A Tale of Two Quotes: The Contest Between Hope and Despair at the 2019 San Diego Climate Summit


2019 San Diego Summit attendee, John Atcheson, reflects on his experience during the summit and what gives him hope for the future.

 

While attending the 2019 San Diego Climate Summit at UCSD with fellow members of the Stay Cool for Grandkids organization, I was reminded of two quotes. The first was by sixteen-year old Greta Thurnberg, from a speech given at the Davos Economic Forum. In her conclusion, she said:

“Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

This came to mind because in the opening remarks and throughout the conference, folks were pushing the need for and the importance of hope and optimism, all the while reporting on the increasingly grim reality of the consequences of climate change in San Diego.

You know the litany. Floods, droughts, sea-level rise, climate refugees, wildfires, water shortages, species extinctions, massive die-offs, encroaching tropical diseases, ocean acidification, and epic heat waves (Although coastal San Diego may be spared the worst of these, Not so much can be said for the county’s interior).

And for the most part, the presentations were saying the timetable for these catastrophes was shorter than previously thought.

How could one muster hope or optimism in the face of these grim forecasts, I wondered?

Yet by the end, another quote came to mind, this one by Paul Hawkins. Here’s what he said:

“When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren't pessimistic, you don't understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren't optimistic, you haven't got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.”