Like many, my awareness of the state of our planet did not begin with a blinding flash of light but was more like a slow rising of the sun through the smog. Although I was recycling some plastic for quite awhile, it really began when I sat in on on one of the Pachamama Alliance’s Awakening The Dreamer Symposia several years ago. The intent of these is to alert people to the state of the world’s environmental and social crises and ignite people toward positive action. I was impressed by the message and videos and subsequently trained to become a facilitator and subsequently presented the ATD in a variety of settings as varied as a classroom setting at the University of New Hampshire and a small village gathering in Tanzania. My first connection with Carrie Mayo involved supporting her first facilitation of the ATD Symposium which she creatively combined with presentations by local socially responsible and environmentally sustainable businesses in the New Hampshire Seacoast area. My interest bumped up even higher when I visited the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History last summer and saw a display featuring a variety of local efforts to regenerate the planet like high school students seeding New York’s harbor with oysters that now completely filter the water there every twenty four hours. I had heard the terms the terms associated with environmental sustainability evolve over the years from global warming, to climate change, to climate crisis but this was the first time I had heard environmental “regeneration” which sounds a lot more proactive and hopeful to me.
I have been a member of a small volunteer group called Unlimited Possibilities that has been involved in small service projects locally and overseas for about a decade (www.updoitnow.org). Most of the projects we have done have focused on social justice but now we are resolved to include an environmental justice component to our service trips. We have done two since that resolution, to Costa Rica to work with immigrants there and to Nashville Tennessee to learn about and support efforts to curb human trafficking. In both cases we incorporated an environmental emphasis.
First, we attempted to offset the carbon emissions from our plane flights by planting trees through an organic farming group we have been helping in La Paz , Nicaragua, The Brothers and Sisters Cooperative. Carbon offsetting for plane flights has been gaining momentum and there are websites that help you calculate the cost of correcting for the carbon pollution of your trip. It is surprisingly economical. Second, we were exposed to some local groups that are regenerating the environment to raise our awareness and then we had spirited group discussions on how best to distribute a small pot of donation money from UP among the groups we heard from and, in some cases worked with during these trips. These discussions stimulate our critical thinking and point us toward activism. They were high points of our adventures. In Costa Rica we directed our environmental support to create a project in the impoverished neighborhood where we had helped put a roof on the home of a man with a disability. We made that decision based on the knowledge that the degradation of the earth hits the poor first before it ultimately destroys everyone. In Nashville we gave the largest portion of our donation to the Urban Green Lab, a small group of young folks focused on educating their schools, businesses and households about the importance of environmental sustainability and ways to do it. As I write this I am sitting on a bus that will be the first step on a journey to Tanzania to tutor students who are too poor to attend public school. These students will help us decide how best to distribute “UP’s” donation after we hear from local groups making environment improvement efforts.
So that’s where we are currently at with the issue of Environmental Justice. Well, that and voting against the only president in the only country in the world currently trying to deny climate change. May this planet survive and prosper.