Posted by Lisa Purdy
The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends
I think Pocahontas has got the right idea. Last night, as the humid heat of Cape Cod cooled to a lovely, foggy evening, I got it into my head to climb a tree. Dinner (pizza bagels) wasn’t yet in the oven, and the tree simply looked too inviting. Out in the parking lot of the First Congregational Church—whose bell was cast by Paul Revere—is a dogwood, with thick, stable branches just a foot off the ground.
I scaled it quickly, climbing up as high as I could go, and was suddenly struck with this song. I’ve always thought this child’s song had some wisdom in it, and at that moment it seemed right to sing it. I’m not sure if I was serenading myself, or the dogwood. Just as I got to this part:
But I know every rock, and tree, and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name,
a gust from an ocean breeze blew through the branches, and the tree seemed to come alive as all the branches swayed; I teetered at the top of the tree, along with the wind, and it felt as though the tree was speaking to me. I hope I’m not losing any of you here; I have no delusions of animate trees, but I was utterly struck by how my heart swooned at the tree holding me up in the sky.
Now, if I may backtrack. We had spent the day at the Climate Fair, part of the Falmouth Climate Action Team’s “Climate Action Week”. The fair was held on the lawn of the Redfield Laboratory, in Wood’s Hole. Wood’s Hole is the home of the Wood’s Hole Research Center, an incredible place, boasting not only a completely fossil-fuel-free campus (thanks to the on-site solar panels and wind turbine), but a myriad of climate scientists in different fields. Up until a few weeks ago, when Eric A. Davidson, Ph.D. took over, the director of WHRC was John Holdren. Dr. Holdren currently works for the Obama Administration as an advisor to the President on Science and Technology. So, Wood’s Hole is kind of a big deal.
There’s also WHOI, or the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute, which, in addition to doing its own research, manufactures the buoys and sensors that measure things like density, temperature, and pressure of the ocean: basically, all of the data that us Climate Riders are using to inform people about why climate change is so urgent—WHOI is where people go to get the instruments to collect that data.
At the Climate Fair, some of those amazing scientists—true leaders in their fields—were giving short presentations, a brief video of which I will most definitely be posting. George Woodwell, the founder of WHRC, spoke first: and it is his message that comes to mind most. To hear that “climate change is the issue” from someone who received his Bachelor’s Degree from Dartmouth, his Master’s and Ph. D. from Duke, and has a stellar resumé of research to back his words up, was both inspiring and terrifying. I can carry the image of him saying those words with me always, affirming my work this summer—but it made the issue seem even real to hear it coming from him.
In fact, as I was watching the other presentations on the science of climate change—on ocean acidification, sea level rise, biodiversity, etc.—I found myself looking at the charts of the predicted effects of our human impact and feeling that discordant, mangled mix of fear that I get when I watch scary movies or hear the click of the roller coaster approaching the crest of its ascent.
I think that’s why I needed to climb that tree; I needed to remember that the world is still here, that we are still a part of it, and still have a chance to save it. This is the chance. To those of you reading this—friends, family, community partners—if you know enough about climate change to be even a little concerned, you know enough to take action. Do whatever you can; ask whatever questions you need to.
On behalf of that pliant dogwood, I’m asking you to look at the trees sitting still and silent around you, to the rain that predictably falls then obediently flows into the sewer—and realize that the earth is a delicate system whose apparent consistency we cannot take for granted.