Happy Earth Day 2017! This Saturday, April 22, marks the 47th year of this international event to demonstrate support for environmental protection. According to the organizers, this year nearly one billion people will show their love for the planet at Earth Day events in nearly 200 different countries.
The thing is, for most of us, when we think about the environment, we think about the bad things. The news is full of global warming, climate change, deforestation, and coral reef bleaching. With all the scary predictions, it may seem like we should just throw up our hands in defeat and go drink a beer or something instead of participating in Earth Day activities.
But the Smithsonian Institute is trying to change that perception.
Today, April 21, through Sunday, April 23, the Smithsonian and a number of other influential partners (National Geographic, Cornell University, the San Diego Zoo, the Discovery Channel, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, etc.) are sponsoring the Earth Optimism Summit. At this event, a prestigious set of international scientists, journalists, government officials, filmmakers, and other experts will present the stories of over 200 environmental successes. The focus of these presentation is what is working: what species have been brought back from near extinction, what vulnerable ecologies have been saved, what beaches have been cleaned up, etc.
According to the co-chair of the Earth Optimism advisory board, the director and chief scientist of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Steve Montfort:
If you just bludgeon people with the message that species are going extinct and the world is in great peril and you don’t give them hope then people get discouraged and they give up. Fundamentally, science tells us that the whole planet is in peril. That isn’t in question any more. Not just climate change—humans have been impacting the planet for millennia. Fragmenting habitat, invasive species, things like that. What are we going to do about it? What works in conservation and why? How can we take it to scale to have a greater impact? From examples that we can find we think there is plenty of reason to be optimistic.
Topics under discussion at the Summit include food, energy efficiency, sustainability, education, and the relationship between the planet’s wellbeing and human health. There will be film screenings and many other resources presented.
While there are numerous free events in the Summit open to the public, they mostly take place in the Washington DC area. For the rest of us, the Summit is live streaming the major presentations (click here to go to that web page).
So if the whole topic of the environment is bumming you out, why not tune into the Earth Optimism Summit? It’s not hopeless after all! Let’s find out what is working and then do more of THAT!
(PS–Don’t forget the Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra are doing a 21-day meditation series on increasing your sense of Hope. Check that out as well if you could use some more encouragement in thinking more positively about our future.)