Arctic explorer and environmentalist Ann Bancroft shares her thoughts on climate change, hopefulness and doing the small things for a big impact.
I am hopeful about our environment, in part, because when I discuss climate change issues with the millions of students through our expeditions and website, their hopefulness is contagious. Hang out with 8 million children and you can’t help but be hopeful!
Partly, I am hopeful when I practice what I preach, when I engage in activities and practices of reverence for the earth. Sometimes we get a little disengaged. It starts to feel so big. But like an expedition, I would never get across Antarctica with just one step. It takes a million little steps, sometimes a lot of boring steps. Sometimes I am tired. And much like an expedition, it’s simply putting one step down at a time. Eventually, those steps accumulate and get you somewhere.
It’s the small things you do that make a big difference. You can do big things, too, but small things do make a difference.
Effecting positive change can be very easy, really. It starts with being present. Think about where things come from, such as our food. We can buy more foods in season and locally. We can compost, use less water, recycle, and use fewer paper plates. It’s the things we often consider insignificant, such as driving less and walking more, that can make a difference.
The list is long but these changes are all within our grasp. A critical mass of people, doing these small things together, can make a difference. I want people to keep keeping on.
The tenor of the discussion about climate change has changed in a positive direction. Not too long ago, our country was facing the question of whether you really believed in global warming or not. If you did believe, you were considered a little nutty. Now there is more discussion about altering the speed of which things are unraveling, and of collaborations to create the solutions. This gives me great optimism and hope.
I find that when I give lectures, it is the women who take the risk to ask the questions, even if they did not want to believe in global warming at that point. These issues are not very comfortable to bring up. I think sometimes when there are difficult things on the horizon, like climate change, women are willing to go there, to explore it and to learn. My own summation is that they are thinking about the kids they are surrounded by, and this causes women to pay attention.
I am going back to Antarctica in 2011, leading a group of international women to look at the integrative nature of the global challenge. Women are uniquely open and receptive to bringing the conversation of environmental concerns to a new level. It’s not just global warming. We also have to be willing to talk about economics, politics, immigration, environmental refugees. Symbolically it’s a great place to initiate the discussion.
I am hopeful because humans are capable of great things when we come together.
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