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Regeneration Part 2: Forests And Their Role In Climate Change

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In this series of mini-episodes, Corinna teases through the primary concepts of Paul Hawken’s book, Regeneration: Ending The Climate Crisis In One Generation. This week’s focus is on Forests, and their role in ending climate change. She provides an overview of the chapter’s 8 sections with relevant quotes from the book and commentary from her own experience. 

Time Stamps: 

00:00 Introduction 

02:30 A Regeneration-Oriented, Hopeful Mindset

04:08 Commit to Proforestation #1

04:49 Preserve Boreal Forests #2

06:35 Stop Clearcutting Tropical Forests #3

07:37 Commit to Afforestation #4

08:23 Preserve Peatlands #5

10:47 Promoting Agroforestry #6

11:57 Fire Ecology and Managing Undergrowth (using indigenous knowledge to initiate controlled burns) #7

14:39 Bamboo A Marvelous, Versatile Plant #8

16:13 Which Will You Champion? 

17:08 Preview of Regeneration Part 3: Wilding

Works Mentioned:

Regeneration: Ending The Climate Crisis In One Generation was published on September 21, 2021 and is available at all your favorite booksellers. Visit the Regeneration website for details, resources, and valuable tools for anyone interested in becoming a climate activist. 

Regeneration + Nexus: 


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Hello Fellow Do-Gooders & Friends! I am your host, Corinna Bellizzi. I should call you Regenerators this week, since this is my second installment of my deep dive into Paul Hawken’s Regeneration: Ending The Climate Crisis In One Generation.

As always, I provide show notes, links to everything we discuss, and a full transcription of this podcast on our website: – so if any of this compels you and you want to dig deeper, just visit the show website. While you’re at it, I hope you’ll consider becoming a member and supporter of the show. Our members receive special perks, exclusive content, and early access to shows. To find out more, about Patreon membership, one-time donation support, and our etsy shop, visit the Show Support page on Once show costs are covered, we will donate surplus funds to charities that support social causes and the health of our planet. 

As we commence today’s show, I want you to think about a time when you’ve been surrounded by nature, in the middle of a forest. Think about the sights, smells, and sounds around you. Forests are full of a quiet power because they are full of life. You may not always see signs of life at first glance, but if you look closely — beneath your feet, and in the trees — you’ll soon realize it’s all around you.

Forests have been seen as a resource by landowners for a long, long time. Their tall trees become timber, helping us build our homes – but what many forget is that when we harvest trees, especially when we clear cut mountains, we are destroying an entire, deeply connected ecosystem. That once-thriving ecosystem, once laid bare, has lost its ability to sequester carbon from our atmosphere. It’s prone to erosion, which can result in mudslides and of soil degradation.

If we instead, were to select trees without clearcutting, preserving the diversity of the ecosystem, the forest could continue to thrive, supporting life within and preserving its ability to sequester carbon and produce oxygen. The 2.2 trillion tons of carbon stored in forests could remain right there – instead of dispersing it through clear cutting – But a more mindful method isn’t commonplace.

Though we continue to clearcut forests around the globe – there is hope. Forests can be restored. But the effects of global warming – including megadroughts and megafires – make this task ever more difficult. As I detail what’s wrong, and where solutions may lie – I want you to hold on to something. Understand that there is a regenerative solution to all the problems we face with regard to climate change – and it starts with us simply having this very important conversation. Each of us can have impact. We can write our congresspeople, shift our purchasing habits. We can organize. We can build a system in which we thrive together – an activistic community of support. So even as we dig through this together, and even when it seems bleak – keep that in your mind. We can regenerate. OK Here goes!

#1 Proforestation: Proforestation is exactly that. It’s “Pro” forests. It preserves swaths of forests intact as opposed to logging them for timber, even selectively – because what we once thought was true of old growth trees isn’t. You see, we used to think that as they approached the end of their lives, they didn’t sequester much carbon – but that’s simply not true. New growth trees take a long time to mature to the point where they would rival an old growth tree, this means preserving old growth forests is key. Cutting down one tree and replacing it with another isn’t enough to make up for the loss. Logically this all makes sense… We should avoid

#2 Protect Boreal Forests: The Boreal Forests form the largest intact forest system in the world, from Canada to Alaska, to Scandinavia, Russia and northern Japan. Evergreens of all sorts, mosses, lichen, deer, bison, caribou, lynx, wolves, bear. It covers 1.2 billion acres. Here I’ll quote Paul Hawken’s Book: Regeneration, page 39: “The boreal has the highest carbon density of any region on earth, with more carbon below the ground that intact tropical forests have above the ground. The forests hold 1.140 billion tons of carbon in soil and biomass, 50% more than what is in the atmosphere. The damp, cold conditions in the boreal prolong decay and create carbon-rich bogs and peatlands. When boreal forests are harvested and clear-cut, the disturbance dries out the soil, which creates carbon emissions greater than the loss of the trees”.  Recently, advocates for our climate have put forth proposals to set aside between 30 and 50% of nature for nature. This would mean no development, no harvesting. Let it simply be wild. The present goal is to set aside 30% by 2030. It is possible.

#3 Stop Clearcutting Tropical Forests: While forests can recover, and while trees can be planted to replace those that have been taken, it takes decades, even a century for the ecosystem to fully recover. The complexity of life in tropical forests, also known as “rainforests” house at least 2/3 of all species on earth, some of which are still being discovered. And now I’ll quote Paul Hawken’s Regeneration again: “Deforestation in the tropics is largely driven by the production of four commodities – cattle, soy, palm oil, and wood – much of which is exported.” Some of this can be tackled through individual choices, but much is controlled by industry – which is further controlled by regulations. And guess what? Activists can affect policy – it all starts with a conversation.

#4 Afforestation Projects: Earlier we talked about Proforestation – where we work to preserve existing forests. Afforestation is different. In this case we introduce trees to open spaces that weren’t previously forested or haven’t been in some time. China is actually leading the way in this arena – where after rampant flooding , the government seeks to plant 50 billion trees, creating a 3 thousand mile barrier, which they are calling “The Green Great Wall of China” along the Gobi Desert to halt storms.

#5 Preserve Peatlands: When I think of peatlands, I automatically think of the British Isles, and of peaty Scotches that I absolutely love – but did you know that more than 50% of the world’s peatlands are located in Indonesia? This includes Sumatra, Borneo, and the Malaysian state of Sarawak. As Paul Hawken points out in Regeneration – but these peatlands are far different from those of Scotland. On page 46, we learn

“In the tropics, trees in lowland swamp forests can grow to the height of a twenty-story building. The forests are flooded in the rainy season and later dominated by dark, tannin colored pools in the dry season”.

Unfortunately much of these peatlands have been destroyed and drained to create farmland. What’s more, by doing this, and by implementing slash-and-burn processes, incredible fire hazards are created. Fire ignites and when deeper layers of peat catch fire, forest fires spread in pockets through the peatland, erupting in unexpected locations as they burn through 5 or 10,000 years of stored fuel underground – and you guessed it – releasing that stored carbon into our atmosphere. So not only do we see a degradation in our ability to sequester carbon, we’re releasing much more.

OK – are you ready for a break? It’s hard to think about what we can do in the face of all these problems – but big questions will be answered as we continue through this work – and any of us, indeed all of us can work to compel industry and government to change their practices. The first step is awareness, and that’s where we are together at this moment. There are solutions afoot, like protecting mangrove forests, reducing our reliance on Palm oil, shifting our agricultural practices – and ultimately pushing forth the concept of Regeneration — keeping life at the center of each decision.

#6:  Promoting Agroforestry: What exactly is agroforestry? This can be divided into a few different categories. Alley Cropping – which looks a little more like traditional farming, includes the use of cover crops beneath trees or bushes that can be grazed by livestock. Silvopasture is the intentional integration of trees and livestock on the same land, and Forest farming where you grow crops under the protection of a managed tree canopy. Cacao trees are a common  forest farmed resource. Ultimately, each type of Agroforestry could be summarized as a synergistic farming method that integrates forest ecosystems and it can even incorporate animal husbandry.

#7: Fire Ecology: Controlled burns to clear underbrush have been used by indigenous people to manage land and forests for centuries – lighting strategic fires after a season’s rains. At that critical point in time, the tree cover is sufficiently hydrated to mostly survive, and the ash of the underbrush is able to give rise to new life. Without controlled burns, fire seasons, as we’ve seen, can get completely out of control. As Paul Hawken notes, Aboriginal people in Northern Australia have been able to successfully use properly timed small fires – resulting in a dramatic reduction in dangerous wildfires, burning 57% fewer acres. This has positively impacted greenhouse gas emissions, reducing them by 40%.

And Australia is doing something really cool to support this effort.

“Because Australia employs a cap and trade system whereby emitters compensate those who sequester or avoid emissions, the organizations using ancient burning techniques have earned $80 million, which they have reinvested into their communities for better education and hundreds of jobs.” – pg. 55  

It’s time for the rest of the world to look at controlled, seasonally timed, small burns to support our forest health, control underbrush, and reduce the likelihood of out-of-control fires like those we are seeing all over the globe today.

As we head into the 8th and final topic – of this week’s deep dive into Regeneration: Ending The Climate Crisis In One Generation by Paul Hawken, we get to talk about a marvelous tree-like grass that can tops the height of many forests around the globe – bamboo. This topic packs with it a heck of a lot of hope, as Bamboo is capable of sequestering 1/3 more oxygen than a similar parcel of forest while sequestering more carbon. It can grow on degraded land in either full sun or shade. It can be harvested with ease, and resprouts from roots.

And this may sound crazy – but it’s true. Giant Bamboo can grow up to 36 inches in a single day, reaching 90 feet in height at maturity. It can replace other, slower growing trees as a source for toilet paper with ease. It easily replaces hardwoods for building materials, servingware, and furniture and it can even be used as a replacement component in concrete. It also provides food – with delicious bamboo chutes added to many a soup or salad. Ultimately, while Bamboo can be insidious and tends to outcompete many other plants and trees when grown in a monoculture, it makes a great windbreak, soil stabilizer, and supports global cooling. It just needs to be managed appropriately.

So, as we wrap up this section of Regeneration, and our coverage of Forests, I ask a simple question. Which of these 8 do you think you could champion? Which interests you the most? Will you advocate for Proforestation and Afforestation? Or are you more interested in Preserving our Peatlands or Borneal and Tropical Forests? Perhaps you work in construction and want to advocate for more use of Bamboo in your building materials – or you are moved to advocate for controlled burns to protect our forests. No matter your area of interest, you can make a difference simply by sharing this podcast and, as a result, this incredible and important book with people in your life.

As I said in my interview with Paul, my copy is already well worn. It may have a coffee stain or two. It may have even suffered a pen mark or two from my toddler – and it is definitely serving its purpose.

In next week’s session, Part 3 in this series, we are going to dig into the concept of Wilding  — the next big section of Paul’s book. We’ll get to talk about Trophic Cascades, Grazing Ecology, Wildlife Corridors, Pollinators, Wetlands and more.  So in preparation for next week, get outside, enjoy a piece of nature – and spend some time in the great wild outdoors. It’s the perfect way to say goodbye to say hello to the shifting seasons as we enter fall in the Northern Hemisphere and Spring in the Southern.  

Thank you listeners, now and always for being part of this pod and this community because together, we really can do so much more!

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