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What's more effective for inspiring change: negativity or positivity?

As our blog readership knows, every week we include a blog called "Eco-fact Friday" wherein we focus on the current environmental issues and problems our world is facing. These blogs posts, while also typically offering suggestions for how to make better daily environmental choices, can often be of the "gloom and doom" sort, illuminating the terrifying realities of climate change and damage to the natural world. They are often, in a word, depressing. We at Water Gallery believe that we all need to look at and understand some hard truths in order to spur real change and progress. However, upon listening to NPR's latest weekly TED (which stands for "Technology, Entertainment, and Design") Radio Hour entitled "The Case for Optimism," we had to take a moment to really think about what is more effective when it comes to inspiring change: looking at what is going badly or pushing for optimism?

The Case for Optimism: Al Gore's TED talk

This particular episode of the TED hour started with some snippets taken from Al Gore's lectures on climate change and what our world is facing...and they're pretty grim. He reminds us that we've had fourteen of the fifteen hottest years on record in this century alone, that we're in danger of losing 50% of the Earth's species by the end of this century, and that we are "spewing one hundred and ten million tons of heat-trapping global warming pollution every 24 hours." But Guy Raz, the host of the TED Radio Hour, had to stop Gore in the midst of his bleak diatribe about how terrible things are. Raz asked Gore whether there is any hope for the world when it comes to the destruction of the natural environment and, without hesitating, Gore firmly said yes, that there is absolutely hope. And the hope lies in the fact that we have the tools to turn this environmental mess around! For example, Gore asked Raz what percentage of all of the new energy sources built worldwide in 2015 does he think come from solar or wind power? Raz guessed 5% (I would have guessed around 30%, only because I've been reading all about the world's emerging shift to solar power for this blog), but we are both wrong. It's 90%. 90% of new energy sources built last year are solar or wind power sources! Now, that's what I call hopeful. Gore said it's not as if things are magically going to be fixed overnight, but he said that the most catastrophically damaging threats to the environment (like the burning of fossil fuels) CAN be dealt with.

And so, listening to this TED talk gave me pause: are my Friday blogs negative and discouraging? Yes, I've written about the excitement we at Water Gallery feel with the rolling out of those amazing Tesla EVs (one of which we now own!), how certain American cities such as San Francisco are implementing important new eco-friendly policies, how renewable energy sources are going to become the most affordable sources in the not-so-distant future...but I've also blogged a lot about how dire things are. How, if we all don't work together to protect our common home, there will be irreparable damage. So, my blogs are a combination of hope and sorrow over the state of the planet because I do truly believe that only when we as individuals and as a society look our problems straight in the eye can we begin to make real change. It's crucial that we all understand how catastrophic so many of man's choices have been for our natural environment. But in order to make real change, we need a healthy dose of encouragement and possibility. Who wants to put in the work if there isn't any chance there will be change? Would you go on a diet if you were told by your doctor that it's impossible to lose weight no matter what you do? Would you do all the work for a PhD program if you were told that at the end you wouldn't actually earn your doctorate? Probably not. So let's all grasp on to the optimism and positivity that's so key in forward-movement-- with some work and effort, change can occur. Yes, our natural environment is in shambles in many ways. But we can turn it around-- it's possible and do-able! There is a strong case for optimism here and we at Water Gallery will continue to both illuminate the challenges and struggles, but also spread the ever-valuable element of hope. Life is not worth living without it.

1 comment

Dec 27, 2016 • Posted by Victoria Binkiewicz

I find more often than not negativity wins out on creating change. It’s horrible that things have to get bad before people will take action. It’s always harder to come back from devastation that it is to prevent it.

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