This is part of a regular series on Planet Change called “Your Climate Stories,” where we share reader stories about changes that they’re seeing and actions that they’re taking in their daily lives to help reduce carbon pollution and respond to the impacts of our changing planet.
If you have a climate story, please send it, along with any of your photos and videos, to us here.
Name: Karen Beswick
Location: Menlo Park, California, USA
Cartwheels on the beach, climbing trees and wading in creeks in the open space of the Marin hills, camping among the redwoods, biking to school along the bay, and my father’s vegetable garden made up a major part of the time I spent growing up in northern California.
There was so much freedom and joy in these sense-of-place experiences. A generation later, amidst increased population and traffic, the existence of handheld games and internet socializing, the challenges of an underfunded educational system, and a society less focused on time spent in nature, I was hard pressed to figure out how to provide our kids with their own special relationship with nature. Staying with the basics, I can see now that the magic was passed along.
It happened through the same trips to the beach, family camping outings, planting and gathering of home-grown fruit and veggies, and expanded to unforgettable visits to Yosemite, the love of snowboarding in Lake Tahoe, learning to fish in Idaho, and more. Now teenagers, our kids ride their bikes almost everywhere they need to go, and are enjoying the freedom they feel through doing this. When you asked us to talk about our Climate Change Stories, I think that this is the contribution that has been the greatest, because a love and awareness of nature that is developed at a young age leads to a reverence for nature that lasts a lifetime.
Most of our kids’ friends stare with blank faces at our boys when they talk about one of their favorite summer activities, namely attending camp at a working farm in Los Altos Hills, Calfornia called Hidden Villa. Mention Bruce, the ram, and these cool-headed, heavy-metal-loving musicians with their fair share of adolescent attitude melt into big, warm smiles. The extent to which our kids have grown to love time spent in nature is only deepened and personalized during their camp experiences, and even allows for us as parents to learn from our children. One year after camp had ended, they exclaimed, “Hey, you know if you’re going to kill something, you have to eat it.” Very wise.
The seeds of this enjoyment of nature that were planted for me as a young person have slowly and steadily grown into an effort to live a little more lightly on the planet. And most of these lifestyle changes have made life more fun and interesting as well. We do lots of the usual things – hang laundry on the line to dry, use low-energy appliances, love our local farmer’s market, ride a bike instead of driving, consolidate trips when driving, use non-petroleum products, re-use our glass juice bottles for water, compost in the yard, turn off lights and unplug electronics when not in use, use fallen leaves as a natural mulch to save water, no chemical fertilizers or pest control or petroleum products used in the yard, buy organic, non-GMO food, eat vegetarian, etc.
A small space in our front yard is home to our veggie garden, where we use practices like double digging, composting, and natural pest control with plants and flowers. The curbside location draws people in, and many stop to ask about the garden and share their own gardening stories. The children that pass by are always fascinated, and always get to pick and eat whatever they like. And an abundant harvest usually leads to boxes of extra veggies set out on the sidewalk for passersby to take. One little girl who passed by and saw bunches of carrots with dirt still on the roots commented, “Look, Daddy, those are REAL carrots!” Kids definitely get it.
On Mondays, I enjoy assisting local high-school students in their efforts to learn to grow their own veggie garden at school. When there was no one to help install a drip watering system for the garden, I had to set aside my self-doubt about managing this “blue” job (blue is for boys, pink is for girls), and plunge in. Guess what? It wasn’t that difficult, and has been running like a charm for the past six months. I have also joined a local permaculture group that is developing products that will make it easier for people in our communities to grow their own food.
Projects for this year include further experimentation with my new solar oven that a friend made for me out of cardboard, as well as construction of a solar dehydrator. My neighbors are going to design and install a rainwater catchment system, which I hope to help with and do the same at our house. I would also love to do a gray water system, as well as solar panels and even composting toilets (!). Between growing and preparing homegrown meals and working with power tools, looks like my new job color is … purple?
Photo courtesy of Karen Beswick.
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