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Branching Out: Let’s seize the moment to help the planet

Locations: Opinion Published

As I write this, I am pulling my head up from a miasma of research. I don’t like data, or black and white — things without wiggle room or a fudge-factor paralyze me. Gray areas are usually my comfort zone. And I don’t like professional jargon; it intimidates me and I feel ignorant. So yes, research makes me itch. What I do value in research, though, is once I get it, I get it. I can’t “unknow” what I now know.

And this is why I subjected myself to the 48 months of pure (graduate school) torture: to expand my understanding of our world today as a landscape design professional, as a writer pontificating on the human spirit, and most of all, as a mom whose little girl is fated to live in the world we are creating. 

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Now, a dry paragraph or two.

Before grad school, I had never heard of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or the IPCC reports, as referenced by more legit media sources. The IPCC reports are an ongoing assessment of the science related to climate change under the umbrella of the United Nations. Every few years, a new update (prepared by literally thousands of scientists from all over the world) explains in cited detail where the planet is at and what they predict for the near and far future, based on our progress — or lack thereof— since the last report. Admittedly, it was only in reading these reports that I sat up and truly paid attention to climate change.

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In those reports, I learned not only what was indisputable — for example, as white ice in the Arctic melts, revealing dark water or land, the melting accelerates. Or, get this — as permafrost melts, more carbon and methane release into the atmosphere — accelerating global warming. We read this in NatGeo or Outside or online, and for me, it didn’t sink in. Apparently not for a lot of us, because we keep consuming.

As I learned about all these feedback loops, connected to relatable examples, I also learned how things like social justice are linked to global warming — captains of industry profit off of their by-product pollution, and the poorest suffer illness, disease and death from that pollution. Add insult to injury, those captains produce that pollution in poor peoples’ backyards, not their own.

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Which brings me to “Life in the Time of Corona.” 

We’ve watched the world and industry grind to somewhat of a halt. We’ve heard that dolphins are swimming the waterways of Venice and Chinese children are seeing blue sky for the first time in their lives. 

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Since the ‘80s, industry has known it was destroying the health of our planet, but it’s been so profitable to such a powerful few (money and power; so addictive) they claim change isn’t necessary or possible. 

Well, COVID sure showed otherwise. 

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We did it. And we’re alive, breathing cleaner air. Going for walks as a family. Sharing meals more consistently. Creating music, poetry, art. Connecting more than we have in generations. I cannot help but think (despite illness, suffering and death, of course) that this time, Life in the Time of Corona, is a bit of a dream, a sweet reprieve from the insanity into which we were herded.

From every direction on the internet, now, we are asked — what will we bring into the new reality ahead of us? Some propose that Earth is so pissed off at us, she’s throwing us a virus, self-arresting amid a precipitous decline. Every earthquake feels like a temper tantrum. Every cyclone or hurricane, sheer vengeance.

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I’m paying attention; okay! 

Each of us has a gift (or two or three). I want to ask you to please move forward leveraging your gift — help all of us move the needle on global warming. 

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Me? I’ve resolved to design for no irrigation in my landscape designs after a two to three year establishment period. Drastically reduce turf. Period. No bullshit excuses anymore. No supporting an industry so very guilty of negative land transformation. Each design otherwise is a willful, selfish choice to put more carbon into the atmosphere — just so something can look or be a certain way. I can’t know what I know, and carry on as usual. 

I also vow to apply my skills towards reconnecting kids to nature. They are the next generation of stewards. Municipal landscape codes must adapt. We gotta bring evolving, cycling ecosystems back to our towns. School campuses must be re-naturalized and provide a curriculum in which the world is our classroom — it’s our freaking “nest” after all. Shouldn’t we teach kids how to be in the world? This is my wheelhouse. 

What’s yours? Where is your passion? Where do you have “extra smarts?” What can you choose to do today, that you haven’t yet done? You know — just to save the world? 

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