The cold, dreary lakeside weather didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of several dozen local climate activists as they participated in a multi-generational event Sunday afternoon at the Arrington Lagoon Picnic Shelter.
The event, Climate Hope, was primarily organized by E-Town Sunrise, a student group at Evanston Township High School.
Also participating were representatives from other organizations concerned with climate change, such as Climate Action Evanston and Chicago Area Peace Action.
E-Town Sunrise is part of the national “Sunrise” youth climate action movement.
Milo Slevin, an ETHS senior, is a coordinator for E-town Sunrise. Slevin says the group has made significant contributions to local climate policy, even giving significant support to the city’s recent efforts to hire a climate coordinator as part of its sustainability program.
“It’s so easy to be petrified by fear and kind of avoid the problem…we’re trying to instill hope,” Slevin said. He added that the events like Climate Hope build a climate community and “make people want to do more,” to slow down negative forces that imperil the climate.
Jessy Bradish, who also helped organize Climate Hope, echoed the theme of promoting encouragement to those who are disheartened about the state of the climate, but feel powerless to improve it.
Bradish, who is a board member of Climate Action Evanston, said that around 9% of Americans have a severe fear of climate failure. Despite the dire recent news regarding climate issues, Bradish said “we have to have hope…we have to believe we can win.”
Mary Griswold, a member of Chicago Area Peace Action’s climate subgroup, has advice for young people who feel helpless and overwhelmed by the existential crisis climate degradation presents: “don’t get depressed, get motivated.”
She acknowledged that young people have the biggest stake in seeking a healthier climate. But she also said that “they’re not thinking…this is going to work out.” So, she and other older activists are doing what they can to help younger activists maintain a positive outlook so that they might take tangible action toward sustaining a livable climate.
Griswold said that the media needs to be clearer about how peoples’ everyday choices affect the climate. Simple actions such as choosing to walk more instead of driving everywhere create a positive impact on the climate.
Another choice that removes stress from the environment and the overall climate is the choice to fix things instead of throwing them away.
Evanston’s Repair Café makes that choice easier by repairing (or showing people how to repair) broken items that people would probably otherwise throw away, creating additional fodder for the local landfill.
Beatriz Echeverria, an organizer of the Repair Café, which is held several times a month in conjunction with Climate Action Evanston (for more information visit Evanston Public Library’s website at www.epl.org), said that “climate hope is not only about attitude, but about taking action.”
Ruth Debono, a member of Fossil Free, a Northwestern University climate activist group, said that “events like this are important” because they allow those concerned, or even startled, by recent climate events to “connect with each other and build hope.”
Debono said many of her generation are overwhelmed by what appears to be a deteriorating climate.
“Everything is changing around us,” she said. But events like Climate Hope that bring members of the community together who share their climate concerns “help build a community of hopefulness.”