Way back in January of 2018, while on my negligible commute, I tuned in to Minneapolis Public Radio for the local angle on NPR’s special series, “Abused and Betrayed.

The conversation concerned the silent epidemic of sexual abuse among people with intellectual disabilities. It was guided by Marianne Combs, who was joined by NPR correspondent and special-series investigator Joseph Shapiro, sexuality educator Katie Thune, and attorney Patrick Noaker.

The guests’ words were powerful, but my driveway moment was attributable to the anguish expressed by the stories of parents and caregivers who called in to discuss the abuse sustained by their loved ones with disabilities.

The voice of an elderly woman who discussed the exploitation of her adult son was particularly memorable, and devastating. Her son has a traumatic brain injury, and, although able to live independently, he has limited cognition and social awareness. Years ago, a powerful man in the community approached him with a sexual proposition, claiming the arrangement would help “relieve stress” and allow the powerful man to “do his job better.” Her son agreed to the arrangement, believing that his actions were necessary and that he would be paid for the them.

Later, when her son learned of the man’s death, he explained to his mom that he would be inheriting money and why. While his mom was, of course, shocked and furious, the revelation fractured every member of the family. When the son didn’t receive money, he couldn’t understand why and accused his mother and siblings of stealing it.

The suffering communicated in the mom’s voice—an inexcusable exploitation, a  wracked family, a compromised community, and a deceased man never held accountable for abuse—compelled me to reach out to Katie Thune to ask about turning her educational curriculum, Sexuality for All Abilities, into a book.

This week, I am very proud to say, Routledge released Sexuality for All Abilities: Teaching and Discussing Sexual Health in Special Education. We created it to give educators and others the tools and confidence required to teach topics in comprehensive sex education in the context of special education. In it, we draw on the expertise of educators, the experience of teachers, the stories of parents and caregivers, and the words of people with disabilities to inform lessons on healthy relationships, public and private spaces and behaviors, consent, hygiene, and other important topics necessary for living an informed life.

The book is a useful resource in and out of the classroom, but it’s also a contribution to the better civilization we strive to build—a civilization in which we acknowledge a wide range of individuals with varying abilities, and in which we seek to supply the education necessary to live as fully, safely, and with as much autonomy and pleasure as possible.

It’s Earth Day, which means Transform Yourself with Climate Truth, my book with Margaret Klein Salamon, is now available from New Society! But because we’re quarantined in a pandemic while radical pro-gun extremists bully nurses, doctors, and state governments to sacrifice the weak—as if that’s a meaningful solution to the precarious futures of important industries (like publishing)—it’s a muted celebration.

Earth Day was established in 1970 on the presumption that Americans deeply cared about the environmental damage wreaked by industrial development. Bipartisan, cross-generational, and cross-class supporters verified this belief, publicly recognizing our fundamental human reliance on a healthy environment for sustenance.

Although the recognition is often collapsed into a niche interest in  “environmentalism,” it’s an extension of fact: We can’t bear children, raise children, be children, grow into adults, or function as adults without the benefit of clean air, good food, and drinkable water. This is the requirement of every member of our species, whether or not we care about sustaining the planet beyond our mere survival.

Today, care—such a crucial requirement for change—feels like a scarce resource. Callous examples of leadership reinforce the sense of finitude: Trump’s pride in his antipathy seems to inspire those who enjoy participating in a rigid Darwinian contest where every resource is limited. In this game, sacrificing the weak is the only available strategy for defining the strong.

Then, of course, there are those who must attend to so many pressures from so many sides that care can only be parceled out on an as-needed basis. COVID-19 has simply made manifest this pressure: Who can care about anything else when a minimum of 45,000 Americans are dead and 22 million Americans are unemployed?

When care is considered finite—whether because it serves “the strong” or preserves “the weak”—it can be utilized only as an aid to survival.

Yet care is not essentially limited. In Transform Yourself with Climate Truth, Margaret argues that our environment is essential to our practical and spiritual lives, and we must care enough about it to prioritize its preservation. It’s not just a practical decision; it’s also an emotional one. The book guides readers to welcome the pain contingent on caring, because, by welcoming the pain, we can expand our capacity to care.

Margaret is a psychologist, and she knows from personal and professional experience that caring can hurt. In fact, to care is rooted in Germanic Old English to sorrow or to grieve. While our desire to avoid pain is natural, it is not possible. And because it limits our ability to feel and thus to empathize, it should not be desirable. Pain is a part of life, sometimes a very big part of life: When we learn not just to withstand that pain but to welcome it, we become truly strong because we become capable of infinite care.