2020 is over, and what a crazy year it was. When I look back to the beginning of the year, and my first days at Theodore Payne Foundation, it’s remarkable how different the world was then. I had never heard of Zoom, worn a face mask, or thought about how many feet away I was from the person standing next to me. Here we are a year later, and all of those things have become a normal part of daily life. The first days of 2021 have been equally intense, and the events that took place in Washington DC yesterday were deeply disturbing.
Theodore Payne Foundation is not an overtly political organization. We approach our work with a spirit of community and openness, and focus on inspiring people to take an active part in restoring nature in Southern California. On a local scale, there are political issues relating to Southern California landscapes which we support, such as the excellent recent decision by the LA city council to add Toyon and Mexican elderberry to the list of trees protected from development in the city. But by and large, we stay outside of the larger political realm, and focus on our mission and providing the plants, seeds and education that Southern Californians need to transform the landscape. This year, we put a lot of attention into making those efforts more inclusive across the diverse communities of the region, and we look forward to ramping up this outreach work in 2021 and beyond.
As individuals, we watched in horror over the past several months as the Trump administration tried to subvert the democratic will of American citizens and stoked conspiracy theories and violence. Like so many things that occurred during the last four years, it broke basic standards of human decency, truthfulness, and shared reality. We were disturbed by the politicians in congress who enabled this to happen, and the tepid response from police to a hostile takeover of the US capitol. Coming on the heels of four years of Trump policies which degraded the environment, human rights, and social equality, it was an especially dark moment in history. In spite of all of that, I can’t help but feel hopeful for the days ahead.
On a personal level, some of that hope comes from a new administration, a new congress, and local leaders who are interested in the things that I care about (such as the environment, social justice, and education.) On a professional level, that hope comes from the community that surrounds Theodore Payne Foundation. During 2020, a year which put many small businesses and nonprofits in great peril, you came forward to support this organization, and made it stronger than ever during the process. The entire native plant industry is growing thanks to you, and with that growth comes tangible progress towards restoring nature and learning how a densely populated area can thrive in relationship with its unique local environment.
I will do everything I can to continue to grow that enthusiasm in 2021 and beyond, and I hope you will join me. It can start small, by planting a native plant, by taking a friend who’s never left the city on a hike, or by writing a letter to your leaders asking them to work on behalf of the local environment. I am hopeful that this decade will see great progress in the movement to preserve biodiversity, and that Southern California will be a trend setter and leader in that effort. Happy 2021 to all.