Photo credit: Gage Skidmore
This piece appeared originally in TomDispatch.
Joe Biden entered the White House with some inspiring yet contradictory positions on immigration and Central America. He promised to reverse Donald Trump’s draconian anti-immigrant policies while, through his “Plan to Build Security and Prosperity in Partnership with the People of Central America,” restoring “US leadership in the region” that he claimed Trump had abandoned. For Central Americans, though, such “leadership” has an ominous ring.
Although the second half of his plan’s name does, in fact, echo that of left-wing, grassroots organizations like the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), its content highlights a version of security and prosperity in that region that’s more Cold War-like than CISPES-like. Instead of solidarity (or even partnership) with Central America, Biden’s plan actually promotes an old economic development model that has long benefited U.S. corporations. It also aims to impose a distinctly militarized version of “security” on the people of that region. In addition, it focuses on enlisting Central American governments and, in particular, their militaries to contain migration through the use of repression.
Considering how the pandemic has called attention to the harms we’ve caused our planet, it’s fitting that this year’s theme for Earth Day is Restore Our Earth. The theme reminds us to value the home we share with so many other species as well as the opportunities we have to do better by our planet. Andreas Karelas, founder and executive director of RE-volv, is all about the opportunities to act on climate change solutions. One of the ways we can restore our Earth is to take a page or two from this passage of his book, Climate Courage, and adopt the three community-centered values he suggests. Our psychology and mindset toward climate change is just as important to be aware of.
Based on the latest findings of positive psychology research, I suggest that, in order to address climate change, we need to cultivate different values—values that place a greater emphasis on community and less on consumption—and that living according to these values will have the benefits of reducing our impact on the planet and increasing our personal well-being. To do this I’ll describe what I believe to be an effective three-step approach: (1) cultivate gratitude, (2) choose simplicity, and (3) focus on serving others. If we can learn to be more grateful for what we have, simplify our lives, and put more effort into serving others, I think we’ll be well on our way to a happier, more sustainable world.