We want your hope

By Sharon Coward, Executive Director at EnviroCentre

One of the slogans for the youth movement inspired by Greta Thunberg is the galvanizing ‘we don’t want your hope,’ a call to action pushing against cheap talk rather than concrete movement.  With this, I agree. At EnviroCentre our mandate is to find practical solutions for people to reduce their environmental impact in lasting ways.  We talk, for sure, but the go-or-don’t-go test for choosing our work and projects is filtered through a hashtag strategic plan that boils down to ‘take action.’

But then again, we are also purveyors of resilient, practical, never-say-die hope.  So it’s got me thinking: actually, we really do want your hope.

Sharon Coward, Executive Director at EnviroCentre

Don’t get me wrong, there is room for doom in the environmental narrative.  Doom can bring things into perspective, catalyze, focus and reprioritize our thinking.  But it also immobilizes, and it tends to join forces with its polarizing sister, Judgement.  Polarization can result in some pretty nasty, divisive stuff and it also – red flag for EnviroCentre’s flagship mission – impedes action. 

Climate Strike, Ottawa, September 27th, 2019

‘We don’t want your hope,’ gets me thinking about hope, and what it means at different stages in life.  The Friday Climate Strike movement is a youth movement, and let’s be honest, hope is one thing at 16 and quite another at 60.  In youth, hope can feel optional because it is so imbued in our bones that not even a twelve-hour love-in with Billie Eilish can derail our momentum.  After multiple decades in this complicated, contradictory, frustrating and dazzling world, though, hope is less a bonus and more an essential ingredient for any movement at all.  So oldies of the world, we want your hope! 

Let’s break it down in EnviroCentre terms

EnviroCentre Staff and family participating in the Climate Strike in Ottawa on September 27th, 2019

Homeowners with hope retrofit their homes to high efficiency because they like lower bills and comfortable homes, and because they imagine a world where the 30% of local emissions derived from homes sharply declines and clean air and healthy habitats abound. 

Commuters with hope change their travel because it improves their days and their health, and they imagine a world where getting around doesn’t produce 40% of local emissions – maybe a world where transportation is more equitable, accessible and efficient for everyone. 

Eaters with hope adjust their daily consumption because they start to understand how simple and enjoyable those little changes can be, and because they look to a future where the planet’s billions can eat – all of them – in 2050. 

Maybe most importantly, all these hopers are adjusting their actions because they are excited about our possible future, and their active participation in its creation.  Humans are most effective when they are fired up for a good today and tomorrow.

Climate action isn’t simple.  We succeed and we fail, we green-wash here, and we affect genuine change there, but we keep trying because we are inspired by a new possible vision for the future, and because world-building is fun (ask the creators of Minecraft.)  This is hope, folks.  And yes, we do want yours.

Before I sign off, though, I want to say loud and clear, Go Greta!  There are as many ways to approach positive change in the world today as there are humans, and we need them all. 

Taking action where we have a voice and agency is a good bet, so we at EnviroCentre resolutely celebrate what is done well, here in Ottawa, by all our partners, and yes, by Greta and co the world over. 

Sharon Coward, Executive Director at EnviroCentre

We marched for climate action with our youth and our old on September 27th, together, with hope.