Let’s Not Give Up

I recently finished two interesting books that I want to share.

Rising, subtitled Dispatches from the New American Shore, by Elizabeth Rush, is a comprehensive examination of how climate change is affecting sea levels – most significantly in coastal areas, like Louisiana, Florida, Long Island, San Francisco, and others in America.  She provides compelling evidence that, while we cannot stop the trend of rising sea levels, we can take steps to slow the inevitable.  Rush includes many interviews with individuals living in these coastal areas discussing how their lives have been drastically affected by the rising sea. But despite their hardships, many of these residents demonstrate extreme resilience in the face of significant adversity.  While sad, this is also inspirational, for it illustrates our species’ desire to survive difficult circumstances.  Rising also foretells what more and more people will face with rising sea levels. Depending on your time horizon and where you live, you will likely look at the significance of rising sea levels very differently after reading this.

The other book I recently finished is entitled Hope, subtitled A Survival Guide for Trying Times, by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams. This book provides beautiful insights into the life and thought process of one of our great naturalists, Jane Goodall.  She explains, through a series of interviews by Douglas Abrams, what is happening to our world and how we must continue to have hope that our individual actions, and collective actions, can make a difference to our planet.  She also discusses other challenging issues such as poverty, discrimination and injustice within our society, and our need to protect animals and our plants against the ravishes of commercialization and “progress”.  Goodall provides four fundamental reasons as to why she has hope: (1) The Amazing Human Intellect; (2) The Resilience of Nature; (3) The Power of Young People; and (4) The Indomitable Human Spirit.

To say Jane Goodall has gifted insights into what is wrong and what is needed, is a huge understatement. She is an inspirational argument for hope.

It is easy to become discouraged by many issues, especially as we see so many examples of our lack of progress.  It is understandable how the continuing drumbeat of news on these events makes one feel depressed and hopeless.  Goodall provides insights in her book that tell us we are making progress on these and other fronts. And both Goodall and Rush provide personal examples that we won’t be defeated until we lose hope.  In Goodall’s view, hope is not “magical thinking” or simply “optimism”, or “wishful thinking”. Instead, Hope is the “survival trait” within humans which provides us the ability to recognize challenges, and to act, as we can, to address those challenges. It was inspiring to read Hope and Rising, and I recommend these as resources for others to think about how we need to not lose hope, and what we need to do to address current challenges.  These books can be wonderful Christmas gifts for reading and passing on to others.

As I reviewed the U.N.’s most recent reports on climate, and the progress (or lack of) associated with the recent CPAC conference, I found myself depressed with the lack of progress we are making regarding climate change, knowing the predictable impacts to my children and grandchildren.  The science is clear.  My descendants can expect a continuing rise in global temperatures for at least the next 3 decades, with the ensuing results of more flooding, wildfires, more frequent and devastating hurricanes, rising sea levels and many other weather and global impacts.  And this is saddening.  But we can still have hope that our individual actions, in addition to our efforts to elect leaders, who will work to protect our planet, can have a significant impact. 

Now is not the time for us to give up.  Facing terminal cancer, as Jim Valvano, former basketball coach of North Carolina State put it, “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up”. 

Inspirational words to live by!

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