Investing in Hope

TRACEY HAMILTON – I have spent the last few months reading and writing about hope, because I have been feeling somewhat hopeless.

There seem to be so many insurmountable obstacles in our way; it feels like we are traveling backwards rather than forwards, as though we have learned nothing along the way. Behaviours and actions give the impression of a society regressing rather than progressing – shouting hateful slurs, using violence, stepping on others to raise oneself up and then refusing to offer a helping hand in return.

Pandemic. War. Climate crisis. Political divides. Hate crimes. Impatience. Cruelty. Waste. The list goes on of all the factors which are the antithesis of hope.

But there is something within me which refuses to give in to the despair. I am surprised myself by this. And I am most likely to feel this warm sensation rising in my belly when I stand by the river’s edge, or when I am leaving seeds around the yard for the birds; when I walk across the garden path and see the amount the tulips have stretched since the morning.

Buds on trees. Blossoms. Pinecones. Birds gathering wet grasses for nests. Geese gaggling overhead. Ripples breaking the water’s surface from underneath. Sunshine. The smell of spring. The antidotes to the despair.

Earth Day’s 2022 theme is Invest in our Planet. I have thought about all the ways we can invest in something – with our money, our time, our effort; we can invest in local farmers, a green economy, or divest from fossil fuels. But I believe there has to be something deeper than just an action. There has to be the catalyst for the action. Why divest? Why buy local? Why eat in season? Why research fashion industry practices? Why indeed?!?

Hope is why. Hope for the future, for our future, for our children’s future, for our childrens’ children’s future. Hope for the rainforests, the oceans, the boreal trees. Hope for the pinecones and the birds building nests.

There is a regular cycle to the natural world – the planet is round, it rotates, we have moon-cycles and the ebbs and flows of tides. Do you remember spinning yourself around as a child? Making yourself so dizzy you would flop on the grass and splay your arms and legs? What did you feel? The cool grass under your back, the warm sun on your face, the rotation of the earth?

We know what we do to the planet we do to ourselves. Micro-plastics in our water lead to micro-plastics in our bodies. We pollute the soil and then eat the products from the same soil. Pollution is pumped out of smokestacks only to fall down on us as rain, to be inhaled deep into our lungs. We are intrinsically connected.

The planet was here long before we humans walked across her soil, cut her trees and redirected her waterways. She will likely remain long after we humans have left our heavy footprints. Rotating, cycling through seasons and epochs. We will be only a blip on the linear timeline of our planet, but while we are here we have a responsibility to our home.

Invest in hope. Plant seeds in the soil for future generations. Hold a pinecone in your hand and feel the ancient hope melting the despair. If not now, when?

Tracey Hamilton searches for hope in the flowing waters of the Otonabee river, in the songs of the backyard birds and in the pages of her writing.