Remember your mother!

Rabbinic Tale

A man was walking along a road when he saw a rabbi planting a tree.. The man asked the rabbi, “How many years will it take for the tree to bear fruit?”

The rabbi answered that it would take seventy years. The man asked, “Are you so fit and strong that you expect to live that long and eat its fruit?”

The rabbi answered, “I found a fruitful world because my ancestors planted for me. So I will do the same for my children.”

Like the rabbi, we have inherited a beautiful planet. We have been destroying that planet. No, not me. I do my best! But yes, me. I have driven a car for nearly fifty years. I have lived in air-conditioned or centrally-heated houses fed by fossil fuels. I have polluted the oceans with microplastics and my sunscreen.

It is true that, over the years, as my awareness has grown and my commitment to sustainability become stronger I have changed many practices and tried to live a more sustainable life.

Perhaps more importantly, in a country where recycling is in its infancy and utilities heavily subsidised, I worked hard to encourage young people to take responsibility for their actions. I introduced recycling, supported composting and led initiatives to raise awareness of water and electricity usage. Several students I worked with have gone on to pursue careers in environmental protection. One has even co-founded a company, Repurpose Global, whose mission is to reduce plastic waste globally.

In my blog last March Let us not forget, I reflected on how we were so self-abosorbed in the panic of the pandemic that we were forgetting that the Earth was continuing to be destroyed by climate change, wildfires, dramatic weather and geological events. COVID-19 has not stopped those.

Despite ongoing efforts, biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide at rates unprecedented in human history. It is estimated that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction.

United Nations, 2021

One year on Sir David Attenborough is urging us even more strongly to take action. The steps we have taken – the promotion of electric vehicles, alternative forms of energy production, a decrease in the use of plastics and pesticides, changes in eating habits – all of these are moves in the right direction but we have a long way to go.

One thing we have learned during lockdown is that there is much that we can do without; travel for instance. A benefit for the Earth has been the drop in air traffic and road travel restrictions and working-from-home have led to less pollution in cities. There are some great activities you can do with students on this theme. I outlined a particularly effective one in my blog Living Without.

How can we take this forward into the post-(we hope) pandemic era? Young people are showing us the way. Greta Thunberg has had little difficulty in getting school students to strike for climate. We need to set up situations where young people can dream of the world they want to live in and plan how to create it.

I was recently inspired by Avaaz (I frequently am) and their invitation to add our visions for the world to their stories page It led me to devise an activity for young people based on some of those in our book Values and Visions: Engaging students, refreshing teachers.

You might like to try…

  • Use the free activity Floating at this link: or  Mental Maps on p.230 of our book.
  • One you have shared, go into stillness again and focus on the future. What do you want for the Earth? You can adapt the Guided Visualisation in our book (p. 60).
  • Jot down all your/your group’s ideas as quickly as possible, without comment.
  • Look at what you have come up with.
  • Can you crystalise it into one group statement?
  • You might like to send your dreams to Avaaz at the link above.

Why am I writing all this to you now? April 22nd is designated by the United Nations as Mother Earth Day (#motherearthday).

“We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Facing the facts

  • The planet is losing 4.7 million hectares of forests every year – an area larger than Denmark.
  • A healthy ecosystem helps to protect us from diseases. Biological diversity makes it difficult for pathogens to spread rapidly.
  • It is estimated that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. (United Nations, 2021)

Mother Earth Day presents an excellent opportunity to give your students the chance to share their fears, their concerns and their ideas about our planet and its future. It is important to acknowledge such days … but the destruction of the Earth is not a one-day event. We need to work on it every day.

I dream of a world where people plant trees to bear fruit for future generations. What sort of a world do you dream of?


United Nations 2021, International Mother Earth Day 22 April.

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