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Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Say

by Lisa Taranto

Sometimes I don’t know what to say.

What matters anymore, as we are all witness to the unraveling of the complex, intelligent, beautiful and elegant web of life? 

Sometimes I have a lot to say.

A memory surfaced a few days ago: I was on the coast of Ecuador, practically on the equator. It was a misery of heat and humidity, unlike anything I have ever experienced, like I was being poached from the inside. I had found myself at the edge of the coastal city Esmeraldas, looking down at a shanty town on stilts, blackened by oil trapped in the silt of the estuary of the Rio Esmeraldas. Did you know that Esmeraldas means emerald? This village on stilts, oily water lapping around the tangled mess of spindly legs, is inhabited by a population descended from African slaves. Esmeraldas is the terminus of the 313 mile Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline from the oil fields in northeastern Ecuador. It was hell on earth.

Another memory: being in a taxi at dawn, seeing women and children and dogs digging through a trash pile, looking for food, in El Alto, Bolivia. Altitude 13,323 ft above sea level. Hell on a mountain reaching into the heavens.

1994, sea kayaking off the southwest coast of Costa Rica, cutting through the water at a speed fast enough to be joined by four dolphins, two on either side, jumping through the water, playing with me. Acknowledging me, maybe even teasing me in my crude contraption, only able to reach a fraction of their speed. Awe. Humbled. Heaven.

Yesterday, watching a ruby throated hummingbird spend her afternoon in the flowering gooseberry bush, gathering nectar. Visiting upwards of 1500 flowers in one day. Did you know that a hummingbird’s wings move in an infinity pattern? And she can lift straight up from her nest, do a 180, and gently settle back down. I have never found a hummingbird nest with its tic Tic Tac sized eggs, but it is on my bucket list.

Did you know that 2.8 billion birds have vanished from North American ecosystems since the first Earth Day, 50 years ago?

What if we, like the Potawatomi, considered all living beings and living systems verbs instead of nouns. A tree is dynamic and alive and always changing, moving, growing, dying, decaying feeding its neighbors. A stream, streaming. Would that change our relationships with the world?

Once upon a time I ran an inner-city youth garden program through the city government. It was spring, and I went to the storage shed to inventory the supplies. There was a pile of 50 or so work gloves. As I started to go through them, I realized there were only left hand gloves. The whole pile. I wondered to myself—did they ask someone to go through and sort the gloves and this is what happened? Will government solve bigger problems than this?

Sometimes I have nothing to say.

Grief. Love.

Anger. Joy.

Wonder. Boredom.

Responsibility. Ambivalence.

Vocation.  

Three decades ago, I couldn’t imagine that science and goddam common sense would be ignored so completely and so deeply, but here we are. So I made an agreement with whomever and whatever was listening to me. I would work to heal the relationship between humans and our precious, generous home.

My general approach is to try and make people fall in love with even the tiniest part of the natural world, to be awed, to wonder thingslike “How did the porcupine even come to be? I mean, this animal can shoot barbed quills out of it’s back side! Who designed this creature? WOW!” or “You mean that this moth has a specialized tongue that one species of flower depends on for pollination?” or “One tablespoon of healthy soil can have 4,000,000,000 living organisms in it? WHAT!? You mean soil is ALIVE?” or “What is ocean acidification and what is really happening that means calcium cannot properly form and our entire fundamental and foundational ocean ecosystem is at extreme risk of collapse?” or “WOW, I can’t believe how much work we got done with these pick axes—that was exhilarating!” or “Wombats poop is cube-shaped – true fact!”

I believe there is an infinite amount of awe in the world, and an infinite amount of love. I believe that we can have mutually beneficial relationships with all kinds of beings, and all kinds of systems. And it will take an infinite amount of creativity and adventure to navigate the great unraveling.

We want to amplify voices that are not always heard, and to shine a light on ideas that are not always seen, joined together by a vision of a regenerative and just economy. In the Illumination series, we invite members of our community to share their thoughts, to describe their Good Work, and to provide an inside view of what Just Transition looks like in action.

We believe in the life-affirming, connecting, inspiring power of hearing each other’s stories. Please get in touch if you’d like to submit an idea for an article about your Good Work.

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