Last year, my home caught on fire.
I’m not talking about leaving my toaster oven on. Though I now live in Costa Rica, I am originally from Northern California, and the recent fire that started in Paradise, CA, called the Camp Fire, burned thousands of acres of trees and ended and changed the lives of many. The sparks that flew from a poorly maintained utility transmission tower turned into the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history. We can’t get that back. As a result, PG&E, the utility company in this area, filed for bankruptcy. Ratepayers will need to pay back their debt if they want to keep their lights on. This, in and of itself, will create a string of new problems.
Northern California is my second home. This beautiful place, which recently reminded us through international news about the increasingly dangerous results of climate change and poor stewardship, is the same place where I started a company/event called EcoTuesday. EcoTuesday was an event for people in the many areas of sustainability to come together and learn about each other and the cool things that they’re up to in the world. After many monthly events in San Francisco, with sometimes more than 250 each night, the event spread to about 13 US cities. People would meet each month and learn from a really great speaker. Then, everyone in the room would share their name, their company name, and one thing they are passionate about that focused on sustainability.
It was incredibly inspiring to hear a couple of hundred people share what they are passionate about. I loved knowing that in cities all over the country, on the same night each month, people were getting together to create a vortex of positive energy and change all because they are dedicated to bringing together their personal interests in their business and the environment. It was always energizing and offered everyone so much hope for the future.
Hearing first-hand about what people are doing with their time is a completely different experience than reading about earth’s catastrophes on social media.
I was born on Earth Day and so my birthday has always been a celebration of the beauty of earth and gratitude for life. I don’t know if this is the reason, but I feel as though in the midst of all the pessimism, I’ve always been more on the optimistic side of the spectrum when it comes to our environment and our planet.
Do we want to live life as an optimist or a pessimist? I personally work better, am more creative, and come up with more brilliant ideas when I’m feeling optimistic than when I’m feeling pessimistic. Who wants to make plans for systemic solutions and to change the habits and patterns of entire regions of people when they’re feeling, shall we say, fatalistic?
We are going to put forward the future we want to create. We have the power to innovate and to take care of each other and all of the beings on this planet. We are serving the future that our children can manage as they begin to be the ones who take the helm of this spaceship earth.
Optimism is an incredibly vital component for anything we do – anything we want to achieve. It must be present, otherwise…nothing will happen. We will atrophy, constrict, and nothing will take shape.
If I ever get down, I think about all that has changed in the past 10 years.
- Overall technical innovation has grown by leaps and bounds as we have become more aware of the fact that private business – not our governments – will lead the way. We are going to develop solutions by creating a business case for all of our companies.
- Commercial/home solar use and electric vehicle sales are now growing rapidly (India declared that all cars sold will be EV by 2030).
- Teenagers are sharing their voice across the globe in a big way. There are student protests happening in many countries as these young people are doing everything they can to ensure that politicians start to make more stringent climate change laws.
- More money is getting funneled into educating girls in many countries. When young girls have access to education, entire communities are transformed.
- Globally, emissions of carbon dioxide from energy and industry have at least been growing more slowly over the past four years and may even have reached a plateau.
- In terms of climate change legislation, 164 countries have new laws, including the world’s 50 largest emitters. Overall, there are over 1200 climate change and related laws now in place compared with only 60 climate change laws twenty years ago.
- The Paris Agreement. We didn’t even have that 5 years ago. While the federal government of the United States has pulled out from this important agreement, many state governments are still actively engaged in the tenants. Also, a huge portion of the business community is using the framework put forth by the Paris Agreement and integrating it into their sustainability roadmaps in a big way.
These are some of the things I remember when I feel myself going down the spiral of doubt and uncertainty.
As we celebrate the Earth today, take a moment to ask your friends, family and colleagues what is happening in their own lives to inspire optimism about the planet and the environment. There are more good things taking place than you might believe, and learning about it all will inspire you to dream even bigger.