“If Mother Earth isn’t feeling well, you can cheer her up by doing something nice for her,” said Annie Hess, whose son Elan started participating in the Global Earth Exchange when he was eight years old.
According to Annie, who lives with her family on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, children don’t need to be protected from environmental losses like a dead tree or a littered beach. They notice when the places they love are in decline, and they feel badly about that. Moreover, many young people are very worried about climate change, both because it will hurt the Earth and potentially hurt them and their families as well. When they have an opportunity to do something fun to “make Mother Earth feel better,” they jump in eagerly.
Moreover, by taking children to hurt places, parents and teachers help them realize that hurt places are not only part of the living Earth, but have their own kind of beauty as well.
And they offer their own kinds of creative possibility. For the 2010 Global Earth Exchange, Annie offered crafts with phragmites. This tough, invasive plant takes hold in disturbed wetlands and is almost impossible to get rid of. Instead of reviling the phragmites bordering the land, participants used it as inspiration. The adults wove baskets and hats with the reed, while the children made “phragic wands” with glitter, feathers, and flowers.
“Kids love being part of a community that’s doing ceremonies with the Earth,” Annie said. “There is a deep connection between children and the Earth, and when you give them a chance to do something that will help breathe new life into Earth, the kids have new energy as well.”
Read our RadJoy Manual about doing Earth Exchanges with children.

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.

Image Credit:

  • Hess: Annie Hess


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Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places.