Doom and gloom. We’re all terrorizing the planet merely by living in this existence. We’re all horrible and should be exterminated so our beautiful earth can return to harmony and peace.
This is the message we hear over and over again. Maybe not in these exact words, well, sometimes, but basically, this is the messaging children and adults alike are fed constantly. Countless nature documentaries end on this note, students are taught this in schools, and the media bombards us with this constantly.
Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about it. I know there are countless environmental atrocities driven by humans constantly happening, and do not mistake me; under no circumstance do I believe we should ignore these issues. But I argue that purely focusing on the negative, the impossible, doesn’t solve a thing.
A Lesson in Optimism
When I first set foot at University many years ago, I was nervous but excited to learn about the natural world. I endeavored to complete a BSc in Ecology and Biodiversity and Marine Biology despite rebelliously dropping out of science at school as soon as I was allowed. In the end, I did very well, but one thing I (possibly foolishly) didn’t anticipate was how dang depressing it was going to be.
The more I learned, the more fascinated with our planet I became, but the more depressed I got. One summer at home, I was telling my parents about this struggle. Then my Dad, a prominent inventor, and Marine Biologist, gave me a much-needed dose of optimism.
He told me that while many of these issues are serious, focusing on the problem without a solution helps no one. Yes, humans can be destructive creatures, but we can also be compassionate and innovative. Look at all the marvelous things humans have created and accomplished. Our innovative nature has got us to where we are today, and it can get us out of the problems we’ve caused; if only people will allow it.
I’ve held onto this idea tightly when faced with doom and gloom environmental stories. Sadly, we can’t get everything we’ve lost back, but there is still so much to protect and save. The thing is, we have to see it, and we have to ignite our creative minds to find solutions to the challenges we face.
I’ve always thought it is more helpful to look at these difficult situations as challenges rather than problems. The word problem tends to have connotations that something may be difficult to find a solution to. In contrast, challenge implies that something can be overcome and feels a bit more exciting. For example, the common saying, “Are you up for the challenge?”
This is where media outlining all the problems our natural world faces drives me mad. Where’s the solution at the end? Or, if a suitable solution doesn’t currently exist, get creative! Brainstorm ideas!
If we can’t think of anything grounded in current reality, turn to science fiction. We should be bold and wacky if need be. In the beginning, people thought inventors like Benjamin Franklin were mad; “What do you mean an invisible energy source can turn on a light?” Today, this is perfectly normal, and we don’t give it a second thought. Likewise, mobile communication devices originated in science fiction long before their technology became a reality.
People need to be encouraged to share original thoughts and innovative ideas more. But before highly innovative ideas can strike, we must be in the right mindset. Two of the crucial contributing factors to supporting creative innovation are optimism and creative self-efficacy. This means that people need hope and belief in their ability to come up with creative solutions when it comes to environmental issues.
Individuals Have Power
Currently, in our society, there is a big push to be part of “the collective.” To fit in, we must follow “the group” and do what they tell us to do. This ideology can make it very difficult to feel like a valued individual. It also removes creative self-efficacy because it is very intimidating to stand up to a group of people and share a new idea.
I believe 100% that we need to work together to tackle some of these grand environmental issues, but working together doesn’t mean we have to conform to a specific set of rules. Doing so actually strips us of an environment that fosters creative innovation, the exact thing we need to tackle these issues. Individual choices make up the group, whether through their consumerism and lifestyle choices or the ideas they share with others.
So what can we do as individuals to help create positive change in the global environmental issues we face? Firstly, I agree with Jordan Peterson’s rule six, “Set your house in order before you criticize the world,” because how we live our own lives, ideas, and emotions ripple throughout our communities. So we need to ask ourselves whether we are doing everything we can within the small surrounds of our home to tread lightly, so to speak, on the earth.
The ideas of re-use, reduce, and recycle may sound a bit cliché at this point but imagine the impact if everyone did it! For example, think about it everyone composted what they could in their local community garden or in their backyard how much more soil would we be creating instead of piling it into landfills? What if everyone started buying free-range eggs? Battery farms would simply go out of business because there would be no more demand. It may feel powerless to be an individual in this big globalist world, but individuals are where change begins.
Lastly, optimistic mindfulness and affirmation mindsets are so popular today regarding personal health and well-being, but this too often gets thrown out the door when it comes to environmental issues. So, how about we shift some of that energy and optimism toward dealing with these more significant issues, such as pollution, see what innovative ideas come up that tackle them, and let’s discuss!