Our reasons to be hopeful(ish) in 2023
Given the dire state of climate change, we can’t offer reasons to be cheerful. But to start the year, we thought we’d ask some local environmental activists what stories are giving them hope for 2023. Let us know in the comments what breakthroughs or news stories have made you hopeful.
Dirk Campbell – Extinction Rebellion
On Radio 4’s Rethink, economic growth was revealed for what it is: a pernicious invention and the core driver of the climate and ecological crisis. On Radio 4’s Money Box the same day, we were told that GDP growth doesn’t create happiness. Cracks are appearing in the standard presentation – hooray!
Susan Murray – The Lewes Pound
I must admit to feeling decidedly pessimistic about the future. But it has been great to see Radio 4 devoting its 9am weekday slot to Rethink – a series of discussions about climate change. What felt especially positive to me was that its chair Amol Rajan began by saying that they wouldn’t be discussing the science of climate change or whether it was man-made because that has already been settled. The series is really worth a listen on BBC Sounds.”
Ian McKay RIBA – Founder, Deeper Green
It may have taken a major new war on European soil but at least world leaders are finally upscaling the delivery of renewable energy with fresh impetus to make our built environment more energy efficient in the face of rapidly rising heating bills. A recent article in the Guardian looks at what a UK response could look like.
Jill Goulder –Eco Home Owner
There seems to be some genuinely good news about nuclear fusion, with US scientists confirming they have finally overcome a major barrier – producing more energy from a fusion experiment than was put in. Of course, there are still massive challenges in order to scale this up, but there is real hope that this source of clean energy will become a commercial reality. Read more here.
Alex Kirby – Retired environmental journalist for The Guardian and BBC
Even one hopeful story? OK, try this: the USA has given conditional approval to the world’s first vaccine for honey bees. Bees matter, so this could possibly, ultimately, tip Earth’s balance. Science is finding answers. All we have to do is use them, fast. Who’s ready for that much hope?
Matthew Bird – Cabinet Lead on Sustainability – Lewes District Council
It’s easy to feel despondent when; climate impacts projected years back become a reality and current policies mean a 2.7°C rise by 2100. But taking ‘local to global’ as a lead, community partnerships are leading the way. There’s never been more joined up and effective climate action in Lewes and it’s recognised nationally. Initiatives like the Lewes Climate Hub and Ouse Valley Climate Action will help make these actions the norm. This gives me hope!
Juliet Oxborrow – Transition Town Lewes
Undoubtedly, the one single event in the past year that has given me most hope was the re-election of Lula da Silva to Brazil’s presidency, unseating rightwing climate change denier Jair Bolsonaro. In particular, Lula’s call for an ‘OPEC of the forests’, with Brazil working with Indonesia and the Congo to safeguard the tropical forestry on which our planet so depends, led to my first sigh of relief on climate change in years. If more leaders would take bold visionary steps like this, I might stop grinding my teeth at night.
Jonathan Smales – Human Nature sustainable developers
We were asked recently by an eminent US-based environmentalist and engineer whether we were ‘optimists’ or ‘pessimists’. My colleague, Michael, a veteran of many an environmental campaign in Greenpeace and beyond, said simply, ‘Neither, we’re activists’. Notwithstanding, any grounds for optimism?
Definitely the election of Lula in Brazil. The scale of investment in renewables is racing ahead. But must it really take a European war and thousands dead to show us what has been before our eyes for nearly half-a-century? COP15 was rhetorically brilliant but actions speak louder than words.
And, meanwhile, if I might say, there’s an encouraging little £400 million neighbourhood regeneration project here in Lewes that might just be the most sustainable scheme at neighbourhood scale in Europe. And if the principles and concepts that inform it are adopted elsewhere, it would move the dial on climate and nature but also in regard to social cohesion, habitat regeneration, the creative and circular economies and community-wealth building.
Sue Fleming – Transition Town Lewes
The increased use of wind power this winter is reason for hope. Renewables are no longer seen as more expensive compared to hydrocarbons. But replacing all hydrocarbons with renewable energy seems a long way off. If we’re looking to immediately power, e.g., the growth in shipping then technological solutions, like Nuclear & Hydrogen, may not cut it. I’m genuinely hopeful when I hear people on (yes) Radio 4, challenge the core of the problem: change our attitude to the need for shipping in the first place. If we’re not moving oil, coal, food around the world, if we’re not importing cheap goods from China but shifting production nearer to the marketplace and changing our attitude – we can reduce ‘stuff’ at the core of the problem.
Mark Slater – Extinction Rebellion Lewes
We now understand that to solve the Climate Crisis we must replace the economic system that is destroying the planet and create a new cultural and economic framework for humanity. Wow! Big ask! The good news is this debate has already begun and we are beginning to see the first blueprints for a new and better future. Listen to Jason Hickel on the Economics for Rebels podcast or better still read his book ‘Less is More’ .
Ann Link – Transition Town Lewes
Like others, I have been encouraged by Amol Rajan’s series Rethink Climate on Radio 4. The programmes indicate a more serious commitment by the BBC, which has in the past talked about long lists of minor ways to help. Amol Rajan and his guests ask bigger questions. The second programme covers individual actions but at the proper scale, and features Take the Jump and Climate Outreach, who have studied behaviour change. The final programme about leadership was revealing: why are US elections subject to money from fossil fuel companies but not from other big companies such as Microsoft which says it is aiming for net zero.
What’s made you hopeful? Let us know in the Comments below.