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WENDY ELLIOTT: Starting the year off with inspirational reads

Wendy Elliott. File
Wendy Elliott. File - SaltWire Network

WOLFVILLE, N.S. - Two books I got over the holidays have stuck with me into the New Year. The first is My River: Cleaning up the LaHave River by Stella Bowles, with help from Anne Laurel Carter. It was a joy.

Not long ago, Stella was a Grade 6 student who got disgusted by not being able to swim in the river her family lives on near Bridgewater. She decided to do her science project testing the amount of sewage in the LaHave. She wanted to know if poop in water could make a kid sick.

With support from her parents and a local activist, she was able to show the sewer pipes draining into the river spread the fecal matter around. Stella turned into an environmental activist, putting up a large sign on the family property saying, “this river is contaminated with fecal bacteria.”

It wasn’t long before this spunky girl set up a Facebook page to highlight her testing results. She talked to municipal and provincial leaders. Before long, Stella caught the attention of the media.

Over two and a half years, she kept up her testing and the fight for a clean river. Her effort made the government and politicians embarrassed because straight pipes for sewage are illegal. Eventually a girl talking truth to power prompted a $15.7-million cleanup. She picked up national and international awards for her dedication, too.

Today this Lunenburg County youth is hopeful that in another four years she and her brother will be able to swim in the LaHave without the fear of illness. Stella will keep the fight for clean water going. She teaches other kids how to test and what to do if they find pollution. Her stance is simple, really: we have to do better at keeping our backyards clean.

What is so motivational about Stella’s story is how she lays out the baby steps of discovery to reach her goal. What a great young woman.

Hope Blooms: Plant a Seed, Harvest a Dream was the second book that turned up at Christmas. It’s part story, part cookbook profiling the group of Halifax children and teens who successfully appeared on Dragons' Den five years ago with their fresh herb salad dressings.

The non-profit organization called Hope Blooms was founded about a decade ago. Jessie Jollymore, who is a dietitian at the North End Community Health Centre, believed that children from the inner city should know where their food comes from.

They took on an abandoned plot of land, began growing tomatoes and making salsa. Today, their dressings are carried in Atlantic Superstores.

It’s quite a journey that Jollymore sets out and one of the first kids who appeared on Dragons' Den, Mamadou Wade, explores in this book. Now a university student, he and the other participants receive $3,000 every year they are in post-secondary school - all from the profit on salad dressing.

The book, which could have used an editor, outlines

a fertile initiative. Hope Blooms has partnered with a co-op that is helping single mothers in Senegal start a line of fair trade teas. They have a green house, but are running out of space and want to build a community kitchen.

Seems to me kids today are showing adults up pretty regularly. In India students from one middle school made a powerful statement recently. They collected more than 20,000 plastic food packages in less than two weeks, sorted them out and mailed them back to the manufacturers.

A letter from the students went with the wrappers. In it they asked the firms to introduce eco-friendly packaging, according to the Times of India. Local politicians then called on the companies to come up with an action plan to clean up the mess with a deadline.

Fifteen-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden has inspired her peers from all over Europe to take to the streets to demand greater action to combat climate change. Thunberg, who began a solo climate protest in August by striking every Friday, has accused world leaders of behaving like irresponsible children by not doing enough to address climate problems.

In Switzerland more than 20,000 students from schools and colleges in 15 cities took part in a recent action. Organizers have said another strike is planned for Feb. 2. As Benjamin Disraeli once said, the youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity. Now we might say the youth of this globe need to lead us.

Former Advertiser and Register reporter Wendy Elliott, now retired, is a freelance journalist living in Wolfville.

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