Bringing Sustainable Happiness to Life
A Global Torrent of Hope

By Catherine O'Brien • March 10, 2013

Dr. Elin Kelsey has a mission – to inspire a global torrent of stories about hope! She’s a scientist, environmental educator and award-winning children’s book author. Elin is passionate about sharing conservation success stories, shifting the doom and gloom narrative that has pervaded environmental education.

Writing children’s books that portray hopeful messages is just one of the ways that ElinNot Your Typical copy is contributing her own torrent of hope. Not Your Typical Book About the Environment playfully conveys recent environmentally-friendly inventions along with examples of how a kid’s daily life connects with other species and the natural environment.

You are Stardust, beautifully portrays the interconnections between people and the universe.”Every tiny atom in your body came from a star that exploded long before your were born”; “From ocean to sky to land and back again, the same water has been quenching thirsts for millions of years.” (You are Stardust just made Amazon’s #1 best seller list for children’s environmental books!).

Elin and I have co-presented in education workshops and webinars. One of her most arresting questions is, “what do you feel when you think about the environment?” Participants respond with emotions ranging along a continuum from wonder to despair.Stardust copy

There’s no question that we are facing serious and pressing environmental challenges. However, we also know that creative and innovative responses are needed and those kinds of responses are less likely to be generated from a mindset of fear and dread. In fact, focusing primarily on environmental tragedies may be generating a hyper-consumption response from people who have decided that there is no hope, so why bother to live sustainably?

What about a different approach that reminds us that we are interconnected with all life on the planet? That builds on the best within each of us? A narrative that grows with every positive and hopeful story that is shared? This isn’t just a counterpoint to disaster stories, nor does it mean that we pretend that all is well in the world. However, there is so much about modern life that socializes us to disconnect from one another, from the natural world, and even from ourselves. A recent Guardian article about the Conundrum at the Heart of Sustainability stated that “at the core of the problem is the fact that the vast majority of people do not feel connected to the issues.” The author, Jo Confino, continues with, “our compassion has been over-burdened by a constant diet of distressing and painful news from around the world.”

We can change this. One way to do so is to offset the discouraging news with hopeful stories.

In this video from the Sustainable Happiness Course Elin talks about Generating Options for hope and resilience. I’m convinced that Elin is right. Fostering social and ecological resilience is essential for forging sustainable communities and societies.

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