Valerie Kack: What kind of world will we leave for our grandchildren?
I am compelled to document an experience I had the other night. I was awakened around 3 o’clock in the morning to a flash of light and then the sound of a giant pine tree falling.
I realized after investigating outside that it was probably a flash of lightning that toppled the giant (a perfectly healthy pine) before the brief rain that subsequently fell. I lay there staring out the window until I was assured there would be no fire I couldn’t escape. It was surreal and terrifying.
I thought about the fact that I hadn’t heard that sound of a tree falling in the middle of the night before and that this will become the new normal.
We have 67 million dead pine trees in Nevada County. And millions more infested with bark beetles … an added risk of the five years of drought. The predictions are that this county alone will lose 80 to 90 percent of the conifers within the next couple of years. I have spent 30 years stewarding Wolf Creek by managing its banks, monitoring its health and respecting its natural movement and the forest, by doing my best to keep it clear of undergrowth, ivy and fallen trees. A good 50 percent of my seven-acre forest has dead leaves and branches and at least six which are completely dead … all will gradually fall, making that sound in the night.
My heart is breaking … and I don’t mean to be dramatic. But each tree is part of what feels like a body … one breathing, filtering, sheltering body that is dying. The task of caring for the environment is a great one. I can see how one person alone can do very little really to stave the forest’s cycle of life, despite great effort, good will and great expense. I really see how it takes all of us to be aware of our duty to think first of the planet.
The debate about global warming, fueled by some who are unwilling to face the facts of our obvious and continued negative impact on the environment, keeps us stuck at what to do about it. The argument seems to be that if it is just nature taking its course humans need do nothing. Why not? Why shouldn’t we stop fossil fuel use, improve recycling, use less or no plastics, join voices with others like the protectors of the waters in the Dakota pipeline conflict?
Some would rather sit around and debate than be accountable for what we each do to contribute to pollution of our air, water and ground.
I live between two creeks: I smell the dumped oil and gasoline that flows through these channels and sticks to the banks and flora, not to mention the toxicity to fish, nits, otters and deer. I see each of us driving individual autos and how this clogs our freeways and raises rage when others feel entitled to hog the road or speed. We act as if we live alone on this planet and that it is ours to use up and then stack our garbage on barges to send to the sea for lack of dumping places. When industry and corporations take over, assume the use of forest, land and waterways to conduct their business without consulting local interests, we all suffer.
Consciousness includes awareness of how much water we use, recycling every possible item and then, not using plastics or non-renewable resources, mindful non-consumption of chemical-filled or produced products, better use of public transportation, financial investments in renewable resources. Teaching children about the living planet we inhabit and how we can contribute to Gaia’s health and well-being is critical. My grandson will be born in October, and I think about what kind of world I will hand him to save for his grandchildren.
As I age, it is increasingly discouraging to watch the state of things environmentally and among humans, easy to see only the destruction of those things I have deeply valued: social justice, ecology, healthy living, spiritual aspiration, cooperation among neighbors or nations. I know I have done some part in effortful service both with people and the landscape. But I am failing, my generation is failing for lack of interest or direction, to assure our grandchildren that they will have a healthy world to steward.
My deepest prayer is that we humans focus less on consumption and more on service to others, planetary health, peace at all costs, and proactive prevention of further irreversible destruction.
Valerie Kack lives in Grass Valley.
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