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If you’ve noticed that mainstream environmental news tends to be increasingly negative and concerning, you’re not alone. And to be fair, there are lots of environmental issues to be concerned about – so it’s natural that these issues, such as forest fires, floods, and increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, are being reported on.

It is true that this type of environmental reporting can be effective. Especially for those who may be unaware of how serious the issue of climate change is. But for the rest of us who are aware of these issues and are taking steps to live more sustainably, being constantly bombarded with negative news can be exhausting, and even depressing.

In fact, it might even be increasing your eco-anxiety. Eco-anxiety is often defined as a chronic fear of environmental doom which stems out of a place of deep caring for the planet and its inhabitants. To learn more about eco-anxiety, check out episode 5 from my Live.Well.Green Podcast “Strategies for Combatting Eco Anxiety,” or this article.

In addition to these two resources, you might also want to consider modifying the news sources and social media posts you are paying attention to. While it is important to be aware of what issues are going on in the world, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom all the time!

In reality, there are also plenty of positive and successful actions that are being taken to improve the state of the natural environment. Maybe it’s time we highlight and pay attention to these successes in order to inspire individuals, companies, organizations, and governments to take environmental action.

That is exactly what the Earth Optimism movement aims to achieve. This movement focuses on broadcasting all the positive technological advances and ecological success stories in order to give people hope that we can tackle environmental challenges.

How Earth Optimism came to be

The Earth Optimism movement can be attributed to reef biologist Nancy Knowlton. While teaching an intensive summer course on marine biodiversity and conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1988, Knowlton realised that it was important to teach her students not only about what wasn’t working, but what was as well.

Knowlton’s reasoning behind her shift to optimism is that:

“Doom and gloom without any solutions tends to lead to apathy and inaction. Social scientists have known for a really long time that if you give people large problems, but don’t present them with ways of coping with them or addressing them then they tend to not care.”

So, Knowlton began organizing symposia and creating small workshops that educate people about all the ocean conservation success stories. On World Oceans Day in 2014, Knowlton and Elin Kelsey, an environmental scholar, author of children’s books and an ocean advocate, launched a twitter campaign at the end of their joint workshop called #OceanOptimism. #OceanOptimism asked people to share success stories about the ocean.

From there on, #OceanOptimism has expanded to become #EarthOptimism, thanks to the conservation communities at Smithsonian, Cambridge University, and Oxford University that hosted Earth Optimism Summits.

The Smithsonian Conservation Common’s Earth Optimism

Every year, the Smithsonian Conservation Commons hosts an Earth Optimism Summit to celebrate what is working in conservation. This summit, which is held throughout the month of April, and particularly the week of Earth Day, engages millions of people through social media, workshops, and webinars.

Conversations at these events centre around protecting biodiverse landscapes, crafting a more sustainable future, the future of our oceans, youth activism, and so much more!

While the Smithsonian Earth Optimism Summits have traditionally occurred at Smithsonian museums and different organizations around the world, due to the pandemic, they have switched to an online format. This makes it easier than ever to tune into the insightful and inspiring webinars and workshops being offered!

And of course, everyone is encouraged to contribute to Earth Optimism by using the #EarthOptismism to share your conservation success stories on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You might also want to follow the @EarthOptimism Twitter account, as you’ll be able to keep up to date with positive conservation efforts whenever you check out their feed!

As for other events, Smithsonian X hosted a 5-day Earth Optimism workshop September 12th, 2021. This workshop is focused on identifying conservation success stories and sharing them on Twitter. But don’t worry if you missed it, because it will be archived which means you will still be able to access most of the course material.

Earth Optimism Cambridge Summit

The Cambridge Conservation Initiative is another organization that hosts an annual #EarthOptimism Summit.

Their 2021 summit ran from March 26th to April 4th, 2021, and it was a great success! Over 16,000 people joined from 135 different countries to celebrate conservation successes through their Stories of Hope programme.

The Stories of Hope programme consisted of over 30 passionate speakers who presented differing accounts of conservation success. All talks were broken down into seven sessions which are available on their website for you to view. These sessions include topics such as reasons for optimism, innovating for sustainability, saving species, and stories from around the world.

In addition, Cambridge’s Earth Optimism Summit contained a family-focused Solutions Fair which explores how each of us can make a difference in our everyday lives. The virtual stalls at the fair contain many practical ideas for change. The 49 stalls were divided into 6 rooms: the kitchen, playroom, bedroom & bathroom, garden, office, and out & about. These resources can also be found on their Earth Optimism website.

Make sure to stay tuned for the future Earth Optimism events that will be coming up from Cambridge and Smithsonian. And of course, at any time of the year you are able to spread #EarthOptimism by posting inspiring efforts online and sharing them with your friends, coworkers, and family. Environmentalism doesn’t have to be depressing – spread some hope!

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