We all know the importance of story-telling for so many purposes, from entertainment to education, artistic expression, excitement and teaching from the most ancient of times to this very day.
It is the foundational art and an archetypal expression of our humanity. Every piece of music, every dance, every piece of art or theatre tells a story. Story-telling is the underlying glue of humanity, uniting people across the generations stretching way back in our ancestry, across the world and bringing us all together around the warming fire.
Telling a story of hope and possibility instead of say, doom and gloom is a way to have fun, inspire, raise people’s spirits and get them motivated to do good. I’ll get to doom and gloom in a minute.
Global warming is now a favorite topic getting bandied about in all directions and the stories are either of hope and possibility or of fire and brimstone, depending on the storyteller. Some people think that by scaring us to death, we may act in a way that will fix the problem, reduce our carbon footprint and encourage others to do the same. Surely, it has its place.
Whether stories of doom and gloom are greatly effective remains to be seen. They’re certainly not much fun to hear, though, as said, there is much that is grave when we cognize some of what we have done to the planet and continue to do. The fishing industry is one of those horrific stories that we don’t want to hear but it does need to be told.
Certainly, it’s good for us all to be sober and to know how dire things are—that’s for sure.
Nonetheless, there’s another, I believe, ultimately more effective approach altogether that I’m offering here, and that’s the way of love.
This is a more enjoyable approach that doesn’t diminish the seriousness of the global climate crisis by one iota. On the contrary, it aligns with our fortitude and motivation to act.
Love at first sight
This approach encourages us to cultivate a love for the plant, animal, insect, soil and worm worlds. Through the subjective experience of awe, curiosity and wonder, it’s easy to feel a deep respect and love of nature, for her magnificence, humor and beauty.
When we love deeply, we often feel humbled. In fact, the etymology of “humble and humility” is from the Latin “humilitas”, meaning “grounded, close to the earth.” Love and humility are coupled in this linguistically exquisite, organic way.
When we love something, we take care of it, whatever it may be. The beauty of nature appropriately humbles us, moves us to love and makes us more likely to execute the Buddhist principle of ‘right action’. After all, now we are closer to the ground, and soil.
When the human heart is touched, magic happens.
I’m not saying that what we have done to Mother Earth isn’t gloomy—it’s actually worse--it is nothing short of pathological. From slash and burn to mining diamonds to drilling oil wells and decimating oceans, man’s self-interested actions at the expense of the larger ecosystem of life are enough to drive anyone to distraction.
Climate anxiety is healed through playing with soil, restoring all ocean life & growing things
“Climate anxiety” has become a phrase in the psychological nomenclature over the past few years. Fear, anxiety, emotional instability, depression and in some cases, true dread of the future are the result of contemplating what we have done to Mother Earth and the implications for our own and future generations. Climate anxiety has led many to suicide—the consequences of what man has done and the systems he has created which involve us all have led society down a path of self-destruction.
In this storyline, the release of cortisol is seriously increased, as is depression, and in some cases, unhinged anger. People are chaining themselves to trees, to oil refineries, and to the entrances of banks which are fueling the fossil fuel industry, marching and protesting. Someone glued their feet to the ground recently at the U.S. Open to protest the continued financing of fossil fuels.
But any treatment plan starts with a diagnosis and moves toward remedy. Painful as the diagnosis is, the joy comes in the application of the remedy. Protesting may be the remedy for some and planting native species is a remedy for someone else. Diversity is an organic part of the human experience.
Another storyline though, the one I mainly want to tell, is one of fascination with wildlife, bugs, soil, oceans, trees, real food, the beauty of nature and splashing in a pond. This fascination brings people to life, happiness, well-being and to inspired action.
There is a strong movement within the larger environmental community, of people who appreciate the objective facts and IPCC reports of how “we have to change”, and want to see fossil fuel use reduced, bringing mono-cropping to an end and wanting to drive an upsurge in the use of renewable energy across the globe. They want the rich nations to pay for the damage they’ve done to the poor nations. These are useful parts of the whole. However….
Regenerative & restorative approaches to the climate crisis
There is also a strong and growing movement that has formed an upsurge in the appreciation of eco-system restoration and interest in regenerating soil as nature’s way of providing food, water stability, security, ending desertification, cooling the planet and sequestering massive amounts of carbon all at the same time on land and sea. It doesn’t involve litigation, protesting, massive funding or foot glue.
The funny thing is that it requires relatively very little money and it solves several of the most pressing issues facing all of humanity including the very wealthy in one fell swoop: long-term water, food security, planetary cooling, carbon sequestering and the means of generating revenue through goods grown and sold at market.
Brown becomes green in a few meaningful ways.
We’re designed to preserve and regenerate life. That same design, in a healthy, balanced person, extends to preserving the giver of life, meaning Mother Nature herself.
When we attend to our own microbiome, our digestion improves as does brain function, clarity of mind, purpose and overall health. So it is the same with the planetary biome—we are extensions of each other.
Our digitized, analytical way of viewing obscures the holistic, systemic nature of everything behind the appearance of separateness. Analytical thinking is not whole-brain coherent or holistic, yet nature herself is and is also fractal.
When we’re out of balance and unhealthy, we as a species do unseemly things to nature, to each other and to ourselves. You could easily say that our call to preserve, restore and regenerate nature is the very same impulse to preserve, restore, regenerate, and rejuvenate ourselves. Perhaps we can come to an enlightened state where we recognize that life itself is fully a continuum, only appearing to be in self-contained envelopes called our individual bodies.
There are school teachers across America who are inviting their students into direct and intimate contact and communication with the elements of Nature. Children are sticking their noses into the pistils of flowers, stroking their leaves, picking up soil in their hands and playing with worms. Then they draw or write about what they experienced of Nature through all their senses.
A touch of personal history
Back in the 1990s, I was invited by the founder of The Wilderness Awareness School, Jon Young from Red Bank, NJ, to a farm in West Virginia, where he was conducting weekend wilderness experiences for families. The farm was owned by a senior VP at ITT, who used to take me down with him for that 8-hour drive from NYC for these experiences.
Corporate titans with their wives and children would go into the woods together and learn about plants and herbs, trees and flowers. Male teenagers would go on a 1-2 day vision quest.
As a family, they were learning about and caring for their local environments together and it was beautiful to behold as well as impactful in their lives and future decision-making.
The head of the Turtle Clan of the Iroquois Nation, Jake Swamp, was on the faculty and educated us as a wizened, indigenous leader, about how to be in love with and present in Mother Nature.
Other indigenous members taught crafts, woodworking and survival skills. It was an amazing time when people just immersed themselves in the womb of nature and the rest of the “modern world” just fell away. This bonding with nature led to saner actions and a true sense of well-being.
Building a relationship with nature
In these days of cell phones in the hands of children along with so much of life online, children don’t romp in the grass and woods the way we baby boomers did growing up. It was pretty much until the 2000s that our computerized culture overtook our leisure time let alone work time. Rather than reducing work time, it got doubled.
Combined with helicopter mothering, protecting children from what had always been normal childhood activities because these are now deemed “dangerous” has led to abnormal, overly protective, parenting. Kids have less fun, are less physically active and have much less direct experience of nature.
As a result, kids don’t even really don’t know nature as a living intelligence that they have experienced directly, but instead on screens indirectly. One only engages the visual on a screen 2-dimensionally and does not get the richness of tactile or olfactory experience. It’s like seeing meat in a package at a grocery store, not having a clue where it really comes from. Or a lettuce for that matter.
Kids growing up today have little sense of nature, how she operates, and the nature of adaptation and evolution unless they get particularly curious. Then a magnificent world opens up.
The story of building a living relationship with Mother Nature is what I am happily promulgating here all the while knowing how serious the diagnosis is.
Honoring the way of our ancestors, and being close to the Earth, is more like a mother nurturing her children, a heartfelt, spiritual connection with Mother Earth, Gaia, Pachamama Herself. When one has this kind of direct relationship, not an arms-length “screen relationship” or just some abstract idea or ideology of or about nature, the chances of creating harm are vastly reduced and sustaining a healthy relationship is vastly increased.
Out of this cultivated awe, respect and love of nature, of Mother Earth as a mother, emerges the natural wish to restore native habitat and regenerate the soil to the way it was before the corporate ambush of mono-cropping or even the idea of “owning” land. To indigenous people, this is a bizarre, ‘unreal’ idea that they cannot really fathom.
While we all feel the anger and angst about long-term exploitative, corporate mineral-depleting, round-up-ready, mono-cropping practices and how these have damaged our planet, what science has also shown is that restoring soil, moisturizing it so that desertification becomes a thing of the past, restoring native plant species and wildlife leads to carbon sequestration so great that the “greenhouse issue” truly gets neutralized and the planet gets cooled is a very real and immediate option we have.
Instead of the rubber meeting the road, this is where “the hands meet the soil”.
During the Covid era when cities came to a screeching halt and cars remained parked, it was so interesting to see how the air in cities cleared up so quickly. In a matter of days, smog had subsided. That is how quick nature can be to re-balance herself from man’s destructive habits.
When we add ocean restoration to land-based native habitat's species restoration and listen to marine biologists, the resulting massive sequestration is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face even in the face of the disturbing diagnosis. Oceans sequester massively more carbon than land.
One sees that nature herself, as usual, when it comes to human health or the health of the earth’s biome, is what restores healing and balance. She doesn’t need man’s many machines to do that. Curiously, as said, it costs pennies.
Organizations restoring & regenerating deserts, oceans & everywhere else
There are organizations and those who are pioneering these regenerative, restorative practices. The math and science show that if these practices are multiplied worldwide, in a matter of less than 25 years, desertification, and food and water insecurity could be concerns of the past. If corporate, industrial fishing ceased and local fishermen, as it has been for millennia, were allowed to take a reasonable share of fish, our oceans would also thrive again. Feed the plankton and we are back to balance.
We have the knowledge and we have the tools to re-balance Nature and her water cycles that man’s thoughtless, money-and-power-driven ways have seriously disrupted.
Eco-Restoration Alliance is pioneering a number of projects in different parts of the world, improving the soil, the life of the worms, bacteria and fungi that enrich the soil’s biome, absorbing and retaining water so it doesn’t simply run off and food will grow abundantly.
Geologist and filmmaker John Liu has set up some 65 eco-system restoration camps across the globe, reversing desertification in a matter of several years, bringing copious amounts of water to what were arid, very dry lands.
What brings people joy? What even improves an economy? It’s not when people cut back, but when people put more into a system.
This is a story worth telling, that will put smiles on your children’s faces.
What’s a more romantic and charming adventure—nourishing land so that everyone can eat delicious, diverse foods day after day and kids can have waterfalls and pools of water to romp in, or suing a fossil fuel company?
Perhaps we need both, and all the actions taking place worldwide but one is certainly more fun.
Of course, we want to see a huge reduction in emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. But we also know that even with a 100% halt to fossil fuel use today, we would be experiencing a backlash, a whiplash more like it, for hundreds or some say thousands of years.
But what we all most want to see is lots of worms wriggling in healthy, thriving soil. Lots of fungi and swimming bacteria juicing up the soil’s life force which will give us better food, a more abundant supply, decrease desertification, increase grasslands and sequester carbon naturally like nobody’s business.
Who are the happiest people in the world & why?
I find that the people who are engaged in regenerative agriculture and restoring native eco-systems and oceans, rather than feeling angry and depressed about the current, truly difficult situation, are actually overjoyed that we have real, down-to-earth solutions in hand that solve so much so relatively quickly.
Feed the plankton, the beginning of the food chain and watch fish flourish. When local, coastal, fish economies flourish, protein abounds. And then watch the gigatons of carbon be sequestered.
Ocean scientist Russ George conducted a most interesting and promising study with the Haida people off the coast of British Columbia. In short, the salmon population swam back and replenished the ecology and economy of the island.
This is the story I’m learning more and more about and wanting to tell more and more: rehydrating the land, cooling the planet, utilizing restorative, regenerative practices like Permaculture and others to bring life back to otherwise infertile, dry land and desert.
No $100,000,000 machines swallowing carbon from the air, geo-engineering or making fake meat are needed.
This is a love story that provides healthy, nourishing food and clean water for all across this beautiful planet like a good mother wants to feed her children.