Hope Beneath Our Feet

Hope Beneath Our Feet, Restoring Our Place in the Natural World is a new anthology of essays by authors who responded to this question: In the midst of environmental crisis, how can we live NOW?

I am unabashedly promoting the book because I am one of the authors. To be published along with the writers and thinkers to whom I have turned for inspiration over the last twenty years, is a huge honor for me. Some of these mentors are: Frances Moore Lappé, Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez and Howard Zinn.

The book’s genesis is the work of Martin Keogh, its Editor.  In the forward, Martin describes how his children expressed a sense of hopelessness about the future as they considered climate change or nuclear war—challenges that dwarf our sense of being able to make a difference. He wondered how human beings can keep hope and live well in very uncertain times. In 2006 Martin issued a call to writers to submit an essay answering the question above.

The book is published by North Atlantic Press and is now in its third printing – barely a month after its release.

Curve of the Planet

Once I went out to Santa Rosa Island very early in the Summer of 2008, exactly two years to the day. The sand was so white it looked like a ski resort near the parking area. I was mystified, scooped up the sand in my hand and filled a small vial for my friends back in the Sonoran Desert where I lived for 20 years. I walked past the dunes, out onto the shore and felt my soul lift up as I viewed this curve of the planet on the horizon above a calm, translucent sea. I could not believe that such a place existed, let alone that it would be my new home. There were birds of all kinds in clusters along the water or diving for silvery flapping fish. Crabs darted in and out of tunnels, sometimes perched with their eyes staring right at me on long stalks, at the ready to plunge out of sight. Men and women were fishing, set up long before dawn, some waist deep in the waves heaving heavy lines far out to snag bonita they told me. Dolphins plied calm blue sea far off shore. Had I known what awaited me I might have turned right around and driven 1000 miles back to Tucson. But I did not and life has thrown a full measure of challenges my way but also love and friendship and many gorgeous days on this treasured place. Now it has been stricken a blow that is altering it forever. I cannot go there because I get sick from its fumes. Where now can I find solace, inspiration, renewal? This must be what the Bible meant by Hell, a condition created on earth by our own doing or non-doing. Well, there is only one way out. Get up, dry the tears, resolve to learn and remember, hold hands, pray together, eat together, love one another and co-create a new reality. For now, that amazing creation – the result of tens of thousands of years of co-creating among many species, and the elements – and which we call Santa Rosa Island, is no more.

Mirage: Oil Underfoot

Went out to Santa Rosa Island on the sky trail of the Blue Angels. The local press and powers were all about encouraging everyone to come out to the beach.It had been over a month. I thought I’d never go back because of the pain and the worry about exposure. Having just lost my sister, more loss is hard to bear.

Looking out over the water it was hard to see oil in the waves. But the trucks and hundreds of workers dressed in hazmat boots and jackets combed over the beach with shovels, skimmers, and plastic bags.  It took only a few minutes to see what they were working on: oil beneath the sand.

These photos were taken on July 11, 2010. All along the beach road were trucks and down just about every entrance to the beach there were volunteers digging in the sand and bagging oil laden sand and seaweed.

The air stank with petroleum, breaking down in the intense heat and sunlight. I felt nauseated and weak and had to leave after only 15 minutes.

I noticed a few dolphins fishing close to shore and a couple of small dolphins in the bay adjacent to  the Santa Rosa bridge when I drove over to the beach. On the shore, I saw no sandlerlings or gulls actually standing or running along it. A pair of willets stood in the dry sand above the shoreline. They did not seem skiddish at all, allowing me to approach closely for a photo. I thought that unusual behavior. As I left at the Ft. Pickens entrance parking lot, about thirty gulls congregated atop the restroom pavilion  and were loudly squawking from their rooftop perch.

One man swam in the waves and out in the open water was a huge ship of some kind, perhaps skimming oil, or maybe doing some kind of research – it was an industrial looking type ship with a flat deck, quite high out of the water.

Our beach is greatly impacted. Don’t be fooled by the hype for tourism. We need to be more responsible about attracting unwary citizens and visitors to our shores, even if it means we’ll be hurt economically. It is the right thing to do to be honest, transparent, and to recognize and act like our home is under assault from our own energy policy and our corporate practice of taking risks with the public’s health and the environment’s well-functioning.