Abby and Wendy - Episode 38

THE STUDENTS AGAINST FOSSIL FUELS EVENT

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Illustration By Carlos Uribe

Lluvia woke Phoebe and Abby at 7:15am. “Alex went out for breakfast treats,” she said. “He’s really trying to please you. We’re both hoping to see more of you.”

In ten minutes, the group crowded around the kitchen table, pouring coffee and eating bagels and egg salad, with sliced apples on the side. Isaiah seemed happy, looking forward to meeting Sharon on the River Queen at 10am.

Alex barely ate or talked at all, spending all his time sending and receiving messages. “I promised Sara and Amy we’ll meet them at Hamilton Hall twenty minutes. They want to have a meeting around the STAFF table on that hill overlooking the entrance. People are hyper.” The group hurried through their breakfast, gulped their coffee, and gave Isaiah hugs and encouragement. Alex was still answering texts. “It looks like the rain will hold off until evening,” he said. “Come on, let’s do this.”

A cool wind was blowing on a gray, overcast day. They hurried across the campus to a building far from the dormitories. A wide lawn and flower gardens surrounded this formal old building that used to be the university president’s mansion. Evansville College was about a hundred and fifty years old. Alex was taking his role as an activist and their host very seriously. He’s doing it all to impress Lluvia, thought Abby.Well, more power to them. I think I’m jealous.

They walked up a long path on rising ground, and suddenly found themselves on a small hill with a wide view of Hamilton Hall and the river beyond. Part way down the hill a convenient level spot was bustling with a crowd drinking coffee around a folding table. Students were talking, texting, and calling friends to get them out of bed. When they noticed Lluvia, Abby, Phoebe, and Alex everyone turned to stare. Phones disappeared. Sara called to them, and made introductions as they arrived.

“I know we all have questions for our guests,” she said. “We’d love to chat, but let’s put that off until after the event. We have details to cover... As I was saying, we’ll have five campus security to help us. Most of you know Little John, who will be the boss.” Sara turned to Abby, Phoebe, and Lluvia. “That’s John Little, head of security. He’s big and strong and in charge, so his presence should be enough to stop any disruptions. Sorry to say this over again, but our responsibility today is to actually have a discussion and make sure people can be heard and understood. So, we don’t want signs, chanting, and nasty comments. Please, point out disrupters to security, and they will do their job. We need this crowd to hear what the trustees are saying. If no one hears them, Professor Richardson’s reply will make no sense. Our goal is to become a part of the decision-making process. That will take winning the respect of the crowd, and the wide world through the press and social media. Any questions?”

Students and faculty had been arriving as Sara spoke. Reporters had come early and taken the space in front. A WBCS crew set up video cameras and sound equipment. Abby noticed older men in suits passing by a security guard into Hamilton Hall.

Alex spoke up. “After what you’ve said, I feel a bit guilty seeing our banner with my print hanging between those two trees. Shouldn’t we all avoid signs?”

“We’re sponsoring this event,” Sara replied. “We’ll answer questions, we have a first aid kit, we’ll be able to assign security. So, people need to know who we are and where we are.”

“Got it.”

Sara turned to Abby. “Having you here today is both an advantage and a disadvantage. I’m sure your presence will be noticed. People will want to talk to you, and some may want you to address the crowd... What would you like to do?”

Abby was sure of her answer. “I just want to be here and listen. I will not address the crowd or give interviews.”

“Good, very wise. I’m assigning Little John to stay with you as much as possible. Stand close to your friends, and be firm. Okay, it’s... almost 8:45. I see Professor Richardson and his colleagues over there. I’ll have to speak to them. Sometime soon I’ll have to open the event and introduce Jay Wellington, Dean of Students. Other questions?”

“What happened to Amy?” someone asked. “I don’t see her.”

“I’m not sure, but you know she always has a good reason for what she does... anything else? Well, talk to each other, feel free to bring up any questions later. There’ll be no rain, don’t worry. Give me your hand! Thanks everyone!” They all clustered together and slapped hands held high in the air like a sports team before the game.

Two students arrived with fresh coffee, apples, and bananas. Another arrived with bagels. The table became crowded. Time went by. STAFF members combed the area, reminding people to pick up any debris from their surroundings. After half an hour the crowd began to separate off into small groups. Some students were looking impatiently at the time, checking their email, texting, talking on their phones. A few were hurrying off to other appointments.

Sara sent her staff around promising a surprise in a few minutes. Ishmael, George, and Eddy carried instruments down to the stage, moved a few chairs aside, and set up a small amplifier. George tried out the microphone set up behind the podium. It was already turned on, clearly intended for the trustees to use when they were ready to explain their decisions.

The band made themselves at home and began to tune up. Students jostled for seats near the stage, and got back on their phones to call their friends. Sara appeared on the stage to say a few words.

“Friends, students, and faculty! We’ve been preparing for this event since last spring. Let’s not lose patience. We are determined to see this dialogue take place, right here, today. We’ll wait as long as necessary. Please remember, we’ve been hoping for years, decades, to see any progress on the climate crisis, species extinction, and the related issues that threaten the future of our world. So, stay right here and support our right to influence where the trustees invest our money. Do we want Evansville College to be dependent on an income that contributes to the destruction of our future?”

The crowd roared. Sara had caught their attention.

“And to make this waiting-time special for all of you, we have three members of the Thunder Rolling Band to play new songs, music you’ll be hearing for the first time.”

People clapped and cheered. Sara left the stage and Ishmael and George moved close together at the mike. Ishmael – smiling and waving to friends in the audience – said: “It’s great to be here! George and I just finished this song last week. This gathering today – and all our efforts – are small steps to deal with the global emergency. We wrote this song with that in mind. It’s called, We All Know Why.”

George played the chords, and Eddy found the rhythm on the conga drums. Ishmael joined in with a harsh, jabbing lead guitar solo. George began to sing:

We live near a river that goes roaring by
It’s in our streets and houses, sometimes people die Things have changed around here, things have changed, Do you know why?
You think our children gonna live here?
You oughta hear them cry

Our family’s on a farm that’s generations old
You know we’re proud to be here for a hundred years I’m told But now it’s strange, it never rains
Do you know why?
You think our children gonna live here?
Well you oughta hear them cry

Fishing for a living’s not an easy job I know We’ve been working at it for a century or more But now the fish are gone, they’re all gone
Do you know why?
You think our children gonna live here
Well you oughta hear them cry

This used to be a quiet town till the wild fires came Everyone is homeless now, we all feel the pain Everything’s changed, it’s strange
Do you know why?

You think our children gonna live here Don’t you hear them cry?

All over the world it’s been happening slow
But now it’s on our doorstep and everywhere we go
The slow death coming, it’s coming
And we all know why
Where you think our children gonna live now? Don’t you hear their cries?
Hear their cries
All over the world, hear their cries

During the song the huge double doors opened just a few feet, and out stepped a pale thin man in a dark suit. He looked over the crowd, listened for thirty seconds or so, and retreated back inside. Meanwhile the song ended. The audience was silent for a moment and then shouted for more. The band spoke a few words together, and George played a chord. Suddenly the doors opened wide. A handsome man in his thirties, wearing jeans and a brown sport jacket, quickly approached the microphone. Ishmael and George stepped aside. Eddy carried his drums off the stage.

The man gave a broad smile, thanked the band, and nodded to the audience. “Hello students, faculty, and guests! Most of you know me, I’m Jay Wellington, Dean of Students. Sorry for the delay.” He smiled again at the very large crowd, which had been growing over the past twenty minutes. “The trustees have asked me to make a request. It’s just a suggestion that might help us understand each other and work together. We realize that a discussion with so many people will be almost impossible, so we’re inviting one or two of you to speak to the board inside, and then report the substance of the conversation back to all of you. Perhaps one student and one faculty member would be appropriate? Sara, I know your group is sponsoring this... event? Rally? Perhaps you can choose a faculty member to accompany you to the discussion?”

Sara walked up to the microphone. Jay Wellington held his ground in front of the mike, forcing Sara to nudge him to the side. She stood so that she could address him and the audience at the same time.

She spoke slowly and clearly to absolute silence. “Jay, thanks for inviting me. We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well in the four meetings that were necessary to plan this... gathering. We call it a ‘gathering’ of students, faculty, and trustees. You’ll recall that we specifically planned to have a public... a public conversation that could be understood by anyone wishing to attend. Of course, we don’t expect our audience to all enter the discussion. But we did agree that they should be able to hear it and make their own judgement on the issues we are trying to resolve. We agreed that at least the executive committee of the trustees would actually appear and publicly announce their position. Then a faculty member and a student would have a chance to reply, followed by an opportunity for questions. Also, the trustees promised to hand out a written summary of their position. Hopefully we’ll see that before the meeting is over.”

Jay Wellington stepped away from the mike, motioning to Sara to have a few words on the side. But Sara held her ground, refusing a private conversation. The Dean returned to the mike, but had lost his smiling, affable manner. He couldn’t keep a note of anger out of his voice.

“I’m sorry you’re being so difficult. You know I’ve been doing my best to reconcile these very different... sometimes conflicting interests and goals. In situations like this a compromise may be the best we can do.”

As he paused there was an undertone of whispers and a shaking of heads from the audience. One voice shouted, “Let me get this straight. Who’s being difficult?”

Sara immediately chided her audience, reminding everyone of their commitment to civility and mutual respect. In the silence that followed Jay Wellington gave a weary sigh and shook his head. “I’ll do my best,” he said, but his voice implied a sense of hopelessness. He walked off.

Meanwhile Abby struggled with her own fears and conflicts. She longed to find a way to greet George and hopefully talk to him at least a little bit. Her intuition told her it would be nice for both of them. But she noticed people watching her, pointing, and making comments that she couldn’t quite hear. Fearing it was all in her mind, she was overjoyed when Little John, over six and a half feet tall and very formidable in his campus security uniform, moved over and stood next to her.

“Better stay with me,” he whispered.

She gave a sigh of relief. But still... she thought. It’s not just the crowd. There’s muttering like what I heard underground. Wendy warned me not to follow it... but why am I hearing it now, so far from the tunnels under Hidden Valley? I’ve got to get my mind off this!

But every time the Dean of Students spoke she could hear vague murmuring in the background, like a multitude of lost souls. I can’t take this! I’ve got to get out of here. The throng pressed in upon her as more and more people arrived, moving forward to hear what promised to be very riveting theater. Little John seemed to sense her nervousness, and patted her on the shoulder.

“Weird people arriving, but don’t worry,” he said. “I can handle it.” He held an oversize phone in his hand and occasionally spoke, giving instructions. Abby heard him say, “Yeah, send extras. Looks like something’s developing... Not sure, we’ll see.”

Her agony increased as the crowd waited for the next act. Finally, two security guards pulled open the enormous double doors, and four trustees in dark suits made their entrance. They barely glanced at the audience as they took seats behind the podium. Jay Wellington introduced them, but the murmuring inside Abby’s mind had become so loud that she couldn’t concentrate on their names. The Dean of Students stepped off the stage and began to talk to a group of professors that included Roberto Richardson.

The pale thin man rose and slowly seemed to float over to the mike. It was hard for Abby to guess his age. His thin hair seemed colorless. His features had no expression, manifested no emotion. His voice was flat, but his dark eyes darted around like little animals with a life of their own.

“I’m Bill Sandman, chair of our fiduciary committee. It’s our job to evaluate our investments and financial commitments, and do our best to fulfill the needs of Evansville College as presented to us by the administration and our executive chairman. Naturally, the financial security of the college is our highest priority.”

He paused, as if he expected some comment. “...our highest priority,” he went on. “My task is to make sure that we are faithful to the interests of this college. We cannot cede this responsibility to anyone. While we welcome the opportunity to listen to the ideas and recommendations of students and faculty, it remains our job, and our job alone, to make decisions to increase the endowment of Evansville College. But within those strict constraints there is some flexibility. I think you’ll find that Donald Irving, our investment advisor, can present opportunities for us to work together.”

No one clapped, or made any noise at all. People looked around as if confused or disoriented. Then a younger, more expensively dressed man rose from among the seated trustees, and walked confidently up to the microphone. He glanced at his watch and nodded to the crowd. “As Bill said, my area of expertise is the evaluation of our investments and the need, at times, to make changes. We have a substantial endowment, but our yearly expenses grow rapidly. We must be careful to generate an income that increases every year. Our scholarship fund, the salaries of our faculty, the maintenance of our physical plant, and the necessity of building dormitories as our college expands... I’m sure you can understand that fulfilling all these needs is not an easy task.

“I want you to know that we do consider environmental and moral issues when we invest. We already have restricted ourselves from new investments in fossil fuel corporations, as well as many enterprises with negative social impacts, such as the manufacture of assault rifles. Our annual report is available to the public for each year that passes. I must say we are proud of our strategies and our outcomes. After hearing from a faculty member and a student, I’ll be happy to take any questions, and hope we can share ideas for the benefit of all stakeholders in Evansville College.”

Bill Sandman walked over and joined his colleague at the mike. “Thank you, Donald, for all your help and years of service. Perhaps this would be a good moment to hear from a faculty member.” He nodded in to the group of professors and other staff. People in the crowd looked at each other in bewilderment, unable to believe that what they had heard was all that the trustees were offering. But Donald Irving took a seat, as Roberto Richardson said a few words to his colleagues. Then he spoke to George, who gave him a microphone attached to the amplifier used by the band.

“Please,” he said. “Bill or Donald, come back to the microphone. Let’s speak together and try to clarify this complicated subject. Hopefully we’ll make some progress.” The trustees hesitated and spoke in low undertones.

I can’t stand this! Abby was in a panic. What am I going to do? The murmuring and jabbering had grown louder, and become a wave of incomprehensible gibberish. She couldn’t tell what noise was coming from the audience and what was in her mind.

I’ve got to get out of here!

Donald Irving walked back to the mike, and Roberto joined him on the stage. “I understand that this is a confusing subject,” said Roberto in his most gentle manner. “I hope we can find a place to begin that we all agree on. I suggest that there are both objective facts and moral obligations facing all of us here at Evansville College. Let’s try to agree on these facts and obligations, and proceed from there.”

Roberto waited, as Donald Irving surveyed the crowd anxiously and looked at the trustees on either side of him and then at his audience. He gave a reply in a halting, uneven voice, full of long pauses:

“I think... we’ve already presented... the relevant facts and obligations. Our responsibilities and obligations to the needs of the college define this whole discussion. But perhaps... if there are questions... then...”

Roberto interrupted during another long pause. “Yes, thank you, we do have many questions. For example: Do you agree that the recent findings of the United Nations Intragovernmental Panel on Climate Change qualify as facts? If so, I hope we can agree that these findings create moral obligations for all of us.”

Donald Irving shook his head in frustration. “This line of questioning is really out of bounds. I have no expertise in science. It would be presumptuous, outside of my professional competence, to make a judgement on these findings. Any serious changes in our criteria to evaluate investments would have to come from the college president and the executive board.”

“Then perhaps we are speaking to the wrong people today. Are you saying that the climate crisis has no bearing on investments? Surely you will be examining the trends in energy technology in order to estimate future growth and returns on investment.”

“Yes, of course.” Donald was looking nervously at the trustees seated on both sides of the podium. Abby felt that he wanted one of his colleagues to rescue him from this loathsome predicament. “As I told you,” he continued, “we’ve already made a commitment to avoid further investments in fossil fuel corporations.”

“I understand. Was this commitment made for financial or ethical reasons?”

“Professor Richardson. I’m not here to be interrogated. I think the trustees have made their position quite clear. It’s time for you, representing students and faculty, to make your position clear.”

“Believe me,” the professor replied, “I understand that this is a stressful subject for all of us. I’m happy to change gears and speak directly to the audience. Thank you for your patience with my questions.”

Donald Irving nodded and sat in the row of chairs flanking the podium.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” began Roberto, “I want to thank all of you for your patience as well. I’ll present our position as briefly as I can.”

Staff and security were struggling to keep the audience quiet, as people tried to move around and talk to friends. Abby was aware that both students and adults were trying to approach her. Little John had engaged two other security guards to shield Abby. Lluvia and Phoebe politely but stubbornly warded off intruders. Feeling her heart beating and her breathing becoming a pant, she looked at the ground and met no one’s eyes.

Meanwhile, Roberto began his statement. “It’s very difficult for a complex community like Evansville College to make important decisions together when the participants are starting from different premises. The overwhelming majority of the students and faculty do accept the reports from the United Nations panel as facts and dire warnings. There is agreement among our most prominent scientific leaders that we have slightly more than ten years to make major changes in our global carbon footprint. If we fail at this task, irreversible changes will impact our globe, and change life on earth in devastating ways. I realize that there is a small minority who disagree, but if many doctors say that you have a dread disease and must make changes, and another doctor disagrees, you’ll probably make the changes to be on the safe side. And here the stakes are not just one person, not just one species, but all life on earth.”

The professor paused. The audience had become silent. No one moved.

“These scientific reports really exist. The research is real. The scientific community is real. We ignore them at our peril. These are facts. Now I’ll try to outline the moral issues. Here the discussion enters an area you can call spiritual, or religious. For example, there are social justice issues because – so far – climate change impacts poor countries and communities more than wealthy ones. The wealthy have a moral obligation to change this cruel and unfair crisis, and... they have the means to do so. Our various religions have strong words about our willingness – or lack thereof – to help those who suffer. Do the spiritual traditions of humanity matter? We ignore them at our peril.”

The audience clapped and cheered. Bill Sandman rose and spoke in Roberto’s ear. The professor stared off into the distance for a moment, and then said: “Bill tells me we’re running out of time. I don’t want to take any time that should be given to a speaker from the student body, so I’ll sum up our position. It is universally acknowledged that humans have created technology and power that can destroy all life. Do we have a moral obligation to life on earth? Do we have a moral obligation to the generations of humans, and of all species, waiting to be born? I believe we do. This moral and spiritual commitment must become the starting point for any discussion of investments, politics, and the decision-making process of any reputable organization, corporation, government, or institution. This is a universal challenge, affecting the way we live. It must be the first priority. After the collapse of civilization, what will our loyalty to Evansville College be worth?”

The audience cheered and clapped. In great agitation, Donald Irving rose and elbowed Roberto away from the mike. “I’m sorry, but I must bring some common sense to this dialogue. We also have an ethical obligation – right now, at this moment – to heat people’s homes, run a transportation system, put food on the table, run a university! All our myriad obligations do not disappear like magic because of a United Nations report. For example, our environmental groups on campus want to ban fracking. But we heat our dormitories and classrooms with fracked gas! And we have no solutions in place to banish fossil fuels, and will not have solutions for three decades at a minimum.”

“May I reply?” asked Roberto in a mild, very calm voice. “Yes, please do, if you can.”

“For the sake of discussion, let’s assume it will take three decades to become carbon free. No one is proposing banishing all fossil fuels tomorrow. We are proposing a path toward running our whole economy on renewable fuels. There are many options already in use that can be quickly expanded under the right conditions. Wind, solar, geothermal, and biogas come to mind immediately. We also need major changes in agricultural methods, and we need to expand forests and wild areas.”

Roberto looked over the audience. He seemed to stand up taller, and raised his voice: “We must begin to do these things now. We have wasted decades, and now we face an emergency. Let’s look at biogas for a minute. We know we can make fuel from organic waste, fuel that can substitute for fracked gas in important ways. Landfills of organic waste have a large carbon footprint because they emit methane into the atmosphere. We can take all that organic waste and make biogas and compost. It’s being done all over the world. Right now we pay to landfill the organic waste, and we allow the valuable methane to escape. We have the knowledge and expertise to do better. Why not invest in that?”

Roberto turned to the trustees to his right and left. “I’ve read the annual report of Evansville College. I estimate that about twenty percent of the endowment is invested in corporations that make money directly from mining and selling fossil fuels, and there are many more with an indirect relationship to fossil fuels. Why not sell those stocks and reinvest in renewable energy?”

Donald Irving eagerly took the mike. “Do you know,” he asked, “what would happen if all universities and pension funds followed your advice? I’m sure most of you have no idea. Such a policy would destroy our infrastructure. I would be fired for doing anything so stupid.”

“Okay... then as I understand it...” Roberto spoke softly, without hostility, “all the hundreds of endowments and pension funds that have already disinvested from the fossil fuel industry, or are doing so gradually, should already have bankrupted our country, even the whole globe. But that is not happening. Why do you think that is?”

Bill Sandman hurried to the mike again. In his flat voice, conveying no feeling at all, he said: “Thank you very much, Professor Richardson. We’re grateful for your ideas and suggestions. And now its time to hear from a student.”

The crowd was shocked. The trustee’s dismissal of Professor Richardson, a popular and respected faculty member, was unexpected and rude. But Sandman’s tone of voice was so void of any emotional cues that it was almost hypnotic. No one knew how to react. Abby struggled again with the endless sound of muttering, as if a million Bill Sandman’s were speaking.

Conversations broke out among small groups. The crowd expected Sara to take the stage, but the seconds flew by. Abby began to hear her own name, a sort of chant that grew in volume, and continued to grow until she fell into a major panic. She became aware of an argument between Little John and a woman. Turning her head, she saw Zoe pleading with Little John.

“Let me hear her,” Abby told him. “She’s with us!” Little John let her approach.

“It’s that Jerry Norris and a bunch of hired hands,” whispered Zoe. “They’re trying to create a mess, or make you look bad, or something. End this delay. Do something fast!”

Suddenly Sara joined them and said, “Abby, I’ve changed my mind. Please, go on stage and say something. You must, or we’ll have chaos. Just thank the crowd, tell them about the STAFF meeting tomorrow night in the student center. Thank Roberto. Even our friends are caught up in this outburst. You can’t walk out now, and I can’t fill your shoes. They want to see you.”

Abby put her face in her hands.

Sara leaned over and spoke in Abby’s ear. “This crowd is angry at the way the meeting is ending. They’re hoping for some inspiration. Come on, we’ll both go on stage.”

Abby had an idea. “Little John, Lluvia, wait for me right at those giant doors. After I speak we’ll escape through Hamilton Hall.”

Little John nodded. Abby rose and stepped up onto the stage. Sara took the mike and said, “We’re honored to welcome Abby Chapman to Evansville College, and to our student group. We hope to see her more often, and hope to visit her groups in Middletown and Rivergate.”

Sara looked at Abby.

A long round of applause rang out. Students raised their cell phones at arms length and snapped pictures. Oh, help me... thought Abby. I have no idea what I’m doing! She looked out on the vast crowd and saw friendly faces. The atmosphere became warm and welcoming. She found a few words that felt right.

“I’ve been wanting to come here for weeks.” Her voice rang out over the crowd, and all were silent. “So many here in Evansville have welcomed us, and we feel at home among you. And we’re eager to join you in events to come. I’m thinking particularly of the climate change conferences coming up in River City. I love it that we’re all living along the river, and I’ve dreamed of creating an armada of boats to travel to River City for the United Nations conferences. So, I hope we’ll be seeing a lot of each other. To the reporters and media people out there, I apologize for not granting interviews, but I’ve been overwhelmed and just need to be quiet for a while and stay with friends. We have others here today to represent Middletown and Rivergate.”

The crowd clapped and cheered. This was just the sort of thing they needed.

“So...” Abby continued, “our gratitude to all of you, and especially to Professor Richardson, STAFF members, the Thunder Rolling Band, and the trustees, for having the courage to work together and begin this conversation. I have just one request: Please continue this dialogue. I say this to all of you: Don’t give up. Remember: We’re all relatives.”

She bowed her head to thunderous applause, and then turned and joined Little John and Lluvia at the doorway. He escorted them inside and past the security guards. They hurried down a long hall paneled with dark wood.

Abby felt very secure with Lluvia and Little John. He clearly knew where he was going and what he wanted to do. Luvia was calm and seemed to be enjoying herself. They passed by a wide door that opened onto a large conference room. Paintings lined the walls. A well-dressed group including the trustees were talking and sampling an assortment of breakfast food on an enormous oval table. Abby glanced in and met the eyes of two women. Both were trustees of the United Church of Middletown. They froze in shock for a moment.

“Come on, come on!” hissed Lluvia. Abby tore herself away. They ran down the hall to catch up with Little John.

“Don’t stop like that,” he whispered.

They quickly descended two flights of stairs to a bare basement. He waited for them and asked, “Where do you want to go?”

Lluvia explained the way to Alex’s house. Little John unlocked a little used door and stepped outside. “The coast is clear,” he said.

He led them on small paths screened by trees, and soon they were off campus.

“Where are we?” Luvia asked.

“Let’s hurry,” he replied. “They might know about your house. Do you have the key?”

“No, but somebody might be there. If we’re locked out we’ll go straight to the dock. We’ll leave by boat.”

“Got it. I’ll keep anyone from following you right away by boat.”

Abby recognized the row of small brick houses. In a moment they rang Alex’s bell. He opened the door, they entered, and he closed it immediately. “They’re staked out in the archway across the street. What are you going to do?”

“Alex, this is Little John. He’ll escort us to Lluvia’s boat.”

“Ah! Excellent. Here’s your backpacks.” He looked at Abby. “I put something extra in yours.” He looked back at Lluvia and gave her a long hug. “Next Saturday,” he said. “Please come.”

She nodded happily.

“Come on,” Alex told them. They went out the back door, into a nearby yard, and came out on a back alley. Alex waved as the three fugitives continued almost at a run. In what seemed like no time at all they came out on the docks. Lluvia’s boat was now low in the water at low tide. She climbed down and started the electric motor. Soon they were quietly making their way upstream. Little John waved and gave them a thumbs up sign. They blew him kisses.

The Protectors of the Wood Eco-Fiction Adventure Series is an illustrated story of a group of teenagers who save the world from climate change. The themes include the power of relationships, realizing leadership, good versus evil, and the coming of age.

These teenagers find out who they are while dealing with the climate emergency and the conflicts that surround them in Middletown. The two main characters, Phoebe and Abby, work together to find solutions within their communities. 

The story begins with Phoebe coming home from college and discovering shocking changes threatening Middletown. A gigantic corporation threatens to destroy the land, legends, and heritage of her family and friends.

Phoebe and Abby unravel the secrets in their small town, and realize that they are all connected to a global conflict. They feel that all their hopes are in danger of being lost. They discover that they have the unique gift of seeing visions through DreamStone, a gem found deep under the vast forest preserve.

While searching for the secrets of DreamStone and their identities, Phoebe and Abby risk their lives to save the beautiful world around them called home.