The Planet Optimist: Staying Positively Informed
Towards the end of Summer 2021, Master’s Student in Business Administration Kartik Verma read a statistic that seemed to shake the earth beneath him. In The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, Kartik learned that compared to 2018 levels, we need to cut our carbon emissions by 50-percent to have a 50-percent chance of surviving climate change.
Story by Malin Andersson
Kartik understood then that he needed to help bring awareness to climate change and take action – especially as a business student who would soon be joining the workforce. He knew he had to be a part of supporting change, and Innovation in Action looked like a great place to start.
Inspired to educate himself as well as those around him, Kartik wrote the first issue of the Planet Opitmist and sent it out over email to some friends. His good friend and future team partner Dev Desai, a fellow Master’s Student in Business Administration, soon reached out with the desire to contribute more to this project.
“It started off as a personal project and I didn’t care if people read it,” said Kartik Verma. “But then eventually people did start reading it and sharing it with others.”
Kartik and Dev became the Planet Optimist, a weekly newsletter dedicated to sharing climate action news that is business-focused and, quite radically for this day and age, optimistic. Now they are a long way from that first emailed newsletter. Having successfully completed Innovation in Action 2022, team Planet Optimist is looking towards a promising future.
Holding onto their Roots
Though the newsletter has been through many iterations, the heart of the Planet Optimist has remained the same.
“The idea was to spread positive news and positive change as much as possible,” says Kartik Verma. “I feel like there’s so much negative news out there – especially around climate change. Some of the positive initiatives that are happening don’t come to the surface.”
About two-thirds of Americans have negative news fatigue. (Pew Research Center) Kartik and Dev believe that increasing awareness of positive climate news will inspire people to take more action because they care more deeply about the issue. They believe in informed hope, an aspiration they have brought into the tension between the influence of business and the urgency of climate change.
“Fundamentally, businesses and organizations can have a far bigger impact than individuals,” Kartik explains. He acknowledges that there’s already so much written about what individuals can do – from recycling to eating less meat to considering their travel footprint. That’s why the Planet Optimist focuses specifically on what businesses are doing as well as what they can do in order to alleviate their effect on the environment.
In a weekly newsletter, the latest news on climate action is shared in bite-sized segments. Each newsletter focuses on a central theme – from mining emissions to ocean plastic to sustainability in fashion. Readers can learn more about each topic while becoming informed on what corporations are doing (or not doing.) Finally, the newsletter ends with optimism, usually by highlighting emerging innovations from startups or new technology.
Throughout the Innovation in Action process, the newsletter expanded and the topics covered grew. As they wrote and engaged with their audience, the Planet Optimist grew in their understanding of the subject material as well as their understanding of community.
Kartik acknowledges they encountered many surprises along the way: “I honestly thought people didn’t care about climate change that much,” he says. “But seeing the response and seeing how much people are willing to contribute has been amazing.”
A solid team, Kartik and Dev were able to transform frequent feedback into exciting adjustments. Though both of their roles have been fluid and all-encompassing, Dev has focused on growing their media and audience presence while Kartik works mostly with the content itself.
As they worked towards that final Innovation in Action pitch, team Planet Optimist fostered the roots of a community that would last even after the pitch deck had been presented.
A Blossoming Community
With their website and Instagram launched, the Planet Optimist has much to look forward to. Kartik envisions the newsletter becoming a community where people can find hope and encouragement in a world soaked in largely negative, though important, news.
In the coming weeks, a reader will actually write an article for the newsletter about nuclear energy. Hopefully, more and more readers will also act as contributors to the Planet Optimist to create a community full of awareness and diversity.
The structure and resources of Innovation in Action kept Kartik and Dev motivated throughout the process. They believe that when you are passionate about something, you just have to begin.
“Just go out there and start,” encourages Kartik. “No matter in what shape or form your project or prototype is, show it to someone. I know you want to make the perfect version of the project you’re working on, but it’s not as important as just getting started.”
As innovative climate action continues and expands, the Planet Optimist will keep you informed about it. Moving forward, Kartik will remain a firm believer in change. “Taking actions that impact an organization is the way to go in fighting the climate crisis.”