How to Look Ahead With Hope for Our Planet in 2022 and Beyond

2021 was another trying year for Earth and its inhabitants. The pandemic has lingered on, and yet again, there were disappointing climate responses from global powers. But there’s still reason to be hopeful as we look ahead to the new year.

As climate change threats loom, here are ways to feel hopeful and active for our shared future. © NOAA

To help combat the often overwhelming anxiety induced by the constant badgering doom and gloom, here are a few strategies and resources for heading into 2022 with a more optimistic outlook for the Earth and a sense of community from our fellow conservation-minded citizens. I hope these ideas help you begin the new year with a resolution to see a better future for our planet. 

Look Back on the Wins

Before looking forward to 2022, take a look back on the good things that happened for some inspiration and to remember that this year wasn't a total bust. There were quite a few clear wins for the planet that we can focus on to dive into the new year energized and ready to stay on the path of hope and action.

Global pledges from COP26 included an initiative to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030 and a commitment from over 100 nations to halt deforestation by 2030. The Queensland government handed back the land of the Daintree rainforest to its traditional owners, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people. The U.S. government restored Bear Ears National Monument in Utah. Conservationists rediscovered a species of crab in West Africa that had gone unseen for over half a century. Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica announced a 'mega' Marine Protected Area through a joint conservation effort to protect at-risk marine life. And that's just to name a few of the many highlights from this past year. 

Looking back at these examples of what we can accomplish can be an excellent (and clean-burning!) fuel source to help us go full-steam ahead and tackle even more in the coming year. 

The Daintree rainforest was handed back to its traditional owners this year. © heumann/ flickr

Find Hope in the Next Generation

The kids are more than alright – they're incredible! Over the last couple of years, countless youth leaders have stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park with real action for our planet. It's a seemingly inexhaustible spring of hope to watch more and more young people rise up and take charge, especially as we see an overall shift toward a more accepted understanding of climate change realities.

So if you are looking for motivation to do more for the planet this coming year or to think more positively about the future, take some cues from the next generation. They are creating new organizationspressuring officials to take action, and following through on their ideas and strategies. They are not sitting idly on their hands, watching and waiting – they're innovating solutions and developing concrete plans to aid in a sustainable future for our planet. And, in some cases, they're working to make the Earth a better place before they've even finished elementary school

Future leaders made their voices heard outside of COP26 in Glasgow. © IndustriALL Global Union

Foster a Conservation-minded Community

Feeling like you're a part of a close-knit community has been difficult for many of us over the past nearly two years of the pandemic. However, creative new movements and campaigns have sprouted from the need to be social from a distance and safely brought people together over shared ideas. Finding a way to foster community via your planet-minded passions is a great way to look forward with a sense of hope through meaningful connections. 

Discover a local citizen science group to participate in or support up-and-coming conservation leaders through mentorships this year. And join us at Earth Optimism x Smithsonian Folklife Festival this coming summer to learn more about how we can create a global conservation community through different ways of learning, sharing, and innovating. 

A campaign in the UK brought neighbors together to connect gardens for at-risk hedgehogs. © Alexas_Photo

Find Sparks of Joy on Social Media

It's much too easy to fall into a bog of despair while scrolling through social media or a news app, and it's undoubtedly counterintuitive to feeling hopeful for what's to come in the new year and beyond. Even though curating good news is part of my job, I also find myself wading through that muck daily while searching for hidden inspiring gems to share on Earth Optimism's social channels. 

So while I don't necessarily recommend "cleansing" your feeds and creating an echo chamber to make social media a more hospitable place for hope, instead, try adding a little intentional joy to your newsfeeds. Find a few fun accounts like wildlife cartoonists or goofy nature photography to follow. Humor is my favorite go-to when I'm stuck in a rut and need to take my mind off the doom and gloom. Taking a mental break to check in on my favorite wildlife meme group reminds me that there are a ton of other nature-loving nerds out there and laughter doses your brain with some satisfying and happy neurochemicals: dopamine and serotonin. So laugh a little and get your mind in the right mood to look forward to everything we can and will do in 2022!

Do you have any other tips for looking forward to 2022 with hope for our planet or Earth-focused New Years' resolutions? Let us know by sharing them with #EarthOptimism on social media!