One thing that Serena and I have in common is that we both got our love of the environment from our grandmothers. Perhaps this is a common theme because life was simpler in their time, and as such they had more of an opportunity to connect with and appreciate the environment around them. Gardens were an essential for families, as it provided food that would last them throughout the winter and into the next year. Serena mentions how her grandmother:
From [her] compost, plants, and trees,
[She} inspires [her].”
The ability to appreciate the simplicities of life is something that is sorrowly lacking from our generation. Similarly, our relationships with our grandmothers disrupts the colonial narrative that often dominates our society. Today, it is common for grandparents to be placed in senior centers, and visited occasionally, but are often treated like they have nothing that they could contribute anymore. After all, how could they possibly understand the intricacies of our modern day society? Contrarily, Indigenous societies traditionally valued elders, and they would be responsible for teaching the next generations and passing on their knowledge, both of the land and their history on it. Perhaps this is why the lessons of our grandmothers stuck with us, while the lessons we had on the environment in school disappeared from our memory: the relationship we formed with them made their lessons all the more important.
Madison Lemmon’s poem about her friend disrupted mine in the sense of what ecoliteracy truly means. Where my grandma focused on the simple things in life, like having a garden and being content with what we have, Madison’s friend takes even more steps to reduce her impact on the environment. Perhaps this is because the definition of what it means to be ecoliterate changes as our understanding of the environment and our impact on it changes. In my grandma’s time, you only had to limit waste and appreciate nature to be considered ecoliterate, partly because most people didn’t believe in climate change (so anything you did was considered helpful). Now, we realize that we need to make bigger changes to our lives in order to slow down climate change – it is no longer just a faraway idea that won’t affect us, everyone will be impacted. As such, Madison’s friend takes more drastic measures, by composting, recycling, watching what she eats, educating herself on the issues, making others aware of what she knows, and so much more. It is apparent that she is living her life according to the Leap Manifesto, which claims:
“Climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go. So we need to leap.
This leap must begin by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land.”
The small changes that our grandparents maintained are no longer enough. Appreciating the beauty of nature, while important, is not going to stop climate change. We need to begin to change how we live our lives, like Madison’s friend, if we truly want to make a difference. We can start by acknowledging our colonial history, and working to undo it. Just like how Serena and I learned the most from our elders, acknowledging the Indigenous people’s rights and connection to the land will help us to make a better future for all. Debates about pipelines that will destroy so many ecosystems won’t even be an option. Clear-cutting forests and not replanting won’t be a reality. Undoing more than a century of colonialism won’t happen overnight, but we can take a leap for a better future.
Serena’s and Madison’s poems both acknowledged the actions of the individual. While her grandma’s actions aren’t going to stop climate change on their own, they inspired Serena to become more attached to the environment and want to help. Likewise, Serena’s actions will likely inspire those around her. Madison’s friend discovered her passion for the environment at a young age, and while people admired her passion, they questioned what she could possibly do. Now, she has degrees in environmental studies, which she uses to better the environment and make others aware.
You’ve made an impact.
You take public transport, you’re a vegetarian, you shop local, you recycle and compost.”
People are starting to realize that their actions help, no matter how small they may seem. You don’t need to wait for a large group of people to join you before you start to change, as Madison’s friend realized. Just like how Serena’s grandma inspired her, Madison’s friend inspired her and many others to change, and their actions will inspire others to care as well. We don’t/shouldn’t need to wait for a large group of people to want to help make a difference. The change starts with us, and whatever we are able to do to help. Others will see the difference you are making, and will follow suit. If we are constantly waiting for someone else to start, we will never accomplish anything, yet this is exactly what many people do. Rather than doing what we can, like the hummingbird that tried to put out the forest fire on his own, we wait for others to step up. We need to take responsibility for our own actions if we ever want to make a change and put out the metaphorical “forest fire” that is climate change. We can hope that others will see our actions and follow suit.