The waterfalls in Dingmans Falls, Pennsylvania keep things calm. (JOSE GERMAN / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
By Jose German
For the Montclair Local
The last year will be remembered forever. The effects of the pandemic have changed the world we used to live in. The virus has not only changed the way we live, it has cost millions of people their lives and has left millions more with long-term health conditions and psychological trauma.
None of us have seen this pandemic in our lives. We saw our world shrink as we watched the virus spread, and even more so when we felt the isolation and limitations on freedoms that we took for granted not just once but in two waves of the virus to have.
But not everything was negative. Forced isolation to maintain our health and life has had many positive consequences. Many of us found comfort and solace in gardening and visiting our parks and nature reserves.
We became more aware of the value of our loved ones, the communities we live in, and our ability to help others in times of crisis.
We all agree that 2020 was a year full of changes and challenges. Many things have changed in our life and even in our personal values and life prospects. We have learned from experience how fragile our world is and how vulnerable we are. We have seen friends, neighbors and family members who have suffered from the effects of the virus, and unfortunately some of them have died.
I hope this new pace of life will allow us to slow down and find calm and balance when we come out on the other side. May we learn from this time the importance of long conversations with family and friends, time to meditate, time to cook healthy foods grown just a few steps from our home, to listen to the sounds of birds outside, to music dancing, reading, writing diaries and poetry, and making art with our children.
The palisades and the Hudson River are thought-provoking.
(JOSE GERMAN / FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE
Last year we became more aware of the future of our planet and what we need to do to protect the environment and improve our quality of life. Our home on the planet is in dire need of healing. Forests need to be restored, air and water need to be purified for our own preservation.
We must act today because our future depends on what we do now. You play an important role in this process. You have the power and control to make changes in your lifestyle and at home.
During the 2020 gardening season, we took care of our gardens and our loved ones. We have had crops shared with families and friends. Now, at the beginning of the new year, we have experienced the transformation of nature with new eyes and a new mentality. We have questioned our life goals as many of us thought deeply about the planet, the environment, and the steps we must take now to preserve the heritage of our children and grandchildren.
As we evolve, we need to reflect on our role as healers and restorers of our environment. I hope we remember that our actions are really important and that everything is related in one way or another.
Let’s plant the seeds for native plants that will eventually restore the habitats of pollinators and beneficial wildlife.
Let’s spread the seeds to grow as a strong community where all people regardless of race, color, gender, religion, ethnic group, or sexual orientation can thrive.
Let’s plant the seeds of tolerance and understanding.
Let’s see our community and people the way we see nature: we see forests, tall trees and saplings, bushes, flowers, ground covers, animals and all kinds of wildlife. Everything together creates a perfect balance that we call nature.
Let’s appreciate the diversity of our community and be more inclusive and tolerant.
Let’s create healthier open spaces in which humans and animals can live together in harmony and with mutual respect. By planting hope, love and kindness every time we have an opportunity, we will see our community thrive and people come together with the collective feeling that they are in a safe place where they are respected and valued .
Growing your own food is not only worthwhile, but also a very important element of sustainability. As you take care of your body, you are helping the environment by reducing the fuel consumption of your groceries.
When this crisis is over, let’s appreciate the beauty of the “normal” – going out without masks or fear of infection and enjoying the simple things in life as much as possible.
I hope we all realize the important and crucial role nature plays in our wellbeing and stop destroying mother nature.
Hope to see more children choose to play outside instead of playing video games and more people who make time for outdoor activities. Stay hopeful, friends, and keep planting the seeds for a better future.
Jose German is an environmental activist, certified master gardener in Essex County, and a resident of Montclair.
He is the founder of the Northeast Earth Coalition.