“Once upon a time there were trees and birds and polar bears. But that time is long gone.”

This is NOT how I want to start a story for my grandchildren. That is why in my last two books—Crow Calling and Up There—I have talked about the environment. In Crow Calling, I discuss the importance of saving the Monarch butterfly. In Up There, I address a bucket load of environmental issues.

Although heroine Ariel Lee in Up There is a writer specializing in environmental stories, I try to keep her off the soapbox. I let other characters do the talking, for example:

Retired science teacher Dakota Blue is creating a quilt dedicated to extinct species. She will never finish it. As she says, “If I tried to sew all the plants and animals we humans have wiped off this planet, my quilt would cover all of Cosette, all of Minnesota.” Perhaps even the world.

Birdwatcher Arthur Turnstone bemoans the birds that are disappearing from the skies. In fact, nearly 3 billion birds have disappeared across the US and Canada since 1970. I know I have noticed fewer birds at my bird feeders. Have you?

Artist Nikki Diego is creating installations to protest climate change. The first installation is a large welded piece depicting a metal grasshopper sweeping the Earth with a broom, but the giant insect, the planet, even the broom appear to be flaking away into nothingness. “It says our way of life is deteriorating, and we don’t have the brains of a bug to stop it,” says Nikki.

As I am walking through the lushly colored autumn forests, I am grateful for this planet and all that it gives me. Nature renews me. But we can’t take it for granted. We have to put our money, energy, and ideas to ways to make a difference. As traveling librarian Helen Moongoose says in Up There, “We can’t recycle our way out of this mess.”


This is a “Story Behind the Story” of Up There. Find other inside peeks into my work in the On Writing Blog. Up There, the story of a woman who talks and plays with the wind, is available in paperback and eBook.