The new year is upon us and the forecast looks dreary. From the election of a lying, corrupt megalomaniac to the U.S. Presidency, to the loss of countless beloved cultural figures such as David Bowie, Prince and Carrie Fisher, to 2016 breaking the hottest year on record AGAIN, 2016 has been one sucky year. I think it’s a safe bet to assume that for many of readers, 2017 doesn’t look like it is going to be any better, and many people are dealing with deep anxiety and depression over the coming year. As the world’s carbon emissions rise towards the point of no return, the new Trump Administration is threatening to smash the strides we’ve made towards clean energy, environmental conservation, social progress, and a sustainable future. But in darkness there is always light, and in the face of despair we can find hope and strength. Let the encroaching darkness of 2016 be your wake up call to find the light, share the light, and be a guiding light this year – for your fellow citizens of this planet and for future generations.
The ascendancy of the orange-faced Liar-in-Chief to our nation’s highest office hit me like a kick to the solar plexus. It was breathtakingly, gut-wrenchingly shocking precisely because we have made so much social and environmental progress over the past decade; from improving civil rights for people all around the globe, to a worldwide recognition of the importance of preserving a livable climate for humans on this planet. The contrast between how far we have come, and how far we could fall now, has been illuminated in great detail for the whole world to see. I was pretty complacent in 2014 and 2015. Sure, I am worried about catastrophic climate change, and the ongoing 6th mass-extinction event that could destroy most of the life on this planet. But I took for granted that most of the world’s people, leaders, and governments accepted that climate change is something that we want to try to stop, even if there isn’t always consensus on how best to proceed. I thought that climate-change-denialists were primarily fossil-fuel-funded cynics or relegated to a sliver of right wing ideologues who were just the loudest trolls on Twitter and in the comments section on YouTube. I figured that the reality of our changing climate would eventually catch up with those denialists, gradually eroding their lies and their power over time, as we shift to a more renewable, just and resilient society.
November and December of this past year have been an epiphany for me. I now realize that there is a deeper darkness corroding our society than just the self-interested pursuit of money and power by fossil fuel barons like the Koch brothers, Vladimir Putin and their ilk. In addition to the self-interested cynics who are trying to keep the oil flowing to line their pocketbooks, are groups of people attacking our society through the guise of religion and their very aim is apocalyptic death and destruction. These groups, comprised of fatalistic people from all faiths, are not chasing money and worldly goods – they actually want to bring about the end of the world. ISIS (the so-called ‘Islamic State’) is just one of the many apocalypse-fixated death cults actively working to try to bring about Armageddon through their actions. Why do I bring this up? Because people who subscribe to an apocalyptic “end-times” world view have no interested in taking care of the planet we live on right now, or the people who inhabit it. Humanity, people and planet are considered mere collateral damage in this type of dangerous, apocalyptic ideology.
Those of us who are committed to working in the physical world and who care deeply about fixing the problems in our societies and our environment are up against dangerous enemies that unite in their desire for destruction: greed, cynicism and apathy. Against such odds, will we be able to achieve any positive goals? It is clear that dark times lie ahead for those who seek truth, light and justice. But it is precisely in the darkest nights that the stars can be seen most clearly. The recent world events have shattered complacency, and cast light on the shadows that were formerly hiding in corners and in dark spaces, bringing our mission into stark clarity. I know now what I need to be doing in 2017, and it is working much harder than I ever have before to share truth, light and hope. When the post-election depression hit me in November I kept coming back to a Martin Luther King Junior quote that really speaks to me. I hope it is helpful for anyone else who is having a hard time finding hope, direction, or a place for optimism:
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Junior
Though there is much darkness in this world, there is also much light, and the contrast couldn’t be more clear right now. For me this brings clarity to my mission, and I hope that light will guide you in this coming year as well.
For the past 8 years I’ve read, reported, and published articles on climate change – but nothing compares to seeing it firsthand. In 2016 I took an amazing opportunity to travel around the world – and the perspective I’ve gained is humbling. I’ve seen glaciers melt and collapse before my eyes in Patagonia, I’ve dived through bleached coral reefs in Southeast Asia, and I’ve weathered record high temperatures and air pollution indexes over three continents. Climate change is happening before our eyes – and my resolution is to make this truth known, to hold those in power accountable, and to take them to task when they fail to deliver on policies that secure a sustainable future.
I’m not going to lie. Donald Trump’s election worries me deeply; not only has he proved to be incendiary, irrational, misogynistic, and racist, but his incoming cabinet is decidedly anti-progressive. Just four years could set back our country’s gains decades, and we’ll take the rest of the planet with us. But his election has also had a positive outcome. With every lie and racist rant comes a flood of resistance. There are a great number of people both in the US and abroad who do not support racism and who are willing to put in the time and effort to protect our planet. My resolution is simply to stay engaged and to resist apathy. I live and work in the Middle East, where the majority of people I meet are warm, kind, friendly and hospitable – not to mention educated and sophisticated. Wherever possible, I hope to act as a cultural bridge, to demonstrate that people of different colors and creeds absolutely can live together in harmony.
The results of the 2016 election left us distraught and concerned for the future of the environment, and while it’s easy to feel helpless in situations like this, I am feeling quite the opposite. If anything, this year has made me realize how critical it is for each person to become a voice for change, not only on social media, but in their local community. This year I plan to make a greater effort to become more involved in my local environmental coalitions, community forums, and protests. I encourage everyone to do the same and to never give up hope.
I’m generally proud of the steps that I take every day to live a conscious lifestyle, but for 2017, I’m hoping to make some progress in the least green area of my life: my water usage. From taking shorter showers to collecting rainwater to use for my garden, there are plenty of ways for me to cut down on my consumption of this precious resource. I’d also like to be more vocal about my eco-beliefs around my friends and family this year. I’m usually a total enabler when it comes to letting my loved ones do whatever is easiest for them, but this year, I plan on ditching my easygoing persona and being more of an advocate for the environment (hopefully by leading by example instead of being overtly naggy).
The average American throws out 65 pounds of clothing a year and fast fashion is the second dirtiest industry after the oil industry. My resolution for 2017 (and every year that follows) is to only buy clothing if it’s second hand. By recycling or rewearing clothes that would otherwise end up in the landfill, you can take a stand against an industry that promotes a disposable attitude towards clothes, uses jaw dropping amounts of water, and releases staggering amounts of toxic dyes, pesticides, and carbon dioxide into the environment.
If vintage or thrift shopping isn’t your jam (I personally don’t have the patience to dig through musty smelling disorganized bins) there are dozens of apps that turn selling or shopping used clothes into a breeze. Poshmark and Like Twice are both intuitive and user friendly enough for beginners in the used clothes space. Selling or shopping for more specialized items, such as kid’s clothes (Totspot), luxury consignment pieces (The RealReal), or even maternity clothes (Thredup) can also be done in a snap with so many resources available online.
Charlie is a writer and operations assistant for Inhabitat. She lived in Montreal, Paris, Bangkok, and various cities throughout the US and fell in love with the planet and writing about her travels at a young age.
We will never come together to ensure a livable climate for future generations as long as half the US population denies that there is even a problem in the first place. Many of us in the climate change community are too insulated from our fellow Americans who don’t understand the science of how human activity is altering the climate system. That is how Donald Trump, the the only world leader who denies climate change, and the Republican Party, the only major political party in the world that denies climate change, just got elected. I resolve to reach out to Trump voters. To listen to their concerns and explain to them what I know of the scientific consensus on man-made global warming and the solutions to mitigating and adapting to climate change that will heal the environment and also boost our economy.
After a hellish 2016, marked by many losses and disappointments, I plan on pouring my energy into fighting for a more sustainable and compassionate future. I will spend time raising awareness and educating students about the impact of their food choices with the Ethical Choices Program, protesting injustices through grassroots organization, and continuing to use my voice – both verbal and written – to defend the voiceless.
My resolution for 2017 is to support, through my writing and my daily life, small organizations and businesses that make a big difference. Now more than ever, it is important to build resilient, empathetic communities that are able to take action to build a better world. I resolve to spend my resources of time, money, and energy with a focus on empowering local positive change.
My resolution for 2017 is to reduce food waste at home by becoming self sufficient in salad. I’ll be celebrating the new year by planting for a new look green kitchen using Bulbo LED lights which will allow for year round production of vital greens.