Molly Kawahata, founder of Systemic Impact Strategies, defined hope as, “the belief that the future can be better and that you have the agency to make it better.”
Hundreds of attendees came together at California Institute of the Arts for the “Visions2030: Earth Edition” festival, which started Friday and will continue into Sunday, looking for just that.
“I was hoping to get a little bit of hope,” said attendee Vicki Hunter.
The festival focuses on the importance of eco-consciousness by utilizing interactive learning experiences so attendees can leave dreaming for a better future with the knowledge of how to bring it to reality.
Family-friendly activities, goat yoga, Indigenous storytelling, curated art experiences, live music performances and sound baths were just a few of the amenities at the multi-sensory festival.
Ten percent of the ticket sales are to go toward Breathe Southern California, a nonprofit organization that works on promoting clean air and healthy lungs through research, education, advocacy and technology.
Kawahata spoke on Sunday under the “Mentoring Tent,” her speech entitled, “Changing the climate narrative through storytelling.”
Kawahata said in her time as a White House climate advisor under the Obama Administration, she hit a wall. She was alone and mad one night.
She wondered why making the change that she knew the United States needed was so difficult.
After a long thought process, she found what she thought to be the root of the struggle.
“Fear, guilt and shame, which have dominated the climate narrative for decades, is antithetical to human motivation,” said Kawahata. “It has a paralyzing response. This is a trauma response. So, we’ve been making people feel fear, guilt and shame and then saying, ‘Why aren’t you acting?’”
She asked the tent full of attendees to raise their hands if they ever felt fear, guilt and shame due to commercials about the human impact on Earth.
Almost everyone raised their hand.
“The research showed something else that was really interesting, which is that hope, hope was actually quite compelling,” said Kawahata. “Hope was very tied to human motivation … So one of the lessons in narrative change on climate, is lead with hope … The only thing fear is good for is you need somebody to fight, flight or freeze.”
Kawahata also cited national disaster commercials as another failed fear tactic in raising awareness and efforts toward climate change.
“But as a mainstream narrative, it wasn’t effective. Why? It paralyzed people into inaction, and also it localized climate as an issue,” said Kawahata. “Now climate has this incredible opportunity, more than any other issue for its universality, and if you have a message that says, ‘That’s there, not here, that’s them, not me,’ that actually isn’t always helpful for mobilizing large masses.”
Kawahata, along with other speakers and programs at the festival, emphasized that the approach to climate change needs to change.
Lois Arkin is the cofounder of the Los Angeles Eco-Village Insititute, a neighborhood in Los Angeles that reinvents the city lifestyle by providing affordable housing, integrating the social, economic and the ecological systems of a neighborhood.
Throughout the years society has been introduced to new terms describing the needed action for climate change.
“At first it was ‘sustainability’ back in the early 1980s, or the mid to late 1980s,” said Arkin, “then that word is getting out warned, so we started to use the word ‘resilience’ and then ‘regenerative.’”
With the current state of the world, that word has changed again.
“Some people believe that whatever we do, it’s too little too late, so now we’re using the word ‘adaptation,’” said Arkin.
Adaptation, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the adjustment to environmental conditions.
“We’re all part of an ecosystem, that everything is interconnected and/or connected in some way, so how do we adapt to the changes that are happening faster than we can correct?” questioned Arkin.
Under the lumisphere dream domes at the festival, attendees were able to put together their ideal world. Picking the environment, community, aesthetic and technology, and finally take a moment to reflect on their findings. Artificial intelligence took over after that and made a visual representation of what this ideal world would look like.
“I’ve got a little bit of hope,” said Hunter as she reflected on her time at the festival. “I think just walking around this campus and seeing the young people being so very engaged, is something I wanted to be happening — but you know, who knows if people are not doing what you hope they’re doing — and that was very encouraging for me to see, so many young people really engaged because, it’s their Earth now.”
Those wishing to catch the last few days of “Visions2030: Earth Edition” can purchase tickets at tinyurl.com/4wes43rh.