By Eve Frankel
My youngest son left for college this fall, leaving my husband and I empty nesters for the first time. As I eagerly await the return of my children for Thanksgiving, I am already preparing myself for the kitchen table conversations about how our climate crisis is shaping their lives in dramatic and unexpected ways.
My kids spent their high school years demanding climate action through youth marches. But as they have grown, so have climate impacts, along with my children’s anxiety about what the future has in store. The action they have demanded has come in fits and starts, often depending on fickle political winds, all while the headlines mount: fires, hurricanes, floods.
As a mother, it is hard to watch their precarious optimism for climate action falter. It forces me to focus on the opportunities rather than the challenges so that I can share with them stories of hope to combat their mounting sense of despair. Because when I look for them, signs of progress and hope are all around us.
NO LONGER ABSTRACT
The wildfire smoke, life-threatening heat, destructive floods, and subsequent spikes in insurance premiums is waking the average person up to the fact that climate change is indisputably here. I have witnessed Vermonters coming together this summer to confront the hard work of creating flood-safe communities with an urgency and practicality that is finally putting to rest the inaccurate narratives that disastrous flooding events only occur once a century, or that straightening and damming rivers can out-engineer nature. This recognition gives me hope.
EQUITY AND JUSTICE PRIORITIZED
Climate impacts may be considered inconveniences for some, but the most vulnerable communities have long felt the consequences of our dependence on fossil fuels and their voices have historically been muted. While we have a long journey ahead in making equity and justice a central pillar of climate progress, the shift is happening among nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and even on the funding landscape, as equity is at last being integrated into climate action efforts. This new focus gives me hope.
CLIMATE POLICY SPURS PROGRESS
Since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law, more than 170,000 jobs have been created, and an additional 1.5 million jobs are expected to be added over the next decade. These investments are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 1 billion tons in 2030. In Vermont, we recently passed the Biodiversity Protection and Community Resilience Act, creating a road map for how we conserve 30% of our lands and waters by 2030 and reaping the co-benefit of creating a more climate-resilient state. Policy progress gives me hope.
CLIMATE SOLUTIONS IN NATURE
While we need to continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must also strive to remain nature positive. By doing so we can reduce up to a third of our global emissions by 2030. Efforts such as improved forest management, installing bioswales and rain gardens, and wetland restoration can increase carbon storage while improving water quality and increasing flood resilience. Investing in nature is a cost-effective climate solution with myriad benefits. Nature gives me hope.
YOUTH LEAD THE CHANGE
The younger generation, whose future is overshadowed by climate change, are also the ones mobilizing in greatest numbers to alter our climate trajectory. Polling shows that young voters across party lines list climate as a top issue. The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found nearly 60% of Americans ages 18 to 29 believe climate change should be a funding and policy priority. A larger group, 64%, believe climate change is a major threat, and 72% responded that climate change is affecting their local community. As climate issues continue to get elevated by the younger generation, bolder climate action is not far behind. The tenacity of youth gives me hope.
While not everyone has a front row seat to climate action, progress is being made. There has never been a more important time to support the work or join the movement. While we may not always agree on how we are going to reach our goals, there is room for a panoply of approaches if we can agree that by safeguarding our natural communities, we will save our human ones. And that inspires me with enough hope to work each day on behalf of people and our planet.
Frankel lives in Waitsfield.