Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit is a fantastic resource for anyone who believes change is both necessary and possible. It’s a refreshing look at activism and trying to build a better world. One that encourages us to celebrate the small victories on this path, and gives examples of when activism altered the course of history including the Mexican Zapatista uprising.
In the world today with the climate and ecological crises barrelling down upon us, a global pandemic, an insect apocalypse underway, massive wealth inequalities and the possibility that we’re heading towards a sixth mass extinction, hope seems to be in very short supply.
So how can we possibly hope when it feels like the world is falling down around us? Solnit says, “Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.” She gives a very apt comparison to the weather. We have supercomputers to predict the weather, but all it takes is some small variation in real life conditions to completely change the weather we experience, from that which was forecast. The future Solnit argues is similar in that there are things we have no way of knowing or predicting at this point that can send us on a completely different trajectory. That uncertainty should give us hope for the future.
Most importantly the book explains why this fight to make the world a better place will not end, but is rather an intergenerational battle to keep things moving in the right direction. “This is Earth,” says Solnit, “It will never be heaven. There will always be cruelty, always be violence, always be destruction… We cannot eliminate all devastation for all time, but we can reduce it, outlaw it, undermine its sources and foundations: these are victories. A better world, yes; a perfect world, never.” For those of us who feel like we have to completely fix the world during the course of our lives, this is a refreshing statement. Our goal is not to fix the impossible, but rather to make positive changes that keep us moving towards a better place. That is fundamentally achievable.
This also reminded me of the book Belonging by Owen Eastwood, where he explained the idea that we are just one link in a chain. A chain that includes all our ancestors up to this point, and all the future generations to come. Our duty is to be a strong link in that chain. And right now that involves working together to overcome pressing global challenges such as the climate crisis, which Solnit covers at the end of the book.
Another topic that stood out for me was the need to cooperate and work together beyond the left/right political divide. History shows us this is the correct thing to do – Abraham Lincoln being a great example of this, as Doris Kearns Goodwin has shown in her work.
There’s a lot to absorb and process in Hope in the Dark, but it’s the exact kind of book we need at this pivotal moment in history.
My new cli-fi children’s picture book is Nanook and the Melting Arctic. Nanook is a caring polar bear who lives in the Arctic. But when his igloo starts melting, Nanook must find a way to save his friends and his home. He knows that the people who can help are also those who’ve caused the problem and he must find a way to convince leaders to act on the climate crisis. You can purchase Nanook from Amazon’s global stores including Amazon UK and Amazon US.