People often ask me, “how do you remain optimistic in this environmental space?”
In a sense, people want to know- how are we who care about the earth so deeply, suppose to live without feeling the weight of the world on us at all times?
Every single day, we are bombarded with stories of destruction, injustice, pollution etc. For many of us, these stories stick with us. We marinate and dwell on them. They ruin our day. They break our hearts.
For many of us, we feel so overwhelmed that we are paralyzed with sorrow and fear. I’ve been in that place. And to be honest, sometimes I’m still in that place. This past week was one of those times for me. I felt like I kept getting hit with another discouraging environmental story over and over again. From Carnival cruise ships dumping their trash into the ocean, to stories of forests being cut down for Kleenex.
It seems like the environmental challenges - from climate change to deforestation, are insurmountable.
So this morning, I wept. And I asked God- what am I suppose to tell people, when I don’t even have it figured out myself?
I cried aloud- “Where are you in this, God? There is so much injustice in this world and it seems like you are doing nothing to stop it.”
Even just typing this I have tears streaming down my face. It would be so much easier to walk away from this platform. Walk away from my passions and convictions. To live in a bubble where I didn’t think about the woes of the world. Living in ignorance truly would be bliss. And yet, it would be cowardice and against what we are called to do.
Because I know my God is good. I know it breaks my God’s heart over and over as humans pillage and destroy His creation. Because, in fact, God is nature. He created the world - the animals, the mountains, the trees, the ocean, from the outpouring of His own heart and His own spirit. How could He not care?
I believe that God weeps with us in these moments. I don’t believe He’s turning a blind eye to it all. God is nothing but GOOD, and anything other would be contrary to His character.
So as I was walking my dog, thinking on these things, I was reminded of this:
A few days ago, I posted a story on my Instagram about a huge oak tree in the neighboring yard. It was getting cut down that morning. Watching it come down up tore me up inside and I had to leave the house to maintain my sanity.
I desperately wanted to know why this beautiful tree was cut down. Coincidentally, I ran into my neighbor in the alley later that day. I kindly asked her about the tree. She said this:
“The tree was having issues with some of it’s branches- they kept falling off. It was a heartbreaking decision to make, but I was so scared that one of my young boys would be in the backyard when one of them came down. I didn’t want to run that risk.”
In hearing this, I had immediately relief and a peace in my soul. She cut the tree down in order to minimize risk to a little human’s life- and I respect that very much.
The part of this story that melted my heart:
She continued to say, “My youngest son (probably about 8 years old), sobbed about it coming down. He said, ‘Mom, we’re killing the tree and everything that lives in it”.
I tried not to tear up and start crying in from of the mom but in that moment, I was overwhelmed with hope in humanity again. This little boy- is like many young people being raised up today- he loves the earth and wants to preserve it. I was reminded that it is people like him who are going to save the Earth and continue to work that many before us have started.
God reminded me in this- that even though we may not always see it, He is raising up a generation that loves the earth and will protect it. God does not call any of us individually to carry the entire weight of the world, but when many of us care simultaneously, amazing things happen and will continue to happen.
We have no choice but to be optimistic in this time. In my opinion, you can’t be a pessimist to care about environmental issues- otherwise, it will eat you alive and you will be crushed under it. You will lack motivation to do anything to promote any sort of change- because you would have already given up.
It’s not “game over”, friends- it’s game time.
But now for a few practical things I do to remain positive (read: sane) in this space:
Monitor what you intake. You don’t have to be exposed to and read about anything and everything that is going on environmentally. Know your limits and censor yourself. If you’re beginning to feel down or heavy or discouraged, maybe time to add a little more censorship. To walk away and take a break.
Balance out the good with the bad. Believe it or not, there is SO much good that is being done in the world! There are people who care greatly about the environmental and conservation issues and exposing ourself to good stories like this is inspiring to say the least. I literally search for good environmental news such as articles like this one if I need a little pep in my step that day.
Believe and KNOW that your actions make a difference. Weather you see it or not, your everyday decisions to take your own water bottle, change to LED lightbulbs, reduce fast fashion consumption, buy less plastic etc. makes a difference. Never ever doubt it. Know that your actions also encourage others to evaluation and change their own choices- and this is how we’re going to change the world for the better.
What do you do to remain optimistic in this space? Leave it in the comments below!