Anne Therese Gennari or The Climate Optimist if you will, is a social entrepreneur and a stubborn believer in collective, positive change. She grew up in Sweden where she loved spending time in the wild. Today she lives with her beloved one in America where she devotes her time to be an inspiration for positive change. Her goal for each and every day is to work towards changing the narrative around climate change so that we can act from optimism and courage, not fear.
Anne Therese, you live to inspire to feel good about being alive today. Not despite all the terrible things humanity has done, but as you say because of all the positive and empowered actions we’re here to take. What 3 actions would you suggest taking when first getting started on a journey of acting in favor of our Earth?
There are so many, but these are my top three suggestions:
1. Heal your relationship with yourself and the world. No empowered action can be taken until we allow ourselves to see the full picture. That means understanding the climate crisis for what it is, seeing our role in fueling it, but then come to terms with that acceptance. We all live in this broken system and it’s not your fault the world is in this crisis but it’s very much your responsibility to make sure we work for something better.
I always say “Awareness hurts and that’s OK”. When you open yourself up to awareness, it might feel like too much to take in. But know that the first step to healing the world is by healing yourself, and you can’t heal what you cannot feel - let it in and let it empower you! (I’ve created a healing journaling workshop for this, linked here)
2. Put yourself back in touch with the cycle of life! It might sound flimsy but the reason it’s so hard to get to climate action is because we’ve lost the connection. We know it’s the right thing to do but we don’t feel it in our hearts! One of the biggest barriers for climate action is distance - emotional, physical, and sociological. By infusing yourself back into the cycle of life, you instantly pull this important work closer. You’re not doing this for the others, you’re doing this for you.
So what do I mean by the cycle of life? So many simple things you can do right now, and here are my favorites: compost your food, grow food (even if it’s just a single tomato plant), support local farmers, and spend time in nature. It’s incredible what happens when you get to observe life this way, and it’s a constant reminder that we - too - are life. We’re here to be part of life and if we choose to, we automatically become the solution.
3. Become active locally. When it comes to climate action, we have to simplify things and make it smaller! This is not about saving polar bears or people in other countries, this is about all of us! By acting locally, you automatically build for a regenerative world - globally.
So what can you do? Support local farmers, engage with your local officials, join local co-ops and attend their meetings, start grassroots movements like picking up trash or educating at schools. Spend 30 min researching on Google how climate change is affecting your local area (spoiler alert - it is!) and find organisations where you can help. The more work you get to be involved with locally, the more you feel like you can be part of making this all right. Action is empowering and there is no more empowering action than those in community with others!
What are the biggest misconceptions you encounter when it comes to leading a more climate conscious life?
That you have to be an expert to get started! This is such a shame because the reality is that no-one is an expert on this! Sure, there are scientists who have studied this topic for years but when it comes to finding the solutions for the next world, we’re all new to the game. We need to figure this out - together!
So the best we can do as citizens is to be curious, ask questions, find comfort in being wrong and keep up a hunger to learn. We must share as we learn and we must not be afraid to try and make mistakes. The more we do something, we plant seeds of change, and the more of us that can do that - imperfectly - we’re setting new trends. We show the world around us that it’s OK to do things differently and that it’s alright to choose change. And that is what we all need to get better at - choosing change!
In order to take positive actions, we need education on how. Any good tips on where to turn for authentic information?
Yes, education is so important! Depending on what you want to learn about, there are different platforms, and oh there are so many! Here are some of my favorites:
For fashion: Remake
For climate solutions: Drawdown
For global climate goals: UN Sustainable Development Goals
Curiousity in general: PODCASTS (I suggest searching a toic and see what comes up)
If you want to join an online community to learn and grow: The Collective
As you started your positive climate optimist journey, how has this lifestyle impacted your relationship to yourself?
It’s been a long but game changing journey. I started out what I call an “angry activist”. I was so upset with the world and I couldn’t believe people didn’t care more. I was frustrated and felt powerless in my ability to make a difference and it started to really eat on me. I thought I had to feel that way - that I had to hold on to the grief and anger - or else I wasn’t serious about my work. I also felt guilty for feeling well and happy when there was so much suffering in the world and I developed a lot of self-destruction behaviors.
Today, as The Climate Optimist, I’ve learned a great deal. I understand now that I don’t have to hold on to the pain in order to help others. In fact, the best way I can help is by being my healthiest and happiest self and put that energy forth into the world. That is how I can also make sure I sustain myself in this work so that I can keep going.
We have so much work to do and many years of challenges ahead of us. In order to do this, we need to heal, and we need to continue showing up for that work so that we can be as empowered as we can possibly be!
To be an optimist, however, takes work. You can’t just choose to be one and think that gets the job done - your bullshit detector will call you out! In order to be optimistic you have to show up for the work, which is why daily activism is so important. Not only does it change the world in small choices at a time, but it fuels the optimism that will keep you going! As I say - “optimism isn’t something you choose, it’s something you create!” In other words, you have to be an #optimistinaction
What drives you to inform others about this lifestyle?
My innate desire to change the world - seriously! I have found myself in such an empowered place choosing this path of climate activism and I want as many others as possible to feel the same - for themselves and for the world. We need everyone we can bring on board right now and I find it my calling to help as many as I can commit to a climate optimistic lifestyle.
Biggest piece of advice for someone wanting to reduce their footprint while still having a joyful life without feeling ‘the guilt’?
Be an optimist in action! Understand that you’re only human and you’re operating in a system that is not helping you make the right choices - yet! Do the best you can but give yourself a break, and return to healing and empowering exercises often. I can’t stress enough how powerful journaling can be for that - choose yourself and in doing so, choose the world!
Words by Anette Cantagallo
Follow Anne Therese on Instagram: @annetheresegennari