We invite you to enjoy the ideas and ideals expressed in the following pages! As spring seeps into our valley, we’re reminded we’ve been living for more than a year now in this liminal, pandemic-induced reality. It exposed our societal weaknesses, exacerbated already-existing disparities, and pushed the climate emergency to the back burner — making it increasingly clear that we need to commit ourselves to creating an equitable, healthy, and sustainable post-pandemic society. While the gravity and existential nature of our problems can be overwhelming, we need not look further than the contents of these pages for hope and optimism about our future — and it’s encouraging to see that so many people are informed about the various economic, environmental, and social issues we’re facing.
A key feature of this issue is student activists harnessing their talents to draw attention to issues they care about. Fourth graders learned about biodiversity and wildlife conservation by exploring the plight of Chimney Swifts and shared their feelings through poetry and drawings. Local high-school artists, in a collaboration between the Eastern Hunger Coalition and Nurture Nature Center, used visual art to express their ideas about persistent food insecurity in our communities. Students from colleges across the valley are also well represented as they share their reflections on a variety of topics. The creativity, compassion, and insight demonstrated by these students and the rest of our contributors makes clear that amidst suffering and struggles there are still many reasons to be hopeful.
While “sustainability” is often used to refer to environmental issues, the Alliance recognizes that sustainable communities are also built on foundations of inclusion, equity, regeneration, and justice, which are reflected in the goals we established in 2003 (see page 20). Within this booklet, we share creative angles and interesting perspectives on intersecting issues of environmental justice, holistic health, and education. We hope that you will enjoy the expressions shared in the following pages and that they will inspire you to join in the collaborative work of pursuing our goals as we build sustainable communities.