The highlight of my summer each year is having my 2 year old grandson Oliver join me for Camp Dodi. “Dodi” means beloved in Hebrew — and I am Dodi to a few children now. It is the honor of my lifetime.
Early in the morning, before it got too blazing hot, Oliver pushed his trucks around on Dodi’s Dirt Pile (all gardeners have one, that heap of soil you haven’t quite gotten around to spreading). He was filthy and very, very happy.
As I watched him, I thought about so many things that I love in my tiny corner of this buzzing, blooming, blessedly beautiful, world. About the cows grazing through rocky meadows that spill down to the river. About the endless blue horizon split by the streak of an osprey — a fisher hawk nearly lost to our parts, brought back by people who cared enough to protect this bird. About campfires late at night, friends gathered around singing childhood songs. About the cliff that thrusts up by the edge of the beach, from which generation after generation of children conquer their fears and leap into the inky roiling waves.
And I thought: I want this to go on and on, forever. I want my grandchild to fall in love with the world around him. And I want that for all our children—in whatever tiny corner of the world they occupy. That they find a way to connect with the natural world, to unplug, to decompress, and to lose a sense of time and the anxiety of its passing. And I wish this for their grandparents, too. We need this.
Yet every day I read the news from the natural world with horror: fires burning north of the Arctic Circle, heat records bursting in the most unlikely places, claiming lives. We are experiencing one of the hottest years in human civilization. And we have hit warming of only 1 degree. There is no new normal ahead — what we are losing is reliably-pleasant, reassuring, life-enhancing normalcy. We are entering a state of climate chaos.
We can slow this down.
But the news from our political world horrifies me as well. One of my dear colleagues put it well: We are 17 months into the most corrupt anti-human health, anti-nature, anti-environmental justice, anti-science, anti-economics, and anti-law administration in human history.
Is all of this too negative, too frightening, for a summer vacation day? Yes. And NO.
Only if we look squarely, honestly, fiercely at what is going on will we have clarity about what to do, and be motivated to do everything we can to stop the pollution that is warming our world. It is that simple.
I’m too old for arguments about why our hands are tied: Capitalism? Corruption? Human nature? That’s almost laughable.
Human nature is capable of diametrically-opposed tendencies. One is to destroy, selfishly, for short term gain with little regard for the future. To have dominion over this world in order to plunder it rapaciously. There is a malevolent spirit loose these days, and it is putting us in danger.
But many, many people — governors, mayors, political leaders, educators, activists, healers, lawyers, engineers, faith leaders and more — right now are courageously displaying another dimension of human nature — the will to survive. They are doing everything possible to protect the most helpless among us, to safeguard the future for our children, and even for yet-to-be-born children.
We get to choose how we want to act. We get to decide: will we withdraw into terror and apathy? Will we distract ourselves with blathering?
Or will we face our fears, and leap into the gorgeously inky waters of the future?
That’s something to think about on a summer vacation.