Urgent

Beth Hendry Yim Large 

Urgent 

By Beth Hendry-Yim

 


In this article, Gaia College student Beth Hendry-Yim shares some reflections on the urgency of the climate crisis and the small yet mighty impact of gardening, growing your own food, and sharing knowledge with future generations. 


It’s the urgency that pushes me forward, keeps me up at night staring at the ceiling and out the window at the darkness and shadows of trees. It’s this pull to do something, to  make a difference, leave a dent in what our children will be left to clean up. It’s the planning and researching, the dreaming and sacrificing that leads me to an endless mental loop of what should I do, how and when, that drives me into the garden to check soil, compost piles, new shoots, old shoots, trees, and shrubs. It’s the sense of running out of time that has me calling my granddaughter to join me in the garden when some days I want to work in the stillness of my plants, alone. I need the time to teach her to treat the soil and all it gives us with respect and reverence. 

 

I feel compelled, acutely. I speak to strangers, hear myself fanatical, focused, a little too enthused. I back off only to begin again, the strength of my conviction and fear too strong to silence me. I can’t seem to help it. The writing is there on the ground, etched into the soil, mirrored in water, visible in the trees and silence of a summer’s evening. 

 

In a conversation about raising children a friend asked me, “What do you fear the most for your kid’s future?” I said, I feared they would think I let apathy rule my actions, that I did nothing, stood by, and watched, enjoyed my life at the expense of theirs. She cleared her throat, moved her chair back and asked if I wanted another cup of tea. 

 

It’s a hard topic to think about, even harder to talk about. Voicing it makes it more real, like you gave it energy and truth by letting the words float free. 

 

We’re using up the planet. Killing the soil, poisoning the water, destroying habitat, making it impossible to grow food without the chemicals that kill the soil, poison the water, destroy habitat. 

 

Yesterday, I emptied out the worm castings from my vermicomposting tower. It has four trays filled with vegetable leavings and shredded paper. Worms inch their way through partially broken down broccoli stems, carrot slivers, lettuce and apple cores. The top tray holds the rich nutrient dense soil that I use in my beds on the deck garden. I rotated it to the top so the worms could escape to a new buffet in the tray below. Once they have migrated out, it is safe to use, and I can begin again filling it with their food and rotating it. But it’s such a small amount of soil and it took months to make. It’s not enough to keep my entire vegetable garden in enough organic matter. And turning organic matter into soil is what will keep my plants growing and my family fed. I need more towers! More time!

 

Last night we watched a documentary on the disappearing songbirds, and the insects whose numbers decrease by a conservative 2.5% annually. What about the microcosm below the surface? The microorganisms that turn soil into food for the plants that feed us and the animals we consume. Have they suffered from extinctions? It’s so hard to tell, there are so many of them. You’d think, enough, we can stand to lose some. But can we? 

 

 My 16-month-old granddaughter helped me in the garden today. Both her and her older sister love digging in the dirt. She headed right for the freshly dug plot where the lettuce will go in a month’s time. I just repotted the tiny plants in the greenhouse, in soil I was going to toss out because it was from last year. I used to think I needed to start fresh with a new bag of potting mix purchased at the nursery up the road. But as I loosened the soil from the pot moist, pink, ringed bodies wriggled away from the light of exposure. A millipede twisted and gyrated in a defensive dance and a sow bug dashed from the cover of a piece of moss. I relented. Grabbing a large steel mixing bowl I transferred the soil into it, added a bit of starting blend, worm castings and vermiculite. I mixed it well and potted up the one inch three leaved lettuce starts. No waste of living soil. 

 

I must reset my belief about growing food. Change it from nurturing plants to life, to tending soil that gives life. Wasting nothing, seeing the unseeable in every grain of dirt.

 

There is a force pushing, prodding, relentlessly trying to speak through me, get the word out, get any words out. Perhaps, the fungi in the soil are speaking through me, like the ants that parasitize hosts, make them do what they want, go where they command. I’ve worked the soil long enough, deeply enough to blend our personal population of microbes.

 

 It’s when people don’t listen or deny or refuse to act, I feel anger building inside and I chide myself, remind the anger that all I can do really, is an example. Grow soil, share food, revere all life, do my part, show my grandchildren, enjoy the bounty. 

 


Photography credits

Beth Hendry-Yim's second floor balcony garden. Beth Hendry-Yim photo. 

100+ year-old rhubarb plant, passed down to Beth from her grandfather and then father. Beth Hendry-Yim photo.  


 

About the Author 

Beth Hendry-Yim is an award winning writer, author, Nana and self professed lazy gardener. She has written on climate change for several publications including Island Parent and Natural Life, and has reported on less pressing issues for The Navigator and the Nanaimo News Bulletin. She wrote and self published, Fresh Start: A Workbook and Guide to Healthy Living and is currently working on a book about gardening, grandchildren and climate change, in that order. Her love of gardening is driven by a passion to connect with Nature and create a sanctuary for her children and grandchildren for the coming years of + 2 degrees. She lives in Nanaimo with her son, his wife, their two young girls, husband of 40 years, her heart dog, Willie, and his sidekick Sadie, and the billions of tiny creatures living in and around her garden that make food production possible.