Wherever you get your news, it can be increasingly hard to stay positive. And this can be magnified if you work in our sector. Every day we are subject to a barrage of fear and negativity. From refugee crises and staggering levels of social inequality, to superstorms and plastic poisoning, there are many valid reasons to feel hopeless and helpless.
Add to this, in the last few months we have been digesting a triple whammy on climate change: 12 years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees, global carbon emissions are on the rise again, and oceans are warming 40% faster than we thought.
With this news, we face a renewed sense of urgency: to transform our economic system to one which is regenerative and redistributive by design. And although it is technically possible to achieve this change in the necessary timescale, at the moment it seems politically unlikely.
In light of this, it’s easy to become pessimistic about what the future holds. The size of the task can seem intimidating – I, like many, have moments of despair.
But this makes it even more important than ever that we stay positive. Focusing on positive stories creates a much-needed shift in conversation. It changes the tone from hopelessness to one of optimism. It provides the motivation and mindset by which we can actually attempt to tackle and solve the big problems.
I like the path advocated by Solitaire Townsend in her book, The Happy Hero. She presents a simple solution: stop worrying about the future and start making it better. Optimism and hope are the only mindsets that accept the possibility of a better future, and so, they are the only ones which can change our world for the better.
The alternatives – doom and denial – are as bad as each other. Both lead to the same end: a last-ditch attempt to survive a certain disaster. Almost as bad is being ‘blind’. This means accepting the reality of the problem, but not what is needed to change it. It results in a ‘delayed disaster’. It is arguably where we are today with incremental change, which although a step in the right direction, falls short in terms of scale, scope and pace of change.
The right path is that of the Happy Hero. It is positive and hopeful, as this is the only way to build a better world. That does not mean it’s easy, and it still means radical change. But right now, change seems inevitable anyway. On this path, crucially, the change is sufficient to meet the challenges we face in the timeframe required. And, as Solitaire explores in her book, it turns out that being positive and doing good also has a myriad of benefits on our personal wellbeing – a true win win.
In the past year I have seen plenty of reasons to be positive. There have been shifts in attitudes to sustainability as well as increased action. These stories are often hidden behind the doom and gloom, but I think it is worth taking a moment to reflect on them.
By October last year, 250 of the world’s largest brands had pledged to eradicate plastic waste by 2025, a staggering increase from only 40 in April. Over 500 companies have now publicly committed to reducing their emissions according to science-based targets, in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. And, last year global poverty reached a tipping point, where for the first time in history over 50% of the population is no longer considered poor or vulnerable to poverty – a huge milestone.
I hope these set the tone for a bright and positive kick off to 2019!