Sometimes a person can get unaccountably optimistic.
A lifelong Pollyana until about 7:35 p.m. on Nov. 8, 2016, I could be happy-go-lucky with the best of them. People are starving? Fortunately, in the form of berries and prickly pears, food grows by the roads, was my annoying attitude much of the time.
Sobered up since then, of course. Rolled with the punches. But, still. The punches.
Last week I returned to that power-of-positive-thinking nonsense in a Crazytown way because of news about, of all things, the subject easiest to be in a deadly funk about, the environment.
The way we’ve wrecked the planet. This end-of-days business. End of nights, if it comes to that. Or at least nights on which it’s cool enough to get a little shut-eye.
First it was the California patriotism stirred in me by the Global Climate Action Summit hosted late last week by Jerry Brown as one of the last acts of his last term of governor. Since Jerry has been governor of our state for what seems the entire time I have been alive, that’s a lot of acts.
But, really, what happy chutzpah that showed. And when you’re Jerry’s age, why wait? Given a science-denying president who may even be in power until 2021, unless the Moscow mob calls in its chits, you don’t just sit around waiting until the little dark age is over. You act. If the leader of the nation reneges on all our worldwide deals to cut back just a tad on the carbon emissions, you invite world political and scientific leaders to San Francisco, not a bad place to be in late summer, where, over martinis and sand dabs, you make some deals in the Bear Republic, prepping for a couple of years from now when a new White House will start making sense.
You work from a more local level, because local is where it also happens. Brown and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state announced on behalf of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which includes Oregon and British Columbia a new effort to strengthen climate resilience in our continent’s West, which is currently on fire. Twenty-seven cities from around the world showed how they have moved on from peak greenhouse-gas emissions over the last five years by achieving at least a 10 percent reduction at the same time as their economies and populations have grown. It’d be better to have support from a responsible national government. But we’ll keep doing the right thing until it skulks off.
Which is the time former NASA scientist James Hansen, now retired from the government and working full-time on saving his grandchildren’s generation, is gearing up to begin acting in. He’s got plans to begin the nation’s work on sustainability in earnest come 2021; meanwhile, along with his oldest grandchild, Sophie, he’s suing the federal government because the “older generation is now burning the fossil fuels, getting the benefits, and wittingly leaving a mess for young people to try to clean up. As Sophie says: ‘that’s not fair.’”
No fair indeed. And, speaking of marvelously optimistic, action-oriented young people, there’s Boyan Slat, the 24-year-old Dutch college dropout who just sailed out the Golden Gate on his way to that giant plastic-waste island in the Pacific with a real plan to, rather than bemoan it, clean it up. The kid got this passion when he went snorkeling in Greece as a teen only to find the Adriatic filled more with poly bags than with porpoises. So he raised more than $30 million over five years and now has a big ocean-cleaning machine he’s going to put to work.
And then Friday I saw the story in the Times about the smiling preschool teacher, Jill Johnson, who beginning last summer began picking up all those plastic buckets kids and their parents leave on the sand at Newport Beach. One Saturday she found 25 shovels. What a waste. How often I stumble over that junk as I hit the surf. But Johnson is doing something about it: A simple movement to not bring those toys at all. There’s plenty to do at the beach. “I kind of feel like I’ve found my problem I’d like to solve, even though I’m not a kid anymore,” she said.
My kind of Pollyana.
Larry Wilson is on the Southern California News Group editorial board. firstname.lastname@example.org
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