By Martha O’Hehir
Every day, we hear disturbing reports that make up the threads and fibers of the Great Unraveling. As adults, we find strength in the yards of strong fabric woven together over the years of our lives, full of the connections of our families, our friendships and even the troubles which we have resolved. We have some resiliency just from living through trials. As a mother and then a teacher of elementary aged children, I often worried about the children: what do they hear? What do they understand? How do we protect their fragile spirits?
As a teacher of fifth grade science, I worried about bringing up the relevant current news which grew from our curriculum topics. The burdens of climate change, the extinction of species, and the role of human activity in polluting and destroying the planet weighed heavily, unless I could point the students towards some resourceful and intelligent humans finding solutions. As Mr. Rogers admonished, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” In this spirit, I was determined never to bring up the weighty and scary aspects of our planet’s state without ending the lesson with a story or video that featured someone who was meeting the crisis head on, with creative, sustainable, and hopeful solutions.
Today, the details of the unraveling are ripping even our adult spirits to shreds, and we too need to spend effort looking for the helpers. We don’t do this so that we can just leave it to others to fix this broken world. We look for them because in them we see how active hope works. We find healing for our weary hearts, inspiration to stay in the game, and we learn more about what it means to be a stewarding species. And the more solutions we know of as a democratic people, the more we can support the scientists and legislators who seek to implement what we already know to be good for the planet.
Over the years, I found several videos on YouTube which brought this inner joy, energy, and hope to my classroom. Since then I have shared these with folks of all ages. Here are some of my favorites:
How Wolves Change Rivers
One of the first videos I found was this one in which wolves were returned to Yellowstone National Park after 70 years. One lesson here is that we can assist in the replenishment of our Mother Earth if we steward the wildlife as she intended and support her in doing her job.
How Whales Change Climate
When bringing up the very real threats of global warming and climate change, this video shows how even the whales and the oceans are a part of the solution, and all we have to do is support the natural system and save the whales.
Turning Cow Poop into Energy
When news first broke out that not only was the atmosphere full of carbon, but that methane from cattle was a major warming agent for the atmosphere, I found this video to offset the depression.
Bamboo, Pyrolysis, Bio-Char & Mycorrhizal Fungi: Nature’s Machine to Draw Carbon Down Exponentially
Deforestation and the loss of trees affects weather, warm air, and fresh oxygen. Trees are a major source of carbon sequestration. The good news is that carbon can be sequestered in quick-growing plants, in the ocean, and in the soil. This video reports extremely accessible solutions.
Some Animals Are More Equal than Others: Keystone Species and Trophic Cascades
When Thomas Berry said that we need to become a new kind of human, he was pointing us to consider how we can become a part of the creation: a thinking, stewarding part, but also, very much a part of it, and not the dominator of it. I like to show this video and ask, “What if we saw ourselves as the keystone predator in a whole planetary system? How can we be reintroduced to our role as thinking animals who can reflect and create, nurture and co-operate with natural laws and systems?”
No matter what our age, let’s be on the lookout for the helpers. In addition to watching for videos, we can read the book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken. Armed with all these good stories, we will do what we can and encourage each other to find our better niche in the planetary system.
Martha O’Heir is an educator and writer and has served as an editor or contributing editor for several publications, including the The Music Practitioner, The Orff Echo, and Reverberations. She wrote curriculums, elementary music and math, religious studies, and music improvisation for healing musicians. She is a facilitator of the Work That Reconnects and gives retreats and workshops connecting the Great Turning with the spirituality of Teilhard de Chardin. Ordained to interfaith ministry as an Eco-Chaplain in 2017, Martha aspires to bring greater consciousness to Earth stewardship as an act of spirituality, through her writing, music, and spiritual direction.