Why I Am An Activist, #1

Editor’s note: this is the first in a series of articles touching on the topic of why we become activists. Each of us has come to support this cause from different backgrounds and for different reasons. Underlying all those differences though is one common concern (originally published in Indian Voices)

Activist_Header_ARTBy Lora Hilliard

“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” – Rumi

The Earth suffers more today than it did when I was a child in the sixties. People still struggle to find hope like they did during that tumultuous decade; we continue to fight against poverty, war, discrimination, and pollution. But the fight against pollution has bloomed into a global effort to stop climate change – an undeniable consequence of human activity that threatens our very existence. Several recent experiences led to my heightened pledge to the environment and my association with SanDiego350.

Lora Hilliard

Lora Hilliard

Last summer, I travelled to Yosemite National Park with my family. We took the scenic route up California 395, entered the park from the east via the 120, and then drove to a campground on the west. Somewhere north of Bishop, I began to notice dead and dying evergreen trees. The condition worsened inside the park, and I wondered whether thousands of acres of suffering pines should have been expected on this trip. When we reached our campground, I examined a fallen tree to find visible signs of bark beetle damage, and my heart sank. Everywhere, injured pines were bloody with leaking sap. I could all but hear them scream in pain. Dead and dying trees faced me in every direction. The magnitude of it overwhelmed and broke my heart. I cried that night and found little joy on our hike among fallen trees the next day.

Since that heartbreaking experience, I’ve become more focused on climate change. I read, study, and watch documentaries. And I now understand that while most people are aware of global warming, not everyone understands its effects. For example, the melting glaciers and rising sea levels wreak havoc on more than just polar bears. Whether we realize it or not, humans suffer right along with innocent animals. So, even the most unfeeling among us should care. But I rarely hear about the correlation between climate change and flooding, which led me to wonder whether we’re suffering the effects of climate change in our own communities. To satisfy my curiosity, I trekked to Oceanside with my husband, Bert, after a recent storm. We walked along the strand – a paved road between beachfront homes and sand. Slogging through puddles and counting sandbags piled against the houses, he pointed out newly constructed homes complete with underground parking. We wondered why anyone would pay millions of dollars to own homes that might soon be under water. And we questioned whether anyone would invest in the future of the planet when they appear to ignore what’s right before them where they live.

Not long after that day, Bert noticed an absence of bees on our property. We had three hives, I think. I’m allergic to bees, so I avoid them but love sharing our shade trees with the endangered creatures. As part of my environmentalist effort, I provide shallow watering pans and maintain flowering shrubs for critical pollination activities. So when the trees suddenly went silent, we mourned the loss and wonder if the bees will ever return.

Because of these eye-opening experiences and unanswered questions, I made a promise to the Earth. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that my life changed, but I can say that I committed myself to activism because I firmly believe the adage, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” In response to a call for support, I participated in my first rally – the No DAPL protest at the Army Corps of Engineers. There, I met some of the folks from SanDiego350 and found myself drawn to them. They seem welcoming, they work cooperatively with other green organizations, and they are affiliated with a larger, international organization.

I cling to hope, so I search for treasure in the ruin. And I believe SanDiego350 approaches this task holistically, even lovingly. Won’t you join us?

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Lora Hilliard has an MA in Education. She has worked in Early Childhood and Higher Educational settings as teacher, administrator and researcher. She currently resides in Escondido, California with her husband, two children, three dogs, and three cats. She enjoys writing, ceramics, hiking, and camping.

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