Local to Global with Pat Hynes: Creating the conditions for hope


Published: 7/2/2021 11:16:02 AM

We live in a time of diminishing hope with worsening climate crisis and insufficient will among those most responsible to radically reduce their emissions now, not three decades from now. We cohabitate with more than 13,000 nuclear weapons spread among hostile nations and being upgraded, raising the already very high risk of nuclear apocalypse. The Pentagon is predicting, planning, and likely pursuing war with China and Russia in the Indo-Pacific, the Arctic, and in space.

Since the COVID pandemic, extremes between the haves and have-nots have widened, making the United States the most unequal of any society at any time in history, according to French economist Thomas Piketty. Wealthy nations have hoarded COVID-19 vaccines, vaccinating 25 times the rate as poorer countries, as of April 2021. Likewise, the ongoing sexual and racial exploitation of women and girls — the most common but least punished crime in the world — worsened during COVID, according to the United Nations.

Hope upwells in me now in smaller places and actions, no matter their chance of success — when I witness, for example, bold, creative actions undertaken by youth on behalf of their future; by victim survivors resisting their oppression; and by a few far seeing persons challenging the majority consensus.

A few far seeing vs. the majority consensus

In 2011 President Obama proclaimed a “Pivot to Asia” that in time was recognized as a process of building a coalition of Indo-Pacific partners for a new Cold War with China. “China aims to displace the U.S. as the world’s pre-eminent superpower,” according to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. “Our pacing threat is the Chinese,” asserts the U.S. Space Command director, Army General James Dickinson. Containing China, by whatever means necessary, is the given reason for Biden’s proposed 1.6% increase in the Pentagon budget for fiscal year 2022.

Enter Pivot to Peace. “We are concerned Americans from all walks of life (military veterans, public sector workers, healthcare professionals, and more) who have come together in opposition to the dramatically increasing drive toward confrontation between the United States and China … We have launched a new effort to educate and mobilize public opinion about the benefits of a policy that facilitates cooperation and mutual respect between the United States and China.”

Youth defining their future

Oil companies, some of the largest and most powerful companies in history, are the single greatest factor in our climate crisis. Massive government subsidies — much larger proportionally than for solar and wind — enable them to stay profitable and forestall a renewable energy revolution.

Enter a voice of sanity: “I believe a better world is possible,” declares 17-year-old Chante Davis, a climate refugee and activist: “I’ve lived through too many climate disasters to count.” She began a 400-mile march in mid-May 2021 with other young Sunrise Movement activists across the Gulf South from New Orleans to Houston, “We are marching … to push Biden to take big, bold action to stop this [climate] crisis … following in the footsteps of Black, brown, and indigenous people who have been leading the fight here for centuries.”

Survivor leaders

Human trafficking for sexual exploitation is global. The majority of its victims are women and girls, overwhelmingly women and girls of color within the most disadvantaged groups in their societies.

Enter the Emma Coalition

Survivor-of-prostitution leaders, who have founded exit programs for women and girls in prostitution, have exercised leadership in creating the Equality Model in Massachusetts (EMMA) Coalition. In their words, “we can make our state a leader in the fight against this most exploitative practice, especially against our most vulnerable populations.” A major feature of their activism is advocating on behalf of new state legislation: An Act to Strengthen Justice and Support for Sex Trade Survivors. HD.3437/SD. 2115.

Key provisions of the legislation include:

1. Decriminalizing those bought and sold for sexual exploitation and expunging all past charges of prostitution.

2. Penalizing the crime of buying sex with an income-based fine and re-directing these fines to support survivor-led programs throughout the state.

3. Creating an interagency committee to augment opportunities for health, mental health, housing, job training, employment, and education for prostituted persons.

First president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel noted that “Hope … is not the same as joy that things are going well … but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.” We create the conditions for hope when we aspire to something both good and badly needed and work toward achieving it, no matter the odds. And, if enough of humanity joins in this, we will improve the odds of human survival.

Pat Hynes is a retired environmental engineer and professor of environmental health at Boston University. She is a board member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice and member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.


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