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When to Focus on the Half Full

I don’t cry in sad movies, not even in Beaches or Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment. It’s not that I’m emotionally glacial; it’s just that I’m used to bad news. I expect it; I even welcome it preemptively so that it doesn’t surprise me the way that my earliest encounters with bad news did.

There’s a Richard Branson quote about environmental action that I love: “When you know you do better.” I believe this and have long assumed that if you resist acknowledging a problem, i.e. the “bad news,” then you are likely to perpetuate that problem.

While I often regard overly rose-colored glasses as smudgy & blurred and while I sometimes righteously regard my own sight as crystal clear, it may be time for me to order a new subscription — one that’s a bit less focused on the bad news.

I’ve attended many panel discussions and community dialogs addressing ocean conservation specifically. Time and again, panelists share the bad news about how the ocean is broken. Next, someone in the crowd asks pleadingly, “But what can we do about it?”

Then, someone else in the crowd parrots, “Yeah, what can we do about it?”

Then another says, “I’m so tired of hearing about all of this and not having a plan to do something about it!”

Then, there’s more crowd agreement on this point before our time is up and we must all go home or to a coffee shop to debrief, which usually involves a discussion over whether or not the waxy paper that packages tea bags can be recycled.

But it still took me until last week to realize that my aforementioned “Glass is Half Full AND Half Empty” perspective may be tipping more ocean water out of the glass than is healthy. I’d asked a friend to read my prior March blog entry “The Ocean is Broken, but We May Be Able to Fix It.”

She said that she couldn’t make it past the bad news before getting so depressed that she stopped reading prior to reaching any good news — anything that made her feel like there is anything to do.

She’s nearly two decades into her career as an environmental scientist. If there’s anyone who is accustomed to doing something, she’s it.

To make amends for dumping so much reality on everyone and to make amends for all of those panelists who sink us into the bad news and leave us there, I’m tipping the glass back up before more seawater spills.

There’s SO much good news. I’m going to dedicate more entries to sharing it. Then, I’ll probably feel like the glass is getting too full, and I’ll have to hit you with something terrible about the rate of climate change.

For now, watch this short but paradigm-changing video from Carl Safina entitled “The Sacred Island.” I mean, REALLY do. It will make you happy. And you’ll know that someone is doing something.


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