When the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report told us that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 in order to limit global warming, I called my best friend and told her it’s time to get serious about the fact we are living during “the end.” As we discussed all the life changes that we should be making as a result, I realized I needed something else in that moment: to simply hear her voice, feel joy at hearing her laugh, and know deep down that, yes, the world is very complicated, challenging, and hurtful right now, but having moments with loved ones where we are laughing over the phone about “end times” does, in fact, generate hope.
If you’re conscious of climate crises news, you know there isn’t much to feel hopeful about. The growing climate-fueled disasters—wildfires, hurricanes, droughts—are apocalyptic. Oil companies continue to profit from the suffering and displacement of those in need, the rising sea levels are devastating ecosystems, and activists are self-immolating in protest. The recent Supreme Court decision to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority on emissions is infuriating. A recent study showed that eco-anxiety is causing significant mental health concerns for youth across the world.
I won’t tell you that everything will be okay. Honestly, it has never been okay for many of us, a reality which our society has normalized. We have normalized mass death due to COVID-19, systemic racism, and war. We have collectively normalized poverty, inequality, and greed.
“We can learn a great deal from communities who have faced “end times” over and over—and survived through support and love for one another.”
With these realities, neither you nor I are deserving of comfort. But we are deserving of hope and growth. We can learn a great deal from communities who have faced “end times” over and over—and survived through support and love for one another.
As shepherds of the Earth, Indigenous people have been living through apocalypses for a long time—genocide, colonization, imperialism, and much more. My ancestors remind me of the generations who have found hope through cultures of care and community and survived the end of the world over and over again.
In Uchināguchi (Okinawan language) we have a famous saying: “Nuchi du Takara.” In its simplest translation it means “life is a treasure.” The phrase was first used by our last king, Shō Tai, in 1879, and today it is used throughout our peace movements and for Indigenous self-determination. Nuchi du Takara means a knowingness that there is power in our interconnectedness, and we must protect, defend, and fiercely hold it close. In my heart, it sits as a reminder of our collective duty to care for one another. My survival and ability to thrive means I must practice radical care for life, and through this care is the reason to hope.
“When we’re living within these existentially foreboding times, our first response to the harm and violence around us must be to build kinship with one another.”
When we’re living within these existentially foreboding times, our first response to the harm and violence around us must be to build kinship with one another. Community building offers radical hope. It reminds us that despite a world filled with trauma, violence, greed, and badness of many kinds, we’re able to claim immense power by knowing that there is life worth fighting for. When we build resilient relationships with each other, we build networks that the system cannot destroy. When we actively choose to fight for life, we’re claiming what cannot be taken from us: hope.
We all have histories and futures of resiliency during the bleakest of times. If you take a moment to pause and name some people, experiences, or things you care for, what arises in you are reasons for hope, reasons to fight for the treasure that is life.
We will not win many critical climate battles; in fact, we’ve already lost major ones. However, we will win some battles in the future, and those wins will matter. We may not reach goals or milestones by certain deadlines, but we will fight for one another, we will love radically, we will fill our hearts with experiences of immense joy, and we will fight fiercely for the beauty of another sunrise so that we can hear the laughter of those we love. As the great bell hooks wrote, “Love is an action, never simply a feeling.”
“To prevail in our hope, we will need to tear down the harmful systems and institutions we have grown accustomed to.”
Harder things will come, and at times the world will get uglier. We will be challenged. To prevail in our hope, we will need to tear down the harmful systems and institutions we have grown accustomed to. We are also going to continue to bear witness to immense loss. None of this is easy, yet if we practice staying present in building communities of genuine love and care, we will build where we tear down, we will heal where we mourn, we will grow where we crumble, and we will keep loving fiercely.
Things are not okay. Every moment is now an important time to dig down for—and hold onto—a love deeper than you know, and there you will find the strength to fight for hope. And, if all feels lost, act upon Nuchi du Takara, and remember that where we find love, we find the purpose to fight for one another—and that makes our collective survival more possible for every precious minute of our collective existence. After all, we must remember that each of us has a knowingness that life is a treasure.