There are lots of reasons why so many ordinary folks like myself feel hopeless, especially those of us deeply concerned with the threat to our very existence from the current climate crisis. Thus, I want to explain why I am more hopeful these days.
A friend sent me an article from the Guardian about some ‘blue regeneration’ efforts aiding the growth of sea grass, mangroves and salt marshes which are capable of sequestering amazingly large amounts of carbon. This friend found the idea that developing these nature-based, Earth-friendly solutions on our Earth’s waters, is a rare, hopeful development.
Yes, I also have found the Guardian as the best major media source going beyond the technological, industrial and economic growth obsession as the major means to lower carbon emissions.
Speaking of the mass media, last week, I listened to a segment of the PBS NewsHour praising the efforts of a fisherman to regenerate the growth of Earth’s fishing stock. A lifelong fisherman condemned the industrial, large-scale fishing for severely reducing the world’s fishing stock. This was the first NewHour segment I can recall, and I hope not the last one, that focused on regeneration’s potential and that was critical of industrial processes.
Check out the much-watched documentary, “Kiss the Ground,” which advocates for regenerative agriculture because of its ability to sequester carbon in root systems and enhance the soil’s quality, contrasting that with today’s industrial-style agriculture which has resulted in increased carbon emissions, chemical pollution and lower soil quality. Mentioned in most of the many professional and amateur positive reviews, was the hope “Kiss the Ground” engendered. (It should be also noted that the movie, available on Netflix and Vimeo, was legitimately criticized for its lack of BIPOC participants.)
Right now, I’m in the middle of reading Paul Hawken’s “Regeneration: Ending the climate crisis in one generation.” This comprehensive book on regeneration, copyright 2021, enhanced by many beautiful photographs and stories, gives me some hope. The following segment is just one of hundreds of stories in this book illustrating this promising, but under-reported way to reduce emissions.
“In Niger, West Africa, a farmer-led movement is restoring highly degraded land using an effective low-cost woodland management technique that grows indigenous trees and shrubs from stumps, roots and seeds. Faced with chronic poverty and a steady loss of vegetation due to desertification, farmers and agriculturalist specialists discovered an ‘underground forest’ of living tree stumps cut down earlier. They coaxed the stumps to re-sprout starting the process of regeneration. Today the numerous trees and shrubs are integrated into existing agricultural activities including livestock grazing, creating a dynamic set of relationships that have resulted in a rise of soil fertility, soil moisture and crop yields. They also provide fruit and firewood. A recent survey revealed that more than 10 million acres of Niger, roughly 50% of its farmlands, have been ‘re-greened,’ increasing food security and helping to build resilience to weather extremes.”
I know there needs to be more studies of, and practice with, Earth-friendly regeneration’s positive role in resolving the climate crisis. I know some improved industrial processes and technologies will be required to eliminate fossil fuels.
However, I also know two other even more fundamental truths. I know, in past history, industrial processes (extraction of and transportation using fossil fuels of natural resources to be assembled into goods to be again transported to and installed in final locations and sooner than you think to be dumped on land and sea) were almost solely responsible for our current climate crisis and have damaged too many other of nature’s ways to sustain life.
I know you cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. No wonder many of us are losing hope when most all our leaders and many of our fellow citizens are relying on industrial processes, neglecting nature’s ability to sustain life on “Our Only Home” and naively believing economic growth can go on forever.
I do know many examples in past history when Earth, sometimes assisted by ecologically-knowledgeable people, healed itself. For example, Vermont, now about 80% forested, was an ecological mess in the late-18th and early-19th century when farmers cut down forests so that only 20% of Vermont’s landscape remained forested. We can all see it has returned to 80% by pretty much being left alone but also supported by the ecology knowledgeable such as George Marsh. I’m betting on “Our Only Home.”
However, I also believe my increasing hope requires ordinary, concerned people to love our Earth even more and love our stuff even less, and communicate those beliefs to our leaders and our fellow citizens ASAP.
Harris Webster lives in Montpelier.