Let’s serve up hope for the holidays

For a start to the holiday season I thought I’d open with an article on the importance of HOPE.  Now, I know with all that is going on in the word, this may seem like a conversation that is, well, hopeless for lack of a better word; but it is for that very reason that we must discuss its true importance.  “Hope” is not lost, and we must all remember that.  Even those who work in the various environmental fields, and deal with the facts day to day, can become discouraged.  So, to bring this to the forefront of everyone’s mind, at this year’s ESRI User Conference, organizers hosted a mini-science symposium

Creator attribution: Nick Youngson – link to – http://nyphotographic.com/
Original Image: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/h/hope.html

in which the main topic wasn’t individual research projects, but instead the collective need to keep hope alive.

Lead speaker Jon Foley from the California Academy of Science, started out the panel with a talk on why not only should we scientists keep hope alive for ourselves, but why we must also help to keep it alive for everyone else too.  The idea being that if scientists present their findings to the world, but fail to also mention that there are ways to correct the problems that were found (be it from climate change to endangered animals); then that’s when hope can truly die, and we all begin to fail.  What followed his opening remarks was a lively “conversational reaction panel moderated by Mike Goodchild (University of California, Santa Barbara, emeritus) with Shaowen Wang (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Sheila Steinberg (Brandman University), Andre Skupin (San Diego State University), and Christina Boggs-Chavira (California Department of Water Resources) as well as Jon Foley”

Each panel member took turns expressing their concern about the issues surrounding loss of hope, its consequences, and possible solutions.  All agreed however, that maintaining hope is critical to gaining the support of the population, and finding solutions to what is going wrong in our world today.

To give an example of what they, and now I mean by all of this, allow me to focus on the negative for a moment.  1) More of the ice in Antarctica continues to be lost.  2)  Tap water in Flint, Michigan is still not clean enough to safely use for cooking or cleaning.  4) Hurricanes just demolished the Keys and Puerto Rico, and finally 5) there are multiple patches of garbage swirling in each of the world’s oceans.

If this was the only part of the story that you heard, then this would explain why so many people have become discouraged about helping with environmental issues.  In fact, it may also explain why so many people have instead chosen to pretend like none of these issue are even real, because they if they were, they’d have no way to solve them.  The depression and/or feeling of being overwhelmed by it all easily leads to inertia.

This now needs to be a major concern, because for many people out there this is seeming like a problems that we can no longer solve, especially in the face of so many other crisis going on at the same time (ex: terrorism).  I’ve heard from some that they have even stopped recycling because “what’s the point.”

I must admit that occasionally I too feel overwhelmed by it all, but then I’ll stumble upon another story of how something has succeeded, and that win (no matter how small) can reignite the hope that we can make a difference, if we only try.

This is why it is so important that when we teach, give talks, write about, or just talk to our friends and family, that we don’t leave out the positives (the all so important wins).  As the ESRI science panel said, there are success stories out there too.  So, don’t forget about them when we’re sharing with others what is going on.  They need to be part of the story too, and that includes not just the struggle, but the win as well.   So, with the goal of keeping that spark of hope alive this holiday season, here are a few wins worth noting……..





Happy Holidays Everyone!!!!

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