Man does not live by fear and pdfs alone

This week, the UK government unveiled plans to slash support for solar power, and they've promised more cuts to come.

Rather than join the crowd of people lining up to demolish the substance of the plan, I want to think about what it means to be optimistic at a time like this (and something tells me this won't be the last time I'll need to be).

Back in 2012, we dreamed up a project called #itshappening, which showcases climate success stories from all over the world, billing them as 'real signs of a brighter future'. We wanted to offer an antidote to the flood of bad news, and bring a sense of progress back to the climate debate.

Good news on climate change?

Good news on climate change?

But in a week like this, though, it'd be fair to ask: when it comes to climate change, is optimism really legit? How can we talk about a brighter future when the government seems intent on pushing that future back over the horizon. Aren't we just kidding ourselves by pushing stories about bike lanes and solar mosques?

But not all optimisms are created equal. There's the kind which obstinately insists that everything's actually fine. And the kind that blindly assumes things will work out ok eventually.

Those optimisms might feel good, but won't help us get where we need to be. They point towards the armchair, rather than the barricades.

But we do need something. Man does not live by fear and dense pdfs alone, and when we hear bad news we need some positive emotional calories to keep us moving.

When we hear bad news we need some positive emotional calories to keep us moving. That’s why our brand of optimism is about possibilities.

That's why our brand of optimism is about possibilities – it's a counter to the sometimes tempting, (and always paralysing) idea that people are too selfish, or that our civilization is too broken, to rise to big challenges.

#itshappening is a reminder of the amazing things people can do. It's a showcase of humanity's best side, and a challenge to help this side win out.

These stories aren't distractions from the bad stuff, or a way of making us feel better about the status quo. They're a glimpse of what lies beyond it, and fuel for the tough journey we need to take to get there.

When we hear bad news as we have this week, it's ok to feel sad. Yell at the radio, throw things at the TV and shoot sarcasm-tipped darts all over the internet. Rage at the stupid short-sightedness of it all. 

But don't forget that stupidity and short-sightedness isn't all there is, and it'll only win if we let it.

Cover image: Westmill Co-op by Ivana in York, Creative Commons