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Know the West

Despair not one more day

      "... My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
      so much has been destroyed

      I have to cast my lot with those
      who age after age, perversely,

      with no extraordinary power,
      reconstitute the world."

            — Adrienne Rich

      History shows that the proverbial rock can be rolled, if not to the top of the mountain, then at least to successive plateaus. And, more important, simply pushing the rock in the right direction is cause for celebration.
            — Paul Rogat Loeb

Hope often comes in short, explosive bursts: Like the splash of a fish breaking a silent stream, it’s often hard to spot, even harder to hang onto. But now, in The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, Paul Rogat Loeb wraps the thought-provoking words of 49 different writers — ranging from Sherman Alexie and Wendell Berry to Václav Havel, Terry Tempest Williams and Joanna Macy — into one compact volume that even the cynics among us can hold on to.

Anyone who has been following the news about the environment has gotten discouraged over the last four years. Here in the West, most of us can look to our own communities and see the results of our irresponsibility. Unsustainable energy development is everywhere. Roads, pipelines, OHV trails and monster homes are snaking their way across virgin lands. Environmental laws are falling as fast as dominoes, and more rare species are losing protection each year.

But, wait. Don’t let despair trick you into inaction: "If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction," writes Howard Zinn.

Indeed, look to New Mexico and Wyoming, where environmentalists and ranchers are putting aside distrust of one another to fight their new common enemy, multinational energy companies. Look to the labor unions and environmentalists working together against corporate destruction of the workplace and the environment. Look to how quickly reintroduced wolves are spreading across the Northern Rockies. Look out there and see the West’s beauty for what it’s worth. It’s worth fighting another day. It’s worth finding new friends. At the very least, the West deserves our hope.

The Impossible Will Take a Little While:
A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear

Edited by Paul Rogat Loeb. 422 pages, softcover $15.95.
Basic Books, 2004.