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In this 6th installment of our deep dive into Paul Hawken’s New York Times Bestseller – Regeneration: Ending The Climate Crisis in One Generation, we dive into the 5th chapter as we cover the topic of People and our role in solving the climate crisis, reversing global warming.
We are asked to think about the role of colonialism in climate change, of its damaging effect on ecosystems as we knowingly or unknowingly eradicated the knowledge of generations who maintained forest farms and grasslands by pushing them off their homesteads.
It’s a call to action for all of us. We are one, and it’s time we start acting like it.
01:45 What we covered in Parts 1 – 5, and what’s next
02:25 Thoughts on Indigenous People
04:25 Neanderthals and the problem of “othering”
05:25 Colonialism is indigenous genocide
05:54 Say her name – Nemonte Nenquimo
07:00 The lies we’ve been told
08:00 The Doctrine of Discovery and the problem of colonial thinking
09:12 The Forest As A Farm by Lyla June Johnston
10:12 Fire as a forest tending tool
11:45 Education and access rights for women
12:53 Leah Penniman and Soul Fire Farms
14:30 Black Communities and Regenerative Agriculture
16:00 Mary Reynolds – Acts of Restorative Kindness and Building An Ark For Life
17:13 Ellen Dorsey – Philanthropy Must Declare A Climate Emergency
18:30 A Call To Action: We Are One, And It’s Time We Started Acting Like It!
Introduction to Regeneration: One Billion Climate Activists Strong: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/one-billion-climate-activists-strong/
Regeneration Interview with Paul Hawken: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-ending-the-climate-crisis-in-one-generation/
Regeneration Part 1: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part-1-oceans/
Regeneration Part 2: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part-2-forests/
Regeneration Part 3: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part-3-wilding/
Regeneration Part 4: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part-4-nexus-climate-activism-tool/
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: https://www.regeneration.org
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Regeneration: Part 6 – People
Welcome fellow regenerators! This is the 6th installment in my coverage of Regeneration – and I’m beginning to understand that this may just be the beginning. I decided this week to re-name the by-line of my show from “Care More Be Better: a social impact and sustainability podcast” to “Care More Be Better: Social Impact, Sustainability and Regeneration NOW!” The “Now” at the end may give you an inkling that this – all of this — is a call to action. We must change how we do this thing called living to regenerate our social systems and earth. It’s time.
If you’re just discovering this podcast, and this Regeneration series, I encourage you to go back to my first coverage of this topic. The Friday before I would interview Paul Hawken on his book, I recorded a 7 minute “minisode” introducing the topic. From there, we had the interview of Paul Hawken himself, followed by this series which is a deep dive into his new book — Regeneration: Ending The Climate Crisis In One Generation. It’s already a New York Times Bestseller, and I am thrilled I may have played some small part in its success – because it really is an Activists guide book for how to reverse global warming.
In Part 1, we dove into Oceans, then in Part 2, we wandered through Forests. With Part 3, we explored Nexus, the activist tool showcased on regeneration.org, the website that accompanies his book. In Part 4 we explored all things Wild. With part 5 we covered Land – and finally discussed the topic of Regenerative Agriculture. This week, in Part 6 we’re going to talk about PEOPLE.
As I begin today’s coverage of Regeneration – it’s Indigenous People’s Day. So, as we get started I invite you to reflect on your knowledge of indigenous people around the world. How do you see them? Do you only think of Native Americans? Or are you drawn to visions of the first people of the Amazon rainforests, Aboriginals of Australia, or Pacific Islanders? Do you think back to childhood games like Cowboys and Indians? I imagine in some way, we all do. It comes from the stories we’re told and a general lack of exposure to the reality that was. It’s almost impossible to really see the truth behind the watered down origin stories of people that are now mostly gone, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. We have a lot to learn from the indigenous people that remain.
The topics we’ll cover today – include indigeneity, clean cooking, eradicating food deserts and we’ll even revisit the role you can play in being a good steward of wild land. As we cover each topic, think about what you know, and what you might need to unlearn or un-know. Here are some of the general thoughts that swam through my head as I read this chapter.
For my undergraduate degree, I explored the world of Anthropology. It started with an exploration of cultures and got more and more scientific as I gravitated towards the harder science of human origins. I loved thinking about a time when we inhabited the same space as our not-too-distant relatives, the Neanderthal. I enjoyed looking to the hard evidence of what was left behind – rather than relying on oral histories or written stories of what was. It felt like somehow, the evidence could be more true if it left behind a physical presence that was uncolored by perspective. But in thinking that way, I closed myself to the knowledge provided from those stories, negating the importance of oral traditions. The knowledge that is passed from grandparent to parent to child — From elders to their communities – is critically important to our survival.
And if you read Jane Auel’s books – The Clan of The Cavebear series – you may recall that she depicted Neanderthals having a sort of genetic memory – a knowledge of what was – other than what they learned during their living days. They used ceremony, and the spirits as guides to work through their biggest challenges and know the unknowable. Really, how they were shaped in her books was an not-too-subtle nod to nations of indigenous Americans. Looking at those very books today it’s so very easy to see all the prejudice wrapped in them. She depicted the Neanderthal as “other” and while “other” isn’t necessarily bad, the Neanderthal were portrayed as having less creativity and industriousness than their European counterparts. The very same way colonists saw first peoples all over the globe. It’s the age-old story of conquest. By “othering” a group, we de-emphasize their humanity, which can lead to some pretty awful stuff. Mousing around today, I saw photographs from a protest. A man of African descent held a sign that said “colonialism is indigenous genocide”. How sad and how very true.
Say Her Name
So how do we unlearn to see indigenous people as “other”. How do we learn to see the value of the generational knowledge they hold with the same gravity as scientists and globalists who have built our modern world? How do we get to a place where we value the contribution of people like Nemonte Nenquimo as much or more than Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. I know some of us do, but far too few.
So with that, I’ll share why Nemonte Nenquimo is a name that should be on your lips. Nemonte is a member of the traditional Waorani community who dwell in the lowlands of eastern Ecuador. She was initially educated in a missionary school but rebelled and became an activist, co-founding the Indigenous-led Ceibo Alliance. Under her leadership, they succeeded in thwarting the oil exploration plans of half a million acres of Amazonian rainforest in 2019 – when a three-judge panel in Ecuador ruled in her favor.
She wrote a “Letter to Nine Leaders”, featured in Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis In One Generation which began “My message to the western world – your civilization is killing life on Earth.”
Her chilling and descriptive prose begs us to rethink the lies we’ve been. This is from page 123:
“When you say that the oil companies have marvelous new technologies that can sip the oil from beneath our lands like hummingbirds sip nectar from a flower, we know that you are lying because we live downriver from the spills. When you say that the Amazon is not burning, we do not need satellite images to prove you wrong; we are choking on the smoke of the fruit orchards that our ancestors planted centuries ago. When you say that you are urgently looking for climate solutions, yet continue to build a world economy based on extraction and pollution, we know you are lying because we are the closest to the land, and the first to hear her cries.” – Nemonte Nenquimo, Letter to Nine Leaders
What does the simple story she shares tell us about our own prejudices? I’ll quote one phrase from that paragraph again. “We are choking on the smoke of the fruit orchards that our ancestors planted centuries ago.”
When colonizers first landed on the coasts of North America and South America, they thought the land they “discovered” was untended. They held in their hands Papal Decrees that came from the 15th century, known as the “Doctrine of Discovery”, which laid the foundation for flag planting by Christian Monarchs. This enabled them to justify all harms against them – from taking their land by force or coercion – to introducing disease and cutting down their ancient forests.
Colonists took for granted that the new world they saw was wild – and that so too were the inhabitants – who they saw as mere brutes – lacking in culture and decency. The colonists mingled tribes with little regard for their differences, introduced disease that wiped out entire populations, and ignored the wisdom of indigenous people. They couldn’t see and didn’t understand that these so-called brutes had acted as the stewards of abundant forests, orchards and grasslands – because these lands were the source of their food. It was easy to overlook, because they tended the natural world with finesse rather than a plough, with complex understanding of how plants coexisted and complimented one another rather than growing single crops in rows and plots that would be visible for miles.
The Forest As A Farm – Lyla June Johnston – Poet, Performance Artist, Scholar
With this perspective, let’s dive into the essay: “The Forest as a Farm” by Lyla June Johnston. For those following along with the book – jump to page 125.
“People who moved in three thousand years ago radically changed the way the land looked and tasted. These are anthropogenic or human-made foodscapes where inhabitants would shape the land in a non-dominating and gentle way.” Lyla June Johnson, The Forest as a Farm
In Regeneration, we learn that the hand that managed these ecosystems often used fire as a tool to clear underbrush. They would architect their forests and their grasslands using carefully timed fires.
I live in Santa Cruz County – and this essay seemed as though it had been written just for me. You see, Fire has ravaged forests all over California – and part of the reason is our drying climate – sure — but part of the reason too is the fact that our forests have dense underbrush, easy tinder for fire when the land dries over long summers. So how can we rectify that. “Sweeping our forests” isn’t a good solution – so what can we learn from indigenous examples?
Lyla tells us of the Ama Mutsun Nation, indigenous people who called Santa Cruz, California their home. They tended the rolling landscapes that abutted the ocean, the rolling hills of chaparral and darker deeper redwood forests – and they used fire to clear underbrush and keep the land productive. It’s no accident that the oak and redwood trees each have fire-repellant bark. They co-evolved with us. And here I’ll quote Lyla June Johnson’s Essay: The Forest As A Farm:
“According to elders, the Amah Mutsun cut down the low-hanging branches annually because they could catch fire. In the fall they would gather the fallen leaves and burn a circle around the oak trees. They blessed the tree with the smoke, which would go into the leaves and inhibit or prevent tree disease. The bugs would fall into the fire, ensuring a healthier acorn crop. The competing saplings would be killed off so that only the hardiest and strongest plants would survive.” Lyla June Johnson, The Forest as a Farm
By tending the forests, managing new competitive growth, and limiting underbrush, the devastating fires we see today would be far less likely. By timing the burns with the seasons, as we discussed in our coverage of Forests in Part 2 of this series, we limit the damage fire can do.
She closes the essay with an invitation to see things differently.
“Instead of cutting down a forest to make room for a farm, realize that the forest is already a farm. If you know how to take care of it, it will make food for you, better than any monocrop… And if it’s not a farm when you find it, then delicately, respectfully, and carefully turn it into a farm. Don’t cut it down.”
-Lyla June Johnston, the Forest as a Farm
Women And Food Production
As we shift from this perspective piece, we dig back into the many solutions that rest at our feet – and some of the social changes we’ll need to make to ensure a healthy future for our planet. Not only should we look to our use of land – but also who gets to tend it. Globally, 9 out of 10 countries have laws that impede a woman’s abilities to support her own livelihood. From land ownership limitations to no loan access, her ability to provide for her family is hampered. And we need HER to be part of the change. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has reported that women farmers have crop yields that are 20-30% higher than men, which has the potential to reduce malnutrition 12 – 17%. This makes it painfully clear that we need to overhaul our approach to farming. We need to shift from the male-dominated extractive agriculture that is commonplace today to one that is more community-led and integrates regenerative practices.
Thankfully the tide is shifting. In the United States, between 1997 and 2017, the number of women-led farms increased from 209,800 to 766,500.
Soul Fire Farm, Albany, NY – Leah Penniman – A Regenerative Farming Story
One amazing example is given with Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm near Albany, New York. She invested in a few acres with community support, built up the soil with regenerative farming practices, and now serves a community in what she names not a food desert, but a food apartheid. Here’s why:
“it makes clear that we have a human-created system of segregation that relegates certain groups to food opulence and prevents others from accessing life-giving nourishment.” – Leah Penniman, Soul Fire Farm
You see, 24 million Americans live in so called food deserts – or rather food apartheids. In these spots, it’s difficult to get fresh food, and the people who live in them are dominantly minorities. White neighborhoods have 4 times the grocery stores of black neighborhoods. People may lack the transportation they need to conveniently get the healthier food they want.
Leah’s farm now provides nutritious produce, eggs, and chicken to people who otherwise would not have access. They remove barriers like transportation and income by providing produce on a sliding scale and dropping off boxes directly at the homes of their customers. They even accept government benefits as payment including the federal “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” or SNAP.
“…we can now feed 80 to 100 families, many of whom would not otherwise have access to life-giving food. One member told us that their family ‘would be eating only boiled pasta if it were not for this veggie box.’”-Leah Penniman, Soul Fire Farm
And I really skipped over something, because I wanted you to think of the marvel of work that Leah is creating without getting into a deep discussion of race. Leah Penniman is a mixed-race black woman. She is working hard to shift thinking and knowledge within and about black communities. She invites us to understand – to learn – that Black people have always been leaders in the sustainable agriculture movement. From George Washington Carver of Tuskegee University in Alabama, who is the American pioneer of regenerative agriculture, to Booker T. Whatlee, another Tuskegee professor… Their stories are inspirational – and they haven’t been told as much as they need to be.
If we can see these black pioneers of early regenerative community practices as leaders, we can shift from white male extractive farming practices to something so much more. We need diversity, we need equity, and we need all hands on deck.
As we move through the rest of this chapter, we hear echoes of continued reinforcement for everything we’ve learned about the role people play in regenerating ecosystems and reversing global warming. Each page provides more inspiration, from cleaning our cookstove methods – reducing our carbon footprint therefore – to providing access for education to all girls around the globe. We are called to act in any way we can.
Acts of Restorative Kindness – Mary Reynolds – Renowned Landscaper & Garden Designer
Mary Reynolds, a renowned landscaper and garden designer from Wexford, Ireland, invites us to acknowledge the lifeforms we live among. She begs us to eliminate invasive species, and reintroduce and restore native plants. It’s hard not to see the irony in her words, as she asks us to help landscapes be wild – this from a landscaper and designer who’s typically paid to manicure a garden. She asks us to let the grasses grow long and the weeds to seed – because with that move, by tending nature gently and reintroducing native plants mindfully we heal earth. We increase biodiversity. As she closes her essay on page 140:
“It’s time for human beings to step up and learn to become the weavers of the web of life, to restitch the threads we have broken. Set your land free. Build an Ark for life and your heart.” – Mary Reynolds
This ask is one that resonates with me. We need to build an Ark for Life. One of the ways we can do that is through our personal efforts, and another is through Philanthropy.
Paul Hawken closes this chapter on People with an essay by Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director of the Wallace Global Fund. Her essay, aptly titled “Philanthropy Must Declare a Climate Emergency” lays out fundamental steps that can help us all. She asks philanthropists and not-for-profits to make climate central to their mission – to spend more, spend quickly and spend it all – rather than holding on to funds for a rainy day or padding their pockets. She begs us to aim for systemic change, not just small incremental shifts in our personal or professional lives and encourages us to collaborate with movements. It’s a thought provoking essay on everything we can do a little better as we work to reverse global warming and promote life. Her perspective, and that of Paul Hawken, and just about every climate activist out there – is that if we don’t solve for climate change, we’re kaput.
This is not to say that social activism is unimportant or unwarranted – we just need to keep marching forward arm in arm to reverse the harm we’ve done. By working to be a part of this movement, the regeneration movement – we can and will solve social problems along the way. Regenerative farming practices can solve for food deserts. Ensuring women have access to education and equal rights are part of the equation too – because we need all hands on deck to revers global warming. We need to work together. Like it or not, we are one. We are a global community.
With this episode we’ve cleared the halfway point of the book – and we’ve yet to cover The City, Food, Energy, Industry and Action. I hope you’ll stay with us as we continue our coverage – and I encourage y’all to share this with your community of activists. It’s really important work – and not everyone is a reader – after all.
So many of us are already working together – and now you’re a part of that collaboration too.
It’s that time isn’t it. At the end of most of my shows, I invite each of you to act – and today – I’d love it if you would join our e-mail list on caremorebebetter.com to stay abreast of upcoming content and activities – and share the regeneration series of podcasts I’m doing with your community. It’s such an important conversation and if it wasn’t already obvious — I’m giving it my all.
If you value the content we’re creating, you can also donate funds to support the show. This will help us cover show costs – without turning to advertisers. Visit caremorebebetter.com/support for all the ways you can support the show – from buying eco-friendly SWAG to becoming a valued Patreon subscriber.
Thank you listeners, now and always for being a part of this pod and this community because together, we really can do so much more. We can care more and be better. We can regenerate earth.