Hope and Despair

There’s a lot of bad-ness on my TV right now. It’s one of the big reasons I don’t turn it on much. Before I had children, I could watch footage of disasters and shrug it off. But the moment that I pushed my first baby out all of that changed. Now that I’m a parent I have a greater stake in the world, and I feel a sort of kinship with other parents. If I spend too much time thinking about the reality that somewhere, right now, babies are dying and their parents are mourning … well, I wouldn’t get any sleep at all.

And don’t even get me started about fictional programs that use dying children in their storylines. Not cool.

It isn’t only political upheaval and natural disasters that can leave me crying into my pillow. Yesterday I got an email in my inbox letting me know that it was David Suzuki‘s birthday, and asking me to sign the Declaration of Interdependence. I clicked over, and I saw this video:

It’s not particularly depressing, but it underscores a very hard truth, and that is that we cannot continue to pillage our natural environment. The earth has finite resources, and when we take them all for ourselves, without regard for others, we are stealing from our children. Pollution and climate change and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are not the legacy I want to leave. Just as I don’t want to hear about children dying, I don’t want to contemplate what the world will look like if we don’t clean up our act.

I want my children, and everyone’s children, to have a bright future. Don’t we all?

Dropping off Hannah for art camp
My babies

It’s easy to feel despondent in the face of big problems. After all, I am just one person, and I certainly don’t hold all of the solutions. But being despondent doesn’t hold any answers, either. In fact, it holds additional dangers. When we don’t feel that we can make a difference, we lose our incentive to act. The problems our world faces may be unimaginably huge. But if we all take little steps, slowly increasing our actions, we’re far better off than if we trash the joint because we decide we might as well enjoy ourselves while everything falls apart around us.

And so I choose hope. Deliberately, methodically, and sometimes with great effort. I seek out things that remind me of the good-ness in the world. I consider what actions I can take to make things better, and I take them.

Hannah holding up our huge sunflower
A little bit of good-ness in a sunflower from my garden

I have to believe that I can do some good in the world. I have to. My mental health hinges on the idea that I matter, if only in some small way. I cling to that idea, and I believe in its truth. I matter. And so do you. We all do. We can choose how we act. Those choices make a difference, good or bad, in the world around us. They can tear down, or build up. They can inspire others to change, or fill them with despair. It’s in our hands, and we can choose.

I have chosen. I have chosen to avoid the news when I know that it’s going to leave me feeling discouraged. I have chosen to believe that I can make a difference. And I have chosen to make my impact as positive as I can.

What about you? How do you deal with discouragement in the face of big problems? And what do you do to find hope in the face of despair? I’d love to hear.

This post was inspired by the Green Moms Carnival, which is all about hope and despair this month. Diane over at Big Green Purse is hosting the carnival, so stop by her blog and read Is your environmental “glass” half empty, or half full? for more thought-provoking posts.

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    Comments

    1. I find hope in not knowing. That is, there is no way for me to have any certain idea about what is actually going to happen tomorrow, next year, fifty years from now. In the meantime, I’m working on making my small changes.
      Rachael’s last post … Nobody Wants to Hear You ComplainMy Profile

    2. I really like what Rachael said, and also your point about sometimes choosing hope ‘with great effort’. This is different from a Pollyanna-like “oh, everything will be fine” attitude, which sometimes irritates me about the positive thinking thing. Everything might not be fine, but we can keep doing what we can to make it better.
      allison’s last post … I Am Go For LaunchMy Profile

    3. i’m a firm believer in taking small steps and trying not think it’s only me making those steps. lots of people making small steps turn them into large strides.
      two decades ago, organic foods in supermarkets was so rare you were considered a crank for asking. now it’s commonplace … simply because consumers started asking and showing a preference.tail-docking for cosmetic reasons has been banned in the UK for over a decade, all because of pressure by vets refusing to perform the deed and campaigns by welfare charities (and it looks like it will be coming to BC too!!). consumers pushing for re-usable bags has made them more the norm now.
      little steps work
      pomomama’s last post … self portrait thursday- stunningly bad at this a blast from the pastMy Profile

    4. I’ve actually had to pull away from all the disaster reporting and try to stick to things I feel are important and uplifting. My number on uplifter and inspirer, which I hope to pass on to Theo is a love of nature including gardening, hiking, walking, playing, camping, beaching, or just being outside. I hope he will always be enthusiastic about the outdoors, which will lead him to care about his surroundings. I think everything starts from there.

    5. Sidenote: I try to leave bad news alone.

    6. I love this post. Choosing hope is always the better path. Well said. I too have a lot of trouble with stories (real or fictional) of children dying. I cry just thinking of that footage of people creating a human chain to pass up small children to safety after the tsunami (saw that on the Newshour).
      Betsy (Eco-novice)’s last post … Your Etsy Reusable Bag Buying GuideMy Profile

    7. I try to remember I can only control what I do, or change me so I focus on being the best me that I can. When I am doing that I feel like I am adding light to the world, as opposed to contributing to the darkness. The more people that do that, the brighter the world will be.
      Wendy Irene’s last post … Making a Difference- Your LoveMy Profile

    8. Marcy G. says:

      “I choose hope”. What a powerful statement. I do, too, Amber. If our actions follow, we can take the individual steps that are needed to make a difference.Otherwise, as my outspoken father used to say, “You might as well curl up in a ball and die.” Amen to hope, I say.

    9. Sometimes you have to choose hope, otherwise the world will depress you too quickly. There are a lot of wonderful things in the world, and much we can do as individuals to make the bad parts better in some small way.
      Stephanie – Home with the Kids’s last post … 3 Ways to Face the Frustration of Growing Your Home BusinessMy Profile

    10. I’ve also been somewhat selective in what disaster reading I’ve done. I can’t get so immersed that I become non-functional.

      That sunflower looks like a hat – perfect!
      Lady M’s last post … Treats- Nordic StyleMy Profile

    11. Well, I don’t watch the news because it tends to send me into a pit of despair if I watch too much of it. I purposely try my best to do the best for the environment and educate my children to do the same, and then I try to have faith that enough people will make enough changes that we’ll turn it around in time.
      Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves’s last post … They Call Me Web DesignerMy Profile

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    1. [...] Amber of Strocel.com speaks passionately about how becoming a mom helped her focus more on the environment, raising concerns that sometimes seem insurmountable. “It’s easy to feel despondent in the face of big problems. After all, I am just one person, and I certainly don’t hold all of the solutions. But being despondent doesn’t hold any answers, either. In fact, it holds additional dangers. When we don’t feel that we can make a difference, we lose our incentive to act. The problems our world faces may be unimaginably huge. But if we all take little steps, slowly increasing our actions, we’re far better off than if we trash the joint because we decide we might as well enjoy ourselves while everything falls apart around us. [...]

    2. [...] have been a regular visitor to my comments section, you will already be familiar with her wise and well thought-out responses. In fact, I have come to think of her as something of a mentor – someone who has [...]

    3. [...] you can’t un-know it. Yes, it might be a bit inconvenient. But in the face of despair, I choose hope. The way that I choose hope is by taking action, and making changes. I trust that these changes [...]

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