The Optimistic Environmentalist


David Boyd is sick of hearing doom and gloom when we talk about the climate and the environment. Sure, we’ve basically ruined this planet but there’s still good news out there and we can talk about the solutions. Indeed, we have the knowledge to save the planet and all we need to do is – do it!

When it comes to news about climate change and the environment, it has to be said that the vast majority of what you hear tends to be full of doom and gloom…our own show included.

In fact, it seems the more attention one pays to the state of the planet, the more hand-wringing and pessimism would be the only suitable reaction.

But David Boyd is here to say that the position of “environmental optimism” is not the oxymoron it may appear to be.

Listen to it here.

Read This Book: The Optimistic Environmentalist

The Optimistic Environmentalist is a new book by environmental lawyer Dr. David R. Boyd. Much like this website, the book is also about taking a positive look on the otherwise endless onslaught of bad news we get in the mainstream media.

David has worked in environmental law for many years, and he’s the first the admit that it can be very difficult not to get bogged down by all the bad news media we hear about the state of our planet. In fact, the inspiration for this book came from his 6-year old daughter. When she came home from school one day in tears because her well-meaning teacher had told her that we were melting ice caps and killing polar bears, he decided that it was time the innovations and successes of the environmental movement got their fair share of attention.

As David says, “The belief that something positive is possible is an essential step towards making it happen.”

The Optimistic Environmentalist tells a new story about the environment, one that’s hopeful and inspiring, but honest. Yes, the world faces substantial environmental challenges – climate change, pollution, and extinction. But the surprisingly good news is that we have solutions to these problems. A leading expert on environmental law and policy, David Boyd has been called one of the most important voices on climate change. He is hopeful about our future, and has filled a book with surprising statistics, entertaining anecdotes about different technological advances, and heart-warming stories about introducing his young daughter to our bright green planet.

Be Optimistic by Learning About It

The book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Dr. Martin Seligman is not new, but it is to me. For others who have not heard about it before, it looks like an uplifting read. The central thesis of the book is to essentially learn what a worthwhile life is for you and to un-learn the other things: learn optimism.

‘Happiness’ is a scientifically unwieldy notion, but there are three different forms of it if you can pursue. For the ‘Pleasant Life,’ you aim to have as much positive emotion as possible and learn the skills to amplify positive emotion. For the ‘Engaged Life,’ you identify your highest strengths and talents and recraft your life to use them as much as you can in work, love, friendship, parenting, and leisure. For the ‘Meaningful Life,’ you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.


Ultimately, Seligman points to optimism not only as a means to individual well-being, but also as a powerful aid in finding your purpose and contributing to the world:

Optimism is invaluable for the meaningful life. With a firm belief in a positive future you can throw yourself into the service of that which is larger than you are.

Read more about the book itself and see Brain Picking’s best books of 2011.

People are Optimistic

Not much to add to this: study proves that people are universally optimistic.

“These results provide compelling evidence that optimism is a universal phenomenon,” said Matthew Gallagher, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas and lead researcher of the study.
At the country level, optimism is highest in Ireland, Brazil, Denmark, and New Zealand and lowest in Zimbabwe, Egypt, Haiti and Bulgaria. The United States ranks number 10 on the list of optimistic countries.

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