Reasons for hope going into 2021

by | December 17, 2020

I hope all is well with you!

As we near the end of 2020, I’ve started to reflect on where we stand and found myself looking for reasons to be hopeful.

For starters, the vaccine is here (thank you scientists!). We can finally see the light at the end of this awful tunnel.

Also, in the northern hemisphere, we are approaching the winter solstice on Monday, the 21st – the sun’s lowest and shortest trek across the sky.

So our days will literally only be getting brighter for the next 6 months 🙂

For a fun visual, the longest photograph ever taken was recently published. It captured the sun crossing the sky every day for 8 years.

Sun crossing the sky - Longest-exposure-image

Photo taken (with a beer can) by Regina Valkenborgh.

And, despite being very far behind where we need to be on climate (society needs to increase efforts by 5x for a chance at 1.5°C or 3x for 2°C), there are also a lot of trends to be excited about.

Reasons for hope on climate

  • Millennials and Generation Z are getting more and more powerful. These two generations are pushing the hardest and loudest for science-based climate action. Now making up 50% of the workforce, they have increasing influence in the direction of the corporate world. And their fraction of wealth continues to grow which is good news because they tend to use and invest their dollars more sustainably.

Crucially, they’re also beginning to flex their political power. The number of Millenials and Gen Z who are eligible to vote in the US now equals Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. Without the surge in the youth vote this year, and the fact they voted for Biden in a landslide, the US would be stuck with the denier in chief for four more years.

  • Civil resistance movements are growing and intersecting. History and research tell us that peacefully protesting is an effective tool for change. And this year millions of people gained experience protesting and organizing with Black Lives Matter – many for the first time.

Interestingly, Professor Erica Chenoweth has noted there is new research showing a degree of “spillage” occurring between social movements, saying “mobilization around one event creates organizational experience, know-how, motivation, and available participants for organizing around a different event later.” In other words, once you’ve organized, you’re more likely and prepared to do so again.

Our skillsets and coalitions are slowly strengthening. And with it, our collective power and ability to make change grows.

    • The financial sector is increasingly waking up. Divestment from fossil fuels continues to accelerate, as do investments in the sustainable economy. And, crucially, banks and corporations are increasingly accounting for climate risk in their decision-making and annual reporting. It may soon be a requirement (the UK just announced it’s on the horizon!).
    • Solar, wind, and energy storage costs continue to decline rapidly, making clean energy cheaper than fossil fuels in most of the world. In 2020, 90% of all new electricity capacity added to the grid globally was from renewables.
    • The ground is ripe for change. A growing number of people are fed up with the unjust, destructive, and deadly status quo. Simultaneously, trillions of dollars will be invested into the economy next year in order to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic. These big recovery investments are an opportunity to simultaneously put millions of people to work with good-paying jobs fighting climate change, upgrade our infrastructure, improve people’s health, and step towards racial, economic, and climate justice.

 “All great changes are preceded by chaos.” — Deepak Chopra

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” — John F. Kennedy

      • By and large, it looks like Biden is going to integrate climate action into nearly every aspect of government decision-making. The team looks pretty strong overall.
      • More and more people are trying to figure out how to work on the climate crisis. Good! Too many of our smartest people are spending their lives working on things that don’t really matter. We need an economy-wide, all-hands-on-deck, World War II-like effort on reversing global warming. We need you.
      • Those who did the most to force society down this catastrophic path are being tracked down and unmasked. In 2020 alone we learned:
        • How General Motors and Ford learned about the climate crisis back in the 1960s. And then worked hard to prevent action on climate for decades.
        • That the oil and chemical industries spent $50 million annually lying to everyone, saying plastic was good and recyclable so they could keep selling it (only 9% of plastic has ever been recycled).
        • And, naturally, the fossil fuel companies continue to say one thing to us today while doing the exact opposite. Despite most of their ads telling us how much good they’re doing for the environment and future, they invest less than 1% of their capital in low-carbon technologies.

Perhaps these guilty parties will be held accountable for the harm they have caused at some point. For now, at least the truth of these dirty schemes, propaganda, and lies are increasingly spreading through society’s consciousness. They’ve gotten away with it for decades, but we’re all starting to learn who the climate villains are for the first time and just how bad they’ve been. The sustainable transformation pays for itself in the long run but requires a lot of money in up-front investments. These crooks owe us. I’d like to see some accountability and force them to foot nice chunks of the bill.

The climate crisis is getting harder and harder to ignore.

And it’s getting easier and easier to be a part of the solution no matter where you live or work.

I believe we could start to see action increasing exponentially in the coming weeks, months, and years.

We all just need to continue stepping forward together and keep our eyes on the prize: drawdown* and justice.

(* “Drawdown is the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline.”)

This post was originally featured in the Crowdsourcing Sustainability newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter below!

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