“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring After last week’s post – A quote of comfort, in times of grief.
I wrote a bit last year about my problems with handling praise. While that is still a work in progress, I’m thrilled to announce that one of my essays, Inspirations from a Toad, has won the 2013 Web of Life Foundation competition out of nearly 500 entries. WOLF runs the annual contest seeking works with fresh thinking on political, social, and environmental issues. 2013’s theme was “an aspirational future”. The piece, part narrative and part personal meditation, combines ideas from Some Thoughts on the Common Toad, George Orwell’s essay I wrote about last year on Ekostories, with my experiences volunteering with The Lower Mainland Green Team, a local grassroots environmental group that boasts more than 1,800 members doing great stewardship work at parks and urban farms. I would especially like to thank my writing colleagues for their careful readings, thoughtful suggestions, and swift kicks to get me to put my work out there – You know who you are. Deep gratitude, as always, and thanks for the support. Read the essay here
Over the past few entries, I’ve touched on the importance of staying optimistic in difficult times. This week, I want to look at a story that puts that to the ultimate test, a story in which hope arises from utter despair: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.There are some who read this post-apocalyptic tale only as an ecological parable, a potential scenario if humanity continues to damage the earth’s life support systems. I don’t. McCarthy doesn’t dwell on the cause of his world’s demise, and neither will I. Instead, I’m more interested in exploring the impact of a ruined earth on the human psyche. How do these characters make sense of the world where nature and culture is beyond recovery? How do they cope with constant and unrelenting despair? What compels them to go on when the past is lost, never to return? The Road touches on these difficult questions. Yet despite seeming like the type of story that revels in violence and nihilism, it is really a tale about the very essence of what it means to …
One of the coolest things about the blogging community is connecting with other like-minded individuals. I recently had the honour to guest blog over at Earthninja, a great blog by fellow 2013 Canadian Weblog Award winner Emily Nichol that focuses on conservation, nature, and science communication. While tossing around ideas of things to write about, I found inspiration in an intriguing talk by Dr. Elin Kelsey, author, environmental educator, Rachel Carson Center fellow, and a past professor who shaped a lot of my interests and writings: In her video, Kelsey speaks about the importance of telling stories of hope and resilience even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Read the Accompanying Post Here Featured Image: Humpback breaching, by Whit Welles
I posted Derrick Jensen’s controversial piece on hope a few weeks ago. This week, I want to explore another person’s perspective on the subject. Adapted by the Center for Ecoliteracy, Hope is What We Become in Action is a fascinating interview with Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet and Ecomind. Lappé speaks of the need to rethink the way we communicate and perceive the ecological crisis on a foundational level. I’ll highlight several parts of the interview I found interesting:
“But what, precisely, is hope? At a talk I gave last spring, someone asked me to define it. I turned the question back on the audience, and here’s the definition we all came up with: hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.” (Derrick Jensen, Beyond Hope)
“Are there other ways to tell environmental stories? With Christopher Booker’s Seven Basic Plots as a field guide, I’ve been searching for examples of environmental journalism with other-than-tragic narratives — archetypal frameworks that still fit the facts, but startle the reader out of his or her mournful stupor.” (Michelle Nijhuis) Taking a slight breather at the halfway point of the Nausicaa Project, I wanted to share an intriguing article titled It’s Not (Always) About the Lorax by Michelle Nijhuis. She notes too often environmental stories gravitate towards tragedy because it’s the most direct method for expressing the loss or diminishment of nature. But while this approach is honest and powerful, it can leave readers feeling depressed, powerless, and paralyzed. Nijhuis loosely uses Booker’s Seven Basic Plots to highlight a series of well-written narratives that use other approaches to convey environmental understanding. My favourite story listed has to be Alan Rabinowitz’s incredible Wild Eyes, if only because I’ve actually camped in the Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve in Belize. The piece got me thinking about the Ekostories I’ve explored. What …