The Source of Hope

Painting: Joy Garnett

In the face of global warming, I live deeply in hope. Because of hope, the indisputable evidence of rapidly accelerating climate change motivates me in urgent work for dramatic action.

By hope I do not mean optimism. There are times when I am not at all optimistic about the ability of the world’s most polluting nations to make hard decisions and to alter their behaviors. The hope that sustains me is the trust that I place in what is most real and most important. As a Christian minister, I dare to speak about “hope in God” — and then I usually have to clarify that I don’t expect a supernatural intervention to make everything okay.

Placing my hope in God is an act of commitment to values and communities. Hope broadens my ethical universe to include future generations and the entire web of life. The values that are at the center of my hope insist that a truly good, abundant life is found only within just and sustainable communities. Placing my hope in God affirms that — even if I never see stabilized levels of CO2 in the atmosphere — living ethically in that cause is a worthwhile pursuit.

Certainly, as we address the threat of global warming, there is a need for new technologies and new laws. The market system’s efficiencies and incentives must be used, even as we critique its blind spots and distortions. Indeed, there are people in this movement who place their ultimate confidence in technology or the market. For me, though, those are not sufficient sources for a sustaining hope. My hope, my core commitment, has deeper and more radical roots.

The reality of global warming convinces me that a profound shift in values is necessary, individually and culturally. We must come to see ourselves as part of the Creation, and we must find satisfaction by living within the constraints of Earth’s resources and systems. We need a change of heart even more than we need changed energy systems.

Within my faith heritage, I speak of my commitment to transformed values as “hope in God.” That hope guides all my life choices, including my vocation. I established Eco-Justice Ministries because of my faith commitment to addressing global warming from the perspective of values. I am able to continue this work, day by day, because my hope assures me that transformed values and expanded community are, ultimately, the most effective path toward healing the creation.

When the news is not good, practical optimism alone cannot nurture us in the long, challenging work that is required. Each of us must find a source of hope that can guide and sustain our efforts.


  1. Is the best course the continuation of standard language with terms like God? Normally, the response would be yes. But today the term God has become so polluted by the religious right and greed advocates that its effectiveness as a short cut to represent our world and the life existence therein may be counter productive?

  2. A person my age who still has hope and is an optimist simply has not been paying attention. He has blinders on because he simply could not face the world without them. Me… I can face the world, I have good bourbon.


  3. Aside from the bit with God (I do not ascribe to Christianity), I feel very much the same as Peter. I am not an optimist about the future of our world, but my hope, my desire to be proven wrong, drives me to make this Earth better. This sometimes confuses people but I immediately found kinship in Peter’s words.

  4. The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination. ~Marian Zimmer Bradley

  5. Peter, thankyou for your calm and uplifting text.

    I was raised to view an injury to Creation as being “a sin against the Holy Spirit.”
    Over a lifetime since it seems that only the term needs revising, to include alternates such as as Holy Ghost, Great Spirit, Hu, Dau, and others, if we are to unite effectively around the Earth.

    Having been a campaigner on climate destabilization since the ’80s, I still have hope, but it is only maintained via a rather dispassionate view of strategy.

    It maybe needs saying that whatever energy saving I make, and whatever sustainable energy I sponsor, these do nothing whatsoever to cut the global sales of fossil fuels; society is burning all it can get.

    What is more, until all nations accept binding constraints, effectively none are doing so to a significant extent.

    Thus the ratification of a Treaty of the Atmospheric Commons, that is necessarily both equitable and efficient should, I suggest, be our pre-eminent goal.

    To this end the London-based Global Commons Institute ( launched the global climate-policy framework of “Contraction & Convergence” back in the early ’90s.

    Briefly, it can be seen as:

    of global greenhouse gas emissions to respect the Earth’s capacity,

    of all nations’ emission rights to per capita parity.

    Over the years the framework has gained widespread scientific, ecumenical, commercial and official endorsements, with the latter including those of the EU parliament plus France & Germany, the African nations, and India, Pakistan & Bangladesh, among others.

    I hope you may find time to visit the website and to consider the merits of campaigning for this focus on the requisite global treaty.

    With best wishes,


  6. Population control or alternatively the discovery of a power source to lift us to other star systems is the only hope. Energy is swiftly draining away and humankind’s niche as the recycler of hydrocarbons is well established. There is no hope that this will change.

  7. nodsavid,
    i agree. There are now 6.7 billion humans on the planet which can only support an estimated 800 million on the renewable solar budget. These excess humans have been made possible by the stores of ancient sunlight found in petroleum, natural gas and coal. Peak oil has occurred, resource wars have begun, and the four horseman are riding across the world. Over 3 billion no longer have access to this life giving energy and many starve everyday. it’s already happening, it just ain’t equally distributed yet. The problem is we humans love to fornicate and just adore little children. Most religions encourage this insanity.

  8. Peter expresses well the true font of perseverance in the effort to sustain creation. Yet he also expresses a contradiction that activists often fall prey to.

    He begins by sharing that his hope moves him to urgent action, and concludes by describing the long struggle for meaningful and lasting change.

    In my many years of social activism, I’ve found that it is people of faith who know how to pace themselves for the long road and how to maintain hope in the face of apparent defeat.

    What gives them that abiding perseverance is an understanding of the difference between what is urgent and what is important. The seemingly urgent (need for new technologies and legislation, etc) distracts us from what is truly important – values, connection, community, and a sense of divine purpose.

Commenting on this item is closed.