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5 Reasons to Be Hopeful We Haven't Totally Screwed Ourselves and the Planet ... Yet

I can't help but wonder if we've really, totally screwed ourselves (and a whole lot of this planet). But there are 5 things that give me hope.

Some days my morning tea seems half full, other days half empty. Sometimes I wake up emboldened with hope. Such as when I read about activist and shrimper Diane Wilson taking on BP's Tony "I Want My Life Back" Hayward. Or when I hear about the 10,000 young activists who made a ruckus in DC for Powershift 2011 -- even earning face time with the president.

But on the flip side there are the photos of the lives ruined, the water threatened, the homes devalued by gas drilling. It gets worse hearing Bill McKibben talking about 2010 being the hottest year on record, temperatures hitting a record-breaking 129 degrees in Pakistan, and the U.S. House of Representatives voting 248-174 in favor of a resolution saying global warming isn't real.

What legislative victories we have achieved seem mostly small, and for every inch forward we are bombarded with insanity from the Right and the business press that threaten to throw us back 40 years. It feels like biking into the wind during a nor'easter.

Remember the promise of a possible u-turn on environmental policy after the election of 2008? Even if most of us knew it wouldn't turn out perfectly, we had at least two years of a Democratic-controlled House, Senate and White House. The world was clamoring for real legislation to combat global warming from the US, and we gave them nothing. Even as the environmental news buzzed that Bolivia and Peru's main water source was shrinking, the Maldives were disappearing, Russia was burning and Pakistan was flooding, we still did nothing.

And so here we are, another Earth Day older and I can't help but wonder if we've irreparably screwed ourselves (and the near-term survival prospects of much of life on this planet). We're headed toward a collision of crises -- water, food, energy, soil, climate. The world's scientists warn that we need substantial change: We need to drastically alter our appetite for consumer goods, the structure of our food system, the way we produce energy and how much we consume. But we're inching forward when we need to be leaping. We're buying green cleaning products, stuffing our reusable shopping bags with local food, and voting the lesser of the evils into public office.

But it needs to be bigger and better. We need to be bigger and better. Most of the politicians suck on environmental issues, frankly. But to quote a once-popular phrase from political eras past, "If you think the politicians are bad, you should meet their constituents." That's us. We voted the politicians in there and we either have to get them out or make them step it up. We need people with vision beyond the next election cycle. We need people not beholden to corporate polluters. And equally, we much change our own lifestyles to incorporate environmental sensibilities. It's not enough to just to care anymore, we have to care enough to do everything we possibly can. That is going to mean changing the way we live our lives and not thinking of the Earth as something that is here for us to use up and throw away like so much of our disposable culture.

And while there are no shortage of headlines about the environmental catastrophes knocking on our door or the political ineptitude in Washington or the sell-out businesses or NGOs, there are at least five inspiring reasons to believe that it is not too late and it's possible to save our civilization and rescue the planet from meltdown.

These five reasons are what get me up in the morning and help me believe our cup is indeed half full. These are the folks making waves, rocking the boat of complacency, and they need our help.

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