Staying Optimistic

Admins please freely move this post about the cabin as you see fit.

Do any of you find yourself to be at times, losing steam, or becoming disheartened by your increased exposure to the natural world? if so, how do you keep your head up? how do you stay on the brighter side, when for all intents and purposes, everything kind of sucks?

I feel like the stronger my understanding of the interconnections between wildlife becomes, the more I find it difficult to see the brighter side of life when being constantly confronted by the follies of man,
especially in the field.

I’m not necessarily talking about things like plastic litter, or discarded/lost fishing gear littering beaches, I think of those as unfortunate facts of life, but specifically things that are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, are the effects of climate change, residential and agricultural deforestation and the double-edged sword of tourism.

I’d just like to ask of how some of the folks more talented and worldly than I, contend with the increasing regularity of experiencing the very harsh realities that we find evidence of when working in the field or just being in nature in this day.

I’m tired of just sighing and saying “well at least I got to see “X” while it’s still here, while we can still go here” or is that really all we can say anymore?

I’m constantly trying to learn more and improve my understanding of our natural world, but sometimes I really do wish that I could be a little more ignorant of some of this stuff and just enjoy the fact that I am able to be mobile enough to still walk the incredible places we see as naturalists.

Thanks in advance for any and all contributions.


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As Aldo Leopold famously wrote in A Sand County Almanac:

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

It’s difficult to find a balance and stay optimistic in the face of this “burden” of knowledge, but I find that it increases my resolve and resiliency, steels my beliefs, and frankly gives me something to fight for. I wish I had any advice for you on staying optimistic (which is tough to do in the world we live in today), but I think it’s important to realize the beauty along with the bad stuff/the threat to it, and to try not to give into despair. If everyone gives into despair, then nothing will change for the better, only worse.


Wonderfully put.

I am president of a local bird club and the topic of bird populations often comes up. As most people here probably know, for most species it’s not good. As such when I’m interacting with the public or newer members I always want to draw out positivity in a situation, even if just a small glimpse.

Yes, the reality is grim and trajectory could be scary, but one of the things that I like to emphasize is that things are being done and we’re not sitting here doing nothing about it. Greener technologies, (certain) governments taking steps to lighten the effects of climate change, etc.,. The biggest thing I emphasize is that people (the public) are becoming increasingly aware and are taking action by giving money to conservation organizations, trash cleanups, changing their shopping preferences, and the like. It all has really moved into the limelight and while I believe it generally takes changes in big industries and governments these all stem from a demand from the people.

I don’t know if we’re screwed, but I’d rather be optimistic that we’re not and be wrong than be pessimistic and think we are and be right.


I’m a GINK, green, no kids.
But I take my hope from NGOs outreach to kids, teaching them about nature.

For a closer to home example, there is a thread about the young people on iNat with us.


I find the best antidote to depression and despair is action. Find some way that you can fight back against what you see and then do it. I don’t mean just giving money to environmental causes although I encourage that too. I mean direct personal action. It can be anything from participating in beach cleanups to volunteering in an environmental advocacy group. Stand up and fight back.

Once you do you’ll likely find yourself surrounded by other action oriented people who aren’t willing to give up yet. Their determination will help get you through the darker times.


Thanks for bringing this up. I share your thoughts as well as the wonderful replies already made here. It’s nice to know we are not alone and keeping the optimism is certainly better than not, however those darker ruminations still get in my head at times.

Doesn’t help that I’m currently reading The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert…a book which should be required reading for all humans. Education and participation are probably the best methods right now.


Without any judgement, maybe you have some traits that overlap with highly sensitive personality type (HSP)? I think this is discussed in Neurodiversity and iNaturalist! topic.

For me, climate change and deforestation are more matter-of-fact, they don’t emotionally trigger me and talking about them is emotionally similar to discussing morphological differences in an observation.

I think that has to do with me not being an HSP (maybe the opposite?) rather than being indifferent or resigned. I think both climate change and deforestation are important problems and should be worked against.

Therefore, for me, at least, it’s not that I have some good way of coping with these hopelessness-inducing subjects, I just don’t react strongly to them in the first place, because of personality.

Note: Am not aware enough of problems with tourism to comment.


Since I started seriously gardening for wildlife, I have experienced incredible hope and plenty of pessimism. I see all the species that are attracted by some relatively simple changes to yard management (adding native plants, no mowing or raking or chemicals). When I talk to my neighbors with their lawns or zeroscapes (bare rock or dirt), there’s very little interest or passion. Literally my garden, one neighbor, and a few undeveloped lots are islands of arthropod habitat amid a sea of asphalt, concrete, and non-native trees and shrubs.

At work (construction-adjacent field), I see thousands of acres of wild lands (some totally undisturbed, some been used for grazing or farming) being converted into new housing, solar and wind farms, and roads (all things we need), but I know that habitat is lost forever and at most a few “desert accents” and trees will be replanted or some seed mix will be spread and overrun by Russian thistles in the disturbed soils.

And there’s climate change … decades of denial and inaction are particularly frustrating. We are in a 20+ year drought in the American Southwest that may never end in my lifetime. In the last five years, Sandia Peak Ski Area on the outskirts of Albuquerque has been open a handful of weekends due to low snowfall and high temperatures. Two wildfires over 300,000 acres are burning in this state (since igniting on April 19th and May 13th, still not 100% contained. US wildfire information here Food insecurity is coming too (, including the beloved Hatch chiles that are grown in the Rio Grande floodplain between Albuquerque and El Paso (


Some more information about Hatch Chiles, hadn’t heard about them until you posted.

I guess Hatch Chilis are also the ancestors of Anaheim Chilis, named after the city where Disneyland in the US is found?

The Rio Grande in the vicinity of Hatch and for many miles upstream and downstream goes completely dry during much of the year when water isn’t being delivered for agriculture (primarily). The river is essentially a canal for providing water when needed (in NM and TX), so totally unnatural. Although I like pecans, it saddens me to see so much river water flooding pecan orchards in this area – a more water-hungry crop than chiles. And we’re currently in a mega-drought. I wonder if I’ll live long enough to see these agricultural industries fail in my region.


I feel it’s a waste of personal resources to worry about things you can’t change, there’re so many “bad” things i the world, just because it’s life and will always be that way, with humans or not, do what you like, bring awareness, but don’t make it something deeply affecting you, it’s not great to have a heart attack later becuse of big corporations, just remember that justice is a human-made concept that is not present in this universe.


When I was a child and young teenager, my parents would take us to the great museums in Chicago every couple years. To get there, we had to drive through Gary, Indiana, a great center of steel production. We kids would hold our breaths as long as we could, but it was impossible to do that long enough. The city stank of rotten eggs. Chimneys belched gray smoke that made the sky always overcast. It was terrible. Later I learned the acid rain in Gary was so bad that new car warrenties had a clause saying the car surface wasn’t under warrenty if the car was regularly parked in Gary.

Maybe 30 years ago, I drove through Gary again, but didn’t realize it until I’d left because it was just like any normal city. Some of the factory chimneys released white steam. One was flaring off gas. But the air was, overall, clean. Why? The Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.

When I was a young teen, the Kalamazoo River downstream of Kalamazoo stank so bad you knew you were near it when more than a quarter mile away. The water was gray and nearly opaque. The most thriving animals were tubifex worms. (I was shocked to read a book by James Fenimore Cooper, who had been there in the 1800’s, describing the Kalamazoo as so clear you could look down and see the huge trout.) Now? Cleaned up. Why? Clean Water Act and EPA.

Bald Eagles, Osprey, and Peregrines aren’t currently endangered. What little old growth forest remains in the U.S. is mostly protected. Our human population is way too high and growing, but birth rate in developed countries are below the replacement rate, and over the time I’ve taught environmental biology courses the birth rate in Mexico has fallen from 7.6 to 2.1 children per woman. Lots of things are better – because humans have worked to make them better. Much still needs to be improved, but the trajectory looks good.


Despite all that’s going well, problems remain. And it seems we have to fight the same issue again and again, each time knowing that if we loose we’ve lost. I mean, we can never fight again about an extinct species. The human population is high and needs more and more resources. (If we think there are troubles at our border now, just wait!) The level of willful ignorance in this country is high. In the U.S., we’re loosing the kind of trust that is needed to hold a democracy together. We’re not going to stop global warming any time soon (though everything we can do to slow it is a help).

You can’t solve all these problems. Neither can I. But if everyone were doing their parts, we could. So lower your sights to what you can do. Vote! Plant flowers. Pick up trash. Educate people, including your own kids. Buy less junk. Financially support one or two organizations that do good stuff. If you can, install solar panels. Post lots of photos for people to use for research (on iNaturalist) and do lots of identifications here (for the sake of both the observers and the researchers). We can do good for our environment. We really can.


doing small community things is a big thing. i restored a tiny wetland and it ended up being written about in a book and a bunch of other places. Someday i will leave that land, maybe soon, maybe when i die, but either way, it had impact because i talked about it and shared with community. Of course, there’s a lot of people who have no access to land to heal or tend, which is a problem. One of many. All of the problems are kind of balled into one batch which i usually attribute to colonialism but it’s messier than that. Think of it this way: our species is on the edge, maybe theres a 50% chance we make it (barely) to the point where we roam space and learn to keep the planet alive. There’s a 50% chance we just go extinct and take many species with us, but not multicellular life, and there’s plenty of time for the crows to give it another go. Since the odds are so even on whether our species survives, EVERY ONE OF YOU matters. Are you going to tip toward a better future or towards extinction? you see many people around you working for extinction, whether they know it or not, and they are the ones with the loudest voice, because extinction gets you power in this world. But are they the strongest? I guess we will have to wait and see. Every one of you has a role to play, though for many marginalized people just surviving and playing your part in the world IS a worthy role in and of itself. So, you matter!


We are all trying to understand the world we live in. On climate change, deforestation, tourism…ok…maybe I will start with a quote from somewhere, which I’ve read before in Charles Darwin’s book but it is from someone else in the internet…
"More than 99 percent of all organisms that have ever lived on Earth are extinct. As new species evolve to fit ever changing ecological niches, older species fade away. " and he said something about wild birds mortality is high in some winter years.
I guess it is what it is. Perhaps we are fortunate to be the 1 % ? Among people of the world, there are different standards of living. My mum used to tell me she had to carry buckets of water from the well or somewhere as a kid. Today water just flow from the tap. But I’m not as content with life. Life can end violently, or stricken by illnesses and suffer for a few years.
ok…One of the problems of the world is Capitalism. It is a system that spend future money. or resource pooling to buy properties, that is urbanization. Naturally, urbanization cause a reduction in natural forests. Capitalism may be linked to Imperialism, an older system of expansionistic activities. World human populations is unnaturally high. Wars can happen any minute. Resources are obtained from far away lands, and many countries are not able to sustain their own populations without imported food resources. In a way, it is noble of UN to be saving the world’s most impoverished countries. Populations just seems to be growing exponentially in some countries.
It is summer. I live in a tropical lowland island on the equator and we do not have the 4 seasons. From wikipedia, I learned that areas under the Tropics of Cancer and Tropics of Capricon are mostly deserts. If not deserts, those areas have high temperatures up to 40°C in summer. China has huge floods recently. At the same time, the Northern part is experiencing high temperatures. In May 2022, there were reports of record high tempertaure in India somewhere. These are the two most populous countries of the world. USA is third but not as populous. People may be migrating due to global warming. Where I live, the property market is booming. But it is due to foreigners migrating in. This cause a more crowded island, the 2nd most densely populated country in the world after monaco. and Monaco has only a population of 39,244 people, They can go to France whenever they are free.
Tourism is an industry. It earns foreign currency from visiting foreigners, which supporting some other service industries such as hotels and restaurants. It supports the aviation industry too. The aviation through the world is just incredible and it is only 120 years ago from the Wright bros first flight. Law abiding tourists are always welcome to most countries. There will always be a handful of tourists who travel and commit crimes in other countries. Tourism heavy areas may lose its charm when too big numbers of people appear. When you go to some island paradise which you see in some photos, but found out that there are many people ! or that island might have headhunters.
ok…I think I’ll stop here. Cheers.


I actually found it very reassuring to research previous mass extinctions. All the diversity we see today… was the result of only a tiny fragment of life that was able to cling on and keep going. No matter what we as humans destroy, the world someday will again be populated by a wondrous array of beautiful things that descended from the survivors.

Even if nothing but the cockroaches and some fungi survive, they will eventually diverge to fill every niche once again. We won’t be around to see it, but it’ll happen.


I find it strangely reassuring to step back and view things on a geological timescale. Life on Earth has always been in dynamic flux, with ecosystems changing and certain groups rising to prominence as others crash out of existence. Humans have only been around for a mere 0.006% of Earth’s existence and in all likelihood we don’t have long left (one poll of experts concluded that humanity has only an 81% chance of surviving another century!) – we’re the merest blip in the history of terrestrial life.

Undeniably we are having a huge impact on the planet while we are here, when viewed in the very narrow context of the present millennium or so, but in the natural cycle of things there have been five mass extinction events before this manmade one, and each time life has adapted and thrived once again in new and extraordinarily different ways.

Sometimes as naturalists, we can get hyperfocused on putting the planet back how it was 1,000 years ago as if somehow, even if that were possible, it would stay like that. Things we fear as the end of the world generally have more to do with the end of humanity. And if we leave behind our impact in the form of, say, an atmosphere with a different composition, nature will adapt in the way it always has and use it as an opportunity for some new types of plants and animals to take the lead.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing rosy for the future of humanity – or even mammals – under this view, but it’s somehow reassuring to look at the bigger picture and be reminded that none of it really matters in the end as much as it seems to us short-lived beings. No matter how atrociously our species behaves, nature will keep on doing its thing. Even an all-out ferocious global nuclear war would only toxify the planet for a geologically short moment. Mother Nature still has at least another 1.5 billion years to play her beautiful games before Earth starts to be swallowed by the Sun.


I identify with you. I’ve been trying to fight erosion and create multiple flowerbeds in my neighborhood. But it has been an ongoing fight to keep Roundup out of my gardens because our Home Owner’s Association lacks vision to see lawn care without poisons.

Another neighbor still had the receipt for some choice plants which were poisoned in her plainly marked flowerbed so she made the lawn care company refund her. They’ve been much more careful since then.

However on the bright side I’ve created about eight pollinator oases so far. It is fortunate that most of my neighbors are plant blind or they might wonder about my flowering potatoes I’ve tucked here and there. The bumblebees like them so I don’t care. Last year my neighbors were full of amazement at the beauty of okra–eight foot tall plants with neat foliage and hibiscus like flowers.

I wondered what had happened to those chilies. They were my go to for taco salad.


Stewardship is a burden and a privilege all in one. Knowledge can be sorrow, but give me knowledge.

I view nature from a different perspective from some others here because I believe that God gave the earth to the children of men. However, I’m super frustrated at how many people are indifferent at taking care of the earth regardless of what beliefs they hold.