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Three Reasons to Be Hopeful for Nature

As I screen Love Thy Nature and talk to audiences across the US and around the globe, the most common concern people voice is whether we have a shot at protecting what is left of our natural world – for its own sake, our own and our children’s. Here are 3 key points we should all keep in mind:

1. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Whether you were among the millions of people around the world who marched for love and justice on January 21st, or just witnessed it through the media, you might have felt a healthy dose of optimism. The long term advances in our history happen in the direction of the values that unite us as people: respect, inclusion, freedom, equality and reason.

When we look at the big picture, it was nearly 2,600 years ago that thinkers in Athens birthed democracy – the “radical” idea rulers feared would turn their society into chaos; it was only 152 years ago that slavery was abolished in the US; only 97 years ago that women won the right to vote; and only a year and a half ago that the US Supreme Court ruled that same sex couples were allowed to marry.

In this “evolution” of our human mind set, it seems only natural that we will also embrace the rights of children – to inherit a livable planet; the rights of nature – where wild habitats are protected from devastation; the rights of animals to be humanely treated; and the rights of all people to not only have access to pure air, and clean water, but also to enjoy protected natural places in their own communities.

If this seems optimistic, we might bear in mind Dr. King’s quote (above) and Helen Keller’s, who said “no pessimist has ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to uncharted lands, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” Helen was the first deaf-blind person to ever earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

We just have to roll up our sleeves and do the work lined up for us on the right side of history.

2. The renewable energy revolution is here to stay

Clean energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels in the majority of US states and the majority of countries. More people are employed in the clean energy sector than the fossil fuels sector. Reuters reports that the cost of building large scale solar plants has dropped by as much as 40% since 2010. China is now the top solar energy generator and just announced that it will invest $361 billion into renewable energy generation by 2020.

Even though the US is attempting to revive the fossil fuel energy sector, a sea of investors and innovators have their gaze on the extraordinary potential of a clean future – one that not only honors the well being of new generations (and our planet) but also holds the key to the most cutting edge biomimetic and job-filled technological revolution.

3. Nature is a survivor

We’ve seen plants and trees cracking their way through dense concrete and species resurface from the brink. Once in the endangered species list, the bald eagle went from only 487 pairs in 1963 to about 10,000 pairs by 2006 in the lower 48 US states, thanks to restoration efforts including DDT bans (there are no current numbers as many states decided that yearly surveys are no longer needed.)

Also, large swaths of destroyed habitats have come back to life. After Cabo Pulmo (Mexico) was severely depleted by overfishing, fishermen, conservationists and local officials joined forces to help restore it. And in just 10 years, this devastated area rebounded with a biomass increase of 460%! It is now an abundant marine ecosystem – its coral reef is home to turtles, manta rays, large schools of fish, sharks and humpback whales. Marine biologist Sylvia Earle included it in the list of marine “Hope Spots.”

The work of protecting our natural world is needed more than ever and one way to ignite hope is to leap outdoors with friends and kids and engage in nature restoration projects. So, whether it’s volunteering to clean up a beach, planting trees in a grey neighborhood, or creating an organic garden, seeing the power and wonder of nature’s restoration is an awe-inspiring way to lift our spirits, renew our sense of hope, and cultivate gratitude.

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