A Case for Optimism

by Eden Vardy, Special to the Aspen Daily News
What if there was one thing you could do to dramatically contribute to the environmental movement in a positive and highly effective way without requiring any extra time out of your day? What if this one thing might actually help you feel more balanced, happy and healthy in the process? Would you do it?

There are literally hundreds of actions people can take to tread more lightly on the planet or live a more sustainable lifestyle: from reducing waste, energy, and water consumption to changing commuting habits and eating a more locally based diet. These are important actions and should not be overlooked. Developing an optimistic outlook about our potential to live in harmony with our home, however, is a crucial step to making a truly sustainable future a reality.

Stabilizing carbon in our atmosphere and regenerating a healthy, balanced planet is going to take a tremendous group effort, and involving as many of us as possible is key. In order to get all hands on deck, we need to re-establish a global perspective on environmentalism. This is as simple as adding two concepts to our beliefs around environmentalism:
1. We already are making tremendous progress towards being able to inhabit a balanced, healthy Earth indefinitely, and can get there in the not too distant future.
2. Living a sustainable lifestyle is exhilarating, fun, and inspiring.

Currently, the pervasive environmental tone can feel overwhelming. Articles and news reports show how the situation is deteriorating and how hopeless it seems are everywhere. I, for one, have a hard time participating in a movement that is fear-based and guilt-laden.

 Chris Council/Aspen Daily News
Eden Vardy

It does not have to be that way. We have actually made tremendous progress in a relatively short period of time and should be proud and excited! In just a few years, local, organic, and small-scale food production, renewable energy, waste reduction initiatives, and innovative energy efficient technologies have increased in popularity and demand internationally. In our Roaring Fork Valley alone we have over a dozen nonprofits dedicated to the cause. We have proven solutions readily available and at our disposal!

So, why should we be optimistic?

I think people would be inspired to know that movements, just like populations, grow in an exponential (not linear) manner. If, for example, just two people in a community care enough about making a difference to inspire one other person each, and those two people each inspire another person, in just seven exchanges 128 people will have been inspired! With this concept in mind, in a short period of time we will reach a critical mass to change policy and our paradigm. In other words, a healthy, balanced planet is much closer than we think!

Yes, we have come a great distance towards a sustainable world in a relatively short period of time and the movement is growing exponentially.

Yes, we have solutions at our disposal and countless organizations are committed to increasing and improving those solutions.

But the bottom line for me is that participating in this movement brings me a sense of pride and optimism and overall fulfillment and joy. Spending time appreciating the beauty and intricacies of nature with my family is exciting. Eating food that I grow myself is exhilarating. Watching energy being generated from motion in nature or from sources that are always there — wind and solar — is awesome.

Shifting the tone and dialogue around environmentalism towards positivity and being optimistic about the inevitable success of the movement is a significant action people can take starting this Earth Day.

Eden Vardy is the founder of the local nonprofit Aspen TREE. Aspen TREE offers youth summer camps, cooperative farmyard opportunities, and community workshops and activities based on fun, positive, and hands-on sustainability solutions. To find out more about growing your own backyard garden, joining our farmyard/egg share or greenhouse cooperative or to register for Camp ReGeneration (our farmyard and wilderness adventure day camp), log onto www.aspen-tree.org