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Those of you who have been following our social media over the course of the last few weeks, or who subscribe to our newsletter have heard about the Soil & Health Forum hosted at Tara Firma Farms in Petaluma on September 16, 2023. It was an incredible gathering of like-minded individuals who are pushing for real change. Each person in attendance was and is dedicated to soil and to health. We felt the quiet prayers of Wendy Johnson who led the opening ceremonies, and even tasted the life-giving force of apples grown on the farm as the day began.
Enjoy two sessions from the many offered that day, in this week’s audio only presentation. You’ll hear from Starhawk on Permaculture and from Brock Dolman on California Watershed issues and progress.
For those that are interested in reviewing the complete video presentations from the day, please visit: https://soilandhealthforum.org. There you can review 2022 video presenations, and should soon be able to access the curriculum from this weekend’s event, including the presentation that Corinna Bellizzi led with Beth Craig, former guest on Care More Be Better.
Stay tuned in future weeks for additional content from the forum, and possibly interviews from the presenters, hopefully including Starhawk and Brock Dolman.
It really was an amazing day. While I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak about the importance of activism and individual action with my collaborator and former guest, Beth Craig, founder of Own It Economics, I was equally honored to share the stage with such incredible individuals.
Coming into the event, I heard that alongside a regionally star-studded cast of regenerators that included Brock Dolman, Co-Founder of the Occidental Arts & Ecology, Albert Straus of Straus Family Creamery, Kelly Reyerson, The Glyphosate Girl, and members of Congress, Starhawk would be presenting.
The name was familiar in a vague way. Admittedly, I didn’t follow through with looking her up and investigating her quite enough before the event… I spent time researching Brock Dolman’s work protecting The Beaver, and Kelly Reyerson’s work to regulate Glyphosate out of existence…
Then the day arrived.
And as I waited for the day to begin, Beth mentioned that Starhawk was the author of The Fifth Sacred Thing. The Fifth Sacred Thing is a work of fiction that I absolutely love. I read so many years ago – at the suggestion of one of my best friends. That friend calls it her favorite book and seems to revere it the way some revere the Bible. Starhawk has been called “Earth Mother” by the press, and is a prominent Wiccan Leader. She’s even been called the “Bay Area Witch”. She is so much more than that. She is an author. An activist. A teacher. And an incredible author or co-author of 13 books. What a perfect number for a witch.
So today, I want to share her incredible words of wisdom with all of you. And then I’ll also share the presentation by Brock Dolman, who has made such an incredible contribution to the lives of beavers and the health of our California watersheds.
Starhawk’s Presentation on Permaculture at Soil & Health Forum, September 16, 2023 at Tara Firma Farms, Petaluma, CA:
There’s a number of different definitions for it that I’ve always liked. One is Patrick Whitefield’s, that permaculture is the art of designing beneficial relationships. Which I really like, because it takes it out of the realm just of farming and gardening and broadens it. My own definition…
is that permaculture is a system of ecological design that learns from nature to help us meet our human needs while regenerating the environment around us. And I often think of permaculture as being applied systems theory.
It’s not, It’s not just about land, although it certainly is about land, but it’s looking at the systems that nature uses and saying, Oh, you know, all systems have certain things in common. And if we applied some of the same principles we might use in planting a garden or designing a land use application, we can apply some of those same principles.
to creating an organization, or building a movement. So, what I actually want to talk about today is building a movement. I’m thinking back, when I think about the soil conference, I think it was John Jeavons who once said that he realized His job was not to just grow plants and grow vegetables, but to grow soil.
And then he realized his job was not just to grow soil, but to grow people who could grow soil. And I’d like to take that a step further and say maybe our job is to to grow movements that can grow people that can grow soil. I think it’s especially crucial right now in the light of climate change because soil building can be one of our key strategies for bringing the world back into some kind of balance, taking carbon out of the atmosphere and sequestering it where It can only do good, where it can build up soil health resiliency, help the soil hold on to more water help the soil to hold on to more minerals and nutrients that make the food we eat more nutrient dense and healthier help the people who depend on the soil to have lives that are more rich and…
And again, I’m assuming there’s people here who are going to be talking about the soil science and the microbiology and the carbon aspects in much greater depth, but if you have questions about it at the end, I love talking about all that stuff. And when we teach permaculture courses, we always go into that.
aspect of the soil science. Permaculture has a set of three core ethics. Sometimes called earth care, people care, fair share, or care for the earth, care for the people. I like framing the third one as care for the future, because it implies those ideas about sustainability and regeneration, and about resource sharing.
And about returning surpluses back into the system rather than letting individuals or groups siphon them off and take them out of the system. And in that sense, I think permaculture is kind of a radical critique of the world that we live in today. Because if you take a moment and just consider even the news of the last.
day or the last week. And imagine what would be different in the world if we lived in a world where all of our systems were based on ethics of caring for the earth, caring for the people, and returning surpluses back into the systems that created them. If we had more time, I’d have you all in small groups to think about and talk about it.
But your homework is, consider that. And I also like to think about how the world would be different if we put soil at the center of our decision making. If what was good for the soil was like the magnetic north for our moral compass. So when Thinking about, should I do this or not do this what should I do today is this the right decision or the wrong decision?
You know, we all have different criteria by which we evaluate our decision making. And part of permaculture and part of other things like how many of you are familiar with Alan Savory’s Holistic Management? Yeah. Also very important in soil building. is really, really built on the question of how do we make decisions and what are the criteria against which we judge our decisions.
Well, what if our personal criteria was, is this good for the soil? Is this leading toward building soil? Or is this degrading soil? Or does this have nothing to do with the soil whatsoever? You know, imagine how our farming practices might change, or how our food preferences might change, or how our economic system might change, if we put soil at the center of it all.
And one of the reasons I think we don’t do that goes back to some of our… deepest spiritual values and the key organizing frames and metaphors of our society. George Lakoff, who’s a political theorist and a linguist, has written some really important books about political framing, including one called Don’t Think of an Elephant.
And he says, no one can not think of an elephant. Because as soon as you say the word elephant, that elephant’s in your mind, and you’re thinking about it. And he talks about the way our world view is shaped. Not so much by logic and facts and statistics, but by narratives and by metaphors. And linguistically, even neurologically, it’s like we, we think in metaphors.
You know, we talk about talk about raising the level of our production. We talk about things like are we going to Are we Higher on the food chain, or lower. Well that’s a metaphor, there really, there is no food chain. And there is no altitude involved in it. But it gives our mind a way to comprehend it.
And one of our key metaphors in western culture for the past couple thousand years has been this idea that what is sacred, what is of ultimate value. is something that’s always light and high and outside of the world somewhere. If you think about pictures of angels, or if you think about all the different ways we talk about, you know, light workers, or going over to the dark side, and that what is dark and what is down and what is connected to The ground and the soil is dirty.
Its soil is of less value than what is high and light and removed. And that overarching frame is connected to the way we view women and men. That somehow men are seen as less embodied than women. Maybe because women bring life into the world. It’s connected to our underlying views of racism. What’s white is good and what’s dark is suspect and dangerous.
And it’s connected very much to the way we view work. But those who actually do real work, get your hands dirty. You know, dig in the soil. The farmers, the producers are much less valued. than those who manipulate abstractions. You know, if you consider, I mean, how many of you are farmers or ranchers? How many of you went in to make millions and millions of dollars?
How many of you succeeded?
I don’t know. It’s a long shot. Yeah, I know people back home heard that, but it’s good. How do you make a small fortune in the farming business? Start with a big one.
Yeah, if what you wanted to do was make millions and millions of dollars, you should have been a hedge fund manager, or a financial wizard, or a con artist of some sort. But somebody who actually produces stuff that people need and want and depend on for their survival often pays a huge price in this culture, in this society.
How many of you have to work off the farm in order to support your farming habit? That is true of probably about 70 percent of the farmers in Canada. the United States, and also I believe in Canada, you know, and you know, how would that change if we actually valued the work of producing food? If we saw that as a, a calling, you know, and again, that , it’s meeting those human needs, but the calling part of it is doing it in a way that regenerates the soil, rebuilds soil, and is also what we need to help rebalance the ecosystems of the earth.
So I would like you to encourage you all again, maybe as a a spiritual practice to make it a practice to just honor the soil. When you’re thinking about what’s a holy image take a look at the worm. It’s not what we usually think of, right? There aren’t a lot of beautiful icons of worms, but maybe there should be.
You know, when you go out there and you, You pick up a little handful of soil and crunch it and wet it and sniff it, you know. Think of that as really communing with the great creative and regenerative forces of the universe and of the earth. And that when we think about the people who do the actual real work of the world, maybe we can start to value that work.
You know, and that includes the farmers and the ranchers, but also the people who care for Children who care for the elderly, who care for the sick, who do things that really, you know, who bring the food to us and serve it to us. I think we learned in the pandemic how important delivery people are to the work of the world.
That maybe we need to think about an economic system and a social system and values and rewards that kind of service more and values and rewards billionaires and manipulators of funds and abstractions a little bit less. When we think about movement building, there’s another thing we do in permaculture.
where we do like a needs and yields assessment. You know, you might take a chicken, and it’s a classic thing we do when we’re teaching, and you draw a little line and say, okay, well, what are some of the needs of a chicken? Chicken needs food, needs some dirt to scratch in, needs protection from predators, needs shelter, needs…
other chickens and then what are some of the things a chicken does? It produces the behaviors the yields of a chicken, you know, they make eggs and feathers and meat, but also scratching and eating bugs and pooping and all of that. And then you say, well, how can I integrate a chicken into my system?
in ways that meet the chicken’s needs and actually make use of the chicken’s behaviors and products. You know, if I can put them into a chicken tractor and move them around and have them eat the bugs in a garden bed before I go and plant it, then they’re gonna be much better at eating bugs than I am.
I’m not really particularly good at catching bugs and eating them. It’s not my major skill set, right? You know, if I put them in the wrong place, then they’re not going to eat the bugs, they’re going to eat my plants. And I will say that I have had that happen more than once with my chickens, but you learn, right?
You know, if I can put a chicken run around my garden, maybe I can let them run around it and continually eat some bugs and scratch it up. If I can use their chicken manure to create fertility, you know, it’s a tremendous benefit to the garden. Whereas if I have battery hens where, you know, there’s nothing but hens and…
chicken poop and it all piles up and becomes a huge problem to deal with, then it becomes a toxic waste. So we don’t often think about that in terms of humans, but I’ve been thinking a lot about that as we live in this world where so many toxic movements have sprung up over the last few years and particularly During COVID time when too many people were trapped inside with nothing much to do but scroll around on the internet and asking what, what attracts people to ideas or to movements that are actually full of hatred and paranoia and suspicion and nasty stuff.
And I think it is that we have some core human needs that we don’t often think about in terms of designing our systems. You know, we obviously have physical needs like food and clothing and shelter, but we also have social needs. And there are five key social needs I think of. When we’re forming groups, when we’re forming movements, when we’re thinking about how do we grow movements that can grow soil people need to feel safe.
Now, safety does, you know, ideally this means physical safety, but in groups it means more kind of emotional safety. You know, you need to feel that the other people in your group or your organization kind of have your back. And are there for you. Doesn’t mean you always agree with them. It doesn’t mean they won’t say things that’ll hurt your feelings.
But, it means you’re part of the group and as part of the group they have a stake in your well being. People need to feel like they belong to something. And they belong to something. We’re social animals, and I think we crave to be part of something that is more than just who we are as individuals.
And that’s a need that can be met in extremely negative ways, because the easiest way to make you feel like you belong to something is to say, oh, yeah, but those people, they don’t belong. They’re not part of us. We are different. We are better. Though we are the real humans and they are the sub humans, and we see that happening a lot in society.
But I think that there are other very positive ways that we can create a sense of belonging. Again, if we think about building soil as our our magnetic north, you know, then Imagine a movement that says, Hey, we may have all kinds of differences here. We may come from different backgrounds, from different religions, different races, different political ideas, but we belong to a group of people who are committed to regenerating the soil under our feet.
And that’s what we belong to. And having something that’s key like that, can be a very powerful way of giving people a sense of being part of something important that’s bigger than yourselves. People need to feel like they’re valued and respected. And again, I think especially for a lot of us who work in fields where we aren’t getting that validation so much from the larger world aren’t getting it in the form of cold hard cash, certainly, or You know, I don’t know, we, we don’t see a lot of, you know, statues to intrepid farmers.
Maybe we should. Instead of generals. But we can do that within our movements, we can be conscious of really valuing people, of valuing all kinds of different work. There’s creative work, there’s work like speaking and talking to people. But also the work of organizing. Maybe we could just have a little round of applause right now for the people who organized this.
Put it together.
And just making that part of your group culture. It can really help people feel that sense of being valued. We also need to feel like we have impact. Like we matter in the world. And I think that’s one of the wonderful things about permaculture movements, soil building movements, is there’s always something immediately we can do that we know is of value.
You know, it could be as simple as throwing your banana peels into the compost. You know, as going out and planting something, as digging in the earth. And, you know, I’ve been a political activist all of my life, and some of that has been in protest movements, and in standing up against things that are bad.
And there’s a necessity to do that. But I always feel it’s important to balance it with movements that are about creating, building, nurturing. Very consciously doing things where you have an immediate impact. Because if you’re out there, you know, if you know that you don’t feed your chickens, they’re not gonna get fed.
If you don’t water that garden, it’s gonna die. If you don’t put that compost out on the soil, it’s not gonna be growing and building. It’s capacity to nurture life. You know that you matter when you’re doing that work. And I think that’s one of the reasons we do do it, even when we’re not making the big bucks or getting the social recognition for it.
And finally, we need to feel like we have meaning and purpose in life. Like the world makes sense. And I think again, the idea of being part of Mother Earth’s regeneration team, that we are here for a purpose and that purpose is to create more health, more life, more biodiversity to regenerate the ecosystems around us.
And that as humans, we have that capacity. You know, sometimes in the environmental movement, we tend to act like humans are a blight on the planet, and the world would be better off without us. And I don’t believe that that is true, actually. I mean, certainly we’ve done that a lot, but I don’t believe that we’re doomed to that.
And I also don’t believe that that’s a good way to organize people. It’s really hard to get people motivated. Come join our movement that says, like, the world would be better off without you. I prefer to say, like, hey the world actually is in dire need right now of people who will regeneration and healing and learn what needs to be learned.
And welcome to the soil movement that is committed to making this world a more vibrant and alive and healthy place for humans, for the earth, for the animals, and for the generations that come after.
Thank you. How our time is, do we have time for questions? One minute. One minute. One quick, any, one quick question.
Well, I’ll be around for the rest of the afternoon if something comes up to you. Thank you all, and thank you all for all the work that you do. Thank you.
Brock Dolman’s Presentation on California’s Watersheds, at Soil & Health Forum, September 16, 2023 at Tara Firma Farms, Petaluma, CA
Mineral materials, and then life creating the structural expressions of the aggregates and the spatial heterogeneity and the loftiness and the ability for air and water and life to move through. Soil as an emergent expression of this combination of geology and hydrology creating conditions conducive for life.
Right, so energy flows, matter cycles, and then life webs. And that’s the fun part about being on this life laden planet. You don’t get soil just like water, right? There’s water on other planets, but soil on other planets? Ooh, that one’s a really interesting question. So I happen to live in the Russian River Watershed, just a little north of here.
I’m happy to be in the San Antonio Watershed here with you all, and in the traditional homeland of Cozumeluaq people, southern Pomo peoples. And in the headwaters of the Dutchville Creek Watershed is, is the, The zone I live within, in the top of that. So, Occidental through Camp Meeker to Monterreo, the water flows down to the Russian River and goes out to Jenner.
And it’s a coho salmon bearing watershed. And so, in thinking about soil and fertility and nutrient cycling and water, we hold up totem salmon as a, as a being that connects those elemental expressions. From the watershed, from the headwaters, through the creek, out to the ocean. And the anadromous nutrient pump.
How many organic farmers are all into fish emulsion fertilizer? We’ll do the math on when salmon that are born in fresh water, spend the summer in fresh water, then leave and go to the ocean, spend 2, years, and leave it this big and return that big, 20, 30, 50, 80 pounds of what? Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium.
And they spawn, and they die, and in their death, they decompose, and they feed the rest of life upon that which eats them. And then the baby fish eat that which ate the parents who gifted themselves to the cycle. And other animals fly up or walk up the hill. And bears do what they do do in the forest. And they return the nutrients.
Because you are what you don’t shit. Think about it. And so the question of living within these basins of relations, all our relations. How, what is that relationship? And I do have a booklet here a copy of that, but there’s a downloadable PDF if you would like to have a look at this Basings of Relations booklet.
But when I really think about watersheds, I’m a topophiliac. So in this tectonically active place where many of us didn’t adhere to the admonition that if you find a fault, don’t dwell on it. But nonetheless, here we are, next to the San Andreas, with that sinking feeling of subduction and the rolling up of the great accretionary wedge that is driving these marine sediments up.
And sculpting topography in uplift of geology and the associated soils with the hydrology of erosion. And sediment and deposition and floodplains, and this connectivity, again, of rock and water sculpting the three dimensionality upon which life then ices that cake and figures it out. So for me, rethinking from ridge to river to reef for a reverential and re and re a retrofit, what is it to mean to retrofit, and how is it that agrarian land use and organic farming and regenerative ranching and urbanization, Can we be part of a regenerative relationship versus a degenerative relationship?
Can we be regenerative disturbers versus degenerative disturbers within all the scales? And so for me, a lot of, I conceptually think of our watersheds as living lifeboats. And the opportunity for each of us who share a basin of relation is it’s an all hands on deck moment to really get together in this living lifeboat and pull in the same direction And I love this quote by Luna Leopold, Dr.
Luna Leopold, one of the children of Aldo Leopold, for folks who are tracking that, that the health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. And we could also say the health of our soils, the health of ourselves, right? This question of, as measures of how we, quote, live on the land, and what does it mean to live on the land?
And that’s, I think, what a lot of our community is looking for, a regenerative relationship. To return to healing modalities with ourselves, interpersonally, inter socially interculturally. And then at the, at the landscape level, what does health really look like? And then how do we bring Sacramento to legislate that?
How do we legalize living on the land health elite? So, thank you Damon, for doing that work in there in Sacramento. So the fun part is, is we’re a right life on this planet is basically solar powered. It’s carbon based, and it’s mostly water. And the fun part about the grand miracle of photosynthesis… Woo!
Give it up here, people, because… Check it out. 3. 8 billion years ago, this thing called life shows up, and it was anaerobic, without oxygen based life, for about 800 million years, pushing a billion years. Then… This crazy thing is, we’re like whippin around that super amazing big ball of gas out there. That new plant that’s turning hydrogen into helium, 93 million miles away.
And sending down the entire electromagnetic spectrum of all the energy. that runs the show on this planet. So our, it’s a solar powered planet. And we just have to figure out if the power of our souls can step up to that solar power. Right? And basically do the work. Because what you got is sunlight into a cell, whether it was a bacteria originally, algae next, and plants third, three expressions of life that figured out how to turn sunlight into sugar, into soil, into our salvation.
But what are the inputs? Six molecules of H two O and six mo molecules of c o two. So the carbon cycle and the water cycle and oxygen is actually the, the element that links both of the bed. I don’t think it’s enough love. So take a breath on that one because out pop sugar, carbohydrates, and breathable oxygen.
And so we get to inhale as animals and fungus that oxygen, and then we get to exhale that c O two and we have one of the grand. Great reciprocal atmospheric exhalation inhalation trade agreements between all of the kingdoms of life on this planet. And oxygen is this interesting linking piece between the carbon cycle and the water cycle.
And so I often think a lot about, I went to school at UC Santa Cruz and did conservation biology and agroecology. But working as an endangered species vertebrate biologist, who’s the guy you hire to go find the last frog and snake and turtle and marmot, mirelet and critter. What became clear to me after years of doing environmental impact reports for the California Environmental Quality Act, CEQA documents, is that when the water cycle of a place has been compromised by human settlement, it’s a degradative, desiccative, dehydrative, degradation design, then the carrying capacity for life accordingly in that place is, is, is compromised.
And ultimately water is really the cycling, the quantity and quality of water in a place. And so I often think about how do we have a receiving, recharging, retaining, releasing, reverential retrofit and reclaim our relationship to storm water and how do we figure out how to get the storm water back into the ground water.
I’m looking back there at Sacramento. Thank you for the Sustainable Ground Water Management Act of 2014 and the brand new Law that y’all pushed through, that now recognizes that natural infrastructure of groundwater, that aquifers are natural infrastructure of the state, and the act of recharging water into them, should be understood as a beneficial use, and should be available for funding.
That’s just a two week old law, and it’s critical. If we’re gonna do slow it, spread it, sink it, store it, share it, we gotta think it first and get it back in the ground. And so, doing that work, I’ve been engaged in this kind of stuff for a long time in the ag sector, in the urban sector, stormwater management, low impact development, green infrastructure, flood mitigation, lots of opportunities to reconnect our, our landscapes and our human land use if we pay attention to the water cycle.
Again, I’m a, I’m a fish head. I’m a biology geek. And so we spend a lot of time working on behalf of salmonids because again, totem salmon. t is a uh, expression or indicator of the settlement within the whole watershed. So, if the salmon are doing well there, I think it’s an indicator that we are doing well throughout the system.
And when they’re not, it’s an indictment thereof. And so salmonids, not just because they’re tasty on the barbie and pair well with a good pinot noir, which is kind of the case, but, so I work a lot on instream flow work with a bunch of organizations here, publish a whole bunch of papers. Way too long of titles and that kind of fun stuff.
Let’s keep on going. But I want to engage in another elemental relationship here. In the earth, air, fire, water, life game. And it’s really time, basically, to take our fire fears and our water woes and connect those through what I call fuels to flows. And the fire cycle has got folks woke. The move from indigenous fire where they had high Frequency of fire, and thus low intensity of fire, and a pyro illiterate Eurocentric settler colonist moment that said no to fire N.
O. versus indigenous knowledge said no to fire K. N. O. W. How do we know fire again, good fire, healing fire, not toxic fire, and bring it back to flip the switch from the current low frequency, high intensity framework that we have with this fuel fire suppression landscape. So, we’ve been working at OAC the last 30 years, again, at a watershed scale, and bringing fire back, prescribed fire, healing fire, it’s often now called good fire.
And working with vegetation and plants, and working again at the carbon cycle, and how fire and ash and nutrients and water are, can be harmoniously integrated, on behalf of creating conditions for soil.
Our property, like much of West Sonoma County, was clear cut over. It’s been cut over three times. Started in the late 1800s with the big redwood logging. And then left to grow back a thicket, but yet fire was suppressed. So we get these amazing overgrowths of these dog hair thickets of plants that are super flammable if they haven’t had fire.
And they’re overtopping the grasslands, the chaparral, the oak woodlands, with our dug fir. And we’re converting the system into a monocrop of highly flammable trees, although they are native. But it’s not a balanced system. It’s not an equinox next week. We’re looking for equilibrium at equinox. So our mantra has really been about fewer trees and more forest.
And I’m really interested in verbs more than I am about nouns. I’m interested in flows, I’m interested in process, I’m interested in dynamic equilibrium over time of a forest as an emergent expression of multiple beings in space and time versus the fixation on individuals as a map, the material fetish of that idea.
And what we’ve been doing in that process of fewer trees and more forest is limbing and thinning and managing that vegetation, that biomass, because it’s often considered slash, but that slash ain’t trash, it’s a beneficial biomass. If we rethink And so we end up using that material and we place it in our waterways and our eroding gullies that have been dehydrating the land and bleeding dirt to kill the salmon.
And we’re slash packing and gully packing and flowing and spreading and sinking and sequestering carbon and infiltrating that on the land and increasing upland water holding capacity to elongate flows into the streams later on while we have more water on the land and reduce the flashiness of the flooding and basically buffer.
So, the extremities of the drought to flood, drought to flood paradigm by ameliorating the performance of our uplands as a way to mitigate the legacy of the fact that it’s been land conversion that increased the imperviousness of the land such that the runoff, the rate of water, leaves the land faster and dehydrates the soil, right?
And this work all starts in the headwaters, and the most darn important headwaters to start in. It’s right up here, people. It’s the water on your head. And how do we mitigate cerebral imperviousness to infiltrate the information from the head into the heart waters out to the hand waters, which is what I believe this forum is doing today, so thank you all.
But you’re gonna have to tool up to get the job done, and we’re like serious about this thing, and so, like, there’s a bunch of lower back in this game, too. It’s not just all up in the head. And so we’ve been tooling up. And then we’ve been really focused on working in a just transition framework, because under this idea of, if you know the group, Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project, this idea that transition is inevitable, but justice is not.
And so if we don’t also bring justice for people in our communities, in this case for migrant farm workers, and right livelihood and a just transition ecological workforce training program, which is what we’ve been doing the last few years with a group called North Bay Jobs with Justice. To do the work in a training, honoring traditional ecological knowledge, and right livelihood while we simultaneously are restoring not just the forest, not the watershed simultaneously, but the communities upon which we’re all interdependent.
And that looks like a whole lot of fun, of rearranging and just getting in the woods and limbing and thinning and taking the same on site organic materials that in one form may be perceived of as problems, but if we rearrange them and re sculpt them, we can turn them into solutions. That’s mainly just a process of creativity.
It looks a lot like, again, the less trees, fewer trees, more forest. So we’re thinning trees, we’re limbing the fire ladders off trees, we’re making habitat out of those trees, we’re keeping the carbon on site, we’re glopping and scattering, we’re stuffing it in the gullies. Sometimes where we may burn it, or chip it, or biochar it, or build teepees out of it, or sacred dance arbors with Siguarte Land Trust down in El Sobrante with it.
But honoring the fuel load, the organic matter that’s in our forest in abundance that’s got us freaked out about fire is not our problem. That’s the gift of Gaia in the last decades of sunlight into sugar into wood. Amen. Ought to be returned back to the soil and water cycle versus sent up as fast as possible.
The atmospheric cycle, in my humble opinion. And so whether there are limits to growth, you can also limit for growth. That’s a crossing, right? Pruning’s a good thing. , we’ve worked a long time Marine Conservation Corps last in 2001. Look at that dog hair, thicket, limbing thinning, opening it up. Then next slide, folding it into gullies, creating these.
Organic bio dams with green baleen and green gauze and this integration to reorient those materials. And then we just came back to that same site 22 years later with another round. And we just keep, keep, basically I’m composting in place. That gully in the front is, is 8 feet wide and 5 feet deep. And I layered green gauze of the fir boughs and then sticks and branches and green gauze and sticks and branches and logs and green gauze.
And it sounds like a compost pile, doesn’t it? Because it is. Green. Brown, green, brown, green, brown. Then I let the process of the fluvial morphology of rainfall show up and wet it and deliver the fine particles in the organic matter, in the soil materials to set the compost up. And then it compost ini to sequesters the carbon creates basically a vertical HOA culture to keep olsa hoppy, right?
And then in that situation that all of the trees that remain grow into this. Beautiful, wonderful upland peat bog that sequestered all that carbon. And now those trees have less competition. We’re raising up the groundwater table. We’ve created an organic compost pile that’s holding water. Their health is better.
Clean water leaves the land later. Salmon are happy. Upland water is happy. And it was all done with something that was perceived as a problem that people have been trying to make go away as fast as possible. Right? So how do we engage, and this slide’s for you baby, how do we engage all these agencies, state and federal agencies, who have mandates?
The California Air Resource Board to sequester carbon, National Marine Fisheries Service, or U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or Cal Fish and Wildlife, or the Regional Water Board, Water Quality, Water Quantity, Endangered Species. How do we engage them to see that they all have a part of a portfolio in an integrated, holistic system, and should actually…
Figure out their joint permitting on that, and their joint funding on that, and I’d love to talk to you about villainous. And so it looks like a lot of different things in this case. We’re doing channel restoration and retaining a little pool because I love my newts. We have little breeding newts in these pools, but now we’ve retained the water upslope.
We’ve slowed it down. We spread it out. We’re sinking the land so it leaks later longer to keep that pool. up longer into the dry season, so the baby newts can actually finish their breeding cycle before the creek dries up and they die. And I’m all into this leaf litter life. And these plethodontid, lungless salamanders that breed in the forest and we make these little perpendicular plethodontid palaces that are basically contour carbon catcher’s mitts to slow the flow and increase the roughness and drop the sediment out.
Because one of the cool things is, is that the more salamanders you got on the land, the more they eat the cruncher munchers, and the cruncher munchers are the ones eating the organic matter and making it vent off into the atmosphere too fast. So for all the more salamanders you have, you get to store 179 pounds of CO2 in your forest soils when you’ve got more biodiversity.
And then the other fun part is, is we took all of the fire and fuel load over 10 acres that we stuffed into these eroding, dehydrating, salmon killing gullies, and we packed it in there into this compost pile for everything I told you about, and it turns out that that is, we did 151, 000 pounds worth of organic matter, which is about 75 tons of material that here otherwise typically would have been burned off to the atmosphere.
So now it’s sequestered on site. Interestingly, the 75 tons. Happens to be the same amount of CO2 emissions that Jeff Bezos blew out when he did his little 11 minute space flight. So everybody who goes on a little space tourism moment for 11 minutes up there, it’s 75 tons of CO2 per person. Which is the lifetime CO2 budget for 1 billion people on the planet otherwise.
Right, so, take your pick which way you want to roll, but we’re basically stepping and going. And we’re doing slowing, spreading, sinking with our fuels to flow so it’ll leak later longer So it’s clear, cold, and copious for coho and community, right? That’s a convivial container to create conditions conducive for this cacophonous cauldron of characters that are you.
So a lot of that looks like, again, verbs, which is really process based restoration, not product based restoration, not form based. but dynamic process based verb restoration and a group of us just co founded a brand new PBR network, process based restoration network. We’re having we’re having a build like a beaver workshop in a couple weeks up in the North Fork Feather.
And so in honoring beavers because I co started this beaver campaign a bunch of years ago and thank you all in Sacramento and especially the governor who signed over last year permanent funding for five staff for the Department of Fish and Wildlife to create a brand new beaver restoration program which they now hired those people.
We’re working with them on a, on a management plan. Next month, there’s going to be two beaver relocation pilots that will be done in collaboration with tribal groups. Miami Summit Consortium and North Fork Feather. To the River Tribe down by Porterville. It’s going to be super exciting. We’ll bring back the beaver.
Because the beaver’s a keystone species. Like us, if we behave well, we can also be keystone species. An organism whose presence in that system disproportionately creates conditions conducive for more life than simply itself. And beavers are that, wolves are that, orcas are that, sea otters are that, and us hominids have the choice to be that or not, right?
And the fun part about beavers is they slow the flow, and they hold water in the land, they increase ground water recharge, they re wet systems, they sequester carbon, they mitigate flooding, they amplify reduce drought impacts, improve water quality, sequester carbon.
And then there’s the whole world of fire, and the nexus with fire, and these wetted emerald corridors where that stay moist in these big, in these big fires, and the refugia. So Smoky the Bear was seen by a helicopter seeking refuge in this area from Smoky the Beaver. And so that whole nexus there connecting, and again, these pit stone species who are working at landscape scale processes, although it’s population by population.
And so again, Yay to CDFW and the state really stepping up and I think also resources agency under Wade Crowfoot looking at Nature based solutions climate smart solutions the healthy soils initiative and linking up with healthy soils and now basically healthy beavers That’s what this looks like. And so I’ll just leave you with this wonderful African quote that I think sums up my sense of The group I know here what you are doing together is really this, you know, if you want to go fast go alone But if you want to go far, go together.
And a, a, a slow life, slow food, slow water, slower relationship, that’s about quality, not quantity. And velocity is really what’s happening towards healthy soil and healthy, and healthy folks. So, with that, I thank you
for your time. applause And I do have beaver flask chickens if anybody needs them.
I always think of Brock as the water guy…