The Future We Choose: Three Mindsets to Tackle Climate Change

Stubborn optimism, endless abundance, and radical regeneration. Nastasia Virvilis reads The Future We Choose and shares the authors’ three key mindsets for tackling climate change.

The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac is an eye-opening read for anyone who wants to get a better sense of how they can play their part in tackling the climate crisis. While the task is daunting, Figueres and Rivett-Carnac address how we can begin to do the internal work necessary to start making changes. Stubborn optimism, endless abundance, and radical regenerations are the three mindsets that the authors emphasise as necessary in order to make choices that will lead us in the direction of meeting our climate goals. 

Image Credits: Tania Malréchauffé

Stubborn Optimism

Being optimistic given the damage that has already been caused and the work that must be done is understandably difficult. Figueres and Rivett-Carnac state that, “When it comes to climate change, the vast majority of us have a learned reaction of helplessness.” (42) Despite this, they emphasize that having a mindset that is optimistic, and stubbornly so, is necessary in order to have a chance at a better future. 

The authors use the analogy of a medieval stonemason working on a cathedral, explaining that,  “[h]e could have chosen to throw down his tools because he was not going to personally finish the entire cathedral. Instead, he worked patiently and carefully on his one piece, knowing he was part of a great collective endeavour that would lift the hearts and minds of generations.” (44) 

While it is easy to feel powerless amidst the current crisis, adopting a mindset of stubborn optimism empowers us to see every effort to hold each other and governments accountable as an important and necessary part of a larger project that will impact humans for years to come. 

Image Credits: Gabriel McCallin

Endless Abundance

In addition to stubborn optimism, a mindset of endless abundance must also be collectively adopted in order to meet our climate goals and make way for a better future. As the authors state, “The feeling that we have to compete with others to get what we want, or what we think we need, runs deep in each of us.” (54) 

Yet, a zero-sum mindset in which one’s gain means another’s loss is not viable as a decision-making philosophy in our current circumstances. As the authors state, “Our mindset is so powerful that it can convince us that a scarcity exists, throwing us into unnecessary competition and thereby objectively creating the scarcity we initially feared.” (56) 

A mindset of endless abundance acknowledges the fact that the climate crisis is a collective issue which will require a sense of solidarity and community. Even when resources are actually scarce, working collectively to find a solution is more productive. We can see this by looking at responses to natural disasters, in which the instinct has been to lend time, skills, money, and love rather than to compete. By leaving false perceptions of scarcity behind, making decisions that effectively move us in the right direction will be encouraged. 

Image Credits: Paddy O Sullivan

Radical Regeneration

Finally, Figueres and Rivett-Carnac explain that a mindset which embraces radical regeneration is imperative for the health of ourselves and the planet. The authors explain that, “In the natural world, the strictest interpretation of the term regeneration is the self-generated healing process that restores an organism’s injured bodily part from the remaining-healthy tissue.” (70) They use the examples of  newts, lizards, octopuses, and starfish which have the capacity to regenerate lost limbs or tails. Aside from these species, humans have a regenerative capacity as well. For example, after being damaged, our livers have the capacity to regenerate themselves to their original size after partial removal. 

As a wider concept, regeneration is also known as the natural recovery process of a species or biosystem, and often involves the removal of human pressures. Figueres and Rivett-Carnac give the example of Chernobyl, which was able to regenerate itself to what is now a flourishing ecosystem, once human pressures were removed. In terms of our mindset, regeneration can also take place by ridding ourselves of the lifestyles and habits that hinder our own flourishing, and consequently, that of the world around us. 

Given that our well-being and physical survival depend on nature, the relationship between regenerating the earth and ourselves is reciprocal. And thus, a mindset acknowledging that fact is particularly important in order to tackle the climate crisis individually and collectively. 

Stubborn optimism, endless abundance and radical regeneration are three mindsets which will lay the foundation for making the choices necessary to tackle the climate crisis. While they are not necessarily new concepts in the discourse surrounding climate change, Figueres and Rivett-Carnac give good examples as to what each means and how they may be adopted. If you are looking to find inspiration or to get better informed and start making choices which will have an impact, this book is a good start.

About the Author: Nastasia Virvilis is a law student at the University of York

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