It started a little slowly, but the Solutions Century is picking up pace.
That might sound optimistic amid the current ‘meta-crisis’ morass of a pandemic, climate emergency, division, recession, pollution, and inequality.
But, peer through the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) in media, both traditional and social, and you’ll find a new generation of solutionists of every age shaking off the existential shock of climate change and cultural ennui towards injustice. Millions of people exchanging angst for action.
In just the last few days, the Earthshot Prize for environmental solutions has launched, the All We Can Save book of climate answers by women is storming up bestseller charts, and just yesterday TED talks hosted a full day of science and solutions called Countdown to a better future.
David Attenborough calls for radical divestment from fossil fuels and for us all to take action (after his triumphant entrance to Instagram). A new podcast on How To Save A Planet is being advertised in Times Square. Even Exxon was toppled by a wind and solar company as the most valuable energy firm.
This explosion of solutionism is welcome. Three years ago today, when I published The Happy Hero, about the power of climate optimism, the idea of focusing on the solutions still wasn’t a mainstream idea. Too many were still chewing on the problems, fighting with deniers or frozen in the headlights of the biggest threat humanity has faced.
Then, as we ran towards 2020, we tripped into a global pandemic and smacked into the inadequacy of our social safety nets, the horrifying impact of health inequality, and conversely, the realisation that the vast majority of us (baring a few well publicised exceptions) are actually prepared to do what’s right, wear masks and distance.
If you watch those fantastic Countdown talks from yesterday – about environmental justice, the forest generation, and community action from across the world – you’ll discover people obsessed with facts, answers, and action. They are a vaccine against fatalism.
All these solutionists are telling a new story. Moving on from the Frankenstein story that dominated the early 2000s: climate change as a monster of our own making destined to destroy us, and they are changing it into a Lord of the Rings epic – a diverse band of the courageous and scared, the bold and meek, the famous and the family – fighting and defeating overwhelming odds.
The new United Nations campaign to #TurnItAround speaks to this new story. We stand at a crossroads, looking down different paths, one which leads to ecological and social breakdown, another that leads to a world better than we found it – for everyone.
Stare too long down the dark path, and your feet might start moving along it. Solutionists face the other way. This optimist’s road is harder to walk because we’re going to have to build it as we go. But it’s heading somewhere we might want to go.
If this truly is the age of the solutionist – how can you join them?
· Be Intersectional. The climate crisis and the poverty/inequality/racial injustice crisis are the same thing, with the same causes and the same solutions.
· Connect. Join online groups, join local groups, join at school, at work and with your friends. To change everything will take everyone.
· Do Something. Start small or explode out with a big answer. As long as you’re taking action, you’re facing the right way. Don’t try to be perfect, perfect trying.
· Have Fun. Action is the antidote to angst. No one said you couldn’t enjoy saving the world. A sense of purpose is going to make you happy and healthy (I know, I wrote the book about it).
And above all, hold onto the conviction that we can build a world of 10 billion healthy, educated and free people thriving within a recovering natural world and excited for what’s next, rather than afraid of it.
Welcome to the solutionists.