What will it take to provide real hope for young people?

Gaines, Andrew | March 14, 2017 | Leave a Comment Download as PDF

Handing over globe iStock_000015516936_Small (2)

Schoolchildren learn about Antarctic ice shelves and global warming. Disturbing stuff.

On current trends they will certainly experience traumatic societal disruption as global food supplies collapse and ever more violence emerges. Many young people already experience acute despair, and some young women and families do not want to bring children into the world because they fear what is coming. It was like this when the threat of nuclear war was on everyone’s mind.

Despair destroys the spirit. What might possibly give young people realistic hope?

I think there is only one thing. Young people will have hope when they see that society as a whole is passionately committed to reversing global warming and other trends (including arms build-up), and successfully transitioning to a life-sustaining society.

How would they know that this commitment exists?

Just as in wartime everyone speaks about the war, so people everywhere would be talking about transitioning to a life-sustaining society. Politicians would affirm this as our goal (rather than economic increase). They would justify policy decisions on the basis of their contribution to the transition to a life-sustaining society.

Both NGOs and businesses would frame their work as a contribution to the Great Transition to a life-sustaining society. Some would advertise their commitment. The media would regularly report on improvements in environmental indicators (while noting how much more we have to do).

Since a profound cultural shift is required, more resources would go into fostering personal creativity, inner well-being and community connection. Collectively we must become the kind of people who can create and enjoy a life-sustaining society,

Cultivating inner resources of well-being and joy in life would greatly reduce people’s dependency on material things for a sense of satisfaction and self-worth, and thus reduce compulsive excess consumption.

In time, CO2 levels would start to decline and environmental statistics improve. The mass media would report that we are making progress in transitioning to a life-sustaining society. At this point hope would seem realistic.

The ultimate test of effectiveness

Ultimately, the test is: are we living within planetary boundaries? Have we evolved a society that does is best to take care of people, communities and the environment? If so, we would have, not a new world order, but simply a new world. It will be much more loving than the world we now experience.

How might we act to make hope realistic for young people?

By masses of us communicating through our networks to inspire mainstream commitment to transitioning to a life-sustaining society.

Each of us can do this through our own initiative. Ready-to-use communication tools are at www.GreatTransitionInitiative.net (aka Inspiring Transition).

It’s time to think big. Although the MAHB network is not huge in absolute terms, our combined connections reach a broad and global audience.

The MAHB Blog is a venture of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere. Questions should be directed to joan@mahbonline.org

MAHB Blog: https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/realistic-hope/

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The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • Dr Bob Rich

    Andrew, I agree with you, and also with all the negative comments below.
    The negatives are the starting point: where we are. You are the goal: where we need to go. Both are correct.
    We need a global, concerted effort to stop the whole planet becoming Trumpistan.

  • tom

    I see very few signs that society gives a damn about its own survival. Perhaps it’s time for young people to take the future into their own hands and create their own vision without waiting for us.

    • Andrew Gaines

      Hmm. Outwardly Tom, I would agree. But underneath there is a great wave of concern and change going on. You might look at Paul Hawken’s Bioneers talk about Blessed Unrest on YouTube, and Naomi Klein’s more recent book This Change is Everything.

      Children need adult leadership. Obviously you care. This is

  • Dana Visalli

    I personally do not use the word ‘hope’ nor the word ‘believe.’ The social mindset that Andrew alludes to is 99% absent in our mainstream culture; most ‘liberals’ are concerned about health care but not about the US military-insanity complex; in fact they pay for it. The great line emerged from a documentary on Paul Watson of Sea Shepherds (I think it was his lawyer who said it), ‘Lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for.’ A child raised with a fullness of spirit will engage the world, no matter what.

    • Andrew Gaines

      Indeed, we are in a trance about the US military-insanity
      complex. Breaking through these other trances, and orienting people to the
      reality of what is going on, is not easy.

      I am committed to the well-being of coming generations, so I
      take it on. Are you willing to have a go?

  • Mike Hanauer

    I believe adults and children must see real progress on two overarching issues:

    1. Special Interests controlling our government and the media, which makes it impossible to pass any meaningful legislation. Good government must be able to create strategy for where our society should be heading and plans to get there for the common good of the people, future people, and the planet. Private companies may fill a role to provide goods and services to fulfill that strategy within the plans.
    … and
    2. Our culture of looking to (eternal) growth is the SOURCE of most of our problems, NOT the solution. The USA doubles its GDP every 40 years and doubles its population every 60 years. Growth overwhelms all else we try to do to help the environment and our society and to achieve true sustainability. Climate Change is one of the many symptoms, as is crowding, overfishing, pollution, the need for franken foods and the anthropocene. So is income inequality, loss of quality-of-life, and always more revenue needed to accommodate quantity rather than quality.

    To me, these two overarching issues should get way more attention than they do get – by both individuals and organizations.

    All else, IMHO, is to a large extent a symptom of these two overarching issues. Is your organization including these overarching issues in its program? Probably not – unless you put on the pressure!

    • Andrew Gaines

      The Great Transition Initiative is not an organization in
      the usual sense. It is a global movement
      of cultural change agents devoted to transitioning to a life-sustaining

      We champion ‘whole system change’, which means affecting all
      the major drivers that make global warming and other environmental/social
      issues worse. The two items you mentioned are among the major drivers, so we
      are in agreement!

      I invite you to check out the article Understanding Whole System Change (https://app.box.com/s/25hvjk3wz14ynl8zzhrojzwtlr0v8ycf),
      or Our Kitchen Table Conversations training module on Big Picture Drivers of Global Warming (https://youtu.be/P_tFQRB1U7A).

      The challenge we are addressing ‘how to engage the
      unengaged?’. I would be pleased if you would investigate our approach in more
      depth. And if it makes sense to you, play a role yourself.



      Andrew Gaines
      andrew.gaines [@]inspiringtransition.net

      Accelerating the Great Transition to a life-sustaining society!

      • Rob Harding

        Thank you, Andrew. It’s certainly time to think big. Great article, and I appreciate the work of Inspiring Transition. I hadn’t seen the KTC training video yet so thank you for sharing.

        I wonder – has anyone who is affiliated with Inspiring Transition contacted Dick Smith regarding his $1 million Wilberforce Award?

        I’m convinced that an effective communication strategy for engaging the unengaged is an essential element of driving a voluntary transition to a life-sustaining society that’s not dependent on perpetual growth – growth of the population, growth of the economy, and growth of resource consumption including energy. That being said, the Inspiring Transition movement appears to be a worthy cause to receive such funding.

        I plan to try contacting Dick Smith next month with the goal of earning the Wilberforce Award so that I can begin advocating for such a transition on a full-time basis. I’m 29 years old for a couple more months so I’m still eligible. I met with Paul Ehrlich this week to discuss this idea and earned his support so I’m excited to try.

        One more question for you – are you familiar with David Saddington? He would be an excellent person for you to work with to pursue the goal of more widely communicating Inspiring Transition’s core messaging and to help inspire bold action. He’s 24 years old and has been a climate change communicator for over a decade. Pretty amazing.

        Here’s the link to his website & bio: https://www.davidsaddington.co.uk/bio

        I’ll continue to participate as well so perhaps we can work together at some point.


        • Andrew Gaines

          Hi Rob − Great to hear from you! I look forward to being
          great allies! You certainly have my blessing to go for the Wilberforce prize, and use any of the materials on the Inspiring Transition website, or to represent yourself to Dick Smith as representing Inspiring Transition.

          You’re probably aware that both Tellus Institute and myself
          are championing a Great Transition Initiative. Tellus
          Institute’s Great Transition Initiative is an academic think tank. Our Great Transition Initiative is a citizen-led educational movement for inspiring intelligent mainstream commitment to transitioning to a life-sustaining society. Philosophically we are in complete alignment.

          I think that would be good for us to have a Skype
          conversation; my Skype name is andrewgoodhumour. I live in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney.



          Andrew Gaines

          +61 2 8005-8382
          Skype: andrewgoodhumour
          Accelerating the Great Transition to a life-sustaining society!