Editorial: The Hope of Despair
As if catching a deadly mutant virus and cyberbullying weren’t enough to worry about this school year, a Sunday Denver Post article by Elizabeth Hernandez explains that climate change has become a source of depression, dysfunction and a general feeling among us that life is useless. .
The recently released report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which included contributions from Boulder scientists, tells us unequivocally that our future looks bleak, with average and extreme temperature changes higher across the globe. , unless we as human beings collectively change our behavior and stop burning oil, gas and coal.
Scientists brought together by the United Nations for this comprehensive new report give us a clear vision of our future if we do nothing: rising sea levels, melting glaciers and severe weather events like tropical cyclones and dust storms. In our part of the world, that means more fires, droughts, torrential rains and floods. In other words, no one is safe – not humans, who will suffer and die from massive heat waves; not aquatic life sensitive to changes in water temperature that affect oxygen levels and acidity, and not critical terrestrial biodiversity which will experience irreversible deaths.
We created this, the scientists say, without a shadow of a doubt: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, the ocean and the land.
Life indeed seems pointless, especially if you are young and plan to have children. And certainly if you are younger and cannot fully understand the big picture, but feel the stress of adults in the room.
Therapy is an obvious solution to treating mental health issues stemming from climate change and there’s even a name for it: eco-bereavement counseling. At least one counselor in Denver Post history has seen a 75% increase in the number of customers reporting symptoms, including anxiety related to wildfires.
This type of depression probably stems from a feeling of loss of control on a monumental scale, and which leads to inaction. But teachers in Boulder Valley and children around the world are showing us that taking action – from small projects to impressive feats – can empower them and inspire others to do the same.
For example, in the fall of 2019, students in John Mattson’s grade 7 science class at Platt Middle School were overjoyed to learn they could call a school climate strike, supported by teachers and administrators. Their story is available on the BVSD website by Carolyn Nohe.
“I want to do something. But I feel like I can’t, ”student Meagan Hoff explains in the story. “I felt like it was a way for me to support what I believe in. “
Middle school kids are actually the perfect age, Mattson says. “… They are not jaded. They don’t feel like it’s time to give up yet. Somehow we have to maintain this. “
BVSD students say they were inspired by Greta Thunberg, who spoke in September of the same year at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. At 16, the Swedish climate activist was making headlines for crossing the Atlantic aboard a zero-emission yacht, showing our young people that they have the power to change the world.
A family in Andover, New Hampshire, spurred on by their 8-year-old, cycled to hear Thunberg, setting up camp along their three-week hike. The trip was a fundraiser to install solar panels at their school and for future projects under KidsCare4PolarBears, a Facebook page that documented their ongoing efforts.
While not everyone has a yacht or wants to sail 250 miles in the rain, these examples, along with those from BVSD, show how, at the local level, we can help our young people be engaged and resilient in the face of challenges. such disastrous news on climate change. Projects can be simple, like creating art, performing a play, or illustrating a book to raise awareness about climate change.
Our Boulder and St. Vrain Valley schools and teachers have a proven ability to make creative projects happen. And there are plenty of resources, including the World Wildlife Fund, which has a program called Panda Ambassadors where conservation activists of all ages can get tips and tools to promote specific projects they’re most passionate about. The Nature Conservancy invites anyone to join its Plant a Billion Trees program.
Reversing the path may seem overwhelming, and without a doubt, people feel deep despair in the face of the climate crisis. But we can all find hope in even the smallest creative efforts for change. We owe it to the next generation to help them dream and find their own way to love our planet.
– Julie Marshall for the editorial board