Keeping Hope for Change
Guest Post by: Jessie, primary teaching graduate
Growing up my generation has been told that it is our job to fix the future, with each year passing the voices get louder and we are told that we are the reason it’s happening and that we need to fix it. The dread and anxiety that comes with these words, the older generations truly don’t understand because at the end of the day they won’t be here to face them.
My name is Jessie, and I grew up in New Zealand. This has been truly a gift that I was given without realizing it. New Zealand is a near-perfect place to live. Our generational living in New Zealand is based on environmental living, what I mean by this is that we grow up constantly next to thick bushes, and thermal lakes and surrounded by beautiful beaches and oceans. However, there is a huge understanding that we are truly at the hands of mother nature herself and that with the current global climate crisis we are at current risk of becoming an unstable ecosystem.
Growing up I have had to face these anxieties and dread; these have been growing since school age when we are taught yearly about the effects of climate change and how it’s going to affect our societies and living as we grow up. I was one to start with endless hope and created environmental committees, I helped plant trees along rivers and mountains through charity organizations, that came through the schools. I was at my peak when in year 9 a teacher that helped run the environmental committee pushed me to enter a competition which is called the Sir Peter Blake young environmental leaders award. In this I talked about how leeching in New Zealand is one of our biggest threats due to the nitrogen increase causing algae blooms, hindering the wildlife’s ability to live in the rivers affecting further ecosystems and making lakes and rivers non-swimmable. I ended up being one of the recipients of this award and dove deeper into the world of environmental change.
As time went on I became distraught by the constant headlines of environmental disasters, the never-ending corruption and the constant bashing from the older generation telling me what has been done is done and that I come from the worst generation because we are killing off industry after industry and feeding into the machine that they had built. By the time I finished high school I was in a depressive state where I believed there was no chance of me or future generations having a comfortable life. There was not a single way for me to step forward without being destructive to the environment around me. To help with the shame and guilt I had over myself I started to fall into the trap of greenwashing, I became obsessive over doing everything right, I recycled everything, I went and picked up rubbish on my time off, and I would feel guilty about using a car. As this progressed, I separated myself from the environment. I stopped going outside so I wouldn’t have to use more shoes or clothes, I wouldn’t shower as often as I felt like I was continuously using too much fresh water. My life had become debilitating.
This is where my life turned to its darkest point, I felt alone and frightened at the concept of living. I started to think if everything is going to end anyway, It would be better for me to leave before it gets worse. I had lost hope.
I started diving deep into a whole of continuous algorithms of bad news until one day I found Happy Eco News, not wanting to be cliché but it sparked a small bit of hope that got me through that darkest time. I started looking for more good news and that’s when I found a whole community and generation of people making genuine change. I was inspired and wanted to help! I learned how small changes can make a change, but the power of voting was stronger. I told others about awesome new products that New Zealanders were making and how easy these simple changes are to make. With this new hope, I realized I could bring it all into my career as an educator.
I started bringing happy news of the day and showing them inspirational stories on eco-development and how they have hope and the ability to change the future for themselves. I realized that bringing in small changes into the classroom like bringing in natural craft materials and excluding glitter. The New Zealand curriculum has already brought in environmental consciousness and the students learn about conservation and the need for change in our systems to reach for a circular economy where we can live in harmony with nature instead of fighting it.
I learned that I could make a genuine change by holding on to the hope that is very prevalent in our communities. I found peace in bringing genuine change to my student’s learning and getting them excited about things that they can change to make a difference. It has given me the ability to breathe and live without feeling constantly pulled down by the depressing news and algorithms but to keep you in these places and remember good news doesn’t sell.
Overall, my message to you as the reader is to keep the hope for change and see that if we shift that voice of despair into a loud cry want for change, they have no way not to listen. Remember that education is your biggest form of power and that the people in charge don’t want you to know that. Your voice and vote are your greatest weapon and it is either what lets them keep that power or take it away. There has been a foundational shift that has started to happen and even though it’s not as big as we want, we can push to make it where we need it. Hope is a tremor but the real earthquake is when we pull together to make small changes in our lives, spreading the word and using our voting rights to force that change. Let’s not feel bad for our actions and being humans, but make our surroundings a sanctuary for future generations.
Kia kaha (Be strong)
Whakataka te hau ki te uru
Whakataka te hau ki te tonga
Kia mākinakina ki uta
Kia mātaratara ki tai
E hī ake ana te atakura
He tio, he huka, he hau hū
Tīhei mauri ora!
Cease the winds from the west
Cease the winds from the south
Let the breeze blow over the land
Let the breeze blow over the ocean
Let the red-tipped dawn come with a sharpened air.
A touch of frost, a promise of a glorious day.
Beautiful and powerful testimony, Jessie. Thanks for sharing. Yes, education is the key. For every teacher who comes to understand climate change, hundreds of minds will begin to understand. But you are so right, education alone is not enough. Students need to feel empowered to use their voices to influence those who have more power than they do. Change is starting to happen! Take a look at Drawdown (https://www.drawdown.org). The more we talk about it, and help others respect and love the natural environment, and understand inevitable cause-and-effect relationships in nature, the faster progress will be made. So, keep talking! Good on ya!
Thank you Jessie! Your story is unique to you, but so many others feel the same way. You are an inspiration and I am proud HEN has helped your journey in some small way.
Well said Jessie and so glad to hear your story. I too have found comfort, inspiration and most of all hope through a subscription to Happy Eco News.
I’m envious of your nation for it’s renowned beauty but also your focus on the wellbeing of your citizens. I hope to make it for a visit some day. Keep up the good work.