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The Big Book For the Planet


This is the story my grandmother told me once long ago when I was a child. We were on a boat sailing across the sea looking for a new home.
"When I was a little girl like you," she began; I lived on Great Coral Island. Once our home had been a place of beauty. But all the islanders had many children, and little by little the people cut down the forests. Then the sun scorched the earth, the water dried up, and the crops withered and died.
So our family sailed off, looking for a new place to live. We sailed for many days, and I was afraid that we would never find land. But at last an island appeared on the horizon. It sat like a jewel in the vast green sea, shimmering a deep, dark emerald green.
We landed on the island and found clear streams that provided water and rivers teeming with fish. We named it Emerald Island.
Our families grew as the years went by, until a hundred people lived on Emerald Island. Each person drank the island's water, ate the island's fruit, and cut down the island's trees for houses and firewood.
I grew up and married and myself had ten children. By then most of the trees were gone, and the island was baked by the sun. Emerald Island was no longer green. The crops withered and turned brown. There was no longer enough for everybody. I did not have food to feed my children. I lost five of them and my husband to hunger.
Emerald Island had become too crowded. By the time you were born, there were hundreds of people living there-on a barren island. There has never been enough for you to eat. You children know hunger all too well. And that is why thirty of us have decided to leave Emerald Island and look for a new place to live."
That was the end of my grandmother's story.

We had lost sight of Emerald Island within a few hours. For days we sailed. Like my grandmother so many years before, I was afraid that we would not find another island. Nobody knew where we were going. We just followed the winds. Finally we saw land.
We arrived at a large island and stared in wonder at the beauty of the green forest. Fish filled the streams of cool water that rushed through the forest. The trees were heavy with fruit. We called it Hope Island.
The next few years on Hope Island were indeed full of hope and happiness. For the first time in my life I always had enough to eat!
I grew up and married a fine young man. We had a daughter. Other people had children, too. There were now eighty people on the island. Many of the trees had been cut, so there was not much fruit. The streams did not rush through the forest as fast, and they were not full of fish. Still, we were full of hope.
But one evening, my grandmother asked everyone t gather together. She told us that she probably did not have much time left to live and there was something she wanted to say before she died.
My daughter sat at her feet as I had done so many years before, when I was a little girl. My grandmother told of how, as a child, she and her parents had sailed away from the parched Great Coral Island. She told of finding Emerald Island, so lush and green, with food and water for all, and of her sadness upon leaving it, crowded, brown, parched and dry.
"We ruined Emerald Island," she said. "We made it a desert, and now we are doing the same thing to Hope Island. There are too many of us. Fewer people would eat less fruit and fish. There would be enough for all-for us, our children, and our children's children.
When my grandmother finished, there was silence. Then my daughter spoke: "Mother and Father, we're so happy- just the three of us. Could our family stay the same?"
I looked at her and at my grandmother. "Yes," I answered. "Our family is just the right size for a family on Hope Island."
That night my grandmother died, but her words stayed with us. We have been on Hope Island for 50 years. Now I am the wise old woman of the island. Each year I tell my grandmother's story of sailing from island to island. We 70 Hope Islanders are happy and well fed. Our island shimmers a deep, dark green, like a jewel in the vast green sea. There is a bright future for our children and our children's children on Hope Island.