Numbers and Hope

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Numbers bear weight. In Palestine and Israel, the digits “48” hold war-streaked windows to the lives permanently devastated by their wake. “67” casts a shadow on land stolen and treaties broken, a human story that lives and grieves on nearly every continent. In Jordan, the desert sun beats history to a pulp – occupations and land seizures and scar tissue from last century’s ruling party stand solid in the face of present-day. Castles from 1142 CE, ancient cities from 1.5 million BC(!), whole civilizations commemorated in stone. Numbers. The earth will never bear such a weight for so long again. Indigenous leaders and young people remind us of this and we nod in agreement, drive to work, catch a flight, rightfully groan that the true culprits are corporate greed, capitalism, and their love child of mass fossil fuel emissions, and blink away. Numbers; the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2)​​​​​​​ in our atmosphere is roughly 408 parts per million, and 800 million people (11% of the world’s population) is currently vulnerable to climate change impacts such as droughts, floods, heat waves, and sea-level rise. Tbh, I’ve never been good with numbers. I had to look those stats up, and can hardly fathom the weight of them. But I know the sum of those numbers is causing a highly probable mass extinction in the near future, complete with ruining the sacred ruins pictured above. It’s hard to be hopeful with such a heavy truth, especially when most the world powers deem it false. What is probable, what is possible, what is hope?
 I am sitting on a rooftop in Amman. Trash is being burnt to ash in the garbage can below. I am sitting with the world, accompanied by Germans, Colombians, Kiwis, Vietnamese, and Brazilians. They are talking of hope. They are surveying the crowd, asking if we have hope or not for the future. Most answer hope, and roll their eyes when my skeptic self asks if they believe in climate change, if they know we are accomplices in the rapidly approaching death of the mother that graciously sustains us all. “Ah come on, we’ll find a solution before then,” they assure me. I’m met with shame – am I just being a downer, or a know-it-all? How can they be sure, when livelihoods are lost to global warming while we speculate from the top, on vacation from realities perceived as not our own? Blind hope requires the privilege of looking away. Hope is the last foothold we reach for when logic does not serve us. Hope – and hopelessness – is what I’ve witnessed in the faces of kids without homes, and in the eyes of a mother whose family was torn to bits by borders and blots of ink on paper. Hope is a luxury and a necessity, a salve for a world severed. It’s a vital lie, an age-old medicine, a universal song. We cannot sing this psalm without feeling its urgency. Do you feel it? Are you hopeful?

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