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Sunday Words of Hope

July 18, 2021

photo by Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP

I write this because I love you and I want Earth and all living parts of nature to continue and to thrive in love and joy.

On Sunday nights, I think about the week ahead and look for words or ideas that will help me move into the week with good energy, hope, and joy - and sometimes I share these thoughts with you. Tonight I do wish that good energy and joy for all of us, and I also feel compelled to make some comment about what we are seeing across the world in climate news. And if you make it to the end, there will be some words of hope and joy.

In 2009, when I first began to teach health care students and practicing professionals about connections between nature (both healthy nature and damaged nature) and human health and well-being, my students were hard-pressed to find mainstream news items that focused on nature or environmental issues, much less the climate crisis. Today, almost every newscast includes news about events and impacts related to climate change.

How do I feel about this? I guess there is some satisfaction that the topic is at last being addressed. But. The data reported in the news demonstrate impacts well beyond what have been predicted for decades… that if we don’t act, we will see droughts, floods, worsening storms and longer storm seasons, food shortages or system disruptions, extended and more intense forest fire seasons, poor air and water quality, worsening soil quality, rising sea levels and damage to aging infrastructure, and excessive heat. All of this is more intensive that has been predicted.

And there are and will be more consequences for human health and well-being (in addition to those for other living beings and forces) - deaths and illness from heat exposure, hunger, pandemics and disease from vector animals whose habitats have shrunken or moved north, increases in asthma and other respiratory illness, extinctions and decline in biodiversity, and many many more. Mental health and social impacts are also significant - anxiety and depression related to loss and uncertainty, anger and aggression, increased substance abuse and addiction-related deaths, economic disruptions, increases in refugee populations who are fleeing areas where food is in extremely short supply and in populations affected by fires, storms, droughts, and floods, and threats to national security all around. It is all connected.

I could say lots more about what is likely to be ahead but will stop with this and encourage all of us to recognize the climate crisis for what it is - a global crisis that threatens our civilizations at all levels - but, among humans, effects are particularly dire for those who are more marginalized in terms of economic security, freedom from racism and other -isms, age and ability and health. And wealthier folks can find escape (trips to outer space, anyone?) or protection much more easily… for now.

I think what touched off these thoughts tonight was this article about climate related disruptions to agriculture and food production in Canada, my partner Larry’s homeland. Here is one quote that made my head explode…

“We can’t farm like this, where there’s a giant disruption every year,” she [Lenore Newman, director of the Food and Agriculture Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia] said. “Or we’re going to have to really rethink how we produce food.”

Can’t? We are ALREADY farming this way in too many places and it is only going to get worse if we don’t act. AND we should ALREADY be rethinking and redesigning and localizing food production and distribution practices and systems. THIS IS HAPPENING NOW.

I know that there are many reasons why this is hard to think about and process. It is HARD - I have lots to say about that and will at some point. But please do let yourself look.

And also - Sunday inspiration here - here is a poem from Victoria Safford about hope. What happens when we open our eyes and enter into the place of struggle? What good can come from it?

The Gates of Hope

By Victoria Safford

Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope—

Not the prudent gates of Optimism,

Which are somewhat narrower.

Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;

Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,

Which creak on shrill and angry hinges

(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through)

Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of

“Everything is gonna’ be all right.”

But a different, sometimes lonely place,

The place of truth-telling,

About your own soul first of all and its condition.

The place of resistance and defiance,

The piece of ground from which you see the world

Both as it is and as it could be

As it will be;

The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,

But the joy of the struggle.

And we stand there, beckoning and calling,

Telling people what we are seeing

Asking people what they see.

source of photo: A wildfire burns in the mountains north of Lytton, B.C., during record-high temperatures, July 1. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP); article by Caroline Anders, July 17, 2021.


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