HOPE IS SOMETHING WE CREATE, by Morgan Sanchez

When I was a little girl, my grandfather shared with me his love of learning and the natural world. He would teach me how to garden at his home and tell me what he knew about the plants and animals in our little backyard ecosystem. He would take me to our local natural history museum, and he would read my favorite books to me repeatedly. As a young child, I didn’t fully understand the gift my grandfather was giving to me. This shared love of learning and the natural world would become a foundation upon which I would build my own environmental ethic. It provided a set of values that continue to give me a sense of purpose and hope when I look at a world that appears to be deteriorating.

It seems there is an endless stream of tragedies,  a sense that societies and the planet are digressing. As a mother of four, it has been hard to maintain a sense of optimism when I think about the world that my children will live in as adults. What will they have to endure? With the threats of pandemics, gun violence, climate change, and social turmoil, it’s easy to feel hopeless. But as I lean into these gifts that my grandfather shared with me—I find that I do have hope for the future.

I have a sense of hope that the natural world that sustains us will continue. Human beings are certainly threatened by climate change and the environmental degradation that we’ve inflicted on the planet, and there’s no doubt that countless other species are threatened by our actions. However, one thing I have come to understand in my meditative time outdoors is that our natural world has endured through the ages; it has metamorphosized and recreated itself countless times.

The Earth is always changing. When I find fossilized lifeforms that existed in the shallow sea that once covered Texas millions of years ago, I feel somewhat small in the scope of time, and it gives me hope that life will endure. But, I surely want to see humanity endure as well. That is why I find my peace in sharing my love of learning and my fascination with the natural world with my children and other young people, in my volunteer service and academic work.

Engaging young people with the natural world and instilling in them a sense of wonder about it provides me with the ultimate sense of hope. It seems trite to say that children are the future, but there truly is no future for humanity if we don’t raise children to respect each other and the world around them. When I see a child engaged with the natural world—in awe at butterflies and tiny flowers, wriggling earthworms, curious grackles—I see a child that is open and empathetic. I see a child who can advocate for the natural world. I see hope. That is why I continue to promote for environmental education for young children. I find such great inspiration from my peers and fellow volunteers who work to restore and conserve the natural world. Especially those who are  clever and skilled at engaging young children. Their dedication gives me hope!

I have an immense love for this community of volunteers who I am honored to work alongside. These beautiful people inspire me and give me hope every day. I have seen so much dedication from educators, volunteers, and people working in environmental and educational advocacy in my community that I am filled with hope—a hope that we can write a new narrative for our planet, one community at a time.

I have hope because there’s no other choice in my mind. I don’t want my children to grow up in a world without butterflies and songbirds. I believe hope is something we create. We write our future through our actions, and hope is created through those actions. Through the collective efforts of strong communities of committed people, hope becomes something very tangible.

I’m an environmental anthropologist. I am also a Texas Master Naturalist, because I am a deeply committed steward of the land. We’re all part of our local ecosystems and the global biosphere. And so, I volunteer to do my part and help others make connections to their environment. I’m certified in Native Landscape Management through the Native Plant Society of Texas. I am also active in environmental education. I have four amazing children who inspire me every day. Finding my place in the world has been an adventure with both bright and dark moments, and I feel it’s a great honor to be able to serve others and share my time as a volunteer.

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