Reasons for hope, part 1

Reasons for hope, part 1 October 2, 2011

An excellent question, from comments:

Is there any reason for hope? … What is there to be hopeful about?

I think everyone has asked that question at some point. If you haven’t, then you should have — it’s one of the most important questions there is.

And it’s a question that calls for more than one answer. Or maybe for one big answer in many, many parts.

Here’s one part:

That video is from Plant With Purpose, originally Floresta, a Christian relief and development agency that plants trees. Their work is a bit more complicated than that — helping to develop sustainable communities in sustainable environments. But basically what it boils down to is that they plant trees.

Many people think of poverty and the environment as separate issues, but in fact they are hugely interdependent. Most of the world’s poor are rural poor. Many are subsistence farmers, completely dependent on their environment for survival. But as a result of widespread deforestation, the land isn’t providing like it used to.

Land that once bore bountiful crops that could be sold or eaten, isn’t producing. Streams that used to provide water to drink, now run dry. Out of desperation, the poor cut down more trees to sell as firewood, even though doing so means further destroying their one chance of survival.

By reversing deforestation, Plant With Purpose helps the poor restore productivity to their land to create economic opportunity out of environmental restoration. Since 1984 we have helped thousands of people in nearly 250 villages lift themselves out of poverty through our holistic approach to sustainable development.

Tree-planting seems like a good first place to look in search of reasons for hope. Every reason for hope seems to parallel the process of planting trees. It starts with something tiny that grows into something large and beneficial that will likely outlive the person who got it started.

In the past 27 years, Plant With Purpose has planted nearly 7 million trees in Haiti, Tanzania, Burundi, Thailand, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Those countries might not be the first places you’d think of if you were looking for something to be hopeful about, but here is something tangibly better than it was.

X + 7 million trees > X. That gives me hope.

You can donate to Plant With Purpose, of course, or to some other nonsectarian tree-planting agency if you prefer, and that’s a really Good Thing to do. But my point here isn’t to drum up donations.

My point here is that this is happening. Trees are being planted and good news is growing among the poor. Right now, this is happening.

Bad things are happening too, of course. The bastards who profit from injustice have power, influence and deep pockets. Injustice seems to have both momentum and inertia on its side. But off camera, off the front page and out of the spotlight, trees are being planted and lives are being improved.

The question “What is there to be hopeful about?” usually comes when we feel like whatever it is we’re doing isn’t enough — it’s too small, or not working fast enough, or it’s underfunded, exhausting, exhausted, too little, too late. But look at that video and remember that whatever it is you’re doing isn’t the only thing being done. You’re doing your part, others are doing theirs. It adds up. Trees are being planted.

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