Ready for the Rains

Riddhi Shah, educator, organizer and Earth steward

GPIW meets with many young ecologists and activists out in the field restoring the damage we have collectively done to nature. It can be emotionally difficult at times for the individual and one must often draw on inner reserves of spiritual strength to continue.

Riddhi Shah wrote to us recently, exhausted and feeling defeated at the disparity she saw in one drought stricken area of India where temperatures of 45C left three villages facing severe water shortages. ‘It was stressful and exhausting trying to bring attention to local authorities’ and urging corporate leaders to put their spare money in these places. She pressed on seeking to find the local business leaders who understand the gravity and urgency of the situation, knowing that children drinking water from contaminated wells are in grave danger.

“People just don’t understand the gravity of the situation.”

Upon returning to the villages, Riddhi met with the village heads in the district. She also assembled the younger members of those communities. Since she wrote to us a month ago disheartened by what she saw, she has worked hard to understand the situation, the cultural sensitivities and now has organized a ‘super-active’ group of villagers who are working on a model project. The project aims to increase the ground water retention and raise the water table.

Men, women and children are spending every free minute digging swales, trenches, ditches and channels to collect and store rain water. It has brought together the whole community who are now planting new trees and caring for the ones that are there. A local prosperous land owner who manages a vineyard took notice of these efforts and has offered to lend support in some way. Riddhi has invited corporations to help and now has a pledge of $25,000 to support the project.

We thought you would like this story of how one young woman helped to mobilize a rural community to bring back their life giving water and forest cover again. Across the world young people are engaging in Earth repair and restoration and there are many opportunities for each us to seek them out and assist them. Commitment and devotion can bring about real change.

As part of the Inner Dimensions of Climate Change Program GPIW will be sharing more stories about young people restoring the natural world.

The Dream, the Warning and COP 24

Whales were very much on my mind.  I had just returned from a dialogue in Japan that included a discussion on the impact of pollution and climate change on the communities of life in the oceans and was preparing to go to Poland for the United Nations Climate Conference. I had also just read an article on how the US administration had just approved the use of sonic cannons to find oil and gas reserves in the Atlantic, up and down the coast, a devastating decision for marine life.  My heart ached for what these animals would now have to endure.

While on route to Poland, I had a dream, one of those dreams that is more vision than dream.  I saw myself standing by the window in my Manhattan apartment looking out over the East River when I saw a beautiful large whale quietly and speedily swim up the river until it stopped just in front of my building and stared up at me.  All I could do was whisper, “I see you.  I hear you.”

This was the dream that followed me to Poland and haunted me as I walked through the hallways of the conference wondering how to bring the voices of the ocean into a meeting that would help determine whether life in the ocean lived or died.  There was one session on oceans, which I did attend, but sadly it made no mention of the whales, the dolphins and other marine life.  The main message to come out of that panel of marine experts was that the scientific organizations studying the oceans are now cooperating, whereas they had previously been working in their own silos.  Well, a good first step, but the audience was not satisfied.  When a member of the audience pressed them on why more action was not being taken, the response was that action will only come from the bottom up, not from the top down.  The UN can do its studies, bring the best scientific minds and data to the fore, present the predictive models, and then — and then, if the governments don’t act, there is not much more these officials can do. All they can do is warn, which is what the United Nations Secretary General just did when he flew to Poland to try to encourage some progress.  If we don’t act, we are on a suicidal mission, he said.   At the same time, UN officials continue to appeal to civil society, which is why they let so many of us into these annual climate conferences.  Again and again we are encouraged to pressure our governments toward concrete and meaningful action.  In the US, for the time being, that means at the local level – our state and city governments that are part of the “we’re still in” movement.

A few months ago, I attended the Climate Action Summit in San Francisco and there much time was devoted to oceans.  The presenters shared that too little attention and funding has been applied to researching the oceans, and in fact we understand very little about them — not very comforting.  But one thing was made clear —  the oceans determine the climate.  If the oceans die, we die.  Human life depends on the health of the oceans, and the oceans now are not very healthy.

So there was the dream, and the warning, and the positives and negatives of COP 24.  Whatever is decided at the end of this climate conference, we will know that the responsibility partially rests on our shoulders.  We must speak now not only for the human species, but for all who inhabit our precious planet.

I will remember the whale who appeared and appealed to me.  I will continue to see and to listen.

Dena Merriam