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Green Beat: Valuing one tree will create respect for the forest

We must balance discussions of what is wrong with the world by recognizing what changes in our actions are needed to make it right. Acknowledging our global consequences as consumers and members of organizations is sometimes needed, but seeing the forest of the present is rarely enough to motivate local tree-planting. To galvanize ourselves or other people, sometimes we need to focus on one tree at a time.

Further, we may benefit from a different way of seeing things and look forward to the emerging view of what things can be. We need to forecast better weather in our hearts before we can walk in that sun. The climate of human minds and societies is created by our own expectations. What can we do here for this world? We can still recognize it through our curtains in the morning, birds chirping on the old brick walls.

The variety of living things and the wonder of this world is something we can rally around, a common and beautiful standard. But we sometimes only see things when they are pointed out to us. Let us remark on what is so worth our appreciation, if only so we can smile when we walk. We need to find joy in the new, greener ways of doing things.

When we show each other reminders that life is only present in living things, that all of this and all of us are worth fighting for, we will not get discouraged as easily.

When we show each other ways (and not just one way) to bring about things we value — to make options we all believe are good, more desirable and easily pursued — we are likely to choose them more often.

When we show each other ways of thinking about things that help us see the outcomes of our actions, without forgetting we are the actors who can change them, we will realize our own power.

It is our task to make the one live possibility we have – a green, bio-diverse future – the most likely outcome of all. It will take more than any of us have by ourselves, and benefit from all we can give. We will keep giving, if we see it giving back.

If we choose to use less with austerity in our hearts, we will not be very successful at motivating others. If we can find contagious joy in the change, the habit will spread like a contagion of good sense through the body of our society and ourselves, for we have all been too long consumed by our consumption.

I believe a community of people who encourage each other in small good things is needed to do any great thing well. To plant any forest or better world, in other words, we need each other. Even if we can’t reach the best we need to believe we can reach something better, and reach together, or we will not get there. With that in mind, let’s set out – not for the forest, but for the next tree.

Zach Wilson is a senior studying philosophy. What is your green future? You can tell him at

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