Intrinsic Hope: Living Courageously in Troubled Times

Intrinsic Hope: Living Courageously in Troubled Times


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A different kind of hope for living in these turbulent times

Climate disruption. Growing social inequality. Pollution. We are living in an era of unprecedented crises, resulting in widespread feelings of fear, despair, and grief. Now, more than ever, maintaining hope for the future is a monumental task.

Intrinsic Hope offers a powerful antidote to these feelings. It shows how conventional ideas of hope are rooted in the belief that life will conform to our wishes and how this leads to disappointment, despair, and a dismal view of the future. As an alternative, it offers "intrinsic hope," a powerful, liberating, and positive approach to life based on having a deep trust in whatever happens. The author, a hopeful survivor, shows how to cultivate intrinsic hope through practical tips and six mindful habits for living a positive, courageous life in these troubled times.

Whether working directly on ecological or social issues or worried about children and grandchildren, this book is for everyone concerned about the future and looking for a deeper source of hope for a better world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780865718678
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Publication date: 05/01/2018
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 801,942
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 16 - 18 Years

About the Author

Kate Davies MA, DPhil, has worked on environmental and social issues for her entire career. She set up and managed the City of Toronto's Environmental Protection Office and established and directed a successful environmental policy consulting company. Davies is currently clinical associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington, emeritus faculty at Antioch University, and senior fellow at the Whidbey Institute. Her written work has been published in newspapers, magazines and journals across North America and internationally. Her first book, The Rise of the U.S. Environmental Health Movement,was selected by Booklist as one of the top ten books on sustainability published in 2013. Davies lives in Langley, WA.

Read an Excerpt


Where On Earth Are We Going?

In early 2015, I was on Haleakala on the Hawaiian island of Maui. At just over ten thousand feet, it is Maui's tallest volcano. From the summit, the landscape below looked harsh and inhospitable. Bleak black lava fields stretched into the distance and there was an almost complete lack of vegetation. A biting wind sliced through the layers of warm clothing I had put on earlier that morning. In this desolate place, my attention was drawn to an endangered nēnē goose walking slowly across the trail about 50 yards in front of me. A fellow visitor also noticed the inconspicuous grey-brown bird and we struck up a conversation. After talking about the nēnē and our surroundings, he told me he was a recently retired steel worker from the east coast and this trip to Hawaii had been on his bucket list for years. Then he asked me what I did. After I told him that I taught environmental studies and sustainability, he sighed deeply and looked away as his eyes filled with tears. In a soft and sorrowful voice, he proceeded to tell me about his only son and daughter-in-law who had lost their home to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The storm surge had destroyed their New Jersey shoreline house and although it had been rebuilt, the young couple had not fully recovered. They had become so alarmed about climate disruption they decided not to have any children, so he will never have grandchildren. This broke his heart.

A few months later, I was teaching a class at Antioch University Seattle. The students and I were talking about recent environmental changes they had noticed. A twenty-something-year-old talked about going to Alaska every summer and noticing how much the glaciers were receding from year to year. Another spoke about the decline in salmon and steelhead populations and what it meant for his tribe. Then someone else told about her Australian friends who had decided to immigrate to the Pacific Northwest because of the now unbearable summer heat in their home country. Gradually, the conversation lapsed into silence. Then a young woman quietly said, "It's all too much. I am terrified about what's happening and I don't know where it's all going. I don't have much hope for the future." Her words tailed off as she began to cry, tears coursing down her pretty face. Some of her colleagues looked away and shuffled their papers, embarrassed by her show of emotion. Others nodded their heads in agreement because she had given voice to their unspoken thoughts.

Retired steel workers, students, and many others are beginning to express their feelings about the state of the environment. They know something is terribly wrong. Their experience is consistent with the scientific consensus that humankind is destroying the earth's ecosystems and threatening the future of life on the planet. Although scientists have been saying this for decades, what's happening now is different because ordinary people are witnessing the changes for themselves. Whether they are losing their homes to hurricanes, floods, wildfires, or rising sea levels, enduring extreme heat or cold, living with drought or getting sick from pollution, what's happening now could be a game-changer. Even many who are only affected indirectly are becoming alarmed.

Indeed, concern about climate disruption has already led hundreds of thousands of people to protest. In September 2014, about 600,000 people in more than 160 countries around the world took to the streets, including about 400,000 in New York City alone. A similar number voiced their concern just over a year later just ahead of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. And in April 2017, over 200,000 people turned out in Washington, D.C., and tens of thousands more took part at over 370 sister marches worldwide. Even though the truth is very inconvenient, it's beginning to change the way people think, feel, and act.

The Global Eco-social Crisis and Its Impacts

It's only in the past few decades that humankind has woken up to the fact that there is an emerging global eco-social crisis. Before then, people thought about environmental problems as if they were separate from each other and contained within specific geographical boundaries. But now local issues tend to be seen in a larger context - a drought can remind us about climate disruption, the destruction of a wetland can remind us about worldwide habitat loss, dead fish in a lake can remind us about pollution's global scale. There's also a growing realization that action on any one issue won't be effective unless it is connected to actions on others. For example, you can't work on preserving biodiversity without working on habitat destruction, climate disruption, invasive species, pollution, human overpopulation, and overharvesting, and you can't work to prevent habitat destruction without working on food production, agricultural practices, lumber harvesting, housing and infrastructure development, water availability, and pollution. Perhaps most significantly, there's an increasing recognition that environmental problems cannot be treated separately from their social, cultural, and economic contexts. For instance, communities of color are often exposed to higher levels of toxic chemicals, and climate disruption affects vulnerable populations more than others. As John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, said "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

Because the scale of the crisis is still sinking in, there is not yet an agreed word or phrase to describe it. In this book, I use the expression "global eco-social crisis" because it underscores the systemic and interconnected nature of our problems, as well as their urgency. When I use it, I include all environmental problems and their social, cultural, and economic contexts. I believe that focusing exclusively on any single problem, even climate disruption, oversimplifies our predicament. In addition, I have chosen to use the phrase "climate disruption" rather than the more neutral "climate change" or the seemingly benign "global warming." This is because, to me, climate disruption better describes the nature of

the changes that we are beginning to witness.

"Global eco-social crisis" may be appropriate but it feels overwhelming. Speaking personally, I find it impossible to fully grasp its magnitude, even though I have spent the past 35 years of my life working on eco-social problems. For starters, there's climate disruption, resource depletion, pollution, species extinction, habitat loss, water scarcity, and population growth. Then there's all their local, regional, and global manifestations. And then there's all the ways these problems intersect with other issues, such as poverty, unemployment, racism, and health. Put everything together and it's completely mind-boggling. Even if I were to try to catalogue all the evidence of harm, I suspect you would feel as overwhelmed as I do. So instead, here are just a few facts and figures to illustrate where we are and where we may be going:

  • Climate disruption. Considered the largest single threat to human survival, climate disruption is already causing severe heat waves, droughts, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires throughout the world, as well as rising sea levels, ocean acidification, desertification, erosion, reduced food production, shifts in species ranges, and effects on human health. By the end of this century, global temperatures are expected to rise by between 0.3 to 4.8 degrees Celsius, significantly exacerbating these effects and changing life on earth as we know it.
  • Water scarcity. About 700 million people living in 43 countries suffer from water scarcity. By 2015, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world's population could be living under water stressed conditions. With the existing climate change scenario, almost half the world's population will be living in high water stress by 2030. Water scarcity is already regarded as a major threat to world security by the US intelligence community.
  • Species extinction. Nearly one quarter of all mammalian species and about one in eight bird species are likely to become extinct in the next 30 years. In the past 40 years, populations of vertebrate animals - such as mammals, birds, and fish - have declined by a whopping 58 percent. The current rate of biodiversity loss is between 1,000 and 10,000 times greater than the natural rate.
  • Pollution. Pollution is now ubiquitous. There is nowhere on the planet that is uncontaminated. Some of the highest levels are in the Arctic, many thousands of miles away from any direct sources. The world's cities already generate about 1.3 billion metric tonnes of solid waste per year and this is expected to increase to 2.2 billion metric tonnes by 2025. Wastes pollute the air, land, and water. Between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans, where it harms wildlife and damages marine ecosystems. By 2050, the weight of plastic in the world's oceans will exceed the weight of fish.
  • Environmental injustice. Environmental injustice is widespread and getting worse. Developed countries exploit developing countries by grabbing their natural resources, building hazardous facilities and using them as a dumping ground for toxic waste, and coercing them into wildlife conservation measures without regard for the people who live in or close to protected areas. Within countries, including the US, racial minorities and people living in poverty are often exposed to higher levels of pollution and greater risks.
  • Population growth and consumerism. The world's population is already 7.6 billion and it is expected to increase to 11.1 billion by 2100. At the same time, billions in the developing world are adopting the consumer lifestyle of developed countries. These two trends are putting increasing stress on the planet's already depleted natural resources.

These facts and figures may seem remote and abstract from your daily life, but they represent very real problems with very real implications for your health and wellbeing.

We all rely on the earth's life support systems for every breath we take, every sip of water we drink, and every mouthful of food we eat. Quite simply, human existence depends on the earth. No ifs, ands, or buts. When we damage the environment, we damage ourselves. In the words widely attributed to Chief Seattle, "The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever man does to the web, he does to himself."13 To put it succinctly, human health depends on a healthy planet or as ecotheologian Thomas Berry said, "You cannot have well humans on a sick planet."

There is very strong scientific evidence that human health and wellbeing are already affected by environmental quality. According to the World Health Organization, nearly one quarter of all human disease is due to poor environmental quality - almost half of all asthma, about one fifth of all cancers, about one sixth of all cardiovascular disease, and one twentieth of all birth defects. The proportion is even higher for children. This burden of disease causes indescribable human pain and suffering, as well as an untold loss of human happiness and productivity. Tragically, most of it could be prevented.

But that's not all. The damage we inflict on the environment comes back to harm us in other ways. In 1992, I was living in Canada when overfishing destroyed the North Atlantic cod fishery. The industry that had sustained the island of Newfoundland and many small mainland communities for more than 500 years suddenly vanished when the fishery crashed to about one percent of its former size. The socio-economic consequences were enormous. In the immediate aftermath, more than 35,000 fishermen and plant workers from over 400 coastal communities lost their jobs and a $500 million a year industry17 disappeared virtually overnight. Many people lost the only source of income they had ever known and became dependent on hastily assembled government welfare programs. The demise of the North Atlantic cod fishery destroyed a way of life and led to a massive emigration of young people and families that devastated many towns and villages. Only now, some 25 years later, are the fish beginning to return. This example and others, including the US Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, and the virtual disappearance of the Aral Sea in central Asia, reveal that "environmental" disasters are never just environmental disasters. They always affect people and communities, and often entire societies.

It's true that a few societies have survived horrendous environmentally-related catastrophes. In the mid-1300s, rats carrying the Plague spread rapidly across Europe, leading to the death of somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of the human population - between 25 and 40 million people. But despite this enormous loss of life and its terrible socio-economic consequences, the Renaissance flourished. But sadly, compete social collapse is a more common consequence. Examples in this category include the people of Easter Island and the Mayan culture, who overexploited their natural resources, and the Norse of Greenland, who destroyed fragile Northern ecosystems and failed to adapt to an increasingly harsh climate. In these cases, entire societies perished because of an unwillingness to accept evidence of environmental deterioration and take appropriate action.

But what's happening now is not about a single society or culture. We are witnessing the onset of a global eco-social crisis that threatens the future of our species and many others. Moreover, we know this one is human-caused. Unlike earlier catastrophes, this one cannot be blamed on ignorance, vengeful gods, or other supernatural forces. We know we are responsible. These three factors - its global scale, its threat to the future of life on earth, and the knowledge that we caused it - mark this crisis as unprecedented in human history.

Psychological Impacts

Although there is a lot of scientific information about the unfolding crisis and how it will affect human health and wellbeing, we know very little about its psychological impacts. So far, few in-depth studies have been done on this important topic. One source of information is public opinion polling. Even though it is a superficial and unreliable surrogate it does indicate significant levels of concern, and that people around the world are worried. In China, about 80 percent of the population is concerned about the country's environmental problems. In Brazil, 87 percent believe that climate change is "very serious." In Australia, a survey of children reported that over half were worried about not having enough water, almost half said they were anxious about climate change, and a similar proportion said they were concerned about air and water pollution.

But the psychological impacts of the global eco-social crisis go far beyond concern, worry, and anxiety and include much more serious disorders. Three main types can be identified:

  • Direct and acute effects associated with living through extreme weather events and other environmental disasters. These include acute and post traumatic stress disorder, depression, despair, grief, place attachment disorder, apathy, fear, somatic disorders, drug and alcohol use, and suicide.
  • Indirect or vicarious effects associated with observing these events combined with uncertainty about the future. These include fear, guilt, sadness, despair, depression, anger, grief, and apathy.
  • Community or large-scale psychosocial effects. These include decreased community cohesion, a disrupted sense of continuity and belonging, increased violence and crime, increased social instability, increased interpersonal and intergroup aggression, and domestic abuse.

As conditions deteriorate, these impacts are likely to become more common. In the US, one recent study predicted that two hundred million Americans will experience serious psychological impacts from climate disruption and that in many instances the distress will be severe. Even the conservative American Psychological Association, the world's largest professional association of psychologists, is warning about the mental health consequences of climate disruption.

These psychological effects are to be expected. Like other animals, human beings get extremely frightened whenever our survival is threatened. However, this crisis isn't just about our individual survival, it's about our collective survival. Ecopsychologist Joanna Macy calls this realization "the pivotal psychological reality of our time." She says, "Every generation throughout history lived with the tacit certainty that there would be generations to follow. Each assumed, without questioning, that its children and children's children would walk the same earth, under the same sky. Hardships, failures, and personal death were encompassed in that vaster assurance of continuity. That certainty is now lost to us, whatever our politics. That loss, unmeasured and immeasurable, is the pivotal psychological reality of our time."

This terrifying reality is more difficult to accept because we don't talk about it. When we fail to acknowledge our feelings about the future, they don't go away. Exactly the opposite happens - they fester in our unconscious and get worse. And the more we avoid talking about our feelings, the more isolated and alone we feel, and the more we can think that our feelings are abnormal or unfounded. But these emotions are very natural. Indeed, from an evolutionary perspective, they have been hardwired into us as a survival mechanism, constituting an internal early warning system. We ignore them at our peril. Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh calls them "the bells of mindfulness." He says "[t]he bells of mindfulness are calling out to us, trying to wake us up, reminding us to look deeply at our impact on the planet." However unpleasant or unwanted, these feelings are telling us that we urgently need to change our ways. Indeed, unless we heed them and wake up, we may not survive.

We can hear Thich Nhat Hanh's bells of mindfulness and feel the earth's suffering because we are part of her. It's as if we are the cells of her body and can feel the trauma she is experiencing. No one is isolated or separate from her so it is only natural that everyone is affected by what's happening to the environment - whether we acknowledge it or not. If we see an oil-covered pelican struggling for its life, the raw stumps of a clear-cut forest, or a smokestack belching pollution into the atmosphere, we feel sad. We experience these feelings because we are connected to the earth - not just physically but at the deepest levels of our humanity.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Vicki Robbin

Introduction: Where On Earth Are We Going?
The Global Eco-social Crisis and Its Impacts
Psychological Impacts
The Psychological Context
Where On Earth Are We Going?
Uncovering and Nurturing Hope

Part I: Uncovering Intrinsic Hope

1. Naming Our Feelings about the Global Eco-social Crisis
Self-Righteous Anger and Frustration
Shame and Guilt
Sadness and Despair
Denial and Apathy
Concluding Thoughts

2. Reasons for Hope
Life Is Inherently Hopeful
We Know More Than Ever Before
The Future Is Uncertain
We May Be Able to Resolve This Crisis Because We Caused It
Humankind Is Beginning to Think Globally
History Tells Us Positive Social Change Is Possible
The Growing Global Citizens' Movement
Hope Can Be Learned
It Is Our Responsibility To Be Hopeful
Just Because. . .What Else Would We Do?

3. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Hope
Extrinsic Hope
Intrinsic Hope
Extrinsic and Intrinsic Hope Compared
The Relationship Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Hope

Part II: Habits of Hope

4. Being Present
Selective Attention
Using Our Senses
Bearing Witness
Being Present to the Universe

5. Expressing Gratitude
Choosing to Feel Grateful
Things To Be Grateful For
Expressing Gratitude
Appreciation and Problems
Gratitude and Consumerism

6. Loving the World
Love and Compassion
Loving Places
Loving the Earth
Loving Future Generations

7. Accepting What Is
Opening Up to Painful Emotions
Expressing Feelings

8. Taking Action
Scientific Information
Results, Responsibility, and Virtue
Purpose and Commitment
Do No Harm
Small Steps

9. Persevering for the Long Haul
Long-Term Thinking
Looking After Ourselves
Celebrating Good News

Conclusion: Pandora's Gift
About the Author
About New Society Publishers

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"After many decades of working on the climate crisis, I'm someone who hope does not come naturally to every day. That makes the insights in these pages all the more valuable to me, and I suspect to others."
— Bill McKibben, author of Radio Free Vermont, co-founder and Senior Advisor of

"There is no healing or transformation without hope, yet we are in times of global crisis that breed denial, hopelessness and despair. This deeply wise book guides us in nurturing the "intrinsic hope" that evolves our consciousness and frees our heart to act on behalf of this world we love."
— Tara Brach, Author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge

"If you feel despair for our endangered world, read this remarkable book and then act. Saving ourselves and much of life on Earth requires us to take brave and visionary action, but doing that requires hope - the kind that arises from the depths of our own human psyches, from our souls, and from Earth herself. Assisting us to tap this crucial resource is what Kate Davies accomplishes with her love-offering of Intrinsic Hope. This wise, adeptly crafted, inspiring, and practical book deepens and amplifies our capacities as agents of cultural renaissance and executors of ecological regeneration."
— Bill Plotkin, Ph.D., author of Soulcraft and Wild Mind

"Kate Davies' book Intrinsic Hope: Living Courageously in Troubled Times is a fresh and inspirational guide for practicing deep ecology. Her ideas about hope and the tools she offers to nurture it ground us in the Earth's inherent goodness and provide a path forwards when everything seems to be falling apart. That inherent goodness – intrinsic hope - lives within each one of us, as well as in all life. In this book, Kate shows us how to access it and how to take action based on it. I cannot recommend Intrinsic Hope highly enough."
— John Seed, founder and director of the Rainforest Information Centre and co-author of Thinking Like a Mountain: Towards a Council of All Beings.

"We are becoming aware that the eco-social crisis is not only an external reality, but also an internal psychological, spiritual and moral crisis. In order to survive the increasing devastation, hope is essential. Kate Davies explores the psychological and spiritual dimensions of "intrinsic hope" and how it can be a light to guide us in these darkening times. Her book contains valuable insights into our inner landscapes and describes the qualities we need if we are to survive and live together on this Earth, full of wonder, beauty and love."
— Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D., Sufi teacher and author: Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth.

"Kate Davies' whole working life and career has led to this distillation of 'intrinsic hope.' Her experience as scientist, as Quaker, as mother and activist forged a commitment to reject despair and forge a new, more resilient type of hope. This is a prescription in a book we all need."
— Elizabeth May, OC, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.

"To be an activist you have to be an optimist. Intrinsic Hope: Living Courageously in Troubled Times confirms this conviction. In her inspiring book, Kate Davies explores the state of our planet and the way we can transform our present predicament into positive possibilities. This beautifully written book weaves together the practical with the political, the social with the spiritual and economical with the ecological. It is a remarkable achievement."
— Satish Kumar, Editor Emeritus, Resurgence - Ecologist Magazine.

"Have you ever read a book that is so wise and so important that you immediately recommend it to your friends? Have you ever read a book so full of transformative insights and brilliant aphorisms that you underline and dog-ear and exclaim YES in ink all over the margins? Intrinsic Hope: Living Courageously in Troubled Times is such a book. In a time of terrible peril, and so a time of deep and debilitating despair, Kate Davies powerfully, convincingly re-invents hope, just when we need it the most."
— Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Great Tide Rising and Piano Tide, winner of the 2017 Willa Cather Award for contemporary fiction.

"Being mindful of hope may be our most urgent challenge in the face of growing eco-social problems. Kate Davies points toward multiple ways to activate hope. May her book be read by many who are seeking a path forward into the arena of transformative change."
— Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology

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