Hope can be a hard thing to see in these, oftentimes, bleak days. Differences of opinion are creating chasms that once seemed to be bridgeable by debate and empathy, but now are so deep and wide – and filled with untruth – that agreement of the design of the bridge is unattainable. In some cases, we can’t even agree that a bridge needs to be built at all.

stacey ludlum zoo designer pgav destinationsBy Stacey Ludlum, Director of Zoo & Aquarium Planning and Design, PGAV Destinations.

Bullying is everywhere, from the youngest of children to the pinnacle of leadership. And availability of information means that everything scary is constantly and instantly transmitted, so that we are inundated with bad news, sadness, fear, and anger incessantly.

We all know where we are.

And some days, like a rainy Tuesday when your head aches from late spring allergies, it’s hard to find inspiration even to get out of bed.

But there is hope.

A climate change conference at a Catholic, Jesuit university

I attended a climate summit keynote address recently at the prestigious Jesuit Saint Louis University. Yes, that’s correct. A Catholic, Jesuit university hosted a climate change conference. The evening was opened by the President of the University speaking about the role that faith in God has played in the history of the university; in the creation of fine upstanding professionals, leaders in their particular area of expertise.

He then read a letter from a Cardinal at the Vatican expressing congratulations from the Pope himself—for hosting a climate summit at the University.

This is the start of hope, for reasons that should be obvious.

The keynote speakers for the evening were environmental activist and past visionary leader for the Sierra Club, Carl Pope, followed by a lively Q&A with the ever-entertaining Bill Nye. The contrast between the two presenters’ styles was striking, but, interestingly, their messages were equally as different.

Carl Pope presented a formal lecture. He began with the positives of environmentalism. These are the changes that have occurred over time, the scientific potential for advances, and the financial potential to invest in changes. Then, he switched to the key take-away of his talk. This was the three human barriers to change: bankers, economists, and politicians. Each have a way of thinking currently that opposes environmentalism. That is, thinking for the benefits of today rather than the long-term potential.

Environmentalism – children are engineers of change

Bill Nye’s presentation was completely informal. It was likely off-the-cuff. However, the most meaningful thing I took away from it was: he disagreed with Carl Pope.

children in wildlife conservation habitatJust like Whitney said so many years ago, he believes the children are our future. And right now, those kids are growing up fully embracing the need to be pro-active for the environment. It doesn’t matter where they are from. Or what political leanings their parents have. They understand that protecting the world is their duty. And that means, despite the prevalence of adults that are naysayers, complainers, and fake news criers, in a matter of just a few years, these kids will not only be voting, but they will be meaningful advocates and literal engineers of change.

We know this inherently, yet we forget. Not only will these kids be the ones voting, the ones making decisions, the ones spreading awareness…they’ll also be the bankers, economists, and politicians.

And that, my friends, should give us all hope.

Wildlife habitats are the resonsibility of everyone

So continue the good fight, dear zoos and aquariums. Continue reminding the children that, no matter where they come from–and no matter what their parents’ political views are, wildlife and natural habitats are important to everyone—and are the responsibility of everyone.

One day very soon, we won’t have to fight quite so hard to convince our leaders to act sustainably. We’ll embrace green thinking as the foundation to sound business practices, to innovation, and to job creation. We should all have hope for our future, despite the dark days in which we find ourselves, because the things that are good for our Earth are truly good for everyone.

Top image: Arctic popp, the Qausuittuq National Park on Bathurst Island by Paul Gierszewski.