In a Word: Radical Hope

Author:

Category:

In the summer of 2005, I sat across a table in a restaurant with my friend. We had just heard that Canada, where we both lived, had legalized gay marriage. My friend had marched, petitioned, lobbied for many years, though he insisted he never planned to marry. “We worked so long for this,” he said. “And then …” He shook his head. “It’s like it happened overnight.”

I think of that exchange often when I join those working so hard to address the climate crisis. We march, we petition, we lobby. And then … one day, we hear that Harvard has agreed to divest from fossil fuels. That a species is off the endangered list. That renewables are powering entire countries. And though they might seem like small victories, they point to the possible. They point toward a future that we can’t yet see, can scarcely imagine.

The philosopher Jonathan Lear calls this “radical hope.” Radical hope requires that we summon the ability to imagine solutions, despite what’s happening around us. Radical hope is not to be confused with more passive optimism. As Lear puts it, “Radical hope anticipates a good,” although we may not yet be able to conceive of how that hope will take shape. Radical hope is not the stuff of pithy phrases or bromides, rather it asks us to exhibit courage and flexibility and a creativity to respond to challenges. To see radical hope in action, look no further than Greta Thunberg, the Sunrise Movement, Indigenous water protectors, and so many others who refuse to give in. 

Radical hope is not about ignoring the grief and fear I and, perhaps, you feel as we absorb the magnitude of the climate crisis. But I take courage in the work being done by these activists, young and old — those who, in Lear’s words, “facilitate a creative and appropriate response to the world’s challenges.” Feeling both the fear and the promise is what radical hope is. It reminds us that our world continues to hold surprises. Victories that are small until, suddenly, they are big.

Latest Stories

POLL: Would You Buy Solar from Ikea?

Would you be more likely to purchase solar panels if they were available at a large...

Dear Dot: Any Ideas for Earth-Friendly Wrapping Paper?

Dear Dot, My 10-year-old daughter is very eco-conscious and doesn’t want her gifts wrapped in anything that...

Humans in Bird Costumes Bring Whooping Cranes Back to Louisiana’s Wetlands

Eva Szyszkoski grew up on a farm on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where her family always had...

RECIPE: Chicken Tikka Masala

Everyone loves Nicole Cabot’s slow-cooked tikka masala, perfectly spiced with fork-tender pieces of chicken. It can...

RECIPE: Roasted Apple, Pear, and Beet Salad

This is the time of year to focus on buying and eating root vegetables like beets....

RECIPE: Roasted Squash and Chestnut Tart

This savory tart is a colorful festival of autumnal flavors and a portable option to bring...

Mr. Fix-it: How to Insulate Your Attic (And Why You Should)

Mr. Fix-it helps you get more life out of your stuff. Why buy something new if...
Leslie Garrett
Leslie Garrett
Leslie Garrett is a journalist and the Editorial Director of Bluedot, Inc. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, and more. She is the author of more than 15 books, including The Virtuous Consumer, a book on living more sustainably. Leslie lives most of the year in Canada with her husband, three children, three dogs and three cats. She is building a home on Martha's Vineyard.

Read More

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here