Hope is Useful

Or: Why Imagination Machine Exists

By Tsemone Ogbemi

I came up with the idea for Imagination Machine, a newsletter that focuses on work in climate science, art, and activism, in early June. It is a product of the frustrations that I (and I expect many others in the United States) have been experiencing over the past few months, frustrations which are not directly related to climate. By the second week of my internship with the PPEH, before Beyond the Lab was fully conceived, it had become clear that, due to its mismanagement of the pandemic response, the United States would likely be struggling to stop the spread of COVID-19 for the rest of the summer and perhaps also part of the fall. Additionally, George Floyd’s murder by a policeman in late May had sparked passionate protests across the nation, and I spent entire days on social media in the aftermath, scouring evidence of the continued police brutality that was recorded by those who were attending demonstrations. 

I protested once in Houston and felt initially triumphant and relieved, and then heavy and powerless in the week that followed. It seemed to me that those who needed to hear what I and others had to say about police brutality weren’t even tempted to listen. Online, there were countless funds to donate to, takes to read, and videos to be outraged about, but none of them offered me a concrete path forward. 

Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash

That feeling is not dissimilar to the one that I have in response to the climate crisis. The main difference is that my reaction to George Floyd’s murder was accelerated because of the level of unrest to which it quickly led, despite the fact that police brutality has been an unremitting disaster in this country for decades. What has replenished my store of hope over the past month is participating in a program that trains people to organize remotely for different candidates and causes. I mention all of this in order to highlight the fact that the development of Imagination Machine is occurring alongside a personal political awakening that is not my first and will not be my last. 

The link between self-efficacy, the sense that one is capable of making actions toward certain outcomes according to one’s intent, and pro-environmental behavior has been scientifically documented. People who believe in themselves are more likely to try and mitigate the consequences of the climate crisis, a finding which suggests that hope is useful. It has been immensely useful for me; it drives me to take action, which makes me feel good, however slight the impact. 

Photo by Sam Schooler on Unsplash

Imagination Machine is made up of projects that give me hope. I choose to feature work from different disciplines and work that combines disciplines. I think that the variety proves that there are a great many paths forward and no need to choose just one. The climate crisis, perhaps to an even greater degree than other issues that we face globally, has multitudinous and diverse consequences and, therefore, no single “solution.” As a result, it’s easy to think that there is nothing that can be done about it. The initiatives that I write about for Imagination Machine hopefully show that the opposite is true: there is plenty, regardless of our disciplines or our current training, that we can and should do.

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