The long day wanes: the slow moon
climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices.
Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek
a newer world.
—Alfred Lord Tennyson
As I’ve said in this column before, I’m afraid it may be too late to avoid the devastating effects of global climate change. I think former Greenpeace International Executive Director Paul Gilding may be right when he says in his book The Great Disruption, that cataclysmic changes are already upon us, and will only worsen in the coming decades.
This makes me rather morose from time to
time. Seeing the chatty moms and bouncy kids gathered at the foot of my
driveway every morning, waiting for the school bus, hits me hard—will
they be able to do this a few years from now? Will anybody? Or will the
cascading effects of climate disruption turn such touching scenes into
Fortunately, just when I get the bleakest, I tend to remember the Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
So I ask myself, who’s planting the world of tomorrow today? Then I start noticing that there are a lot of people doing very positive things to help us make it through the Great Disruption, things that could make life on the other side of the coming troubles better than anything we’ve known on this side.
At the top of my list is Richard Louv, the longtime San Diego newspaperman and author who wrote the best-selling book, The Last Child in the Woods. I recently met Louv while he was on tour promoting his latest and possibly best book, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. In the book Louv argues that, “the time has come for us all to re-envision a future that puts aside scenarios of environmental and social apocalypse and instead taps into the restorative powers of the natural world.” In the new, trade paperback edition (it’s not in the hardcover edition that came out last year), Louv offers his vision of what he calls a “new nature movement.” He writes:
Imagine a world in which all children grow up with a deep understanding of the life around them, where all of us know the animals and plants in our own backyards ... where we feel more alive. We seek a newer world where we not only conserve nature but create it where we live, work, learn, and play. Where yards and open spaces are alive with native species. Where bird migration routes are healed by human care ... where not only public land but private property, voluntarily, garden to garden to garden, is transformed, by us, into butterfly zones and then, across the country, into a homegrown, (coast to coast) national park ... where cities become incubators of bio-diversity ... where pediatricians prescribe nature ... where hospitals and prisons offer gardens that heal ... where cities produce their own energy and much of their own food. Where empty lots become community gardens ... where developers [transform] aging shopping malls into ecovillages ... where streams in cities and countryside are restored—unearthed to the daylight—their natural curves and life restored. A newer world where the point of education is not rote and drill, but wonder and awe ... where teachers take their students on field trips to nearby woods and canyons and streams and shores ... where natural history becomes as important as human history to who we are ... where children experience the joy of being in nature before they learn of its loss ... where, as a species, we no longer feel so all alone. Imagine a world in which our days are lived in the arms of mother nature, of the land and sky, water and soil, wind and sea; a newer world we seek and to which we return.
Sign me up.
Louv has just launched the New Nature Movement, which is intended to include but go beyond traditional environmentalism and sustainability. Louv says, “the hunger for this [movement] is intergenerational, but probably most keenly felt by younger people.” If you’re a boomer, find a young person and get involved. If you’re young, find anyone from another generation and lead the way.
Eric Utne is the founder of Utne Reader.