When it comes to carrying Brian’s legacy for the environment forward, at times I’ve been going at it like gangbusters, at times I’ve quietly worked in the background, and at times I’d say I haven’t been active at all. From the start of 2018 to now, I’ve been working on my memoir and proceeds from it will go to fund his environment legacy work, so there is that!
I’m certain I will follow a wild and undetermined path once my book Time to Fly launches during Earth Week 2020, on April 21st to be exact. But while I’m preparing for the big day, I know there is work to be done for our environment now. With all of the recent stories in the media about the changes in weather patterns, species decline, catastrophic droughts, freshwater wars, dead zones in our oceans, mass human migration, and the climate strikes, it’s hard for me not to feel a sense of panic. But knowing panicking will result in nothing but wasted energy, I’m trying to take action and figure out what my job is concerning this climate crisis we face.
From Eco-Friendly Family to Climate Activist Clan
My family and I attempt to make environmentally conscious choices when we shop. We try to manage our carbon footprint by using public transportation (my kids are better at this than I am), bringing our own reusable drinking cups everywhere, and reducing our consumption of meat. Brooke, the eco-leader in our family, recently turned vegan. But we can do more—way more.
I am committed to my kids and their future, and I am also committed to the future of kids who do not have the privilege or exposure my kids are lucky to have. I have a particular passion for helping those living in poverty, at-risk youth, and the disenfranchised here in Chicago. Attending to my passion and inspired by Brian’s legacy, I’ve begun to look for opportunities to facilitate better awareness of and access to green jobs for youth in Chicago’s underserved communities.
This effort has taught me many things so far, but I must admit the biggest thing it’s taught me is how naïve I’ve been about what’s really happening. As bad as the impact of climate change is on everyone, it is most dire for those living in poverty. Our privileged society hides environmental racism and injustice so that we don’t have to feel uncomfortable or be held accountable. This revelation has fueled me to figure out how to make more of an impact than I originally hoped to.
We Are Here: Standing Up for Climate Restoration
When recently given the opportunity to attend the First Annual Global Conference for Climate Restoration held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes.” The conference filled me with hope, and more importantly, with ideas.
The inaugural conference at the UN was co-hosted by the Foundation for Climate Restoration, the Earth Day Network, the Future Coalition, and the UN Office 4 Partnerships. I accepted the last-minute invite because of Brian and because Brooke told me she was willing to skip school to attend. Brooke never wants to miss a day of school, not even to go snow skiing. And so we went, inviting several of Brooke’s eco-friends and some educators and students from Chicago’s underserved school districts to come with us.
The conference was held in the fancy UN building on the Avenue of the Americas. Our small crew strode in across the marbled lobby space feeling like we were walking onto the set of a Hollywood movie. Sitting in the space where representatives from all nations regularly come to discuss the state of the world was humbling. If the experience was surreal for me, a white privileged woman who has been to her share of fundraisers and galas, I wondered what was going on in the mind of others.
And then I thought: Earth is not just my home; it is home to all of us. And since it is human nature to share home with family, we are all family—at this conference and outside the UN’s doors. We are here together because we care about preserving our bond to one another and to our planet. We are here, all learning. And we want to know what is possible so we can take action.
Earth is Home, Climate Crisis is Family Crisis
To me, climate change is one of the great equalizers. Contrary to popular belief, those with money will not take off for Mars or be saved. However, it is also very true that some communities will be hit harder and will struggle more to bear the brunt of the impact. We cannot afford to let anyone slip through the cracks—we need everyone aboard. We are all in this together!
Leaders in Chicago and across the nation are making efforts not to kill us all off by 2025, through social impact investing and other means, but these efforts aren’t broadcast widely or loudly enough. There are so many tangible and glaring big city problems, such as crime, drug addiction, and homelessness, that the SOS for Mother Earth hasn’t been received with the urgency it requires. Not to be melodramatic, but we will all be homeless (our children’s children will be) if we don’t get our shit together pronto.
Anyone and everyone who wants to start a green business and create intergenerational, sustainable wealth must be welcome to the table and given the tools to make positive change.
I’m the kind of person who wants and seeks the quick fix. I’m inclined to look for ways to go back to the way things were. After Brian died, there were days I was desperate to go back to life the way it was, even though I knew that was impossible. When things started to become serious with Mike, I wanted him to want to adopt the kids I’d had with Brian, to fill the daddy void we were all suffering from. I imagined him adopting the kids would somehow fix our broken family.
But now I’m wondering if what is true about grief is true for our planet: there is no going back to the way things were before the industrial revolution, when we first started screwing up the environment. There are no easy fixes or cures. Maybe what is possible is for us to create conditions in which the planet can heal. The kids and I cocooned for a year after Brian died, and we emerged stronger. In our quest to heal—ourselves and our home, our planet—what is possible is for us to invent something new and to create a future even brighter than we’ve ever imagined.
I’m not sure yet how we will get there, but I do believe that with “the whole family” taking a step in the same direction, it is possible for Earth to heal and to be, once again, a safe, healthy, and nurturing home for all of us.