Young Organizers Plan Regional Uplift

Originally published January 12 2016 at

By Claire Martini

Ten of us shivered in unison, gazing out over the House Rock Valley towards Marble Canyon. Though we’d gathered to talk about the warming world, November in northern Arizona was—clearly—still cold.

For the second year, young leaders convened at Kane Ranch (on the North Rim) for an intensive planning retreat focused on the future of Uplift, an annual conservation conference for young activists.

In just over four full days together, we dove deep. Our goal? To orchestrate a summer 2016 gathering of young residents of the Colorado Plateau. At the innagural summit in April 2015, our conversations were foundational. In 2016, we’re growing from last year’s roots, galvanizing climate action and moving toward climate justice.

Now is certainly a scary time to be young. Seeing Kane Ranch shrouded in snow one winter, my thoughts took on a historic air when I began to wonder—if my hypothetical children returned to this place in 2040, when I’m 50, would they experience this blinding white? Being young and chronically concerned is sometimes like this: a vague, constant gnawing anxiety. It’s one of my main motivators to organize.

Other Uplift organizers are motivated by preservation of cultural vitality, love of wildness and wilderness, the desire to build community, or the fundamental goal to protect inheritance of a livable future in this place.

Over coffee on the last morning, I cracked the spine on a writing manual by Anne Lamott that I’d been nodding off to for a few days and found this anecdote:

“Thirty years ago,” Lamott wrote, “my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.”

It sounded like the climate crisis we’re currently in, though instead of three months, our predecessors have had three decades to work on sustainability. The deadline looms tomorrow.

Lamott continues, “Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

And I realized, that’s exactly how we’ll protect a livable future in the high aridity of the Colorado Plateau—person by person, place by place, and bird by bird.

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