Hope in the New Year: Social Movements

January 18, 2018 0 By mbiggar

Hope is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door…Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope.”   (Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark)


With a new year ahead and the days growing longer, we can renew our sense of hope for the future. A better future to me includes communities in which nature thrives, a planet that is safe and stable for our children, and social relations grounded in equity, justice and inclusion. This future may seem elusive, especially after a challenging 2017 in which many national politicians seemed more interested in denying social and environmental problems than addressing them. However in our democracy, social movements can build awareness and exert influence and organizations can work together in a myriad of ways to drive change. I’m finding hope for the new year in developments taking place that may build our collective awareness and action into a rising tide of positive change.


Social Movements- Equality and Justice

African-American voters played a decisive role in the election of a U.S. Senator in Alabama in December. The suppression of the African-American vote in Alabama was a catalyst during the civil rights movement that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The ruling on a Supreme Court case in 2013 brought by a county in Alabama struck down some of this historic act. Nonetheless, intense organizing by the African-American community and supportive organizations prevailed and may foreshadow elections decided by voters that are representative of the diverse demographics of our country.

The constant barrage of revelations of sexual harassment, misconduct and violence in 2017 was disheartening and troubling. It has broken the silence and led to movements to end this behavior such as ‘Me Too’ and ‘Time is Up’. In bringing to the surface one of the worst manifestations of unequal power between men and women, the broader movements for electing more women to public office and equality in the workplace have also been further catalyzed.

These and other growing social movements in our country provide hope for ending devastating cycles of injustice and mistreatment and changing systems so that individuals may realize their full potential. These movements are fundamentally about how we view and treat one another.


Social Movements- Children and Nature

Just as social movements for equality and justice can alter our relationships with each other, the growing children and nature movement can alter our relationship with the natural world upon which we depend. Richard Louv, founder of the Children and Nature Network, described the power of this movement in bringing people together around a new story with the potential to change society in his blog post, the New Nature Movement:

Our story – our shared yearning to reconnect children to the natural world – represents one of the few concerns in America that brings people together across partisan and religious lines. To change a society, as the philosopher Ivan Illich wrote, ‘you must tell a more powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story, one so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past and present into a coherent whole, one that even shines some light into our future so that we can take the next step’… We must continue to support the birthright of all children to a healthy environment and a connection to the natural world, and to teach the responsibilities that come with that right.”

This movement for children and nature is taking root through the Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative and organizations working strategically together through the Children and Nature Network.


Taking action motivated by the story of a better future is the essence of hope. For more on hope and action, check out Annie Burke’s website and blog The Sun Rises. Social movements that strengthen our relationships with each other and advance equality and justice; social movements that strengthen our connection to and protect nature; and organizations working together to advance these movements- these all give me hope.

What gives you hope in 2018? How may this hope call you to action?