The Glob of Hope

I watched a horrible, neverending documentary about the circular economy last week. Toronto’s circular waste group screened it as part of a worldwide simultaneous screening, so I presumed it’d be good. I mean, who invites an entire planet to watch a crap movie? Alas, thousands of eager Torontonians (and who knows how many more humans around the world) endured a poorly shot, ill-conceived, meandering doc, in which a professor flies around the globe monotonously asking various companies how they achieve industrial circularity. I would have laughed more at the awkward interviews, terrible sound, and bad cinematography if I hadn’t been so sad about such a great opportunity squandered. The only reusable glimmer of knowledge came at the end, when interviewer Dr. Wayne Visser delivered what I’ve come to call the Glob of Hope. Even the most dire climate change communication always tries to end with The Glob of Hope.

Dr. Visser’s glob of hope was about our human capacity to shift very quickly when necessary. He gave a more long-winded version of the same speech Bill McKibben gives at the end of Do The Math,’s vastly superior 2012 climate-change documentary. In that film, McKibben talks about mobilizing for WWII, when the United States pivoted faster than a Silicon Valley startup. It’s the best nugget of hope you can give, because it provides not just hope for the planet, but strength to the belief that humans are resourceful and good when faced with the worst.

Quick shifts are at the heart of Alex Steffen’s forthcoming book, The Snap Forward. The idea is not just climate action, but rapid climate action. And it’s this language of swift turns and satisfying snaps that I love. If small actions and dire news are leading us to this tipping point, it’s the rapidity and decisiveness of what happens when we get to that tipping point that will matter. I love the sound of a snap, or a swivel, or a pivot. And as we delay, the need for that snap becomes all the greater. Picture the world’s biggest rubber band resoundingly thwacking into restorative action.

Without letting myself get too optimistic, the idea of a snap feels less impossible than it used to. The problem has always been that unlike an advancing army, you can’t see climate charge marching at you. But increasingly we feel it in our bones. And the people who think they can outrun it feel it in their bank accounts. And when everyone decides to leave oil at once…well, snap. Whether you conjure an auditory pleasure in imagining this snap is negotiable, but I hope the idea of swift and decisive action gives you strength when you need it.