EARTH & US: Earth Day and Regeneration
During this past year of Covid, I’ve languished in too many Zoom rooms, wishing I were taking part in a hands-on collaborative community project that was doing the urgently needed work for healing the Earth. I’ve been feeling the need to act on my passion for clean water, to raise it from shallow, superficial sentimentality to making a real difference. My 20-year-old dream of working to protect and regenerate water still feels like my calling. And I’m answering the call!
For the last 5 or 6 months, I’ve been inspired by the work of Joe Brewer and the growing network of Earth Regenerators he has started. Joe, originally from Missouri, along with his wife and 4-year-old daughter, are living in Barichara, Colombia. Joe’s book, The Design Pathway for Regenerating Earth, is free online, and he has been hosting numerous webinar learning sessions. He has a blog on Medium.com. Website https://earth-regenerators.mn.co
Check out some of his YouTubes. Joe’s work is mostly crowd-funded — you can donate via Patreon. He looks unflinchingly at the multiple ways humanity has already overshot Earth’s carrying capacity, and sets out a path for regenerating the 37% of Earth’s land which we humans have degraded.
The following is summarized from The Design Pathway for Regenerating Earth.
Regenerating an Entire Landscape
Located at the intersection of three mountain ranges in northern Colombia, Barichara has lost 98% of its original tropical dry forest. Some 40 years ago, most of the trees were cut down. The land is degraded due to colonial extraction: growing tobacco and corn, then grazing cows and goats has led to severe erosion. As it desertifies, it becomes a plateau of hard dry clay with hot dry air above it. This air evaporates clouds and fog, and keeps clouds and rain away. The natural water cycle has been broken. The ancient indigenous people known as the Guane held the land there as sacred and had a 13,000 year history. In 2019, there was enough water to support tourism; now, there’s barely enough water to support the residents. Biodiversity is endangered. A town of 6,000 artisans and farmers is threatened.
The Amazon Basin is on the verge of collapse, with fragmented forests and loss of rivers. Deforestation will ultimately shut down the hydrological pump of the Amazon. No bioregion exists in a vacuum. A partnership network of bioregions is needed across the Andes and Amazon bioregions. To this end, a design school for planetary scale regenerative design can serve an important function. Humans, having degenerated the land, can become the entity that now regenerates the land, becoming “wise managers of our own evolutionary process.”
In 3–5 years: water can be restored, desert reversed.
In 5–10 years: trees can be planted, which can grow into a true forest in 30 years.
As more trees are planted, their roots can help refill underground aquifers, and help the rain return. In Barichara, water runs off roofs and cobblestone streets, and adds to erosion. This water can be harvested, redirected into cisterns and reservoirs. The “Water Brigade” is using pick-axes to dig small diversion channels, about 20–30 inches deep, to redirect water and prevent erosion.
Positive developments in Barichara
There is now a 6.5 hectare community food forest, Moncora Bioparque, where tree seedlings are being grown and planted. People understand that restoration of the native forest is essential. 10 nearby farmers practice cooperative coffee production. Solidarity Food Networks provide weekly CSA-style food boxes and follow some indigenous food practices. 70% of food is grown relatively nearby in this relatively autonomous regional economy. More cooperative farms and agroforestry practices could be implemented.
There is potential for locals to create a forest economy producing medicinals, building materials, and foods. A network of local and bioregional sustainable economies can be created, sharing practices of reforestation, water harvesting, healing and regenerating the landscape. Trees can bring rivers back to life. Creating a green corridor for migratory birds and animals would benefit biodiversity.
1. Design and build a local economy, in cooperation with the local people. Nature reserves can be stewarded and support families, and a regional forest-based economy can be created in 20 years.
2. Purchase land in danger of development, with crowdfunding. $500K is needed, $18K was raised by end of 2020. Now, over $50K has been raised. One parcel of land has been named “The Origin of Water” and another, “The Dream of the Forest.”
Regenerative education is taking place at a “forest school” for children, attended by Joe’s daughter Elise. Children and adults learn and carry out permaculture projects such as natural building, planting, and craft skills.
Barichara Ecoversity could be a bioregional educational center. The land is the teacher, the forest is the school. Theory and practice are linked together.
A bioregion is the intersection of key ecological function of landscapes with shared cultural identity of people, at appropriate scale. Regenerative economies are structured around functional landscapes, including mountains and watersheds. We must co-create with the dynamic processes of living systems at large scale.
Existing economies can be replaced with regenerative economies in bioregional networks. All sustainable cultures had bioregional economies; they had sacred relationships with rivers and the more than human world. They cultivated biodiversity and built with locally sourced materials.
Joe’s work inspired me to write this poem:
El Sueno del Bosque (The Dream of the Forest)
Does a forest hold memory in tree roots underground?
Perhaps the mycorrhizal fungi remember
The origin of water:
The murmur of raindrops
Seeping deeply into soil, feeding aquifers,
Emerging as springs, meandering in small streams
The many species who crawled or walked the land,
The birds who nested in the trees and called to one another;
The songs of the Guane people, centuries ago.
A clear-cut forest dreams of renewal.
The hard-baked, hot, thirsty soil dreams of teeming microbes.
The people dream of small saplings, lovingly planted, growing tall.
Their children pray for the rivers to return
And dream of playing in their sparkling waters.
The forest is our teacher, wasting nothing,
Using everything in service of more life.
Elegant design is thrifty and diverse and useful.
Seeds sprout, hardy pioneers emerge, more complex lifeforms follow
Succession upon succession, until a food forest grows.
Collective dreams bear fruit.