What Gives You Hope These Days?

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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
distant memories?
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.

Image by Anuradha Sengupta, licensed under Creative Commons.

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