In 2022, after a decade of worsening symptoms that included erratic energy as well as digestive issues – and plenty of gaslighting – I was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was serious enough that even after every visible trace had been removed I needed to undergo chemotherapy treatments. Just as I should have gotten the attention I needed earlier, climate scientists should have been heeded when we were at “crisis,” not “emergency.” But once we identify the causes and agree on the treatments, improvements can be seen immediately.

Just as we could excise malignant cells from my body, we can stop the activities that are causing so much damage to our atmosphere, and we could do it immediately. There will still be leftover damage, just as cancer can leave scars or metastasis even after it’s been removed. However, as someone who focuses on agricultural solutions, I continue to be amazed by how quickly many of those scars can be healed once we start to, literally, put the carbon back where it belongs. Carbon drawn down from the atmosphere enriches our soils and strengthens the microbial networks which make our plants – and trees, and everything that lives off of them – stronger in turn.

Just as millions like me can recover from a cancer that could have killed us a decade ago, the Earth can recover from centuries of pollution and hubris – and like me and other survivors, it can come back stronger than ever. I have experienced my t’shuvah, my return to myself, and I still see opportunities for the Earth – and everyone on it – to experience the same.

Deb Nam-Krane is a mother, wife, writer, environmentalist, and gardener in Boston.

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