Close your eyes for a moment and imagine our Earth, 100 years in the future. Specifically, someplace you love and care for. What does it look like? How does it feel? Notice the colors and the way the light falls around you. Is it urban or rural? Are there people around you? If so, what are they doing? I’ll give you a minute to simply imagine.

If you’re like me, you imagine a beautiful world full of greenery and happy people bustling through their daily lives. In my view of the future, people work and live in harmony with the Earth and each other. Plants and animals thrive, and human ingenuity is seen on every corner. Maybe you used your imagination to express your inner optimist – in my opinion, this is by far the best use of one’s imagination.

However, not everyone’s vision of the future is so bright (and that’s okay). In fact, you may have imagined an Earth that has been taken over by rampant climate change. Maybe you imagined blazing wildfires and blustery hurricanes. The planet’s mighty forests have been cleared and what remains are drought-ridden lands that can no longer bear fruit. There are people, but they’re fearful, tired, and can no longer live where they feel the most at home.

If the latter view of the future sounds more like what you imagined, I want you to know that you’re not alone and your feelings are absolutely valid. As someone who has dedicated her life to the field of sustainability, I completely understand the feeling of climate despair. Most of the environmental stories that make their way around the internet are not optimistic – they paint a dreary image of the future. To be fair, it is important to know the risks associated with climate change, and we need to be aware of what our future may look like if nothing changes.

However, we know that things are changing, and they have been for some time.

There are solutions around every corner that are underway right now, as you’re reading this sentence. Solutions spearheaded by determined people who felt the fear and despair of climate change decided they wanted to create a brighter future instead. They focused on what they hoped to see in the future and took action. Sometimes it only takes a change of perspective to have hope for the future – to take action.

Fear and despair for the future can cause us to become paralyzed and unable to accomplish what we set out to do; the same goes for creating a more sustainable future. The ability to be optimistic about the future will bring us closer to the change we need – it doesn’t diminish the desire to affect change, it just diminishes the fear and paralysis.

Change your perspective to focus on the good you want to create; it will be that much easier to make it happen.

5 Things You Can Do to Exercise Your Optimism:

  1. Read “The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis” by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac to learn about “stubborn optimism”.
  2. Stay updated on the latest climate victories and successes happening in the world, both large and small. Consider how you can support them or use them for inspiration to start your own project!
  3. Volunteer with AZSA! Working alongside AZSA, a project-based nonprofit shows that you believe in the potential for a bright future and are taking action to make it happen.
  4. Participate in a future visioning activity with others in your life.
    • Talk about your most hopeful vision of the future and the Earth. Don’t leave out any details!
    • Consider the optimistic future that can be if we work for it, instead of the future that will be if we don’t.
    • Which parts of your vision do you have in common? Work together to make them happen.
  5. Plant flowers, a garden, or even a tree! It is one of the most hopeful things you can do.

About the author:

Emmery Ledin

Emmery Ledin

Emmery is a Sustainability Engagement Coordinator at Arizona State University and a candidate for a Master’s in Communication at Northern Arizona University. She is also a lover of baking, running, photography, trees and her three pets: Bauer (cat), Alex (cat) and Buster (puppy).