A friend of mine just sent me this piece by author and environmentalist Derrick Jensen, who happens to be speaking in Toronto tonight. Here’s a relevant excerpt:
More or less all of us yammer on more or less endlessly about hope. You wouldnâ€™t believeâ€”or maybe you wouldâ€”how many magazine editors have asked me to write about the apocalypse, then enjoined me to leave readers with a sense of hope. But what, precisely, is hope? At a talk I gave last spring, someone asked me to define it. I turned the question back on the audience, and hereâ€™s the definition we all came up with: hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.
Iâ€™m not, for example, going to say I hope I eat something tomorrow. I just will. I donâ€™t hope I take another breath right now, nor that I finish writing this sentence. I just do them. On the other hand, I do hope that the next time I get on a plane, it doesnâ€™t crash. To hope for some result means you have given up any agency concerning it. Many people say they hope the dominant culture stops destroying the world. By saying that, theyâ€™ve assumed that the destruction will continue, at least in the short term, and theyâ€™ve stepped away from their own ability to participate in stopping it.
I do not hope coho salmon survive. I will do whatever it takes to make sure the dominant culture doesnâ€™t drive them extinct. If coho want to leave us because they donâ€™t like how theyâ€™re being treatedâ€”and who could blame them?â€”I will say goodbye, and I will miss them, but if they do not want to leave, I will not allow civilization to kill them off.
When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to â€œhopeâ€ at all. We simply do the work. We make sure salmon survive. We make sure prairie dogs survive. We make sure grizzlies survive. We do whatever it takes.
Not a bad point. Let’s get to work.