“We Need to Actively Choose Hope”: Finding the Antidote for Eco Anxiety

The voices of women, girls and non-binary folk have often been silenced when it comes to history, politics, science, art… well, you name it. But multigenerational storytelling night, Generation Women, is speaking truth to power, offering a warm and inclusive space where people of all ages can come together to share, celebrate and learn.

Held in Sydney and Melbourne, the monthly event aims to amplify a selection of female and non-binary voices – representing those in their twenties through to their seventies (and beyond) – each sharing their own stories on a specific theme. ⁠


Peppermint is proud to partner with the Generation Women team to bring you a monthly series sharing the words and wisdom from some of the storytellers. July’s theme was ‘This Little Light of Mine: Stories of Hope’, with performers talking about what gives them a little faith in this crazy, mixed-up world. We hope these words light up your own little spark.

For more information about Generation Women, including forthcoming events, head to their website here


Melbourne Storyteller Team 20s: Ashleigh Streeter-Jones

“How do you deal with this? Feeling all the eco-anxiety RN and I’m not sure what a healthy approach is.”

It was just before midnight on a Friday night when the message came through on Instagram. I was on my way home from seeing &Juliet with some friends, and we’d dropped into Brunettis afterwards for some dessert. I crossed the road, pulling my old puffer jacket tighter and wondering why the zip was always coming down, when I opened Instagram and saw the message from a fellow activist friend based in Canada, responding to a meme I’d mindlessly posted on my Instagram story, noting significant climate nihilism.

My reply was honest.

“Such a good question and I’m sorry you’re sitting in that. It’s bitterly difficult. It’s such a significant issue that I think it’s natural to feel helpless.”

As I typed my reply during my walk home, navigating the Flinders Street station underpass and zig-zagging between a combination of people on nights out and people heading home, I sat in the despair of the situation and the anxiety of the climate crisis. All familiar feelings. Are we actually going to be ok? My finger hovered over the send button.

A story of hope is a beautiful prompt, one which I thought would come easily given my work as a changemaker. After all, to make change, you must have hope. Otherwise, why bother?

Though they exist in tandem, hope has been the antidote to my despair. It’s what gets me up in the morning, what drives me to open my emails, and what’s led me to some of the best people I know. 

But as I thought more about hope, I realised I was struggling to identify where my hope came from. When I look around, there are a lot of reasons to despair.

So many of the world’s realities are big and existential. They have a way of taking our hand and leading us down a dark path of helplessness. These feelings can be so overwhelming that, if we let them, they would consume us.

Though they exist in tandem, hope has been the antidote to my despair. It’s what gets me up in the morning, what drives me to open my emails, and what’s led me to some of the best people I know. 

My hope started with my volunteering journey, working with passionate young people through World Vision Australia’s youth movement – hundreds of young people coming together to campaign for Australia to be a responsible neighbour, support poverty alleviation and provide a strong counter-narrative to the politics of 2013 when we commonly heard the rhetoric of ‘stopping the boats’, and racialised narratives of who Australians were. This was the first time that I felt I’d found my people and that I was honouring the fire in my belly – the promise I’d made to myself to help right the wrongs I’d continued to see in the world around me.

My hope grew when I moved to Canberra and, in 2017, I led an audacious initiative that saw young women and gender-diverse people “take over” the office of a sitting politician for a day to make a statement about the absence of women from parliament. Sure, it was a good stunt, but what came next? These politicians, did they mean it?

I was married to this problem, fixated on this idea of betterment. 

While my enterprise, Raise Our Voice Australia, was born from frustration, it was nurtured by hope. Little by little, our volunteer team grew. I will never, ever move past the gratitude I feel when people decide they want to invest in this idea which came from my despair at 1.30am, sitting in the dark on my bathroom floor, wrapped in my dressing gown in floods of tears, grieving the loss of a project and embracing the fury of injustice.

But the hope I needed the most was in 2021. You remember it, you were there. I’d just moved back to Melbourne following five years in Canberra, following a career opportunity my partner had been promised. We arrived in our dingy flat, a two-bedroom apartment in Southbank that my dad had inspected for us. It was cold and empty, containing nothing but a camping table, some camping chairs, a single mattress (thanks to my wonderful, also in lockdown family) and whatever we could fit in the car. 

The move was incredibly hard. Coming back home after five years away when you’ve changed and your home has changed is hard. Friendships change. Watching my partner struggle as the career opportunity didn’t come to fruition and being the sole earner was hard. Turning on the news and hearing about the mental health crisis as a qualified psychologist sunk into the couch next to me was hard. Losing a friend in the most unexpected, non-pandemic-related way and mourning in isolation was hard. But, I had a project.

Before my move, a friend I’d met online pitched me an idea: approaching federal politicians and asking them to read a 90-second speech written by a young person to encourage greater youth representation in politics.

It was big and scary. The potential was exciting. And then, I moved into lockdown and so did she.

Over the course of that lockdown, we worked hard. There was nothing else to do. We were terrified the idea was a bust, and I spent hours during the day, every evening and every weekend contacting schools and community groups, and creating social media content. It kept me sane, and as we continued to hear about the disproportionate impact of lockdowns on young people, I’d never been more convinced of the need for young voices to be heard.

Youth Voice in Parliament Week took place the same week we came out of lockdown. The timing couldn’t be better. And all week, listening to speech after speech, I cried. I cried because I was so proud of all the young people who had hope for, and shared their vision of, the future. I cried because young people and politicians alike put faith in our team of four passionate volunteers. I cried because I heard their despair, the problems these young people were facing. I cried because it was hope that drove these young people to share their visions for a better Australia.

Sometimes, we need to actively choose hope. Other times, hope is directly in front of us. I’m surrounded by little stories of hope every day. And for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

So when I was considering a story of hope, it felt unjust to tell just one story.

There’s hope on social media, when I see the work – sometimes done by people I know, sometimes done by people I don’t.

There’s hope in events like this, when I’m reminded so clearly that as a gender equality advocate, I get to stand on the shoulders of the women who’ve come before me.

I am hopeful when young activists tell me they’ve started for-purpose jobs, that they’ve joined a political party, that they planned to – and actually ran – for office. How lucky we are to have such passionate, smart, engaged and fierce young leaders taking us into the future.

I am hopeful when I see movements for change, driving momentum and speaking with voices too loud to be ignored.

Sometimes, we need to actively choose hope. Other times, hope is directly in front of us. I’m surrounded by little stories of hope every day. And for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

So, what did I send back to my friend?

“I take comfort in the knowledge that the world is full of so many good people doing amazing things. Some of them we know, most we don’t. And I think that maybe – just maybe – we’ll be ok.”

READ MORE: “I Aspired Not to Be Ladylike – But to Be Humane”: Stories of Unladylike Behaviour