Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Environmentalism + optimism? Yes, really.

Environmental news usually comes in three flavors these days: bad, worse, and stupid (such as KFI-AM’s John and Ken’s grating denial of climate change). It’s gotten so that I reflexively turn away from mainstream environmental news – yes, I know it sounds bad, but it’s a human instinct to flee from the apocalypse.

Then I read an interview with Alex Steffen, creator of the “bright green” environmental group Worldchanging, in the April 2010 issue of The Sun magazine.

According to Steffen, we can stem the tide of environmental degradation - without regressing to a primitive, pre-technological lifestyle – by living in denser communities where nearly everything that people need (work, school, stores, etc.) is within walking or biking distance. A can-do attitude is key, he says:

Despair and cynicism are a large part of what’s preventing us from solving our problems. Among my more political friends, optimism is seen as something you have before you find out the truth. But I think choosing optimism says to your opponents, “I can see a better way of doing this.” We can rally people around a vision of a better future for ourselves and our grandkids and our great-grandkids.

What would you do if you were convinced that a situation is absolutely beyond your repair? Would you keep working to change it – or would you throw up your hands and say, “Why bother?”

Our precious Earth doesn’t need “why bother.” It needs solutions, and solutions only arise from minds that believe they exist. The dense communities (and “dense” does not mean overcrowded) that Steffen proposes will give people more time, more health, more freedom, and more hope.

I recommend that you read the whole interview. The Sun is not easy to find at newsstands (though I have seen it at the Borders in Tustin Legacy); you can order individual issues at its website.(And if you like what you read, why not subscribe?)

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