around us. They’re tired of the divisive narrative that has taken over the national news — 94 percent of Generation Z believes our country needs to come together to make progress on important issues. In fact, 85 percent would rather focus on the positive progress we’ve made rather than the negative.
Because it is the power of hope, based in love, that drives all of us to keep trying. It will take all of us, everywhere, trying everything, if we are going to create the world we want.