Most people are aware of the precarious state of the planet as we forge into the 21st Century: forest fires tearing across parched landscapes, houses destroyed by flooding, and record after record broken as summer temperatures soar. Today, the world largely understands the problems and increasingly appreciates the need for solutions to the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and rising social inequality. This awareness evokes fear, panic and perhaps hope in all of us.

But what about the people on the ‘front lines’ of environmental research: those who produce and translate knowledge and evidence to help us make the best decisions when dealing with environmental crises? They are painfully aware of humanity’s precarious situation and have made it their life’s work to make things better. How, then, do they feel about the state of the planet? Did they ever imagine things would be this way today? What do they fear or hope the future holds for us and our descendants?

This project explores the emotional connections that science researchers and communicators have with the planet and their work to preserve it. Through in-depth conversations and a co-design process influenced by social science methods, these frontline workers in the global fight against environmental crises have chosen three adjectives to describe their feelings as they stand on the brink, and have selected their own images that they feel capture these words.

You are seeing them. Their fears. Their hopes.

May this not be in vain.


Read more about the genesis of the project in this blog post here


She tells me that her heart is in pieces every time she reads the news. “Now, with the war, taking away people’s rights, and the threat of nuclear pollution – I feel a tightness in my chest when I think about the state of the planet”, she tells me. “We are walking backwards in terms of conservation and ecosystem protection in Brazil - I’m very deeply upset with the situation”. At the same time, she tells me that she hopes things will get better in the next few years.

She tells me about the recent bad flooding in Brazil, “It’s getting more and more frequent – so many people have lost their homes, their belongings, their lives. This makes me feel really anxious”. Although she works with environmental issues, she explains that sometimes she feels that there’s not much more she can do. “That makes me even more anxious”.

“Every time I go to the forest, it’s a privilege for me – being there, I feel inspired”, she explains. “I’m so grateful for nature to offer me that moment. I love forests, for me it’s one of the best places to be”. She says she will fight to protect everything – “forests, rivers, oceans. I want people to feel what I feel when I’m in contact with nature. I will do my part to commit myself to spreading actions and words to protect nature more and more”.
Aline is an environmental researcher working in sustainability, with a focus on forest restoration and soil science.
I ask her if she feels hope. “Yes. It’s easy for me to answer. Maybe because I live somewhere with forest and lots of natural resources, but I feel a lot of inspiration and I do feel hope.”


“Everything I read now is another record broken, another disaster, seeing something we never thought we would see in the near future. I find this too much to deal with sometimes, it's overwhelming. It's especially hard to care about the small things in life when you know there is and will be so much suffering on the planet: what have we done...?”

This is not where he thought we would be now - we should have done more. He explains that it was clear to him that things were bad when he was younger, and that pushed him to work in conservation so he could make a difference. People know more now, he says, but it feels like little has changed. “When you’re up against capitalism and public and political inertia it’s hard to feel like your small piece of the puzzle is having any impact at all”.

He says he is scared about how we and future generations will cope with all the problems that have been knowingly swept under the carpet for decades. “It’s hard to see how things won’t get a lot worse for some people, and I feel guilty that I haven’t been able to do more. I feel impotent.”
Neal works in the gap between the production of research, and how that science is reliably summarised and used in decision-making in sectors related to the environment, sustainability, and climate.
“Do I feel hope? I don't know. Hope seems very passive. We're beyond hope, thoughts and prayers. We need to drastically change how we live. Can you hope for that?” It's possible, but we have to do so much more than hope, he says.


“People often think I’m saving the world with my job”, she tells me, “when actually, I’m behind a computer all day”. She feels hypocritical when facing people’s expectations of her based on her job. She also explains that the hypocrisy manifests itself in how she lives her life, not as sustainable as she could: “I get anxiety reading about other people trying their hardest to live well”, but she confesses to not knowing exactly how we can live sustainably, “it’s frustrating”.

She tells me that she doesn’t feel helpful anymore, questioning herself. This self-doubt is clearly challenging who she thought she was. “Doctors and nurses can see the impact of their work. With what I do, I really cannot see how I’m helping”.

“I feel uninspired”, she confesses, “so how can I help to inspire others?”. She explains that even the young people she talks to through her youth outreach work aren’t as motivated, that just the last 12 months has seen a big drop in their enthusiasm. “If I start to think about it, nothing makes sense”.
Nhilce is a researcher working with hydrology and disaster risk reduction, interested in the role of water in sanitation and development.
She tells me that she does feel hope in a way: “My hope is that the kids of my friends start growing up with these ideas of being fair and environmentally conscientious. They see their parents’ behaviour and it sinks in. I have hope on that”.


He tells me he only became fully aware of the climate crisis a few years ago: “I used to live abroad, I flew everywhere, ate meat, drove a car. I was a product of the system - I didn’t question the media, police, justice, the government. I now live in a world where all of these make me uncomfortable”, he tells me. “I have extreme levels of sadness and anger at times. There’s nothing to stop toxic companies brainwashing students at university career talks - companies that are destroying their futures. It’s fucking awful. It’s devastating!”

“I had always achieved what I set out to do in my life”, he says, “but when I learned about the climate crisis and tried to apply the same approach, I got nowhere - I felt I couldn’t do anything to help. It broke me”. He explains that this drove him into a deep depression. “Then I learned more of the reality about racism, climate justice, the inequality of everything. And in the process, I learnt how to be a better person, I think”.

“I recently challenged students organising a career talk from BP - they prevented me from handing out flyers and told the students not to read them! They tried to have me removed”, he tells me. “They surrounded me, telling me that I’d ruined their event, that all the students want is a career and I was preventing them from having that… I exploded with rage. I was furious. I was so enraged! I had to take an hour off and cried on a friend’s shoulder.” We pause for a minute as I struggle not to cry listening to him. “It’s not helpful when I can’t control my fury. But I’m so angry at politicians and the media, worried they will get fired if they act - so GET FIRED! Journalists should be moral, braver than they are. I’m angry with academics - but although they’re victims of a siloed academic system, they are not so naive not to realise that. Society has always needed people to follow the trend, to keep things 'stable', but this time it will kill us. Joining a group like Scientists for Extinction Rebellion has enabled me to find the change-makers, and it saved my life. The feeling I had before, as though I was alone, was terrifying. I was led to believe I was insane. Now I’ve found my community, I feel settled again.”
Pete is a PhD student working on air pollution and an environmental activist who has been arrested for taking part in protests against the UK government’s continued lack of environmental and climate responsibility.
“Yes, I feel hope”, he says, “Climate awareness and activism has exponentially exploded - that trajectory will continue. The increase of fascist-style governments is a sign that we’re winning - fascism is the only way these polluting companies can continue. We’re at the foothills of fascism, but I don’t think it’s inevitable. I feel this reaction of feeling threatened is essential to create change. So, I do feel hope. But it’s on a knife edge. Activism is the antidote to fascism.”


She tells me that she is frustrated: “there is so much emphasis on more research, more projects, more solutions. We have solutions already, but we don’t want to pay attention. And we can’t think the solution is purely technological – it has to be about how we interact with the world – but there’s very little progress and emphasis on that.”

The detachment that she feels is partly out of despair, but also partly strategic: “it’s for my survival”, she explains. “People might think this is negative, like giving up, but it’s not. I don’t feel like science alone can provide the whole picture nor all the answers. But in my work we aren’t encouraged to look beyond the ‘hard facts’. Involving values and emotions is usually frowned upon in the research world. It makes the work a bit inhumane. So, I detach myself from work and find a way forward via culture and art, and connecting with other human beings. When you do that, you start thinking past yourself. That’s ultimately why we’re facing the problems we are.”

She goes on to explain that through detachment she finds new connections - with other people she might otherwise not meet: “You meet different people, different perspectives, different lived experiences – that’s where the creativity and positivity starts.”
Aina is a science communicator with a speciality in sustainable lifestyles, and sustainable consumption and production.
“I do feel hope”, she tells me, “but not in the space that we work in. Some people find hope in research and solutions, but I don’t. I need to look further than technical solutions. It’s in other ways I feel hope – in seeing how culture can help us relate to each other better, and breed new ways to coexist beautifully. There I feel hope.”


He tells me that he has wanted to work in environmental advocacy for a long time, but that the chaotic state of the planet today can sometimes be too much to bear.

Despite his awareness of the chaotic situation in which we find ourselves, he remains grounded. “Yes, things are bad”, he tells me, “but a survival mechanism kicks in that stops this knowledge from generating fear and panic: a welcome apathy, perhaps”.

He trusts that whatever the future holds will be good: “Welcoming the chaos - the loss of individual and collective energy to keep changing things - is part of becoming aware: the awakening of consciousness”. He tells me that perhaps by witnessing devastating realities we will become better versions of ourselves and lead the way to transformation.
Patricio is a science communicator, helping to translate important environmental research into impactful media that influence people to make better choices.
He tells me he does have hope: “I’m holding on, knowing that the best is yet to come.”


She explains to me that the state of the planet and the climate crisis is increasingly featuring in her discussions with her research participants in Africa; something that often feels like a bigger issue than the objective of her work on cookstoves and energy, leaving her sometimes feeling useless. At the same time, she feels ashamed that the research and practice community hasn’t come further and done more: “I cringe sometimes when I write about the current state of knowledge in research papers – we know this and yet we see no action. It’s repetitive and depressing”.

She tells me that she feels outraged – “it’s an explosive, disruptive shock. But perhaps it’s a positive thing in a way, she explains: “it feels like it might lead to some kind of shift, some watershed, or a catalyst”.

Her children help her to be determined, though – she can’t give up on them. They have embraced buying second hand and understand why, she explains - clearly humbled but proud. The children have even been a driving force to reduce the family’s impacts on the environment.
Fiona is a social scientist working to understand what factors affect people’s choices, particularly with respect to access to energy and energy poverty.
When I ask her about the future, she explains she doesn’t feel hope: “the word hope is not good enough – it’s far away and doesn’t imply action. Hope won’t drive me forwards. But being outraged, having a sense of purpose, I need something that drives me not to give up, but I don’t want to call it hope.”


She tells me that coming from Kenya and then having 7 years’ experience in Europe she has struggled with seeing a lack of meaningful impact of a lot of Western research in her country. “I always want to give the African perspective first, but I feel conflicted – because I’m now part of that system and feel obligated to do more – that I should help to find solutions working from the inside.”

She explains that she sees a lot of talk about the planet, but what she feels is lacking is implementation of already existing solutions. “Sustainable business is the solution to the climate crisis in my opinion – innovation. It’s time the research world collaborated more with business to find solutions”. She tells me that her background and upbringing give her a different perspective: “A large percentage of Nairobi’s youth population is unemployed, so the environment is not their prime concern, unfortunately. Of course, it’s important, but from that perspective there are other urgent things that need to be solved first, so we can get everyone on board.”

She also feels collaborative: “It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you have on a subject – there is always something you can learn from a local expert. A fisherman who has worked his whole life on Lake Victoria understands the impact of fishing in the region better than anyone else, for example.” She wishes that people could be more collaborative so that businesses and projects were inclusive and therefore sustainable in the long run.
Brenda is a communications specialist working with water and innovation related research.
“I don’t want to be a pessimist, I’m generally a realist”, she explains. “So yes, I’m hopeful. But there is a lot of work that needs to be done to get everybody on board – we need everyone on board if we’re to win this war. Less talk, more action.”


Despite his calm presence, he describes at length how frustrated he is with the state of the planet and humanity’s poor response: “you keep hearing the same message again and again, but mistakes keep being made”. He tells me of his frustrations with the way that China is described – confrontational and accusatory – “any solution has to involve China!”. But he manages to stay calm by an inherent belief that perhaps there is some logic to the way things are. This calmness, he tells me, can perhaps be traced back to his Taoist roots, and he explains an old Chinese adage about the sky falling that reflects the benefits of not worrying about things outside your control.

Some experts believe that the most likely outcome for humanity will be very narrowly escaping total disaster, he tells me: “and we are already entering a time where we are seeing all kinds of disasters”. Again, he tells me that he takes comfort from the fact that we may need such disaster to get to a tipping point where things are forced to change.

He tells me that we just need to have faith that we will pull through. He takes motivation from finding his own meaning in what he does, working towards open dialogue and trying to understand one another: “sometimes, we’re too wrapped up in whether we are making a difference. But as long as I see meaning in what I do, that’s good enough motivation for me to get up every day and do it.”
Guoyi is a researcher focusing on water, climate change and disaster risk reduction, particularly focusing on the role of China.
He tells me he feels hope – that it is implicitly encompassed in faith: “this enduring power of human survival – that’s where my hope lies.”


He tells me he wasn’t an angry person growing up: “But the more I sit with it - what’s being done - I’m filled with outrage, indignation, and ultimately righteous rage. Politicians, they are the real villains here. I want to hold them to account, for justice to be done - I’m not the criminal, they are the ones who are wrong! I have to be brave and to be brave I have to be angry. It’s easier for me to do because the science is so clear.”

“On a daily basis I look around and see business as usual and I wonder how we got into this mess”, he explains. “This bewilderment is sapping away at me as society carries on. I have to maintain my beliefs in the face of everyone else acting as if I’m crazy.” He tells me he feels very lonely, alienated. “It feels like we’ve been abandoned. The systems you think would be there to look after us - they don’t exist. It all seems so bizarre and absurd.”

He struggles to put this one into words at first, “It’s just so horrible. I grew up on David Attenborough documentaries. But it’s so painful to see it destroyed. We’re not only doing harm - there are pockets of people healing, but it’s so overwhelmed by the destruction.” He tells me that it makes it hard to be in the wild places he loves. “I feel hurt everywhere I look. I just wish everyone could feel a connection to nature. Then they would fight as hard as I am.”
Aaron is an interdisciplinary scientist, science communicator and environmental campaigner working on the interface between reason and emotion in communication strategies related to the climate crisis. He was recently arrested as part of a group of scientists protesting against his government's climate policies.
I ask him if he feels hope: “I think hope is a dangerous emotion - what are we hoping for, that it will be solved for us? If you mean an active hope, then I am hopeful that if enough of us did these things, mobilising, protesting. If we can build the momentum, it will spread - we can amplify each other. That’s the belief I have, that our actions ripple out. This is a battle - we have to organise to build counter power, and I’d rather spend all my life trying than think I hadn’t done enough. That’s my act of love for the world.”


Her sadness is clear from the outset: “It’s not that we don’t know what to do. We don’t have the exact solutions for every part, but we know the bigger part. It’s just not happening”. “The sadness comes in waves”, she says through tears, “Being focused on one thing can help to keep it aside, but only temporarily. I feel I can’t live my life – why should we even consider not having kids? We’re not fully free – I envy people who don’t know as much as I do…”

She tells me she is disgusted by the greed and hypocrisy in the system: “The greenwashing disgusts me – so much smart thinking is used to get around policies and recommendations. Why can’t we use that intelligence to make the world better?”

“I have this determination to continue to improve”, she explains, “Doing my research, trying to live better – little by little. It’s just overwhelming to try to do it all at the same time.”
Claudia researches the politics and practicalities of how economies across the world can be made more sustainable as they transition away from fossil fuels.
“I do feel hope”, she says, “But the kind of ambition level we need… that is like grieving for me. We’re losing hope for 1.5 degrees – even 2 seems more challenging. The hope is that we achieve the least bad of the possible alternatives.”


She tells me she feels like rolling her eyes with fury, “it seems crazy that there’s so much that can be done to make things better, but there are a small number of powerful people at the top of the pyramid that do nothing.” She explains that she can’t let herself think about it too much, “if you sat down and thought about the state of the world and the inaction it would be too easy to say things are too bad, throw in the towel… It’s kind of overwhelming.”

“We know so much, we’ve made huge progress in scientific understanding – the knowledge is there and we have capacity to make bigger changes, but we keep missing the low-bar targets we set”, she says. She explains that she’s disappointed with those in power who are not facilitating the change the planet needs, “it comes down to the fact that these people don’t benefit from the changes they need to bring in, so they don’t bother.”

Despite her frustration and disappointment, she remains optimistic, “there are people in the world who dedicate their lives to facilitating positive change. I actively choose to see the good things and try not to pay attention to the bad things”. She is acutely aware of her privilege, too: “lots of people have no choice – they face the horror of environmental crises in daily life or work”, but she explains that she can choose to stay positive and keep fighting, “it’s self-preservation, isn’t it?”
Danielle is a lawyer-turned-environmentalist, currently studying marine environmental protection.
I ask her if she feels hope: “Yeah – definitely! I do think things will get worse for a lot of people, and there’s no hope in restoring the world to a pre-industrial state. But I believe we’ll be able to mould ourselves into whatever situation we’re in. I don’t think we’re on a linear path to things getting better at all, but I do have hope that positive things can be done. Eventually, things will get better – it’s just a shame we have to push things to this level of devastation to drive that change.”


He likens his feelings about the state of the planet to watching an asteroid hurtling towards us: sometimes he feels nobody else can see it; every day it is a little closer; and we seem to be doing nothing about it.

His desperation and frustration are clear. “When people find out what I do for work they often say ‘ah, great that you are working to save the planet!’ But I don’t know how to respond, because it doesn’t feel like we are…”

Despite this, he also feels that researchers need to stay strong in the face of fear and frustration. “Any victory is a huge victory. We work for the public good – we are duty-bound to carry on. We scientists have to work on radical sustainable transformative solutions, and escape from this highly competitive and paper-oriented scientific system that’s disconnected us from reality.”
José Luis is an environmental scientist investigating the role of community-led initiatives in improving the sustainability of food systems.
“I don't have any hope”, he tells me, apologetically, “Considering the scientific knowledge we already have about the topic and our behaviour and lifestyle, I think there’s no place for hope. Many people are already dying, starving or migrating because of the impacts of climate change. The only thing we can do now is to make the problem as least harmful as possible for the planet and people. We have to be resilient.”


It is immediately obvious that the state of the planet is affecting her. She is deeply empathetic and explains that this year has been a personal tipping point for her, ignited by the heatwaves in Western North America. She is very aware of what humanity is beginning to endure from climate change, and she feels this pain keenly. She tells me that the anguish she feels comes in waves and feels visceral, like a loss, like grief: “it’s really happening!” she whispers.

But she also feels in awe of mother nature – we have changed things so much that the entire planet is responding: “it’s like a sick body reacting, and it’s fascinating to see what it can do - what it can do to people”, she says.

She explains that hope is not enough, but maybe passion is: “we have to have passion to turn things around. We need to make people passionate about the planet”.
Anneli has a background in environmental science and sustainability and is a science communicator.
She feels it is not hope that we need right now - that she cannot feel hope. “We need a force to carry on, more than hope. It needs to stem from love, from inside ourselves. I wish I could say that I feel hope, but I don’t. We need action!”


“I’m overwhelmed in both positive and negative ways”, she explains, “Every day I spend in nature, I’m overcome by joy, love, inspiration - but it’s bitter sweet. There’s also despair and guilt simultaneously. These emotions are overwhelming, almost to the point of not being able to breathe. I can be so struck by the beauty of walking down the beach, seeing a fish in a pool, a spider's web… but at the same time, I’m terrified that we’re going to lose it all and there’s nothing I can do! These emotions can be motivating - nature is so perfect and beautiful. But it can be paralysing. That feeling of not being good enough, not doing enough. I sometimes feel so small against powers that are so humongous, powerful and brutal.”

“The anger is really intense”, she tells me, “How fucking dare they?! After millions of years of evolution to produce the most incredible natural world, in this tiny fraction of time we’ve destroyed so much! I’m amazed by how irresponsible the people in power are. We have solutions, we know what to do to fix things and yet we’re doing nothing! I’m so frustrated. It was easier to deal with when we thought people just weren’t aware, but people know now, and they’re still ignoring everything. Apathy - that’s what gets me really fucking angry - knowing yet choosing not to do anything, or doing some tokenistic bullshit and thinking that’s enough!”

“Whilst the anger comes in waves, the feeling I have underlying that never goes away - it’s pain”, she says. “I feel guilt, anxiety, frustration, bitterness - but ultimately, underneath everything is an intense, agonising sadness. I just work harder and longer hours to distract myself - it’s a coping mechanism”. She goes quiet, and we pause for several minutes before she begins to cry. We sit together, crying - in pain, but not alone.
Emma is an ecologist and environmental activist who has been arrested by UK police several times for attempting to highlight the severity of the climate crisis and the seriousness of state inaction. She spent two months in prison for climate activism during which time she undertook a 26 day hunger strike - a day for every failed COP.
After some time, I ask her if she feels hope, “Yes - it’s not glaringly obvious where it is, but it must be in there somewhere for us to continue fighting. Even though I have very little trust in humanity, I guess that irrepressible desire for a better world manifests itself as hope in me.”


He is deeply angered by what he feels has been done to the planet, “we had this beautiful world that has been taken from us – and much of the damage has been done knowingly, through greed.” He says that the anger can be quite motivating, “we need to act thoughtfully, but I don’t think anger is a particularly damaging emotion – it’s quite an empowering one.”

“I cannot f*cking believe that we had everything, and we allowed it to be destroyed. How can that be?!” he asks, incredulous. The discussion is tinged with sadness, “it’s not shock, I literally can’t describe it. It’s the most outrageous and nonsensical thing.” He says he feels this deeply as a scientist, “you spend your entire life coming up with answers, and people choose not to use them. We have the answers – we know what to do. But as a society we just don’t do it. We could sort all of it out if we just decided to dedicate adequate resources to it. It’s just completely incomprehensible. It just doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“I feel really scared. I’m not just scared about what’s happening to the world. What scares me the most is not the collapse of our societies. What scares me is the rise of fascism and what that could mean for me as an activist”, he explains, beginning to cry. I cry with him. “Perhaps I didn’t realise how scared I was. Maybe it’s just there bubbling away all the time… But I don’t think it’s healthy – it’s not helping my resilience at all. If there’s one trend in me over the years, it’s a big decline in my emotional resilience. I’m not tough anymore.”
Charlie is a conservation scientist, writer and environmental activist working with societal responses to environmental crises.
I ask him if he feels hope, “Yes and no – I feel more hope than I’ve ever felt before, thanks to the rise of activism. Yes, the problems are so much worse – but we’re much closer to change now. The only hope we have is people power – either we take our planet back or we lose it.” He continues, “but I don’t like the idea of hope – hope is related to faith, it’s magical – somehow it will be ok. For a lot of people hope can be disempowering – ‘it will be OK, so I don’t need to fight’. But I don’t need hope to fight. I understand that hope is motivational and empowering on an individual level, but on a societal level, hope is really dangerous.”


She tells me that she is outraged that we are leaving so many people behind as environmental problems exacerbate, that the world is so unfair: “some of us are in a position to speak and act, but a lot of us aren’t doing anything”. She is deeply aware of our privilege in Europe, and seems appalled that we’re not using it to protect people who can’t protect themselves.

“I feel betrayed by other generations – and now by promises being made that I know can’t be fulfilled”, she tells me. She wonders if there is anything shocking enough to force the people in power to recognise the crisis and act. She feels angry, unheard, put aside. She’s been told there’s no use in being angry, and perhaps this is the cause of her cycling from rage to apathy.

The apathy manifests itself as a feeling of hopelessness, “I’ve been robbed of my dreams”, she explains. At the same time, the world of research in which she works feels ineffective: “it feels as though it’s just about publishing research articles, but not telling the people who need it, just other researchers”. She tells me she doesn’t see the point of her work, and that anyone could come along and do her job. She seems racked with guilt for having these thoughts: “it feels like we’re not allowed to feel this way”.
Carla is a researcher working on the connection between management of watersheds and societal access to water and sanitation.
“No, I don’t feel hope. I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel”, she confesses. She says we need something bigger – a revolution, perhaps. “But I don’t feel hopeful about the future.”


She tells me she feels uncertain: “What’s going to happen with the planet, when, how fast? When I started working in this area I didn’t think about things in as large scales as I do now. There’s more certainty at smaller scales – fighting problems locally. It’s not about things happening in the future anymore, it’s happening now.”

She explains that she’s also fairly accepting of planetary changes: “The bigger picture doesn’t care about us – we’re just a parenthesis in the world. I can’t control chaos – we’ve been brought up in the west with very little chaos. There will be more in the future, but that doesn’t necessarily mean unhappiness.”

“The way people behave in a social context scares me, though – there’s no feeling of community, no reflection that living together comes with sacrifices.” She goes on: “If we continue like that, we won’t change anything – society seems so focused on us as individuals, and I feel like everything I stand for is totally different. Then I feel despondent – like giving up.”
Ylva is a researcher working on agriculture and assessing the environmental impact and sustainability of food systems.
“Hope depends on what it’s connected to. I feel hopeful that I can do a lot to teach my kids to be the opposite of everything I dislike about society, but we can’t stop climate change. We have to accept it and try to do the best we can, accepting that we can’t predict the future. That’s not hopelessness, though.”


“I’ve made sacrifices, but there’s always more I could do”, he says, explaining his guilt that he doesn’t live as sustainably as he could. He tells me of the pangs of guilt he feels when it comes to food and travel: “since having kids, convenience often takes priority”. There is also the fact of being born into a society responsible for much of the catastrophe we’re currently facing. “This guilt motivates me in a way”, he explains, “it’s my responsibility to be part of the solution. But I always feel like I could dedicate more effort to increasing my knowledge and capacity to drive change”.

He describes his sense of dismay and alarm at the unfairness of the effects of environmental crises: “they make life so much harder for people in communities already facing challenges. It’s a perfect storm”. He seems particularly alarmed about poor decisions that entrench vulnerability in places most at risk from climate change. “I’ve seen this combination first-hand working in Vietnam”.

He tells me that it’s heartening to see progress with some decision-making – the change in administration in the United States and policy proposals in the European Union, for example. “I’m cautiously hopeful. These things tend to happen in waves”, he explains, referring to unforeseen circumstances that can slow or hasten progress. He tells me that the crises being seen in 2021 have fed more into a feeling of hope than despair: “Public consciousness is dawning and not only among youth, there is also a shift in my parents’ generation”, he says.
Tim is a sustainability policy expert working to support governmental decision-making, with a background in energy, climate and development.
He tells me he feels hope “because there’s a broader acceptance that we can’t continue the way we are. This is driving support for hard decisions. At the same time, technological progress has consistently exceeded expectations. There are strong signs that things are going in the right direction.”


She tells me that she feels fickle, flipping between an idealist and a realist view of how best to govern climate change: “Sometimes I feel we should be brave and dare to dream, to believe that climate change can transcend politics, that it can lead us to be better than we are today – more collaborative, more cooperative. Then I flip – no, we can’t be dreamers, we’re more likely to get the changes we’re calling for if they account for the way the world works today”. She tells me that she has different identities on different days of the week.

“I feel like a fraud in all sorts of ways”, she confesses. People working in climate change are – to her – amazing scientists who have worked for years trying to bring attention to what climate change is and what it means for the world. “That’s not me! I just write about this stuff!” she says. She tells me that her work sometimes involves arguing that others should live more sustainably, but finds it deeply uncomfortable that she doesn’t live a perfect life herself: “I feel like I embody those values when it’s easy to do so – but who am I to argue with others if that’s the case?”. She confesses to turning away from news about climate change: “It terrifies me – the stuff that we can’t fix – there’s no going back when lives have been lost, or species are extinct”. She explains that she skims the headlines but sometimes can’t face reading the articles in detail: “and that’s part of the problem – that we’re choosing not to see and look the other way because it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge”.

Despite all this, she feels resolute: “we just have to keep on going, there’s no other option. Even though it sometimes feels like you’re trying to swim across a vast ocean, you just have to keep swimming”. She tells me, with a shrug, that there’s nothing else to do, because at least it’s something.
Katy works in climate change adaptation policy, particularly focused on the cascading effects of climate change from one place to another.
I ask her if she feels hope: “Yes – hmm…?”, she questions herself, “Yes, I feel hope – I’m not sure I could do this job if I didn’t. But I can’t always articulate what I’m hoping for.”


She tells me that she feels frustrated reading IPCC reports every few years, seeing scientists loudly and clearly saying this is a crisis because the level of ambition of governments and corporations is so low: “it’s not enough – what makes me frustrated is how far we are from where we need to be!”

“Five years ago, I was hopeful that we could still do something about the planet”, she explains, “but now we have so much inequality and inaction. The last five years have made me feel powerless. It feels as though it doesn’t matter what I do – at the end of the day it doesn’t change anything.”

She explains that she lives in a constant state of guilt: “it’s always there, no matter what”. She tells me that she tries hard to live sustainably in every part of her life – but there’s always more she could do. “I spend hours checking labels in grocery shops!”. Along with this Western guilt about climate change and sustainability, she tells me she also has survival guilt coming from Iran, “things there are getting much worse”, she says. She also explains that she finds it hard to talk to friends about sustainability: “nobody wants to go grocery shopping with me anymore.”
Sara is a researcher working in the field of future studies – building scenarios for how the future might look and making decisions under uncertainty.
I ask her if she feels hope: “I don’t feel hopeful now about the future state of the planet. All we can do is our best to control the damage, but things are going to get worse. There are no alternative futures anymore, there is one future and we’re doomed in it.”

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