The Peace of Wild Things

Monarch caterpillar on Milkweed leaf

Monarch caterpillar on Milkweed leaf

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

Like many, I can get weighed down by the continuous torrent of bad news about the environment, my sense of defeat and despair rising as news headline after news headline details assaults to our air, our water, and our land. A recent New York Times article highlighted no fewer than 83 environmental rules that were being rolled back under the Trump administration. (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html?mtrref=www.google.com&assetType=REGIWALL&mtrref=www.nytimes.com&gwh=E495149D064C8166FD59CD0D64CC1E4C&gwt=pay&assetType=REGIWALL)
National Geographic has updated their running list of how President Trump is changing environmental policy including: decreasing safety measures that regulate offshore drilling; increasing logging of forests on Federal lands; smoothing the path for companies to build oil and gas pipelines and limiting the tools states have to block them; lifting restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from coal power plants; loosening regulations on toxic air pollution; gutting protections in the Endangered Species Act; systematically altering U.S. Government websites to cut mentions of climate change; downsizing public lands protected in National Monuments; rolling back the Clean Power Plan; and many more. (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/03/how-trump-is-changing-science-environment/)
The Guardian recently noted Trump’s five most dangerous attacks on the environment to include: departure from the Paris Climate Agreement; shrinking national monuments and animal protections; rolling back the Clean Power Plan; cutting clean water protections; and allowing more methane release into the environment.
(https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/08/trump-environment-rules-roll-back-dangerous-attacks-climate-change)
The news is grim.

Yet I am, as many of you are, a hopeful person. I agree with a line I read in a recent National Geographic magazine that “enthusiasm and energy are renewable resources” and I understand that each day I have a choice to make. I can accept the situation as dire and decide there is nothing I can do to change it. Or I can accept the situation as dire and decide, even as an individual, there ARE things I can and must do change it. Many of these Still Speaking Earth blog posts in the past have focused on individual changes we can make in our homes and in our daily lives to help the environment and many future posts will undoubtedly focus on the same. But this month, I encourage you to think BIGGER, to consider joining your voice and adding your resources, your enthusiasm, and your energy to a wider movement and a larger organization that is working to speak for all of us against these constant attacks on the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and where we canoe and swim, and the land that sustains us and that we share with a diverse and complex web of other plant and animal species. For these reasons, I support the Sierra Club and, this September, I will participate in their Backyard Day to raise awareness and funds to help preserve and protect our environment.

BACKYARD DAY

The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. They amplify the power of their 3.5+ million members and supporters to defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. (https://www.sierraclub.org/about-sierra-club) They acknowledge that we face “serious challenges ahead: a warming climate, unprecedented levels of pollution, and powerful special interests undermining basic protections.” From their website above, their mission statement reads:

To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth;
To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources;
To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.

For the 3rd year in a row, the Sierra Club is sponsoring Backyard Day, a fundraiser to support their continuing efforts to protect our environment. From their website, https://www.teamsierra.org/backyardday, “whether you're concerned about clean water in your community, asthma-triggering smog, or unsustainable development, we want to support you in making a difference in your own backyard.” Their annual Backyard Day will be celebrated this year on Saturday, September 14, 2019. Their definition of “backyard” is expansive and “doesn't have to be the space outside your back door. Whether the local trails, the beach you grew up visiting, or the park your kids love goofing around in — we're celebrating all of the outdoor spaces you consider yours.” They are encouraging us all to get outside, into the places we love, and “walk, run, hike, swim, kayak, skip, cycle” or whatever you love to do that allows you to “connect with nature.” They advertise Backyard Day as a virtual 5K or 10K or “whatever-K” but it is in no means restricted to running or to any time or distance. It’s simply committing to be outside in a favorite space on that day and inspiring yourself, and others if you invite friends and family, to “protect these special places and our planet.” I’m planning to be outside on a bike ride this September 14th, with my niece and my brother-in-law, on the lovely back roads of rural Lancaster and Lebanon counties, pedaling through rolling farm lands and forests. I have taken an additional step of registering on the Backyard Day website with an initial contribution, thereby creating an opportunity for others to join me in the outdoors on that day and to help me raise money for Team Sierra. My goal is to raise $500 to help the Sierra Club in their efforts to protect the places we love and call home. I’ve created a fundraising page at:

https://www.teamsierra.org/backyardday/Member/MyPage/3355695/Melissa-Stephens

If you are so moved, you can visit the site to learn more about why I am participating in Backyard Day and perhaps join my team and make a donation. The money we raise will benefit the Sierra Club and will be used to “protect wildlife and wild places, tackle the climate crisis, and ensure a healthy, livable planet.”

I started this post with one of my favorite Wendell Berry poems. My backyard (pictured above) or any outdoor space where I can run, hike, bike, or just sit and relax allows my mind, body, and spirit to “come into the peace of wild things” where “for a time, I (can) rest in the grace of the world.” Isn’t that worth protecting? I also started this post by sharing my often-felt sense of despair, lamenting my “smallness”, my feeling of impotence in being able to make a difference in the face of our impending global climate crisis. How can I, one single person, really help? I will continue to make those little changes in my home and in my daily life but I’ve also decided to join something BIGGER, to join the Sierra Club and to help them raise money to take this fight to corporations and to governments who really can make a difference, a much bigger difference than I can make on my own. Please consider joining me, whether you also join the Sierra Club, whether you make a donation to their Backyard Day fundraising campaign, or whether you just get outside in your favorite outdoor space on September 14th and contemplate, with thousands of other people, how much the health and well-being of this planet means to you; be a part of something BIGGER. If you’ve seen the recently released Disney movie, “The Lion King,” a gorgeous, cinematic tribute to how we are interconnected with all living things on this Earth, you may have heard the extended cut from the movie’s score by Beyonce called “Bigger.”
BIGGER (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14di5tJxn7c)
If you feel insignificant, you better think again
Better wake up because you're part of something way bigger
You're part of something way bigger
Not just a speck in the universe
Not just some words in a bible verse
You are the living word
Ahh, you're part of something way bigger
Bigger than you, bigger than we
Bigger than the picture they framed us to see
But now we see it
And it ain't no secret, no

Let’s protect our backyards and all the precious outdoor spaces we need and love. Let’s be a part of something way bigger!