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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Invitation to a Small Group "Field Seminar"

Stephen Packard (assisted as needed by other stewards) will be offering a variety of small group “Ecology Hikes” this August and September, focused on Somme Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove (mostly savanna), and Somme Woods (savanna and oak woodland). 

If you'd like to consider participating, you have to RSVP now or soon.
We'll get back to the people who RSVP with proposed dates and times.
We are eager to tailor these “field seminars” to the interests of people who want to learn - whether as stewards or just people who love the ecosystem and want a deeper appreciation. 
These participatory seminars are free of charge, but we require advance registration and a brief “statement of interest” - to do our best to makes the events as valuable as possible.
Please respond by email to and answer the following two questions.

  • What days of the week and times would likely be best for you? 
  • What would be your principal interests?
As for that second question, an answer like “everything” doesn’t help us. If we can, we would like to group together people with similar interests and levels of knowledge. We're hoping especially for:

1. People who can contribute their own ideas and experiences.
2. People who would especially benefit from such an experience.

Helpful answers might include: 

  • “Somme Woods history and conservation over the years,” 
  • “prairie restoration techniques - I’ve been at this for a year,” 
  • “savanna restoration techniques - I’ve been a prairie steward for ten years,” 
  • or, of course, whatever you personally are interested in.
We’ll get back to the people who RSVP with potential dates and times.
Thanks for whatever curiosity or mission you might have.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Voices of Quest … and Commitment

The short pieces below are from fifteen people who struggle with life goals and how they relate to local action vs. what’s happening to the planet, overall.The fifteen represent a wide variety of young, middle, and old people. The essays are responses to earlier posts on community and strategies – and to comments on them, especially from the anguished “Searcher” who is quoted in comment 1. 

It’s a long post. Please, please feel free to skip around and read what interests you from among the fifteen contributions, below. Please leave your own comments, as well, if you are so moved. 

1. Written by a young environmental professional who’s struggling both to be an activist and to find “right work.”

The Constant Nagging Emotion

I sense the constant nagging emotion that tugs at my heart. The narrative we tell ourselves is that we should restore fragments of land which are "protected" from radical capitalism. However, these fragments are only "secured" by paper - the very same paper which was used to steal the land in the first place. As we are seeing, no land is really safe as long as radically extractive capitalism is allowed to survive.

The volunteer model is not sustainable. We can't keep burning out volunteers … Capitalism is heartless, and money is the way to buy food, water, shelter, and medicine in our current system. Passionate people can not both volunteer their fullest selves and afford to purchase those human dignities, especially as the world gets worse under Trump! 

As a young thought-leader-in-training:

-I envision a universal basic income that provides all humans the ability to purchase food, water, shelter, and medicine. In this way, we alleviate some of the largest of barriers keeping people from volunteering. 
-I envision a just transition from fossil fuels to renewables, resulting in a constitutional amendment to abolish fossil fuels for good. In this future, all modes of transportation are nationalized and automated. Imagine hopping into an uber-style e-cab and showing up at Somme on a weekend - with no financial transaction - because transportation is guaranteed as a human dignity, paid for by the sun, wind, and ocean!
-I envision a world of intentional communities where a majority of resources are shared in common - where native prairie and woodland flow seamlessly across the landscape, punctuated by local gardens and agriculture. 

I think our focus in the eco-restoration movement is misplaced at present. We need to invest our time in the transformation of society (developing a planetary republic which enshrines food, water, shelter, and medicine as a human dignity). We have little time before society collapses from climate disruption.

2. Written by a young professional, who volunteers too.

Building the camaraderies from which ...

I am pretty skeptical of this critique that a volunteer spending their time on meaningful, effective work that they enjoy is "misplaced" only because they could be doing more. The utopia, or the path to it, that the writer envisions also may not be yours or mine. Does a universal basic income help fight overly-extractive capitalism or rampant consumerism? Is a free cab much better than carpooling with friends and family? Some people want ownership of their homes and backyard prairies...

What may be seen as political inaction may be the result of a variety of circumstances, not simply lack of prioritization or care. Some political activities and opinions can have terrifying consequences. When I was at the most recent presidential inauguration, the friends that I stayed with were incredulous that I would be marching in protest of the event. And well, with good reason, because just blocks from where I was at the time, hundreds of fellow protesters were kettled by police and their lives held in limbo by the DC courts system until the charges were dropped almost a year and a half later. Not to mention numerous other scuffles and tragic incidents. So I tend to stay a bit quieter and donate in support of various issues rather than put my physical body or future on the line.

Most of our natural areas have been destroyed. They continue to be destroyed in real time by fragmentation, lack of fire, and invasive species. Restoration is time spent with nature, doing good work, and learning, often with friends, building the camaraderies from which spin off other movements. It feels good. If you have the resources and privilege, do more. But we shouldn't knock others for choosing to spend their time so wisely.

As an aside to Stephen's question about the best ways to share this information: online conversations are both less fun and less effective, especially if some sort of action is supposed to result. Additional online interactions may work better for some people, as in-person conversations can be dominated by a few aggressive voices. It takes small groups of interested individuals willing and able to meet and then put in the work, with a ringleader or two, too.


3. Written by a volunteer who, in mid-career, went back to school to study ecology.

Restoration as a spiritual practice

In my youth, my passion for a better world led me to reject both our liberal democracy and capitalism.  My activism led me to first a coop movement, and then to a “revolutionary” group through organizations that grew out of earlier struggles (SNCC, Black Panther Party, etc.).   It was a dark path.  

This is a long way of saying while I appreciate the anti-capitalist critique of the young thought leader, I can no longer share in his/her passion and social analysis--but oh how I understand that rage and anger.    Life has taught me that there are many paths to wholeness and justice; there are many fine people who work for and support capitalism. 

I think a discussion of what an ecological restoration "movement" might look like would be interesting and fruitful.  I find your [Stephen Packard’s] model inspiring--I think it is your vision of both restoring nature and doing it in volunteer community--that is its great strength.  However, I also think this approach is narrow and lacks an organizational structure that might promote greater continuity and growth.  I do not think or feel that restoration ecology in isolation is revolutionary in any broad social context.  

I now prefer a more Buddhist social analysis--the problems are greed, aggression and delusion--errors to which we are all prone (not just capitalists!), rather than the Marxist one....That could be a fruitful conversation.  

I think the real, untapped power of restoration ecology (not the science, but the practice) is in the deeply human and spiritual need that it can fulfill in humans. “Restoring Nature, Building Community”, that should be our mantra. 

A part of me thinks that it is now the next generation that will have to figure out the way forward.  It is in fact a different world--computers, the internet, social media, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence.  This technology is not going away.  Indeed, it continues to accelerate.   

4. Written by a 30-year volunteer at restoration and enviro-politics.

The spirit of Woodstock lives on.

I've been thinking about this provocative piece off and on for a few days now. It's good to know that the spirit of the Woodstock generation lives on, even if the writer's analysis strikes me as off the mark.

I doubt that "radical capitalism" is the root of the planet's ecological malaise. After all, Communist countries don't have a very good track record either. Jared Diamond argues persuasively that the Norwegian settlers in Greenland died of starvation because their agriculture did not fit the land. Arrogance played a role there. Capitalism did not. Most of the problems the writer cites (habitat fragmentation, pollution of various types, fire suppression, climate change) are the result of industrialization and increased population, not inherently tied to whether the workers own the means of production.

I think a more likely culprit is simple inattention. We just don't notice the consequences of our actions, especially when those actions affect non-humans. We are hard-wired to pay attention to other people. Non-humans, not so much, unless they are our pets, i.e., honorary humans. And I certainly agree that those who profit most from the status quo have outsized power to prevent positive change.

The strongest protection for our natural areas is not from any piece of paper but from having lots of people who love them. And taking care of the land is the surest route to caring about it. I want the work to fall on all of us, not just on professionals, because I want all of us to be able to say, "My hands helped bring this place back to life." I cling to the hope that we are a small band only because few yet know how rewarding the work actually is.

5. Written by a volunteer – a young mother who grew up in a Third World country.

We will receive the labels of “traitors.”

Revolutionaries like to make friends who are well off and can help offset the costs of food, shelter and tools. Artists sell their art; political dissidents marry daughters or sons of the aristocracy.

A true revolutionary is an artist, a marketer of an idea, a new idea that is true, and as “a truth” to the world, it belongs to no one. The artist, the revolutionary opens the door for the flow that was desperately trying to pass. The artist is the tool for the truth to take form. Due to the poverty of the language that the rest of us use, reality is not perceived until an artist describes it.

Capitalism is one of many possible languages.

Artist and revolutionaries have the gift of polyglotism. Revolutionaries cannot ignore the main language of the land where they are working. Capitalism has shown skill in destroying everything it doesn’t understand. It is the bilinguals who get their message across. We must learn the language and logic of our oppressors if we are to sit at their tables, break their bread, touch their hearts, if we are going to marry them, give them children and teach those children, our children, our oppressor’s children, to communicate in both languages, teach them truth, teach them the illusions of the oppressors.

Capitalism has a way of commodifying anything that opposes it, thus making itself stronger. When well-intentioned eco-folk are trying to save land in Galapagos from a hotel company by buying it, they are actually raising the price of land. When volunteers give their time and efforts to an endeavor they believe in, they are lowering the hourly rate for anyone who would need to work in that field.

Is there a way to take capitalism and not fight it, but grow it, tame it, teach it tricks? Is there a way that capitalism will do what is best for it? I believe so: we need to merge and grow our vocabularies. Of course, like anyone who has ever been in the position of a bridge, we will receive the labels of “traitors” from where we are coming from, and the label “untrustworthy” from the places we are going. But human relations seem to advance that way.

I wish we could have better ways to create a path forward to your young friend who wishes to remain anonymous, but the place he or she is describing sounds wonderful! In fact, it exists already, in Mexico, in Brazil, in Peru, in all Latin America. In small pockets of civilization where the land is so much part of the everyday life as a dog who runs through the kitchen’s open door.

We need to increase our vocabulary and rebrand habits. Maybe that way we can build a bridge.

6. Written by a "Millennial person of color" who works in not-for-profit conservation.

Drop your loppers and start protesting police violence?

In terms of "revolutionary spirit", I believe that learning about our native ecosystems is in itself a radical, revolutionary act. I can still remember my first time walking into Somme Prairie Grove. I had never seen anything like it. It felt like I was falling down a rabbit hole. I became obsessed with learning as much as I could, and simple acts like driving down the road and seeing a patch of buckthorn or trilliums in the woods were imbued with a sense of divination. It felt like I was seeing the world for the first time. Now that I've been doing this work for several years, it doesn't feel quite as revolutionary when I'm out in the preserves, but that feeling does well up again …

There are hallmark moments in the year of any restorationist. A great-horned owl settles down and nests in your restored woodland for the first time. A smooth green snake reintroduction marks the first time the species has been at your site in decades. A Michigan lily pops up ten years after the brush was cleared. These moments feel like gifts from the gods – like you're somehow enmeshed in the great tangle of planetary existence and that your actions have an impact. 

While undoubtedly still in its infancy as a discipline, restoration ecology has aged. We have developed "best management practices" and in some cases, there are step-by-step actions you can take that will yield predictable results. People aren't learning things for themselves through trial and error as much anymore. Now, there is a textbook where 40 years ago there was nothing. I'm not saying that all of this is bad. Our ecosystems, on a planetary scale, are not getting better. Time is of the essence. 

My feelings on the topic of radical, revolutionary environmentalism/restorationism/etc. might be a bit too romantic. For folks on the outside looking in, we may appear to be eccentric, but not radical. We're 40 years into the "environmental movement" meaning that strands of the movement have definitely gone mainstream and have definitely been co-opted by capitalist consumerism. You can buy a "green" version of every type of cleaning product or article of clothing, which is a good thing, don't get me wrong, but it does create a complacency that people are "doing their part" simply by buying less toxic toilet bowl cleaner. 

Social media has also changed the game a bit. It's harder to feel like we're part of these radical restoration groups because all of the group's workdays and actions are documented and distributed to an audience immediately. It feels less like an exclusive club. And that's probably a good thing. We need to find ways to get as many people as possible involved. But it does corrode the "radical" or "revolutionary" feeling of the group or the work. 

I've gotten in countless arguments on Facebook and in real life where people try to tell me not to discuss issues of social justice within an environmental/conservation lens because we only have time to focus on one thing at a time, or because it's "mission drift" or because "you can't solve every problem in the world just by doing restoration". Recently, I'm becoming more and more annoyed by these types of comments, because I think that this is next radical/revolutionary frontier in environmentalism/conservation. Why are we so slow to realize the interconnectedness of social issues with the biodiversity crisis? Non-profits are eager to put pictures of black and brown people in nature in their magazines and in their presentations at conferences to appear "diverse", but are absent when they're asked to help out on issues that truly impact those communities' very existence. Shutting down a coal-fired plant and restoring a brownfield are not different than preventing old-growth forest from being logged or restoring an oak woodland to health. We're just placing different valuations on the land and the people that live on it. Learning how to become an ally to oppressed peoples doesn't detract from our ability to restore. 

I'm not saying that restorationists all need to drop their loppers and start protesting police violence (although I'd applaud that person if they did). But we need to be cognizant that our ultimate goal of bringing more people into nature to help restore it cannot and will not be achieved if we're systematically ignoring huge portions of our society. We need to radically and revolutionarily show the links between the oppression of people and the oppression of nature and realize they're both inextricably linked. Maybe then we'll have a chance to create the revolutionary momentum our movement needs to restore our ecosystems.

7. Written by a volunteer who’s also an education professional with two teen-age children

Waiting for a complete social upheaval before doing anything?

Big questions – they invoke my doubt in our species' capacity to cooperate instead of compete, which to me fights our own Darwinian nature and our biologically hard-wired evolutionary survival tropes of the “Individual" - but I’m all in favor of it!

Cooperation, central planning and non-profit paradigms should confront capitalism even if to just put a modest drag on its march to Armageddon. But I know first-hand what they are speaking about when I try to balance my need to provide for my much-loved ones and also give time to public (and natural) service (which can make one feel like a failure at both)!

Maybe if the oceans rise quickly enough we will recognize the need to place value on environmental health. But our single-lifetime personal memory capacity has precluded that sort of outrage at environmental degradation for millennia.

I am encouraged by this generation’s return to the social dialogue that has been all but exterminated by protracted stigmatization and propaganda from the Right. My only hope is that young folks, who see all too well how little opportunity there is to move forward as a sustainable species, keep asking these awkward and inconvenient questions of the powers that be, and indeed all of us.

As someone who has witnessed much change during my life - both good and bad environmentally-speaking. I have to tell the young thought leader that as dark as today is, the 1970s were much darker. 

And as much as the volunteer vs professional environmental worker issue could be cast as a debate - I see it more as a useful dynamic. True, not everyone can afford to be a volunteer. (Sometimes I feel that I can’t!) But many can. And for those with grey hair (including myself) it provides engagement with the world that is essential for a healthy life - and that’s just on a self-serving level. It also helps nature directly.

Volunteers also hold Professionals” to higher standards than if they were left to their own devices. Nothing like being shown up by an amateur enthusiast to keep your eye on the ball! Yes there needs to be a way of monetizing stewardship. I don’t know what that would entail. But waiting for a complete social upheaval before doing anything? Not a plan.

I also  think the process of volunteer engagement is an extremely valuable portal into the professional side of conservation (and any career). The volunteer process continues to expand the opportunities for human engagement - in people taking the future into their own hands. It is Democracy in action.

Change is slow, but it can happen. As the Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want, but…"

8. Written by a nearly full-time volunteer steward, recently retired from a mid-level federal government job. 

Revolution activism … wasn't a good means to a good end
  • In your blog, it seems that you have articulated your "revolution" activism and have acknowledged it wasn't a good means to a good end.  Yet, there is great need for a drastic change in our current culture and attitudes toward nature  
  • I agree that it's very necessary to keep a spirit of change alive, but revolution?  Peaceful protesting and demands of elected leaders, yes.  But there is no doubt they have to feel like they have skin in the game, something to lose, or all will be dismissed.  So how to get their attention?
  • Radical and intentional doesn't need to be in the "revolution activism" profile that you experienced.
  • Education is key from the earliest levels.  Children move their parents in amazing ways.
  • I love his "green wash" terminology and his good observation of vague interest.

9. Written by another Millennial searcher and volunteer.

I quit my government job.

I can really relate to the frustration I hear in these notes.

To some points I agree, I would rather have a cooperative piece of land shared by many, rich and lively, dotted with communal agricultural areas, inhabited by many different kinds and ages of people. I'm one of the Millennials who can only dream of this form of home/land ownership. I've been renting for years, wondering: where are all the other people who want to do this?

I quit my government job because the reality of it didn't fit my yearning for the kind of exciting collaboration you described, and continue to encourage. I did not love spending all my time doing something I was deeply critical of and that I didn't think I could change. Does that mean I did the right thing because I didn't belong? Or was I just not radical enough to stick with it and change the damn thing?

Many people I care about now do good work for nonprofit jobs that are (by their accounts) not as radical as advertised. 

The infrastructure currently up and running seems crushing, depressing... making me feel, like you, paranoid, mentally unhealthy, a little bitter.

So I volunteer my time to help get kids into the woods with the birds and bunnies, so they can grow up to be young people who try things and have dreams of an ecological utopia. I like working with kids, and I think it's important. But (I need) money, like young searcher, to afford the basic dignities. So I have to waste my time doing other stuff.

10. Written by a volunteer not long out of college, who is starting an advanced degree program in conservation.

Truly democratic and lasting advancements take a long time. 
They do not move backward if they are the real thing.

At Loyola, I was a Campus Sustainability Intern for a few years as a work-study student employee to help pay for school. My experiences organizing and carrying out events to provide students with the sustainable solutions to energy saving, waste reduction, even apartment gardening, other innovative off campus solutions to our most basic problems, and a space to practice them, has proved to me that these solutions are learnable and feasible, and that all you need to do is commit.

I hear a lot young thought leaders, whom I agree with on so much more, turning from capitalism and I don’t think they are doing it for the right reasons. I will spend some time here as it is important to me because I think the properly organized capitalist system provides the best opportunity to face the challenges of the 21stcentury. We need innovation, that comes from competition, which is a defining pillar of capitalism and not only a bad thing. Like everything else, competition can get out of control, we can lose our way.

Democratic Socialist countries like Denmark and Sweden are fundamentally capitalist, their systems are organized differently than American Capitalism, and therefore they have different cultures than America – some may say better.

“Public morality” is really in question these days, most notably with the lack of new gun control in the face of so much senseless death. If you have enough money and influence, you can design the rules to your advantage. This is one of the ways in which our version of capitalism is broken: Tax giveaways to the giant corporations, Trump profiting off of his presidency, Koch brothers push to roll back env regulations for fossil fuel interests. The American systems are distrusted right now because it appears that they are designed to work for the few, not the many. Can the system be made to work for all? Of course it can. But young thought leaders must be heard, and we know the systems will not change from the top. It is written in the Declaration of Independence that it is the responsibility of the governed to seize control of the government if it is no longer serving the people in their pursuit for life, liberty, and happiness. From the bottom up. That document is not perfect but it hits the home run several times. 

I saw Gina McCarthy speak a few weeks ago at Loyola (Obama’s EPA Administrator). What resonated with me from her talk was that truly democratic and lasting advancements take a long time. They do not move backward if they are the real thing.

People are fired up – I know which MLK quote I want now: “Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.” If we translate these examples of the public morality all the way up the chain of command…we can get closer to the world we want. 

11. Written by the widow of a great environmental leader

Creative, consistent message and strategies to be embraced by both young and old.

A rare commodity, individuals willing to dedicate their lives to a cause.

Clearly at this point in time it is without doubt crucial to do more than just claiming/agreeing that there is a problem.  I am not certain I believe a radical approach is necessary, albeit activism surely is.  Agreeing that saving the planet is a global issue to be solved both globally and locally should be the major focus.  But how to start a MOVEMENT?

Modern technology provides marvelous tools (website, facebook, programing, etc. etc.) to access huge numbers  of diverse potential environmentalists who will become activists for the cause and influence the powers that be to make the necessary changes.  I see it as a MOVEMENT with a very CREATIVE, consistent message and strategies to be embraced by both young and old.

12. By a volunteer steward: the parent of a teenager.

This is our harbor.

I believe in volunteerism. It will continue to be the driving force for high-quality restoration.

Even in our dynamic volunteer community, the younger generation is mostly transient. They go away to college/move away for a new job/have babies - and we don’t see them much. But I hope and believe many people in their teens, 20s and 30s will come back to this later on. They will hold their wonderful experience in their hearts and take it with them everywhere.

This is our harbor. We can be away – but can come back any time. Every week. Or after years at sea. Or any pattern that works in our unique lives.

We have a fondness in our heart for taking care of our local land and we spread the good word. I am wildly fortunate to do this. As I’ve so often said – you couldn’t can’t pay me to do this. 

13. From a volunteer who is a professional in another field, older than Millennial, younger than Boomer. 

Volunteer work is primarily a selfish act.

Volunteerism is crucial to a healthy and functioning society. Social services would not be possible without it. Ecological restoration would not be possible without it. Fundraising would not be possible without it.

Volunteering is not primarily an altruistic act. Volunteering greatly benefits the volunteer. Motivations are many and include: 

giving back to society
fulfilling a duty to an organization or group one belongs to
personal redemption
social opportunities
pathway to employment / transition to a new career
seeking structure and purpose for otherwise unstructured time
feeling part of a cause one believes in
keeping active and engaged. 

In my previous volunteer position at a social services organization, a client of mine asked me “Why are you here?” I answered that I was there more for myself than for the organization. That my being there benefited me as much as it benefited my client. Maybe more. As for “burn out,” there’s a natural turnover which is characteristic of a volunteer community or a workforce. People change circumstances or priorities and move on. Some stay for a long time.

My current volunteer restoration work is primarily a selfish act. It allows me to be outdoors in the way that I used to as a kid, to be with a group of people who’ve become friends, to have regular physical activity, to witness (and take part in) the transformation of ecosystems, to train my lens on the unseen details of a seed, to learn about Carex grayii, to fall from a tree. And, help the planet. The opposite of my daily work, it provides balance to my life and prevents burn-out.

14. Written by a young professional who’s also a restoration volunteer.

Get your noses out of the seed mix

Am I using my restoration work at Somme as a hiding place?   I know that the answer is yes.  I frequently feel paralyzed and impotent in the face of the problems facing our planet.  Just this morning I got only half way through an article about the latest atrocity committed in Syria before closing my paper and walking away. In the wake of Mr Trump’s election, I argued that focusing on tangible local actions was the best antidote to that paralyzing despair that
seemed to sweep through us.  The Big Problems were too big, too far away, and too overwhelming to be acted upon - leaving many of my friends depressed and checked out. I thought that shifting our gaze from the Big Problems to what was right in front of us and within our control would be the way to mitigate Protest Fatigue and create a sustainable march toward change.   I frequently said "I can't do anything about Trump or global warming, but there's a little pond in the woods that's a bit healthier because of me".    To be fair to
myself, Protest Fatigue is a real thing and focusing on concrete achievable goals is a reasonable strategy.  But I must admit that I have used the comfort of the pleasant and achievable work we do at Somme as a blinder to avoid looking at The Big Problems anymore.

Your Young Friend sounds to me to  be screaming that we have to look up!  Get your noses out of the seed mix and remember that there ARE Big Problems that require urgent action, Big Problems that will not be solved by anyone else and that will come crashing into our oasis of
restoration if we fail to take action. Perhaps the lesson is that we must find balance. Perhaps part of Somme's goal should be to ferment the revolutionary spirit while also offering the refuge of a sweet summer spent picking seed.

15. Written by a math teacher who has been a restoration volunteer for decades.

I could have been President.

Yes, it is difficult, when we see the huge problems we face from climate change to overpopulation, we can become immobilized. When we see the kind of damage that a Trump or a Pruitt can do we may want to give up - or start making bombs. I could spend my time frustrated with myself that if I had tried harder and been more serious, I could have been President instead of my generation giving the world Bill Clinton, George W and Trump! But that's water under the bridge or over the dam. Given that I didn't become president and that I refuse to be immobilized by massive problems, what can I do?

I am empowered by the knowledge of how the voices of Aldo Leopold and George Fell became the voices of Dick Young and Bob Betz and Ray Schulenberg and Floyd Swink became the voices of Stephen Packard and on and on. When I think back forty years and then look at today I see the spread of the restoration and conservation movement and am pleased. I would love to see a time lapse map of how just the North Branch touched people and restoration all around from Poplar Creek and Palos to Nachusa and Midewin. People who have touched and been touched by the North Branch are working on conservation and restoration in Wisconsin and California and places I don't even know.

Yes, what we do seems small and it could all come crashing down - just imagine if the next glaciations occurred! But it is a movement. It is people touching people and being touched by nature. Neighbors who several years ago would have been planting Buckthorn and Honeysuckle in their yards now want to come out and work on the public lands adjacent to their properties and make them healthier - and by doing so make themselves healthier.

I guess I feel I can't do anything about those huge disastrous problems facing us as a species, other than contributing to The Nature Conservancy and to NRDC and to lawyer groups who will take offenders to court to defend our clean air and water. But I can do something locally - maybe in only a small way - but it will grow. My students will touch their students and the world will be a little better off. It may seem like people just come out for a day and feel good about themselves, and I'm sure for a few that is true, but maybe you are planting a seed and slowly over time we will all learn to live a little more sustainably on this Earth.

There will always be Trumps and Pruitts, but they are losing. One of the reasons they are so nasty is because they know they are losing. Demographics are against them. 

Yes, vote. And get to know the people who are elected and selected and try to make sure they understand the consequences of decisions they will make. And, if you choose, you can make that your entire life's work. I certainly admire folks who have given that of themselves 100%, but that is not for me, and I do not berate myself because I have chosen other than that. 

It seems to me that it is about leading a good life, doing good, leaving the world just a little bit better than you found it. And all the while building and supporting a community where others can do the same. Life is short. Enjoy it. Relish it. But don't be a user. We can enjoy life and be a giver, a builder. We don't have to use up resources to enjoy ourselves. 

Will that solve the problem of all the evil and wrongs in the world? No. But it will help build a community of folk who will stand against the wrongs. 

In the big picture, the Earth will not notice that I am here, or that I am gone. But maybe it will notice the community of folks who have begun to care for and about it.About the authors:

Thanks to Karen Rodriquez, John Balaban, Pat Hayes, Andrew Van Gorp, Mark Krevchenia, Kathleen Soler, Matt Evans, Sol HMayorga, Amy McManus, John Paterson, Stephanie Place, Eleanor Betz, Daniel Suarez, Kathy Garness, and Barbara Hill. 

We decided to list the names separately, because some of the comments were a little too personal, and people were more comfortable this way. Some authors asked that their names not be included here. Certain people on the list above helped edit but did not contribute any of the fifteen comments. So, if you want to try to match people up, it may not work too well.