Excerpt from the book:
The Children of Earth affinity group grew to 20 young men and women. They began having meetings to discuss and clarify their philosophy and approach to direct action. People that disagreed with the majority left the group and others joined. It took time to find like-minded people and create a high-functioning group.
One of the women who joined the group was Glenda. When the members interviewed her, Hugo immediately fell in love. She was black and self-assured, and she had a distinctly African mystique. She wore her hair in a short afro combed up from the back, revealing tiny curls on her neck and at her temples. Hugo was fascinated. The day after she joined the group, he invited her to go for a walk.
‘What for?’ she inquired.
‘Well, I would just like to talk and get to know you better. Come on,’ he said, ‘I know where there’s a little pond with a bench next to it.’
‘Really? That sounds nice.’
As they walked, they talked about how they had become radicalized. Glenda’s neighborhood had vacant lots where old houses and buildings had been torn down and cleared out. In one of the lots, someone began parking drums of chemicals. The fumes were so strong, it made the neighbors cough. They began keeping a lookout to see who was dumping toxic waste in that lot. They observed a truck coming in the middle of the night and workers unloading drums.
Glenda joined the neighbors and helped figure out who dumped the drums there. They brought a lawsuit against a local corporation. The neighborhood people won the suit. The drums were taken away but the lot was still polluted. The city didn’t have the funds to clean it up, so they put up an anchor fence and a sign that read, Danger, toxic chemicals. Stay out. The lot became a reminder that somebody thought the people in her neighborhood didn’t matter and that they were too ignorant to complain.
Of course, she was insulted that someone would do that. But later, she wondered where the offenders took those drums next. Wherever they parked them, they would be leaking into the ground, the water and air. Just getting them out of her neighborhood wasn’t enough.
They sat on the bench by the pond. Glenda reached down and picked a little yellow flower.
‘See this little flower?’ she asked Hugo, holding it up to his face. He took it and looked at it closely. There were a lot of those yellow flowers around and he had never paid attention to them. Now he examined one for the first time. Its yellow color was actually quite intense. It had symmetry—its petals fanned out in a perfect circle. The each petal was toothed, which gave the flower a serrated circumference. In the center was a cluster of tendrils of the same intense yellow. Indeed, it was a curiosity.
‘We call it a weed,’ she said. ‘But just think—we’ve sent telescopes far into space, and we haven’t found anything like this little flower anyplace out there. Life in the universe is improbable. The chance of it occurring is almost zero. And yet, our planet has billions of life forms. We don’t appreciate that each species is a kind of miracle. We take life for granted.’
Hugo had been aware of that in a superficial way. But now, he felt a stark awe of life. He looked at the pond, with its cattails and water spiders skipping across its surface. Nearby, there was a hedge of roses, fountain grass with tassels, and daylilies. A squirrel was busy digging under a bush. He looked up at the trees and beyond them, the birds flying in the sky. All around them was a multiplicity of life forms. He turned and looked at her and she looked into his eyes. He was enchanted with her passion. Thus began their friendship.
–End of excerpt.