Active Hope vs. "Just Think Positive" Optimism ✨

Hope is a concept that can feel so ephemeral and hard to pin down. Hope is exactly what I want to feel and believe in, but as I read the news on most days, my sense of hope waxes and wanes. As it comes and goes, I find myself wondering if I’m doing it “right” as a climate activist. Am I naive or ignorant if I DO have hope? Is there even a point of doing what I do if I DON’T have hope?

Sometimes, I find it tempting to give up hope, but having hope doesn’t mean "there’s nothing wrong.” It doesn’t mean ignoring the hard evidence that we are, for example, amidst a climate emergency and that things may not go how I desperately want them to.

Despite the tempting evidence that there is no hope, I have an abiding and stubborn loyalty to it. Writer Rebecca Solnit said “Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. But there are good reasons.”

Teacher Joanna Macy has helped me to find those good reasons, through her teachings on what she calls Active Hope. Active Hope is about becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for. It is a practice that is different from optimism. This is no Pollyanna-ish “it’ll all be okay” hope. Active Hope is about having the internal sustenance to find joy and meaning amidst our pain for the world, so that we can stay in our movement for the long haul.

Active Hope requires us to work to cultivate it every. single. day. It’s the kind of hope I choose to live my life with because it’s real. When I have active hope, I’m not acting as if I’m not devastated by the latest IPCC report (I am). I’m not pretending that I know exactly what strategies the movement should be undertaking next (I definitely do not). I’m simply showing up with my heart open and staying in action to offer the world the best of what I’ve got to give and inviting others to do the same.

Active hope is the kind that RSC is here to stubbornly and persistently cultivate.

This blog post was originally published as a part of the May 2019 RSC newsletter! If you want to get posts like this in your inbox, sign up here to get on our (low traffic) mailing list.