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Thinking locally

There’s nowhere on earth I’d rather be this evening. I’m sitting on the deck, listening to birds (and the occasional car) and looking at my garden. From here, I can’t see the weeds. Just the huge pink clematis flowers that bloom up the trunk of the cherry tree–it’s just the trunk, in fact, the tree having died last year. But what a beautiful thing it has turned out to be, edged with creamy lichens and trimmed to look at dusk just like a dancing woman–or an Amazon. (A friend who dropped by last year said she was quite alarmed.)

David has gone to his first yoga class, and Tom has supper in hand. For a few minutes, it’s just me and the cats, and a landscape that is human-shaped but nonetheless connects us with the place we live. We’ve landscaped it with a channel for the stream that once flowed across this hillside. With all the rain we’ve had in the last month, this is a considerable blessing, channelling water away from the basement and making the water-loving native plants along the grassy “streambed” happy indeed. I am, though, conscious that this is a luxury, in a warming world. Tom loves to be cynical (he’s 20), saying, “I’m so glad to be alive now. Not during some boring time in human history when not much happened. No, I’ll get to see the collapse of civilization, the break-up of the ice caps, the demise of Greenland. Hey, there’s a lot to look forward to, thanks to your generation.”

In my environmental writing, I’ve often started by encouraging readers to think about what they love about the natural world, in the particular place they live. When I lived in London I felt cut off from the natural world, but even there I found many things to love–the gnarled trees on Grove Lane, the sweep of daffodils in Hyde Park. Today, as we plan a grand project that will bring together environmental thinking from across the global, I come back to the realization that if we manage to save this earth, it will be because of millions–or billions–of people thinking of small things, familiar things, that they do not want to see vanish.

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