(1) Hope and optimism are strongly connected to physical and psychological health and have been much researched in the field of positive psychology. Research has shown that hope is connected to pro-environmental behavior and plays an important role in ESD. (2) In order to operationalize hope and optimism, in a survey, 2564 young people and 525 teachers in Germany assessed the probability and desirability of predefined future scenarios. (3) Only every fourth respondent is optimistic regarding the global future. The biggest discrepancy between expectation and desirability exists with regard to climate change. Latent class analysis revealed four classes, whereby 50% of the participants are “sustainability-affine but disillusioned”. This half of the sample has great potential to promote a sustainable future: For them, a positive socio-ecological future has by far the highest value. They report the strongest emotions regarding SD and want to take the most responsibility for SD. Surprisingly, they do not disclose more sustainable behavior in comparison to the other classes. (4) The low expectation of positive socio-ecological developments might be a central factor in preventing half of the sample from behaving more sustainable and indicating a strong potential for hope. The implications for Education for Sustainable Development are discussed.
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