By Mary DeMocker. New World Library, 2018. 360 pages. $16.95/paperback or eBook.Buy from QuakerBooks
Oh my gosh, what an incredible read this book is! Let me tell you right away that this is not just for parents. It’s for grandparents and anyone who wants creative and empowering ideas for working on climate change issues. This is not a doomsday book. It’s uplifting and challenging. I’ve been working in this field for decades and learned a lot from reading the book. And I know you will too.
Mary DeMocker is cofounder and creative director of 350.org’s Eugene, Ore., chapter and so has had a lot of chances to try out different ways to be effective in the community and with her family. She and her husband chose to continue living in a 968-square-foot house while their son and daughter were growing up. They are frugal, though they have found many ways to have a joy-filled life as a family. DeMocker emphasizes creativity in her work.
For example, one year she made paper leaves, knowing that trees are being stressed by the changes in climate, and hung them on the tree in the front yard. On each leaf she wrote the names of things her family appreciated that were threatened. She worried that her neighbors would be offended, and found that, at first, her children were embarrassed. But soon the neighbors were reading and grinning and loving it, and soon her children were proud of the witness.
Encouraging her children to be climate activists didn’t mean that they had to comply all the time. They were gently encouraged and were informed of the issues, and given the choice to participate or not. It helped them feel empowered to act for the planet. They began to act on their own, and though life was different in their home from the homes of many of their friends, they accepted and understood why they lived simply in a complex world. One day, their teenage daughter told her parents that she wanted her own room, rather than sharing one with her brother. So, with the help of her father, they built a room in the attic with recovered materials. What a great solution!
There are ideas for parents whose children range in age from newborns to young adults. The sections include ways to harmonize one’s family life with the ways of the earth, to save money and time, to view our climate in a new light, to care for your soul, and more. As Quakers, this book speaks directly to our testimonies of simplicity; equality; integrity; community; and peace, especially in the section “Grow Community Connections,” where DeMocker encourages us to set the bar low for allies. She is encouraging opening our circles to include those who may see the world differently from the way we do.
Listen to them; invite them to participate where they are able. In fact, Chapter 61 is titled “Have a Beer with Cousin Max.” Many of us have family members with whom we disagree on political and climate issues. Why not try to see the world the way they do and then ask them to do the same for us? It’s very possible to find some common ground and then build the relationships on that.
I finished the book filled with hope: hope for the children living now, who live with the legacy of climate change, and hope for our beautiful planet that we will stop the madness and turn the tide toward a sustainable and resilient future.