Send your question to Umbra!

Q. Dear Umbra,

I am an up-and-coming millennial looking at this world and I often wonder — is there hope for us on this planet? I realize this is a loaded question, but I was after your honest opinion as someone who has been at this longer than me and might have seen a few things. Thank you.

Boston, Mass.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Don't give up yet!

ShutterstockDon’t give up yet!

A. Dearest LL,

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Might have seen a few things? Why just this morning I saw a pair of wild turkeys walking down the middle of the street as if they owned the place. But those are probably not the things you mean.

I appreciate loaded questions, especially from up-and-coming millennials such as yourself. Now for my little secret: I am by nature hopeful. I have to be, since I spend my days encouraging people to make greener choices and be wiser citizens of the planet. If I thought they weren’t following through, or that their personal and political actions didn’t matter, my entire reason for being would evapotranspirate, wouldn’t it? Nobody wants to see what I look like as a vapor.

But even the most hopeful among us must acknowledge that we are, to use a technical term, in deep doo-doo. Climate change is here, it’s real, and it’s wreaking havoc. We no longer have time to fiddle around. As my colleague David Roberts puts it, we do something or we’re screwed. (I encourage you to take some time to watch David’s delightful video elaborating on this point.)

The good news is, people are doing things. Stroll with me for a moment down the Boulevard of Maybe We’ll Be OK After All, where we find a few reasons to be optimistic:

  • The world is full of innovation. Driverless cars? Yes. Pee-powered generator? Absolutely. Soup pot that charges your cell phone? Why not. The mix of human ingenuity and accessible technology is making this century of ours a pretty astonishing one, and smart people are working hard on ideas for stabilizing the climate, from energy storage to geoengineering. Though we humans have a propensity to really futz things up, we are also pretty committed to the idea of surviving as a species. Turns out that can be an excellent motivator.

Those are just a few hopeful signs — perhaps your fellow readers will chime in with others. And you, LL, give me hope, because you’re thinking about the mess we’re in. Keep thinking, keep speaking up, keep doing what you can — and let’s keep hope alive. Otherwise, we’re sunk.