In his opening keynote to the South By South West Eco Conference (SXSW Eco), titled “Climate Change and Vulnerability: Why a Southern Region Climate and Community Resilience Initiative is Needed”, Dr. Robert Bullard highlighted the need for a three-pronged approach: “urgency, hope, and optimism.”
A little more than an hour later, Professor Robert Jensen, long-time activist, journalist, and all-around free thinker (and personal friend of mine), was telling the audience at his talk, titled “Coping With the Cascading Crises of our World“, that “we are long past the point where urgency is needed.” With many ecological points of no return long passed—soil, biodiversity, water, climate, etc.—asking for urgency is a bit mendacious, not to mention asking for hope or optimism.
But all published nature writers will tell you (I assume): end on a positive note! And yet, it should be bluntly apparent (sometimes literally, as many a protester is hit with many an object these days) that our species has brought the ecological order to—and past—various and ever-numerous tipping points. As Bob Jensen prefaced his remarks: “I’m here to state what is painfully obvious.”
Look around: the erosion and degradation of top soil, the raking, poisoning, and boiling of the oceans, the extremely abrupt loss of biodiversity, the list could go on… and on. And then ask yourself: Can we hope ourselves out of this problem? Can we feel optimistic that people—let alone corporations—will change in the face of this problem? Will our political and economic institutions allow the necessary responses to crises that were urgent fifty years ago? These are among the questions that Jensen asked his audience, to a quiet stare, followed by a sense, at least from where I was sitting, of deep resignation.
But fear not—there’s no reason to be depressed. Time is all we have; better enjoy it! And try to help as many humans and non-humans along the way as you can. The fox, the raven, the earthworm, the moss—they don’t care about charts and links and talks at conferences. They need your help right now, and I presume, if you’re anything like me, you also need theirs.