By Kirsten Mathison & Olivia Allen

Kirsten Mathison was a volunteer Youth Advisor and storybook author in Waterlution’s 2018/19 YAB cohort. Olivia Allen is Waterlution’s Project Lead for Youth Programs.

KM: These days, optimism and building life-skills feel more important now than ever before. There is no way that Danielle could have known that a little over a year after launching the Cautious Optimist project, the fabric of our entire world would be reeling from the impacts of an unprecedented global pandemic.

We have known for a long time that the spread of pathogens and diseases would be exacerbated by climate change and humanity’s current relationship with the Earth.

Kirsten Mathison

In her own words, Danielle introduced the Cautious Optimist as a “documentation of my journey investigating what it would take to survive the Climate Apocalypse”. 

We all have different visions of what an ‘apocalypse’ is. Is it the trash-filled world of WALL-E? The dramatic and unbelievable flash-freeze in the mediocrely-reviewed ‘Day After Tomorrow’? Indigenous peoples around the world say they have been living in a post-apocalyptic world for hundreds of years, as colonization assaulted their traditional resources and ways of life.

When I googled ‘Apocalypse’, the first result felt eerily familiar: 

Wikipedia defines Apocalypse (ἀποκάλυψις): a Greek word meaning “revelation”, “an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling”.

We have known for a long time that the spread of pathogens and diseases would be exacerbated by climate change and humanity’s current relationship with the Earth.

OA: Danielle also spoke of grief in her blog post, addressing sadness and fear caused by climate grief. She created the Cautious Optimist, accepting what may become of our planet, and setting out to equip herself with new life-skills to survive the climate apocalypse. 

In the past few weeks, communities have pulled together and begun exploring their own resiliency. People are dusting off sewing machines to create and distribute home-made face-masks, baking and delivering bread, building raised garden beds along the side of urban roadways, and re-discovering the power of human connection. We are sharing resources and knowledge in a completely new way.

Kirsten Mathison

I recently read an article about grief and the pandemic in the Harvard Business Review. It reminded me that the rollercoaster of emotions I’m experiencing is grief. Though our experiences of grief are all unique – some are experiencing loss and fear, whiles other are griefing for their social freedom – the citizens of the world are working through the griefing process. On Facebook, I’ve seen my friends experience denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and finally… acceptance.

OA: Like climate change, COVID-19 is a global challenge and it must, and is, be addressed as such. Combating and preparing for global climate change also will require collective global action – policy shifts, lifestyle changes, and personal sacrifice with no promise of personal gain.

OA: I recently moved home to Nova Scotia – anyone entering the province from abroad or another area of Canada is being told to self-isolate for 14 days. From my new home, I can see my parents house and my best friend’s house, feeling close, yet still far from my loved ones.

KM:  As I sit here in the midst of 2020’s version of a Climate Apocalypse, accepting this reality, and reflect on Danielle’s original blog post, I can see it reflected in my community in ways that give me “hope, direction, inspiration, and energy”.

In the past few weeks, communities have pulled together and begun exploring their own resiliency. People are dusting off sewing machines to create and distribute home-made face-masks, baking and delivering bread, building raised garden beds along the side of urban roadways, and re-discovering the power of human connection. We are sharing resources and knowledge in a completely new way.

The Cautious Optimist Project shows us how new skills like, learning to fish, canning food with Grandma and conjuring fire can make our lifestyles more sustainable, and can connect us to the lands, waters, and our community. Now this global pandemic is yet another reminder that these life-skills are what make people and communities resilient.

Olivia Allen
KM: As I have adapted to my  new reality of self-isolation, my world shrunk to my house, but I was still able to escape with daily bike rides throughout my city. Even though I wasn’t able to stop and chat with my neighbours, I still caught powerful signs of community  everywhere I went. 

We need cautious optimism and life skills (like sewing, bread-making, and gardening) in these difficult times, and we need to share positivity and resourceful life-skills online. As we adapt to this ever-changing world, we will continue to explore and learn new skills to help us co-create a better future.

OA: We are all in this together, as communities, as provinces, as a country, and as people of the world. I’ve been thinking about what could happen as we re-engage with our ways-of-being when COVID-19 subsides. I’m curious how can we channel this energy, collective action, and community-led resiliency into the climate movement. 

Does every person need to experience some form of climate-grief before the world rallies to move forward together? At what point of climate destruction will our governments say enough is enough, and take drastic swift action to save our home? The recent actions of the public, governments and public health officials shows us that wide-spread community engagement and global cooperation is possible in the face of a complex global issue.

The Cautious Optimist Project shows us how new skills like, learning to fish, canning food with Grandma and conjuring fire can make our lifestyles more sustainable, and can connect us to the lands, waters, and our community. Now this global pandemic is yet another reminder that these life-skills are what make people and communities resilient.

Join us on this journey of cautious optimism! 

If you would like to get involved with the Cautious Optimist Project contact Olivia, Waterlution’s Project Lead for Youth Programs at olivia.allen@waterlution.org. We are seeking blogs about learning (or sharing) a new skill. Submitted blogs will be released as part of the Cautious Optimist- Danielle Moore Legacy Project.