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Francy that: When it comes to saving the world, everybody matters

We live in the land of more than 10,000 lakes and 6,000 rivers and streams. Fresh clean water sustains our way of life from the systems in our homes, to the farmers who grow our food, to the outdoor recreation opportunities on or near our waterways. It is easy to take all of this for granted.

Even though we experienced a record snowfall season last winter, our precipitation pattern left us very dry throughout the summer months. Our garden in Carlton County needed watering often, as did the flowers in their beds. By late July, the birch drooped and yellow leaves fluttered to the ground in August.

Some rains in the fall replenished the soil, but moisture since October has been negligible and temperatures are way above average. This is not normal. Of course, we enjoy the mild temperatures, but it is quite concerning to wonder about the environmental impact of such conditions.

Looking at the breadth and scope of the environmental issues can feel overwhelming. When I mentioned to a friend that we hear so little about conserving resources, he said, “That won’t do enough to make a difference.” He said the changes need to be made by governments and industries. Then I read “The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times” by Jane Goodall. In her work, Goodall stresses that she believes all of us can play a part to create the change we need to save the planet.

Goodall shares the four reasons she has for hope. The first is the “amazing human intellect.” In addition to all the discoveries and creations accomplished by humans over the centuries, Goodall notes that language has contributed the most to our advancements.

“Our mastery of language allowed us to teach about things that weren’t present. We could pass on wisdom gleaned from the successes and mistakes of the past. … Most importantly, we could bring people together to discuss problems,” Goodall said.

Goodall notes that our intellect has created the mess our planet is in on many fronts, but she maintains the hope that our intellect will help us find “ways to heal the harm we have inflicted on this poor old planet.”

The “resilience of nature” is Goodall’s second reason to hope. She shares several stories that demonstrate that in spite of all the damage we have inflicted on the natural environment, there are examples of recovery and strength in nature. She recounts the story of a camphor tree in Nagasaki, Japan that endured the atomic bombing in 1945. Scarred and twisted, it survived and still puts out new leaves each spring.

The other example is the “Survivor Tree” from 9/11 at Ground Zero. Even though it was crushed and charred from the explosion, it had one living branch, broken roots, and half a trunk. Saved and sent to a nursery, the tree recovered and now blooms each spring at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Nature is resilient.

The third reason for hope Goodall describes is “The Power of Young People.” She is committed to involving youth in projects to aid the environment. Roots & Shoots is a program Goodall founded in 1991 to engage young people in this mission.

“Its main message: every single individual matters, has a role to play, and makes an impact on the planet every single day. And we have a choice as to what sort of impact we will make,” Goodall says.

Through this program, organizers have observed a shift not only in young people’s attitudes toward nature, but also in their families as awareness of the impact of their choices is shared in their households. Roots & Shoots has expanded to over 68 countries with hundreds of thousands of youth members.

Finally, Goodall maintains her hope based on the “indomitable human spirit.” She defines this as, “the ability to deliberately tackle what may seem an impossible task. And not give up even though we know there is a chance we may not succeed.”

Pondering Goodall’s reasons for hope is encouraging. However, I realize there is much more that needs to be done by me as an individual and by our society. I find myself wondering if I have that “indomitable human spirit” to change myself and my little corner of the world. Reading the following words from Goodall helps.

“And if we get together and use our intellect and play our part, each one of us, we can find ways to slow down climate change and species extinction,” Goodall writes. “Remember that as individuals we make a difference every day, and millions of our individual ethical choices in how we behave will move us toward a more sustainable world.”

Writer Francy Chammings is a retired English teacher and clinical psychologist who loves living in Carlton County. She’s an award-winning writer for the Pine Knot News

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