This month's State of the World Update focuses on some positive developments around the world that give us reason for hope, and on some simple changes in our home environments that can help to mitigate accelerating climate change, soil and water depletion, and pollution from pesticides and fertilizers.
photo by Jane Sherry
Most of us have yards and many of us have gardens. Transforming the way we care for our lawns and replacing traditional landscaping with organic gardens can have a substantial positive effect on our local micro-climate and ecosystem. When millions of us tend to our little patch of the natural world with loving prayerful care, together we can help slow down runaway carbon emissions.
Our garden is a sacred space, surrounded by a grid of crystals energized periodically with sunlight and Reiki energy, a source of flowers, vegetables, spices, herbs, and year around beauty.
Jane's Boca Garden has reached peak fecundity this mystical month of May. We had normal rains during the dry season, so no drought looms on the horizon.
In a mere five months, our hyperactive young tabby cat Lila has evolved from an uncontrollable curtain-climbing kitty into a responsible tweener, and has gained outdoor privileges. We introduced her slowly to the world outside and defined the boundaries of our yard with great clarity. Lila loves the flowers, herbs and spices in Jane's garden, and her tawny coat makes a beautiful contrast with the undergrowth she prowls in search of bugs, lizards, new plants to forage, and new floral smells to sample. She goes in and out all day long, but no matter how far she wanders, she comes home when called. Maybe we should call her Puppycat? [Cat lovers click on the link to see the spectacular, surreal Bee and Puppycat Cartoons.]
Jane and I have noticed an increase in the number of butterflies, bees and other insects in the garden this spring, which is a welcome development. Since Hurricane Irma hit us in 2017, beneficial insects have been scarce in the air and around the flowers.
We've all seen the articles about monarch butterfly populations dropping and the insect apocalypse. It's not hard to see that declining insect populations and traditional lawns and landscaping go hand in hand. From the point of view of the bee, the butterfly or the ladybug, vast stretches of pesticide laden lawns bordered by pesticide drenched hedges offer neither food nor a habitat for raising the young.
Insects, native plants and flowers, and wildlife of all kinds are vanishing around the world, so every patch of pesticide free garden laden with native meadow flowers, veggies, spices, and herbs is an oasis for threatened beneficial insect species. Jane and I imported organic soil, horse manure, compost, and mulch to build up the soil in our suburban back yard to create Jane's garden, and we added iron, eggshells for calcium, and other missing nutrients to create a healthy balance supportive of all kinds of plant growth. We also use large compost bins to recycle food waste and plant detritus, and add that compost to the soil as it matures.
One of the most satisfying results has been that earthworms have appeared in abundance. This signals that our soil is alive, vibrant, healthy and capable of sustaining life of all sorts. Earthworms are vital to soil productivity and provide essential food for the songbirds that inhabit the ficus hedges surrounding our little suburban garden spot.
Urban gardens matter, not just so we can grow our own organic food, but as a sanctuary for all that we wish to preserve in an ecosystem being degraded before our eyes.
Jane's garden is a space where we connect with the web of life around us, and where we participate in the yearly round of seasonal changes that have structured humanity's communal life, food production, and spiritual festivals for thousands of years. Lawns and hedges on the other hand, remain basically the same year around. They are monuments to humanity's desire to control nature, and to transcend natural cycles and natural limits to growth altogether. Urban and suburban gardens are the antidote to the Faustian hubris of modern industrial civilization and the blind arrogance of rational materialism.
Gardening can be a spiritual practice, with practical benefits that go beyond mere beauty or food production. When we sit by our pool among the orchids in our little tropical garden, Jane and I feel more connected to the local South Florida ecosystem, and we enjoy the daily interaction between Lila, the resident garden songbirds, resident lizards and amphibians, insect visitors, and the cycles of seasonal plant growth all around us. We chose tropical plants, herbs, and spices, and focused on natives, when we created the garden, and now we feel we've become a part of the South Florida landscape in some small way.
Jane's micro-garden is also a carbon sink, largely because we have restored the soil to vitality, and increased the density of plants in our backyard. There are 81 million American households with yards, and 70% of American households do some kind of gardening work. Restoring basically dead soils to healthy conditions in these tens of millions of small garden plots could make a significant difference in our fight to limit carbon emissions and curtail accelerating climate change and global warming.
Creating a pesticide and fertilizer free carbon sink urban garden is not complicated, according to JSTOR Daily, a website that provides context for the myriad of academic papers stored in the JSTOR database.
The key to locking up carbon is soil—and there are several simple steps to making that soil store carbon, which are enumerated in the JSTOR article Five Steps to Making Your Garden a Carbon Sink. In short, for best results, you can minimize nitrogenous fertilizers and pesticides, use cover crops such as peas, beans, and clovers to supply nitrogen for next year's garden, plant more trees and shrubs, compost, and use grass clippings as lawn fertilizer.
If tens of millions of American gardeners followed these practices together we could make a significant impact on the American carbon footprint. Our individual actions can create a better world, propagating ripples of hope, joy and beauty. As we pursue our dreams we discover that through our collective actions we can solve global problems.
For example, consider the work of gangsta gardener Ron Finley. Finley began planting gardens to feed people in unused patches of land throughout South Los Angeles. Finley didn't ask permission to plant seeds in barren, abandoned strips of land along busy streets in his city, he just added organic soil and started in to work.
US Embassy from New Zealand [Public domain]
Finley had to contend with pushback from local authorities, but won the right to green his cityscape, and now his courageous creativity has sparked an urban gardening movement.
"With the help of a dedicated team and executive producer John Legend, Finley has put together a documentary that helps to spread the word of Gangsta Gardening," according to the website Collective Evolution. "Can You Dig This explores the urban gardening movement that is sprouting up through the concrete and colouring the urban landscape."
Across the globe in India, another lone gardener has achieved a remarkable feat of ad hoc engineering while transforming a desolate rural landscape. Jadav ‘Molai’ Payeng, single-handedly planted a 1,360-acre forest, mitigating desertification, soil erosion, and the devastation of local wildlife. Payeng started the project when he was a teenager, and kept at it for 30 years. He said no one was interested in helping him, so he just went ahead and manifested his vision for a healthier local ecosystem. You can see William Douglas McMaster's inspiring documentary film Forest Man for Payeng's full story.
Finley and Payang were not rich, or famous. Despite many challenges they worked to manifest their dreams, and they succeeded. With that kind of tenacity and determination, each of us has the power to make a difference in this world; big or small. You can change everything. It starts with YOU, and it starts in your own backyard, in your home town. You don't have to be a political activist or a genius. Let Spirit guide you to make a difference every day of your life and you will be amazed at the results.
The simplest actions can have far-reaching repercussions when we tune into spiritual guidance and allow ourselves to take action, unfettered by conventional wisdom and fearful or apathetic collective thoughtforms that train us to believe our individual actions are insignificant in a global context.
It's even possible for individuals to have an impact on the seemingly intractable political and economic systems that structure our lives in so many ways.
In the last year sixteen year old Greta Thunberg launched a school strike for climate change outside the Swedish parliament, and her individual act of fearless protest since sparked a worldwide student movement.
Refusing to board an airplane, Greta has been traveling Europe by electric car, train and bus to spread her message that we are in a climate emergency, and that political leaders of all parties have utterly failed to address this existential crisis. Check out Greta’s speeches to the European Parliament (4 minutes) and to the UK Parliament (2 minutes).
"Our house is on fire," Thunberg told global elites in a speech at Davos this January. "I am here to say, our house is on fire. . .We all have a choice. We can create transformational action that will safeguard the living conditions for future generations. Or we can continue with our business as usual and fail. That is up to you and me."
"Adults keep saying: 'We owe it to the young people to give them hope.' But I don’t want your hope," Thunberg continued. "I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is."
by Tiziana Rigodanzo [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Post-Davos, the student climate strike movement has generated mass demonstrations in Lisbon, Stockholm, Uganda, Tokyo, Ediburgh, Madrid, Nairobi, Seville, Melbourne, Zurich, Washington D.C., Adelaide, Florence, London, New Delhi, Brussels, Hong Kong Seoul, Dresden, Turin, and more. See pictures of these courageous young people in the streets around the world to fully appreciate the drama of this moment in history.
Last month the group Extinction Rebellion organized 10 days of nonviolent worldwide civil disruption, centered in London, with over 1000 arrests.
"The action was the crest of a wave that arguably began with the high school walkouts over the climate that had been sweeping Europe since late last year, and it was remarkable for including thousands of citizens — many from small towns with no experience of radical politics — who were willing, sometimes even eager, to risk arrest," says anthropologist David Graeber, in an editorial in The New York Times.
Extinction Rebellion protesters in London on Friday 19th April.,
Jwslubbock [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
"Their demands were, and are, simple," Graeber explains. "First, that the government declare a state of emergency and “tell the truth” about the global situation — that thousands of species are in danger of extinction, that there is a very real possibility that human life itself may eventually follow. Second, that Britain set a goal to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2025, and third, that the specifics of this emergency program be worked out not from above, but through the creation of citizens’ assemblies."
In the wake of the student strikes and Extinction Rebellion's civil disobedience campaign, three governments have just declared Climate Emergency motions: the UK, Wales, and Ireland.
"Following the days-long protests by environmental group Extinction Rebellion that paralyzed parts of London, the UK became the first country to declare a 'climate emergency'," says Tripti Lahiri on the Quartz news website, in an article entitled We just might be at a tipping point on how seriously the world treats climate change.
"The declaration, the result of a motion called by the opposition Labour party, was followed by the release of a report from an advisory committee to the UK government that urged it to set a target of getting to 'net-zero' greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The committee had refrained, as recently as 2016, from urging the UK to set such a target."
". . .According to a paper accompanying the report, the net-zero target 'will involve a wholesale transformation of several of society’s most important socio-techno-economic systems: energy, transport, land-use, food and buildings, to name just five… there will be winners and losers. These changes will need to be handled fairly if the transition is to win social acceptance'.”In Bavaria, Germany's most conservative state, a public uprising demanding government action to address accelerating climate change, mass extinctions, and the damage done by industrial agriculture has sparked dramatic change.
"Bavarians will implement a sweeping set of conservation measures," according to Robert Hunziker in a Counterpunch article entitled Bavarians Vote to Stop Extinction, "including: (1) Setting aside 13% of state land in special ecological zones, inclusive of ecosystem infrastructure of hedgerows, meadows, and wetlands (2) Organic agriculture must be practiced in 1/3rd of Bavarian farmland as well as cutting out fertilizers on all state-owned farms to reduce nitrogen pollution (3) Protection of wetlands, waterways, and threatened insect populations by eliminating insecticides as much as possible."
Within days three other German states commenced preparations for biodiversity referendums, and Sweden and Australia are exploring the possibilities. One proposal under consideration requires large portions of EU agricultural subsidies to be diverted to protection of biodiversity.
In Spain, the Socialist Party won recent elections and is in the process of forming a coalition government. Spanish Socialists ran on a platform of jobs creation, promised to implement a US-inspired “Green New Deal,” favored a 22 percent jump in the minimum wage and also want greater funding for education and science, all issues that run counter to the tight-fisted policies of the EU.
Pablo Iglesias, leader of Spain's anti-austerity party Podemos,
horseman7869 [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
"If I had to highlight two clear transformative proposals in particular, I would first point to our commitment to establish a number of strategic public companies, Iglesias explains. "This will include a state investment bank so as to secure Spain’s energy transition to 100 percent renewables over the next 20 years."
"We are also proposing to create a public energy company. . .This will obviously come into conflict, however, with the interests of the existing energy giants. The energy market in Spain is really a cartel, with some of the highest prices in Europe. And so we are also aiming to challenge this capture of the market by establishing such a national company."
". . .the necessity of confronting climate change is also an opportunity to create quality employment in a country where there is still a 14 percent unemployment rate. Both sets of measures we were talking about before imply a program of mass public employment, the likes of which have never really been seen in Spain before. We are talking about the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs."
"And when it comes to climate change, we have no choice but to act now, particularly given where Spain is situated geographically," Iglesias continues. "We are undergoing an accelerated process of desertification which the rest of Europe has not had to deal with."
"It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the Sahara now starts on the Castilian plain rather than in Africa. But we also have a series of geographical elements in our favor," Iglesias contends. "The sun and the extensive coastline so beloved by tourists can also be harnessed to generate renewable energy."
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (center) speaks on the Green New Deal with Senator Ed Markey (right) in front of the Capitol Building in February 2019,
Senate Democrats [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
In the United States, in the wake of proposals for a Green New Deal, public opinion in the run-up to the 2020 Presidential elections has suddenly turned Green despite the fact that the climate change deniers in the Republican Party control the White House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court.
"The global climate crisis and Medicare for All are top issues for a large majority of Democratic voters, according to new polling results published Tuesday by CNN," according to an article in Common Dreams by Jessica Corbett entitled More Than 90% of Democratic Voters Want 2020 Candidate to Make Climate Action and Medicare for All Top Priorities: Poll.
"Ninety-six percent of respondents want whichever Democrat runs for the White House to support 'taking aggressive action to slow the effects of climate change'."
"In the second spot, 91 percent want the candidate to back 'providing health insurance for all Americans through the government, a plan sometimes called 'Medicare for All.'"
There's more good news at the level of state politics in the United States.
"[This month] Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state (and presidential contender) signed legislation that aims to make the state’s electricity carbon neutral by 2030, according to an article by Nathanael Johnson in Resilience magazine, entitled 1 in 5 Americans now Live in Places Committed to 100% Clean Power. "It’s the most recent in a series of similar moves. A couple of weeks ago, on Earth Day, Nevada’s governor signed into law a measure banning fossil-fuel generated electricity by 2050. In March, New Mexico committed to 100 percent clean electricity by 2045. California, Hawaii, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico, passed similar laws a bit further back."
“'One in five U.S. residents now live in places committed to 100-percent clean electricity,' said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, on a conference call with reporters before Inslee signed the legislation."
"There are similar bills pending in Illinois, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, and Massachusetts. And don’t forget the 100-odd cities — Orlando, Florida and Pueblo, Colorado, among them — that have vowed to kick their fossil-fuel addiction."
“'Voters and state legislatures are being pretty darn clear that there’s widespread support for getting the electricity sector to 100 percent clean,' said Josh Freed, who runs the energy program at the Third Way think tank in Washington, D.C. 'In our wildest expectations, we couldn’t have anticipated this much action this quickly'.”
We are at a cultural tipping point in May 2019. The collective emotional body and thought forms of humanity are being supercharged with visions of planetary restoration. Business as usual is coming to an end after decades of denial and deliberate obfuscation by reactionary politicians and fossil fuel industry executives.
It is not too late to reverse the damage we've done to our planetary ecosystem.
There is great joy in participating in the global movement for environmental conservation, whether as individuals working in our own backyards or as activists dedicated to triggering political change in the halls of power.
Jane and I affirm that this month you will all receive the grace and guidance you will need to participate in this global uprising to save our planetary ecosystem. And so it shall be. And so it is.
Sending you all love and light from Jane's uber-suburban micro-garden in Boca Raton, Florida,
Curtis and Jane