Thursday, September 01, 2022

3 plans, 2 books, and hope for the work ahead

A combined travel log, book review, and renewal of hope to drive the work to be done

Things happen for a reason. The trip was twice rescheduled, finally happening the third time. For the first reschedule we did nothing. COVID-19 had its complete lock down at the time. We survived fearful but remained healthy. 

The second time, we tried an alternative trip, and after testing, juggling arrangements, had a glorious adventure driving 1900 miles over 12 days on the Ring Road around Iceland. Glaciers, geysers, waterfalls… natural wonders of this living earth.

The third time, yes, the charm; we managed to complete a piece we couldn't do before in Iceland (the western fjords),  and then got to do the cruise to Greenland. 

The well captained boat traveled along the coast, down the eastern side,  up the western side of Greenland, putting us ashore from an anchorage point to explore. The natives welcomed the economic gain. The villages mostly were small, their population doubling when the 130plus  passengers came ashore. 

They really do live in another world, primitive in many ways, more naturally balanced also by living within, and in respect of the land, and the resources it offers. There is no ownership of the land, how foreign a concept for both of us, in different ways. 

During the off hours cruising, I spent some time reading and enjoying the view. Managed to complete "The Carbon Almanac" on the boat. Edited by Seth Godin, it is a compendium of facts, tables, photos and more. The effort a result of over 500 folks input and collaboration.  To avoid the thoroughly depressing info it contained, I picked up "The Book of Hope, A survival guide for trying times". A series of conversations between Douglas Abrams and Jane Goodall (yes, she of the chimps).

A most worthy read and just what I needed. Some may be aware that I had started a series of podcast conversations to "make sense of climate" with a local activist, Ted McIntyre. And while he and I discussed various aspects of the climate roadmap, to help me make sense of the conflicting messages out there, it was still troubling. 

Fortunately,  Jane and Douglas were able to bring me around to hope. They did so with their conversations. Very much a parallel to what I had been doing, exploring an issue at a time. The stories and anecdotes that Jane shared were plentiful, insightful, as well as entertaining, and most importantly, generating hope.

Highlight - Page xiii

Jane - "Probably the question I am asked more often than any other is: Do you honestly believe there is hope for our world? For the future of our children and grandchildren? And I am able to answer truthfully, yes. I believe we still have a window of time during which we can start healing the harm we have inflicted on the planet— but that window is closing. If we care about the future of our children and theirs, if we care about the health of the natural world, we must get together and take action. Now— before it is too late."

Highlight - Can Science Explain Hope? > Page 28

Douglas writes - “Archbishop Tutu once told me that optimism can quickly turn to pessimism when the circumstances change. Hope, he explained, is a much deeper source of strength, practically unshakable. When a journalist once asked Tutu why he was optimistic, he said he was not optimistic, he was a ‘prisoner of hope,’ quoting the biblical prophet Zechariah. He said hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness."

''Yes,” Jane said. “Hope does not deny all the difficulty and all the danger that exists, but it is not stopped by them. There is a lot of darkness, but our actions create the light.”

They outline 4 reasons for hope:

  • Reason 1: The Amazing Human Intellect
  • Reason 2: The Resilience of Nature
  • Reason 3: The Power of Young People
  • Reason 4: The Indomitable Human Spirit

They provide wonderful anecdotes to make their points. There are 3 that I'll share here that touched me in a special way


Highlight - Reason 1: The Amazing Human Intellect > Page 60

"Indigenous cultures have always had a close connection with the natural world. There are so many wise shamans and healers among the indigenous people, so much knowledge about the benefits of living in harmony with the natural world.”

Highlight - Reason 2: The Resilience of Nature > Page 73

“Quite often, and sometimes perhaps more intensely than others. I remember one spring day about ten years ago I stood with Inuit elders by the great ice cliff in Greenland and watched as water cascaded down and icebergs calved. The Inuit elders said that when they were young the ice there never melted, even in the summer. Yet it was late winter. They were weeping. That was when the reality of climate change hit me viscerally. And I felt pain in my heart for the plight of the polar bears as I watched rafts of ice floating where the ice sheet should have been firm and hard.”

We recently stood at or near the same spot in Greenland.


In the course of their conversation,  Jane touted the Lord of the Rings, one of my most read and favorite works. For 10-15 of years after I first read it, I re-read the trilogy (and prequel - "The Hobbit") every year.

Highlight - Reason 4: The Indomitable Human Spirit > Page 169

“I think it provides us with a blueprint of how we survive and turn around climate change and loss of biodiversity, poverty, racism, discrimination, greed, and corruption. The Dark Lord of Mordor and the Black Riders symbolize all the wickedness we have to fight. The fellowship of the Ring includes all those who are fighting the good fight—we have to work so hard to grow the fellowship around the world.”


Highlight - Reason 4: The Indomitable Human Spirit > Page 166

“Here we are—Jia Haixia and Jia Wenqi.” Jane spelled the names for me and then closed her laptop and began a story she obviously loved. “They live in a small village in rural China and have been friends since they were boys. Haixia was blind in one eye at birth from a cataract and lost sight in the other eye in a factory accident, and when Wenqi was only three years old he lost both his arms when he touched a downed power line. When Haixia lost his sight completely he became really depressed and Wenqi realized that he must find something they could do that would give purpose to Haixia’s life. At that point they were in their mid-thirties. “I don’t know how long it took Wenqi to think up his plan, but he suddenly got the answer. Both had often talked about how the land around their village had become increasingly degraded since they were young. Quarrying had polluted the rivers, killing fish and other aquatic life, and industrial emissions had polluted the air. “I can just imagine Wenqi telling his friend that what they should do was plant trees. And I bet Haixia was incredulous at first—how could they do that? They didn’t have any money, and he was blind and Wenqi had no arms. Wenqi had the answer—he would be Haixia’s eyes and Haixia would be his arms. “They couldn’t afford to buy seeds or saplings, so they decided to clone from branches cut from the trees. Haixia did the cutting while Wenqui directed him to the right place. And they walk from place to place with Haixia holding on to one of Wenqui’s empty sleeves. At first it all went wrong. They were excited they managed to plant about eight hundred cuttings in the first year, but imagine how they felt when spring came and only two of them were alive. The land was simply too dry. At that point Haixia wanted to give up, but Wenqi told him that was not an option—they would just have to find a way to get water to the trees. “I don’t know how they did that—but, anyway, they did. They planted more cuttings, and this time most of them survived.” Jane said together they have now planted over ten thousand trees. At first the other villagers were skeptical, she told me, but now they help to take care of those very special trees.

If Wenqui and Haixai can accomplish something in their way, anything is possible!

So I am back from play, ready and refreshed to tackle each day anew. The work is here and remains to be done. I am empowered with more hope to tackle this work.

Let’s begin!

Among the icebergs near Disko Bay, multiple humpback whales were feeding and I caught this one as it dove
Among the icebergs near Disko Bay, multiple humpback whales were feeding and I caught this one as it dove


No comments:

Post a Comment