Elaine Kihara
Retired College Academic Advisor
Santa Cruz, California, United States

Hope hard, work harder

“We are ecstatic. We are hopeful. But this very hopefulness can be dangerous.”

December 2015. The improbable has happened. Decades of dedication and persistence by some of our generation's best minds and hearts, the courage of those empowered to make decisions, and the voices of tens of millions gave us a more successful outcome to the Paris Climate Change Summit than we'd hoped for.

So many countries, most notably, the U.S. and China, have surprised us with last-minute carbon reduction goals and financial commitments that finally acknowledged the perilousness of our situation. They’ve recognized that seriously addressing climate change is a necessary step towards achieving such essentials as food security, water availability, poverty reduction, climate resistance, health, energy access, and biodiversity.

We are ecstatic. We are hopeful. But this very hopefulness can be dangerous.

Hope is essential. We need it to keep going, to persist. But it can also be a double-edged sword. It can serve as a security blanket. It can become a substitute for action and a vehicle for denial.

Until now, many of us in the U.S. hoped that being responsible about our energy consumption—speaking out, signing petitions, writing letters urging sane energy practices, laws—would preserve the health and richness of our planet. We couldn't imagine that our government would ignore the ample evidence that our planet was in peril, that it would allow fossil fuel corporations to set their own terms, or that it would pretend that the planet could sustain such abuse and neglect. But we were wrong. (Our government has disappointed us more often than not up until this point.) What we'd been doing was not nearly enough; and we'd allowed things to deteriorate so far that it may not be possible to recover.

Despite the great news from Paris, our experience with our government is that we cannot just breathe a sigh of relief. We hope that our and all other governments deliver on their commitments, but we have to remain vigilant and outspoken, and demand that they carry through on their commitments.

We must apologize deeply and sincerely for what we have left you. I don’t know what kind of world you are having to deal with; I fear that it's not as breathtakingly beautiful, verdant, and soul-enriching as the one that we know.

I encourage you to continue to hope—but to never believe that hope is enough, to trust cautiously, to be vigilant, bold, to question, and to live purposeful, kind, and loving lives.