Take Time To Renew Your Spirit

The kind of hope I often think about …is, I believe, a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us or we don’t. Hope is not a prognostication — it’s an orientation of the spirit. Each of us must find real, fundamental hope within himself. You can’t delegate that to anyone else.

Hope in this deep and powerful sense is not the same as joy when things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something to succeed. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It’s not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. It is this hope, above all, that gives us strength to live and to continually try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now. In the face of this absurdity, life is too precious a thing to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily, without meaning, without love, and, finally, without hope.

Vaclav Havel, in Never Hope Against Hope, Esquire.com

Memorial gathering for Václav Havel in Wenceslas Square in Prague on the day of his death on 18 December 2011. Source: Wikimedia Commons

From Passive, Helpless Spectator To Creating Positive Change: “You Can’t Help Being An Optimist”

  • Here’s an upbeat video from People For Bikes, shared by the folks at 350.org. Watch the video, sign the pledge (if you are in the U.S.) and – most importantly – ride your bike today!


  • Cartoon of the month via the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Have a great weekend, everyone, and remember: “Everybody has the power to make changes… and every change makes a difference.” (Actor and Activist Cameron Diaz)

More Links:

Citizens Climate Lobby (Canada)

Citizens Climate Lobby

Transition Network

Awakening the Dreamer

Message from Africa: Whatever Happens, Don’t Ever Give Up

The following is an edited repost from last November:

William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer’s book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind made it to Amazon’s top 10 Best Books of 2009, as well as Publisher Weekly’s Best Book of the Year.  It tells about how Kamkwamba, “a simple farmer in a country of poor farmers” built a windmill about of bicycle parts and other scrap pieces when he was 14, after being forced to drop out of school because of a severe drought in Malawi. He built his windmill to pump water and generate electricity for his home. Now every home in Wimbe, Kamkwamba’s hometown, has a solar panel and a battery to store power. His message to  “all the people out there – to the Africans, and to poor people” is to never give up.

Trust yourself, and believe.  Whatever happens, don’t ever give up.” Here is Mr. Kamkwamba speaking at last year’s TED conference:


The situation that we are in is too important to get sidetracked by anti-science deniers and others without the ability to imagine a different, better world. Let’s take Mr. Kamkwamba’s words to heart, and keep up the good fight for real action on global warming. Go to 350.org or my Action, Not Apathy page for ideas on where to start.

If you live in Ontario, and you are reading this before August 25, 2010, please go to the Toronto Environmental Alliance’s website and send the provincial government that the message that you support wind power. The government is considering a 5km exclusion zone for off-shore wind power, which would kill any attempt to install wind turbines in Lake Ontario. The province is open for comments until Aug 24 – click here to tell the province you, like  William Kamkwamba, support wind power! (Thanks to Cheryl McNamara at Carbon Slim for that link)

Optimism In Trying Times

I’ve been feeling discouraged lately – there are so many people trying to alert the rest of the world to the dangerous and suicidal course that we are on with our addiction to fossil fuels, and yet so very many powerful and loud voices are trying to drown out the voices of sanity and science.  And addiction is a difficult thing to change, whether it’s heroin or fossil fuels.  Will we be able to wean ourselves before our addiction kills us?  The next twenty years will tell.

Oh, right, I was going to write about optimism.  Sorry. As I mentioned a few days ago, I just read “No Impact Man” by Colin Beavan, and would highly recommend it (and I should thank my daughter’s boyfriend, Krystofer, who bought the book and then graciously allowed me to read it before he did). Marion Nestle, author of “What to Eat” describes the book as:

A riveting account of the year in which Colin Beavan and his wife attempt what most of us would consider impossible. What might seem inconvenient to the point of absurdity instead teaches lessons that all of us need to learn. We as individuals can take action to address important social problems. One person can make a difference.”

At the beginning of his year of living no-impact, Beavan examined the work of psychologists who study happy people and what makes them happier than the rest of us.

What the positive psychologists had learned was that, while getting a new cell phone or a new car or a new house did give us a burst of pleasure, the pleasure did not last. If we wanted to feel the same spike of happiness, we would have to get another fix – yet another phone, yet another car. They called that mode of pleasure-seeking the “hedonic treadmill”.

The happiest people, the shrinks discovered, did not live their lives in this perpetual loop. Rather, these folks had raised their baseline mood in ways that did not require repeated doses of new stuff. The people most satisfied with life, it turned out, had strong social connections, found meaning in their work, got to exercise what they considered to be their highest talents, and had a sense of some higher purpose.

The positive psychologists confirmed scientifically, in other words, what simple-living advocates have been asserting for so long anecdotally: a life lived with less emphasis on acquisition might have the effect of leaving more time for richer, less resource-intensive life awards, making both the planet and the people happier.

So, it turns out that all of this consuming and working long hours to make money so we can consume even more isn’t making us any happier – less so, actually!  Some voices in the climate change debate encourage passivity and inaction by  saying things like  “there might be global warming or cooling but the important issue is whether we, as a human race, can do anything about it.” These voices are trying to send us the message that the choices that we make aren’t important, and that we should just carry on in our usual way. It turns out, as Beavan’s story demonstrates, one person’s choices can make a difference at the same time as that person becomes happier, healthier (with a better sex life, too, according to Beavan:).

Here’s a video from the folks at The Fun Theory.com, a site dedicated to the thought that human behavior can be changed for the better by making the change fun.  The video shows how 66% more people ended up taking the stairs rather than the escalator by making climbing the stairs more fun that usual:


Have a fun, planet-loving kind of Friday!