Saturday, May 25, 2024

Get Outside with Graamy – Climate Generation

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Several years ago, at our annual family reunion, while tucking my seven-year-old granddaughter Hawith into bed, I laid down next to her for a goodnight graamy chat.

She leaned close to me and intently said, “Graamy, I want to do adventures with you!” Immediately I responded, “Hawith, you do not have to ask me twice.” That was it! The early seeds of “Get Outside with Graamy” were sown, and my responsibility as an elder to step up my game to care for the earth was heightened.

I am reminded of my elders who cared for the earth so that I and others can enjoy, share, and be good stewards of the earth’s bounty. I want to participate in a legacy of earth-honoring experiences that allow us to move our bodies vigorously as we were created to do in earth’s amazing places. I want wild places to be available to everybody, everywhere. To accomplish this, we have much work to do given the impending climate apocalypse we face.

What did my elders teach and show me about how to be a good ancestor? While they did not use the current language of climate justice, they practiced what we now call climate stewardship and environmentalism. Before it became the popular thing to do, my Mom practiced recycling of newspapers, cans, bottles and plastic. She also calculated the amount of water used in the dishwasher compared to washing dishes by hand so she could choose to have clean dishes while conserving water. Mom also cooked “just enough food” for our family of six to reduce food waste. My Dad, noticing the tree canopy in our small Indiana town was depleting, decided to plant maple trees across the town. (I do not think he asked for anyone’s permission to plant these trees; he simply just planted them.) 

After the trees were planted, twice a week he filled a hard plastic kiddie swimming pool with water that was in the back of an old red Ford pick-up truck and he drove to every young tree and watered them. He nurtured each sapling until they could sustain themselves within their sphere of natural connection and influence. These trees thrived because of his participation in their care, connecting them to the earth’s supporting system for growth for the benefit of generations to come. His initiative eventually led to a town-wide tree board to grow trees to replenish the overstory.

Dad also planted trees on the land behind our family’s home. During the summer between my first and second years of college, one of my paid gigs was to water these saplings every morning. Every day at 6am (to avoid the summer heat and humidity), I carried water to each of 100 pine and red oak trees. I confess, at the time I did not see his grand scheme – that planting trees was for the health, beauty, and well-being of the earth and for generations of human creatures to come. 

Mom and Dad purchased land in southern Michigan with the purpose of placing the land in a local land conservancy to ensure that it would never be developed, but rather remain wild forever. My Dad’s ashes are scattered on this land. When my 92-year-old Mom transitions to the next life, her ashes will join Dad’s on that land. Mom and Dad gifted this land to a church camp that had a history of practicing good land stewardship and environmental sustainability. They wanted this land to be a place that allowed all to breathe in and breathe out beauty to enjoy and share.

As a family physician, Dad launched a chapter of the American Lung Association in our small town to reduce the harmful effects of cigarette smoking. He asked friendly yet poignant questions of his local pharmacist colleagues, why they sold cigarettes in their stores that otherwise were there to promote health and healing. I still have a small metal button from Dad’s county-wide anti-smoking campaign that says, “Make Love, Not Smoke.” As a 7th grader, little did I know what I was naively promoting when I proudly wore this button to school and church.

Dad also instigated a smoking ban in public and private establishments. He did this in part by visiting local taverns and restaurants, talking to the owners about the desire to make our town free of second-hand smoke for the health of all. This undertaking was quite an adventure because he did not consume alcohol. Don’t get me wrong, not every owner liked what they heard from Dad. Still, he always felt good that he had at least made new acquaintances during his version of these bar-hopping excursions. 

Several years later, because of his quiet and deliberate step-by-step relationship-building campaign to end the ravages of second-hand smoke, he presented his campaign’s mission to the county commissioners. One commissioner told him point blank, “what you are trying to do in your town will never be county-wide. So don’t get any ideas that this will happen in this county.” Dad graciously responded, “Well, I just want you to know what we’re doing in our town to make it a healthier place for everybody.” He thanked them for their time and attention and left the meeting. Several years after that, with the active support of many others in the community and county, the entire county became smoke-free in private and public establishments.

Dad’s anti-smoking campaign showed me first-hand that one person’s actions can make tangible, long-lasting change.

Dad and Mom always encouraged and supported me to get outside to enjoy and share nature’s gifts. They supported my desire to hike, wilderness backpack, and bikepack. For my 18th birthday, they bought me my first backpacking sleeping bag. They encouraged my choices to engage in service opportunities from: working at a homeless shelter and thrift shop in San Francisco, a drug rehabilitation center in England, and a wilderness school for troubled youth in Virginia; leading bicycling and backpacking trips with youth and adults; working as a psychologist with youth and adults entangled in our criminal legal system; and founding a peacebuilding institute to teach trauma awareness and resilience strategies within a racial and cultural justice collective framework. 

These life experiences taught me how to care for myself, others, and the earth. I learned much along the way, and now at 66 years old I know that to enjoy and share outdoor adventures with Hawith, I need to engage with others and directly support those who are working for climate justice.

As a white, cis-gender, educated boomer woman, it’s incumbent upon me to use my privilege responsibly to work with others in the climate justice movement. In addition to giving money to organizations, I can be an ambassador within my spheres of influence by talking openly about climate change and justice. I can invite other people to give their time, energy, and money to climate justice organizations. 

As a part of my “rewirement,” I said yes when I was invited to give my time and expertise to a racially and culturally diverse climate collaborative to develop a three-day {in-person or virtual} training entitled Climate STARR (Strategies for Trauma, Action, Resilience, and Regeneration). Climate STARR provides communities and climate action organizations who are facing climate trauma, angst, and fatigue, the time and space to strengthen their hope and build collective resilience and regenerative power for positive climate justice action within their spheres of influence. Climate STARR is for everyone who: 

  • cares deeply about our earth but wonders if anything they can do makes a difference toward healing the climate crisis, 
  • is burning out from guilt, concern, and/or activism, 
  • has lived with environmental injustice for generations, 
  • sometimes feels overwhelmed, or frozen by grief, despair, and angst about climate change, 
  • can talk about climate data but holds numbed emotions in their body, 
  • has gifts and energy to give to climate justice work but is not sure where to start, and/or 
  • wants to stay resilient as they address climate issues in their classroom, community, and the world. 

The collaborative is committed to economic justice by ensuring that all people, regardless of their financial status, have access to the Climate STARR training.

Another exciting way I am working toward climate justice is by saying yes to my life-long dream to bicycle across America. In fall 2024, as I bike 3200 miles from San Diego, CA to Saint Augustine, FL, I’ll ask people I meet, “How has climate change impacted you personally?” With those who give their permission, I will video our conversations and post them on social media to share with others.

This 12-week, self-contained bicycle trip with my best biking pal Becky, will fulfill my BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal – to raise $500,000 for five fiscally responsible climate justice organizations: Climate Generation, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, Third Act, Climate Ride, and Climate STARR. While I will graciously accept large donations, I believe that there are at least 50,000 people in Minnesota and the rest of the United States who will give $10 or more to achieve this BHAG. Many hands make light work. We can reach them together.

I am doing this because I love outdoor adventures, I love the earth. I love our creator, sustainer, and redeemer and building community with others. I love being a responsible, caring elder who wants to be a good ancestor for my grandchildren, your grandchildren, and everyone’s great grandchildren. As I age, I want to ensure that I never join the world’s largest club: “The Somebody Oughta Club.” Yes, I do this because I want to enjoy and share great outdoor adventures with Hawith, and I also want so much more with you as we care for the earth together.

Donna Minter resides on Dakota land in Minneapolis, Minnesota and she recognizes that because of hundreds of years of enslavement of people of African descent in this country, those of us who are not African descendants of those who were enslaved have benefited from the unpaid labor of these invisible founders, which she believes is the economic foundation of this nation. Donna is a Graamy to three precious grandchildren, a wife, and step/bonus mom, and an avid athlete, backpacker, bikepacker, and community builder who aspires to embrace the deeper meanings in life. She is a European American cisgender woman who is also a trainer, facilitator, and peacebuilding instigator. Donna is a licensed psychologist who practiced clinical neuropsychology for more than 25 years in outpatient and inpatient clinics and educational settings. For over 22 years she has conducted court-ordered mental health evaluations and provides expert court testimony. In 2010, Donna founded the Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute (i.e., MN Peacebuilding) to teach trauma-informed, resilience-oriented, and restorative justice-focused strategies to individuals, organizations, and communities for racial healing and equity toward the possibility of reconciliation. She administered, implemented, and conducted trainings and talking circles in Minnesota, the USA, and internationally. Before retiring from MN Peacebuilding in June 2023, she trained over 16,000 people from community organizations, local, state, tribal, and federal government agencies. In her rewirement, she is collaborating with others who are applying trauma awareness and resilience principles, models, and strategies to community and organizational climate action in a training called Climate STARR (Strategies for Trauma, Action, Resilience, and Regeneration). She is also biking the GRAAMY! Climate Ride across America in fall 2024. Donna’s pronouns are she/her/hers. To contact Donna, please email her at graamyride@gmail.com.



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