The News is Bleak But You Can Choose Hope Over Despair

Commentator Ellen Moyer is an independent environmental consultant. She blogs for the Huffington Post and is working on a new book called ” Our earth, Our Species, Our selves.” She lives in western Massachusetts.

“My fellow jury pool members and I sit quietly in rows. we’re all watching a Mars rover on t.v. processing rock samples for evidence of past water activity.

On most mornings, I’d be at my desk, slogging away at finding the least distasteful way to clean up a contaminated groundwater site, in an endless parade of contaminated sites.

But today, in this courthouse, I see a scene full of hope—our justice system at work, where ordinary citizens of every color, gender, and persuasion have the final say—and technology beaming in information from, of all places, another planet.

It’s easy to become discouraged by all the world’s problems—environmental disasters, wars, famines, and injustices. but what’s happening in this waiting room makes a better future seem palpable.

I realize that hope or despair is a choice we make. I’m choosing hope—and here’s why:

We have an eons-long track record of evolutionary success, which comes with a built-in urge to survive and help our children survive. And, because evolutionary success is predicated on cooperating with each other and with nature, we have an innate tendency to care for other humans and the natural world.

We also already have brilliant solutions to many of our problems. Consider solar power, organic agriculture, preventive medicine. Education. Contraception. Democracy.

Many of us have more opportunities to live, learn, experience, and contribute than ever before.  We have the potential to hear and read ideas from all over the world and— and more and more— the freedom to think and speak however we choose.

People, including aware and engaged young people, are working on solving our problems now.

Crisis provides opportunity and inspires courage. People upgrade their entire lives after near-death experiences. Colossal injustice leads to major social change. Our current dire challenges—for example, climate change and nuclear proliferation—motivate us to evolve. Without denying the gravity of these challenges we face, as I see it, we can choose hope over despair. And we should.

I glance at the t.v. again.  I muse that the pathway of hope will allow us and our fellow species to survive. And to keep Earth looking like Earth rather than parched, red Mars.

I’m selected to sit on the jury. After a few hours, we take a break. I see the plaintiff and defendant chatting amiably in the hallway. And soon afterward, the judge informs the jurors that the parties have settled their differences in this assault case and that we may go home. The mere prospect of a fair trial prompted the quarreling parties to reach agreement. I rest my case.”