Hope in a Hotter Time

Explorations in sustainability & justice

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The posts on this site are written by students in the Freshman Inquiry class Sustainability at Portland State University and contain accounts of some of their explorations of how we might transition to more equitable, sustainable, and resilient society.

The blog borrows its title from the essay “Optimism and Hope in a Hotter Time” by David Orr.

Thanks for reading.

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Braiding Sweetgrass Reflection

Giving is a major theme in this book. I have decided, while I am on this trip, to do my best to avoid purchasing gifts for people. Now bear with me, this does not mean I will return to Oregon giftless. The gifts that are spoken of in Braiding Sweetgrass are gifts from nature, they are harvested, collected, and created with love and gratitude throughout the entire process. The gifts I will be bringing home to my loved ones are quite similar in that aspect. The first I already gave to its recipient; a quartz crystal found by the recipient herself, that I wrapped into a necklace for her with some silver wire I had. The second gift is smudge stick I wrapped using sage that I harvested in Utah. The third, a dreamcatcher made from some willow rods I harvested in Colorado. I am making a topical ointment from arnica flowers I also harvested in Colorado to give to those I know with aches and pains. As I travel to many different places with greatly varying environments, I will be able to collect and harvest many different types of natural things to make each gift unique and completely from the heart. As I learn more about the plants that grow in this vastly diverse country(as explained in my previous reflection), I will be able to become more and more creative with my gifts. It is much more fun and fulfilling feeling than purchasing a plastic nicknack in a gift shop that will be appreciated once or twice and maybe never looked at again, not to mention, much more sustainable!

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Braiding Sweetgrass Reflection

The lifestyle I am living now, traveling across the country trying to avoid unfamiliar COVID-laden grocery stores has made food much more difficult to obtain than I am accustomed to. When I do go in to towns for groceries, I stock up on nonperishables, but there’s only so much stocking up you can do when it comes to fresh fruits and veggies. The book Braiding Sweetgrass, along with the current situations at hand have inspired me to become more reliant on the environment around me and less so on imported foods from grocery stores. I purchased myself another book, “Foraging the Mountain West” that is all about identifying wild edible plants (and getting to know the non-edible ones), learning when and where they can be harvested, and how to properly prepare them. After only reading the introduction to this book, I already found myself able to name or at least identify the family of nearly half the plants I pass on my hikes through Colorado. I have no doubt that soon I will be able to name almost all of them and I am very excited to get to the point where I am confident enough to begin harvesting and eating some! This will not only save me trips into towns of which I am unfamiliar with the local COVID situation, it will also greatly reduce the amount of unsustainably packaged and transported items I have to buy, and save me money. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from foraging for your own food in the wild, a satisfaction I was lucky enough to become vaguely familiar with as a small child when my parents and their friends would take me out foraging. It has been years since those times, and I have since forgotten nearly everything I was taught about the wild plants, however I am incredibly excited to relearn and I hope to dive deep enough into the subject that it becomes a part of my lifestyle for good.

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Final Reflection

As I stated in my first reflection, I’m a sucker for mythology and cryptids (mothman is my favorite). This was only heightened by the years I spent in the Boy Scouts. From man door hand hook car door all the way to the jersey devil, the stories we told around campfires and in dimly lit tents, have given me some of my favorite memories, so when I started this section and saw the use of the wendigo I was incredibly excited. The analogy between defeating the wendigo and climate change took me by surprise, but was incredibly well though out. It reminded me of some cultures explanation for the creation of a wendigo. in many cultures, a wendigo can be created from a human who has been over taken by greed and lust, turning them into the gaunt creature. I’m not sure if this was an intentional illusion that the author made, but I think the concept of a man made monster as a metaphor for climate change is incredible. The fact that we are facing a problem of our own creation makes this issue all the scarier, because we don’t have anyone to blame. I also love that the author used stories from their own culture to make this comparison, as I think it serves to show how this issuer can affect anyone of any culture.

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Reflection 3

A quote that stuck out to me in this section was “All powers have two sides, the power to create and the power to destroy. We must recognize them both, but invest our gifts on the side of creation.” (p. 212). It reminded me of something that a mentor said to me a few years back.

At the end of my sophomore year I went to my second week of Outdoor School. I was super new to working with kids, but I though I knew what I was doing. My kids all liked me, I got along well with the staff, and I was doing an alright job of teaching. However, about halfway through the week my cabin had a mandatory shower time. I took the kids down to the shower house, but as a safety precaution the student leaders weren’t allowed into the facility while the kids were showering. I set expectations outside and asked them to please keep their showers under five minutes. They did not do that. The first batch of kids went a little over, but the second group took about 15 minutes. This was super frustrating and I really didn’t know what to do, I had never been faced with this situation before. I eventually snapped and yelled at the kids, but even that didn’t work. Luckily, a staff member who went by Scout came by and rescued me. He took control of the cabin and excused me to go to dinner with thew first batch of kids, which we was now about 10 minutes late for. I was incredibly thankful, but still pretty worked up. Later that night Scout came by and pulled me aside. He asked how I was doing, and then told me that he wanted to talk about my shower incident. I was fully expecting to get punished or at least reprimanded, but instead Scout said he wanted to give me advice. He told me that as educators, we have a lot of influence on these kids. We are fully responsible for their experience, and it is our job, even when faced with a difficult situation, to try and make the best of it for the kids sake. He told me that I had the power to make this the best week of their life, or the worst.

This has stuck with me and I think of it every time I’m teaching. When you are serving as a mentor, you have the ability to build up your students or to tear them down. Scout chose to use this mistake as an opportunity to build me up and make me a better teacher and person, and I’m thankful for that everyday.

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Reflection 2

In this section of the reading the author says “This is really why I made my daughters learn to garden — so they would always have a mother to love them, long after I am gone.” (p.122). This struck a chord with me personally. As most people in this class know I am a huge plant nerd. Growing and keeping plants has bee a huge source of joy for quite some time now, so the connection that the author made to plants taking care of us was super interesting to me. Immediately I drew a connection to my senior year of high school. My senior year wasn’t awful, but it also wasn’t very good. I was stuck in a fairly unhealthy relationship and was overworking myself, and as a result my mental health took a pretty bad turn. About half way through the year I started buying plants. It started off with a few succulents an a snake plant, but after realizing how much I loved caring for them, I quickly bought more. It might seems fairly inconsequential, but taking care of my plants gave me something to look forward to everyday, and they really got me through the last stretch of high school.

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3rd and 4th Reflections


After reading the section “Witness to the Rain” I was inspired to write a free verse poem:

Rain Falling

The rain protects the forest.

It falls lightly and covers the forest with its soft touch,

Covering each leaf and branch in its cool embrace.

Its light drops drip softly from the tree-tops,

Blanketing the forest below in shiny wetness.

Not a single leaf is untouched from the rain,

It wraps the forest in protection.


“The footprints of the Windigo. They’re everywhere you look…. over a savagely clear-cut slope in the Oregon Coast Range where the earth is slumping into the river” This one section really sticks out to me, because it talked about a mountain range very close to where I live in Oregon. The windigo of course represents the damage to our earth. I think this really shows that no place is safe from the windigo, as it is everywhere, even near my own home.

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Reflection 1: Creation

The story of the Sky woman was incredibly interesting to me. The story of the Sky Woman falling and being saved by the animals of the earth, followed by her creating the earth mother is a fantastic story that I desperately want to learn more about.

I have always had a fascination with other cultures religions and mythology, especially in regards to the creation of humans. The story that always sticks out to me is the greek story of Prometheus, in which the titan Prometheus, who is commonly known to be a trickster, creates humans to spite the god of Olympus. He then steals fire from the gods and gives it to the humans to further spite Zeus. This creation story has always been one of my favorites because of how bizarre it is. The idea that we were made as part of some petty feud is kind of poetic in a way. I also love how this story serves as a direct contrast to the story of the Sky Woman, where in the Sky Woman’s story she created out of love, Prometheus created out of hate and spite.

My fascination with creation myths come in direct contrast to my religious beliefs. I have not been religious for close to a decade now. I personally never felt compelled to believe in any kind of greater force, but the stories from other religions are so incredibly interesting to me. While I’m not religious, I think that there are spiritual things that can’t be explained. I think I have always gravitated towards these myths because it gives me a connection to that hidden spirituality.

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Final reflection

For my final reflection I saved my favorite quote for last. It being, “In a culture gratitude, everyone knows that gifts will follow the circle of reciprocity and flow back to you again.” This quote stuck out to me the most from the entire book. This quote is basically insinuating Karma. When you do a good deed good will comeback you and so on. This is something that I have always been taught when growing up and has stuck out to memy whole life. This book was really great and had a lot of meaningful messages throughout the entire thing. The book had many meaningful quotes and messages that I use/ look into.

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Final Reflection

In the chapter “Defeating Windigo”, there is a mention of the “One Bowl and One Spoon” teaching. Its principle involve the earth “gift” being the bowl which is shared from a single spoon. It envision an economy of the commons where fundamental resources for our well-being, like water, land and forests, shouldn’t be a commodified and are commonly held instead. It’s a approach that maintains abundance, not scarcity. This principle seem communist-est given its description, but it’s a good-natured goal even though human nature in general will be an impossibility. If this goal were to be put in tuition in reality, it would undoubtedly fail. Competition will lead to growth, but given the amounts of resource that exist in the world, there is definitely enough for it to be shared equally with everyone. There shouldn’t be scarcity of those fundamental resources if we don’t wastefully use it. In our current system, we wastefully use those fundamental resources to produce inefficient thing like beef, and polluting our river because it’s “convenience”. We can’t really monopoly fundamental resources, but given how certain peoples/corporation wastefully used it, it certainly seem like it. The chapter mentioned that gratitude is needed to defeat the greediness within us, but what can we use to defeat the greediness within other?

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Final Reflection

“In a culture gratitude, everyone knows that gifts will follow the circle of reciprocity and flow back to you again. This time you give and next time you receive. Both the honor of giving and the humility of receiving are necessary halves of the equation. ” This quote by Kimmerer stood out and wrapped up the book and themes of the book nicely. The relationship that we have with the Earth needs to be symbiotic for prosperity for everything on our planet. While reading this book I was reminded to think more like my family before me and that to live a sustainable life all around it is all about balance instead of constantly taking. I enjoyed reading about the Native American point of view and their relationship with the land and saw many similarities with my own culture.