To my beloved granddaughters, Margaret and Caroline,
In December 2019 I heard of an effort called “Dear Tomorrow” which suggests that we write a letter for our descendants explaining what we did to keep this world safe for your future. I picture you reading this around the year 2050, long after your grandpa and I are gone, wondering whether we had a part in fighting for our earth.
Growing up in Germany, I often wondered what my parents had done to oppose the Nazi regime in the 1930’s that led to WWII. I was so disappointed when I found out how passive they had been. For me, this was formative. I vowed that I would be vocal to prevent future wars and address societal evils. Your grandpa and I incorporated commitment to peace and justice in our marriage vows in 1972.
Most of my life I have been a teacher, writer, and activist. In the 1980s, when the Cold War raged between the US and the Soviet Republics, I feared for human survival and tried to advocate for peace in any way I could think of. I composed songs, wrote books and chancel dramas, gave lectures, participated in public witness for peace, and built ties to national and international organisations that sought ways to end the arms race.
I always believed that addressing the great issues of our time meant joining a movement in which many people participated. I wrote a song based on the German folk tale, “The Weight of a Snowflake,” which says that one flake alone cannot break the branch of a tree, but if enough flakes land on the branch, it will eventually fall. We had to contribute to the best of our ability as individuals, but solutions came by working alongside others.
Climate change is about to change our world drastically. Now, in 2020, people are saying that we have only about 10 years left to turn around a trend in C02 emissions that can lead to disaster. Already the world is seeing a frightening increase in floods, droughts, melting ice caps, extinction of species, deforestation, fires, and devastating storms. I want a world for you that is beautiful, with clean air and water, with biodiversity, with sustainable food production and just practices that do not harm our earth.
Your grandpa and I love nature. Part of the reason we moved to California was to enjoy the great sunny outdoors year around. We cherish vacations we were able to spend hiking in National Parks, snorkeling in the ocean to discover tropical fish, and strolling through Open Space Preserves. The fact that whole species are disappearing and that we as humans have set our planet is on a path where it is uninhabitable, with much of its beauty and diversity lost forever, makes me want to despair.
But there is still hope. When I joined the Elders Climate Action network, I offered to provide leadership in Northern California and nationwide by crafting a newsletter that celebrates the small steps people are taking everywhere to combat destructive climate change. I hope this initiative will energize people, contradict their sense that nothing can be done, and provide examples they can emulate.
If in your life you are given a chance to make the world better, take it. Don’t worry about whether you will succeed. Look for others to join you in the effort, and if necessary, plunge in alone until others are ready to help. This earth is a gift. We are called to preserve it for ourselves and all living things. No effort in the right direction is too small.