Practicing the Virtue of Hopelessness

Timothy Robinson
Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University

A number of recent popular books, with titles like The Uninhabitable Earth, Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, and Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, have examined the dire threats posed by climate change. Interestingly, these works, after detailing the catastrophic future into which the Earth is heading and musing on human vulnerability in it, assert some sort of hope that humans can transform our economies and infrastructures in order to avoid the worst impacts. Many traditional notions of Christian hope—long regarded as a “theological virtue”—are rooted in the expectation of a transcendent future that comes about as the gift of a transcendent God whose power ultimately overcomes all forms of oppression, injustice, cruelty, and decay. The vulnerability humans face on an “uninhabitable” future planet, however, call for a radical rethinking—and perhaps release—of what hope means. This paper will develop a spirituality of eco-hope(lessness) grounded in aesthetics and virtue ethics.