“The Forest makes your heart gentle. You become one with it… No place for greed or anger there.”
This past week, fifteen pilgrims started a journey, and they all returned different people. Everyone’s experience was distinct, but all interwoven. The phrase, “everything is connected” became our motto, and I now believe it with every fiber of my being. I saw how nature and humanity are supposed to be balanced, like yin and yang. I also saw how there is an imbalance of greed coming from humans. Instead of living side by side with the Earth, we seek to take her resources. As one of the fortunate fifteen who got to see how people are trying to change that fact, I can say that I have hope. Hope in my generation. Hope in humanity. Hope in my Planet.
We, the pilgrims and leaders, met so many fascinating people on our journey. We saw how a select few individuals are making a difference. Filmmaker Dylan D’Haeze, who is just sixteen, made a documentary series called Kids Can Save The Planet, which is phenomenal. In the series, it shows the impact that small things can have on the planet; it also shows what we, as regular citizens, can do to combat those things. Simple things like carrying a metal straw as an alternative to plastic ones can be earth-changing. If enough people band together in the face of global warming and help our distressed environment, we can make a difference. We will make a difference.
It’s not just youth who are taking a stand, though. On the trip, we met scientists, an ecologist, gardeners, a beekeeper, and so many other passionate souls who are investing in the Earth. We saw how community gardens work, how beekeepers are fighting for their bees to keep pollinating, and the ecologist, Tuck Tyrell, explained how everything is connected. As our Earth evolves, people evolve with it; groundbreaking new tech, ways of life, and perspectives are all changing. Slowly but surely, more people are gaining insight about the way we are harming the Earth, and with knowledge comes the power to make a difference.
During the course of the week, fifteen highschoolers saw how the Earth repairs herself. We saw how God acts in mysterious ways. How faith and nature are intertwined. The restoration of the Elwha River was especially enlightening. The removal of the Elwha Dam in 2011 ushered in new growth to the Olympic Peninsula. Salmon that had left due to habitat loss now came splashing back. Birds, plants, and marine life are slowly blooming back to their former state. Tribal culture is flourishing with the return of resources. I have hope that if we take care of her, our Planet will begin to heal. If we facilitate enough conversations, then humanity as a whole will begin to take the necessary steps towards a healthier earth.
This journey has brought me closer to God, closer to my Planet, and closer to people as a whole. I pray that more actions will be taken to bring about the realization that the Earth is in trouble. Climate change is a real issue; animals, humans, and other natural life are dying out because of our own actions. Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”; truer words have never been spoken. We have to inspire change, be the change, and recognize that people that are changing. Most of all, we have to have hope. In ourselves, our people, and our planet.