Author and Scholar Dr. Elin Kelsey to Bring Message of Hope to Blacksburg

This image shows the cover of the book Hope Matters.
Author and scholar Dr. Elin Kelsey will speak at the Moss Arts Center at 8 p.m. Friday, March 18.

“Hope lies in the capacity of stories to transform,” says author and scholar Dr. Elin Kelsey, and she’ll be sharing stories of hope with us at 8 p.m. Friday, March 18, at the Moss Arts Center.

Kelsey’s talk, “Hope Matters: Why Overcoming Doom and Gloom is Essential to Achieving Climate Justice,” will provide examples of what she calls “evidence-based hope,” stories of ecosystem resilience, ocean conservation successes, species recovery, and communities coming together to effect positive change.

“Doom and gloom” news stories about climate change and biodiversity loss may serve to get people’s attention. But Kelsey says they also have resulted in an epidemic of climate anxiety, “eco-grief,” and despair, leaving people feeling helpless and powerless at a moment when it is essential we all act.

This photo shows a white woman with short dark hair and a big smile looking directly into the camera.
Elin Kelsey. Photo courtesy of Agathe Bernard.

In her 2021 book Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think Is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis, Kelsey provides many environmental success stories and explains that information about environmental problems can paralyze or motivate us. While fully acknowledging that our planet is struggling, she points out that it’s also true that change is afoot—and that we often don’t notice it.

Kelsey wants to help people learn to see the progress that’s occurring and to feel hope for the future. “If we don’t think to look for change,” she explains, “we fail to see the shifts occurring all around us.” And if we don’t see those shifts and signs of progress, we sink into despair.

Feeling hope is not an acceptance of a bleak future. “Hope is not complacent,” Kelsey says. “It is a powerful political act.”

Kelsey is a leading spokesperson, scholar, and educator in the area of evidence-based hope. Her work focuses on the reciprocal relationship between humans and the rest of nature, and she has a particular interest in the emotional implications of the narrative of environmental doom and gloom on children and adults. With collaborators, she has created An Existential Toolkit for Climate Justice Educators, a collection of resources to help educators with the work of helping students develop emotional resiliency in the face of the climate crisis.

Passionate about bringing science-based stories of hope and multi-species resilience to the public, Kelsey has worked with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, and the Rockefeller Foundation. As an adjunct faculty member of the University of Victoria School of Environmental Studies, she is spearheading the development of a solutions-oriented paradigm for educating environmental scientists and social scientists.

Kelsey is also the author of Watching Giants: The Secret Lives of Whales, and of several children’s picture books, including You Are Stardust and A Last Goodbye.

Please join us March 18 at 8 p.m. for Kelsey’s message of evidence-based hope and engage with her during the question-and-answer period following her talk. This event, hosted by the Center for Communicating Science as the keynote address for Communicating Science Week, is open to the public free of charge. Please check the Moss Arts Center website to learn about current masking, vaccination, and Covid-19 testing requirements.

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