Haymarket Books, 2023
Reviewed by Jenny Joyce
I was attracted to this book by the title – like many of us, I struggle with despair at what we are doing to this planet, and find it hard to hold on to a belief that we can make the changes that are needed before it’s too late. The authors don’t minimise the losses and changes that are inevitable, but they call for hope: “To hope is to accept despair as an emotion but not as an analysis. […] To understand that difficult is not the same as impossible.”
This book is a collection of over 20 short essays by activists, climate scientists, organisers and artists, a chorus of different voices bringing us hope that change is possible, encouraging us to keep working for change, and reminding us that it is Not Too Late.
With such a variety of voices and messages, it’s hard to review; but here are a few examples that spoke to me (and no doubt readers will find their own favourites).
A Climate Scientist’s Take on Hope
Joelle Gergis says that when she’s asked “What’s the single most important thing I can do?” she responds, “Recognise that you are living through the most profound moment in human history. Averting planetary disaster is up to the people alive right now.”
Gergis believes that facing that truth can bring meaning and purpose to our lives. She lays out the problems in pretty stark terms, and accepts that “some of the changes we have set in motion are irreversible.” What brings her hope is remembering the many examples throughout history of people “…who have risen to the challenges of their time, and succeeded against all odds”, and reminds us that “Change happens gradually, then suddenly.”
Shared Solutions are Our Greatest Hope and Strength
Gloria Walton is committed to supporting front-line climate justice solutions that transform our economy and world. She points out that it’s no longer possible to detach solutions to the environmental crisis from issues of inequality and social justice.
She writes powerfully of how the impact of climate change is highest in already disadvantaged communities (as was the impact of Covid across the planet). She gives inspiring examples of how front-line communities are working to tackle the problems, from solar panels on a warehouse that can then provide power for renters nearby, to people sharing farming techniques to grow produce in the city. “All these solutions are homegrown … demonstrating that people-powered movements work.”
Meeting the More and the Marrow
Roshi Joan Halifax urges us not to look away from the reality of our present crisis, but to bear witness and take action. She stresses the importance of feeling our grief and working with our fears, and believes this work can transform us, bringing compassion and insight. “…when we do not avert our gaze … something is revealed – the very marrow of life.”
The old ways of being are ending, but with that ending comes space for the emergence of something new.She concludes by reminding us that “This is sacred work”.
I also loved the interview with The Pacific Climate Warriors “We are not drowning. We are fighting”; paleoecologist Jacqueline Gill reminding us that “every living thing you see is a survivor”; and writer adrienne maree brown’s words “imagination is a muscle that … will atrophy if we don’t use it”.
I found it best to read this book in short bursts, as otherwise it was all too much to take in. There is inevitably some repetition with so many authors writing about the same subject, and the factual material will be familiar to most GreenSpirit members. But the strength of the book is in the diversity of its voices, and the many different perspectives that inspire hope. The overall message is clear – it’s not too late, we can make a difference if we care and work with others with whatever skills we have.