Whilst visiting the National Arboretum Westonbirt with some friends a week or so ago, one of them asked me, ‘but why don’t the bigger ones overtake the others, why do the smaller ones manage to survive?’
I remembered something I had learnt about nature in the rainforest, and earlier, about Redwood trees… that they intertwine their root systems, holding each other up, supporting each other when one is sick or in trouble. The tallest trees feed the sunlight and warmth to the smaller ones below, who in turn gather the nutrients from the ground and feed upwards, and all provide a home, food and sustenance to those animals and communities living within.
My friend just couldn’t get her head around why different species live in communion with one another without there being a dominant tree that wipes the others out. This idea, this natural system, is so alien to us humans who naturally wait for someone to emerge from the woodworks, whether it’s to take control, or lead, we look for the individual. Nature’s community, though on the surface complex, is also simple and has a lot to say in our own society. Mutual upbuilding is not only built into our Christian faith, but into the natural world which so lovingly surrounds us, and from which we take life.
Returning from our COP26 adventures in Glasgow I found it hard to reflect on the experience, to take all of it in. From interviewing a friend in Indonesia working alongside indigenous groups fighting mining, to watching their president talk about the climate at the Leader’s Summit, I was finding it difficult to link these two very different perceived realities together. Looking to social media, a lot of young activists were feeling pretty similar, disenfranchised by the grassroots optimism, coupled with the pretty meagre and washed down political action.
And yet as the weeks progressed, what I saw was something new. Coalitions forming, friendships strengthening and determination breaking through the cracks. Surrounding me was this phrase ‘movement building.’ It felt like a surge was emerging, the momentum we had witnessed, experienced on the streets, during the march and the vigil was continuing despite the disappointment, the present reality.
What I now look back on was the new partnerships we formed, the friends I made and the experiences I was able to have. From the Laudato Si’ Movement, to the Assumptionists and Don Bosco Green Alliance, (to name a few), I finally felt part of something bigger and this has only grown since leaving Glasgow. The big tree of climate was gathering together it’s partners, it’s smaller groups, individuals, schools, organisations together to restore, to heal and to listen to one another.
You see, our small vigil bringing the voices and stories of those living in the most affected areas and on the frontlines was part of a bigger story. A story that fought valiantly against the whitewashed climate talks in the Blue Zone, the fossil fuel industry corporate show in the Green Zone. A story that was only just building, figuring out how to come together, recognising its strength and one that was not about to end.
I think this was captured best by Joyceln Longdon who wrote on her Instagram page having left Glasgow, that it wasn’t about the streets or the Blue Zone discussions who often feed into their own echo chambers.
‘The real work isn’t just happening outside the conference in Glasgow…it is happening as we speak in the schools, forests, oceans, informal settlements, deserts, low-income communities, research labs etc by the global community who have been and will continue to work tirelessly for decades to create change. There are thousandssssss of frontline defenders, activists, mothers, researchers, children who work, suffer, are killed and fight in the face of the climate emergency every day.’
And so, as we go back into schools bringing the story of ‘A fair COP?’ We take with us the importance of indigenous and marginalised voices, and the knowledge that every single one of us is connected through our roots: Our Common Home. Each action, each decision, each act we take to raise awareness, to listen to communities around the world and to fight for change, feeds into a world which is waiting to fill us.