Trees have received top billing in our region this past week. When a developer hired tree cutters to begin cutting century old trees in a tranquil green space alongside one of Moncton’s heritage properties, people leaped into action. Quite literally. It started with one man, but word spread and soon other protesters had arrived to place themselves between the chainsaws and the trees.
But not before nine beautiful, healthy trees fell to the ground. The incident sparked outrage and a large crowd gathered at City Hall to make their voices heard. Fortunately, City Council applauded their peaceful, organized actions, as their hands were tied…the city has no by-laws in place to prevent the cutting of urban heritage trees, but one is promised by the spring of 2012.
It’s a tricky issue…this stepping in to tell a landowner what they can or cannot do with their land. Private rights vs public rights. But I am delighted that someone believed that aged trees should be afforded the same respect and distinction as man-made heritage properties – and that they were willing to stand up for their beliefs.
To witness people with a passionate purpose camping out to protect something they care about shows me that all is not lost…that there are many who still believe that progress and profit should not trump our natural environment.
The problem is that our society and culture keeps us so busy, so preoccupied and distracted, that we run into the danger of complacency when it comes to social action.
I am as guilty as anyone…the everyday stuff of living has neutralized me when it comes to taking assertive action about the things I care about. I’m trying to eliminate, not add to my burdens. But I have decided that what I can do is speak of these things – of the need for stewardship, for mentoring youth, for sharing our passions with those around us – whenever I give a presentation on Sanctuary, because the book is about one woman who was not afraid to speak her mind and advocate for nature even when it was not popular to do so.
We underestimate the Power of One. That when adults stand up for what they believe (even when they may not see immediate results), they send a very important message to the children (and adults) who are watching them.
More than a decade ago, my friend Gwen Martin – a passionate advocate for wild spaces – stood courageously in defense of trees and children during a debate on protected area strategies, saying that during innumerable field trips she conducted within the school system, she had witnessed, “…how instinctively and naturally children recognize the importance of protecting our landscape. They feel close to rocks and trees. When I take them on field trips in the woods, they listen and they value the silence. They care about the wildlife. Dare I say it … they feel a sense of connection with the landscape in which they live. It is part of their sense of community.”
Whenever I read her words, they inspire me. They are small building blocks of courage, rising within me. Because those who care enough to speak aloud, are not alone.
In his acclaimed book, Blessed Unrest, author/speaker Paul Hawkins states that there is an energetic movement afoot in the world, a movement that is as yet unnamed, but that consists of small pockets of people that collectively number in the millions. He has come to the conclusion that it is the largest social movement in all of human history.
“What I see are ordinary and not so ordinary individuals willing to confront despair, power and incalculable odds in an attempt to restore some semblance of grace, justice and beauty to the world.”
It is a movement that he believes is humanity’s response to the degradation of environment and social justice. It is, in the simplest of terms, a return to love – both for our environment and for each other.
What will it take to eliminate some of the nonsense things in our lives – the time wasters that contribute neither to our well-being, or that of the world around us – so that we have time to find our voices, to find our fighting spirits?
If you were to stand firm for what something you believe to be good and true and important…what might that something be? And what action might you take to share what you believe?