by Community Solutions Executive Director Susan Jennings
originally published in The Yellow Springs News
This January saw wildfires in Cape Town and Tasmania and continued record highs, including in Australia, where temperatures are so elevated that heat-addled bats are falling from trees. In Ohio, we saw temperature swings of 65 degrees within one two-week period. January is named after Janus, the Greek god of beginnings and transitions. We are currently in a long-arc transition from the stable weather patterns that underlay the development of our current civilization and agricultural systems to wind, water, fire, and temperature anomalies becoming the global norm.
While climate consciousness is rising with sea levels, and manifesting in student protests and multi-billion dollar schemes to seed the ocean with iron filings, another kind of consciousness is also growing: one that recognizes climate change as one of an intersecting series of calamities, including algal blooms, soil degradation, and biodiversity loss. All have their root in ecosystem degradation. The precipitous decline in insect, bird and mammal populations, for example, closely matches loss of habitat through forest clearing, hedgerow clearing, stream straightening, and an ever increasing use of pesticides by farmers and lawn-owners alike.
This recognition comes with a multi-faceted silver lining: it suggests avenues of repair and regeneration that are available in multiple landscapes and at multiple levels. Regeneration is a term that’s becoming as broadly used as sustainability was a decade ago. In agricultural systems, regeneration refers to practices that build soil carbon and thus limit erosion and run-off and increase the ability of soil to hold moisture. Soil development also regenerates mychorrhizal networks and builds biodiversity above and below ground.
The promise of regenerative practices led Community Solutions to buy Agraria and guides the work that we are doing here. Our core mission areas of education, research, conservation, and support of the regional food system have soil regeneration at their root. This winter we are laying the groundwork for a full season of conferences, native plantings, trainings, and field trips for neighboring schools. Our next educational event is the Growing Green Conference, hosted in partnership with Tecumseh Land Trust, from March 15-17. During this weekend gathering we will explore the intersection of local food systems, local economics and the transition to organic practices. See communitysolution.org for details and to register.
In his new book, Climate, a New Story, Charles Eisenstein provides an elegant rendering of a narrative that draws together disparate threads of economics, farming, and water and carbon cycles. His main thesis is that the current global focus on emissions reductions and carbon accounting as the singular response to climate change has not only been unsuccessful but also repeats the reductionist logic that’s led to ecosystem collapse and climate catastrophe. Using historical, scientific, mythic, and psychological data, he suggests instead that our view of the living planet as filled with fundamentally discrete and separable objects that are also separate from ourselves has led us to ignite species extinctions and ecosystem degradation. Intact ecosystems help regulate carbon and water cycles, while degraded ecosystems are unable to modulate or tolerate temperature and other extremes.
As in the regenerative conversations, the recognition of how we came to be at the precipice of ecological collapse suggests multiple pathways to healing. In Eisenstein’s view, many of these are related to the healing of loved ecosystems at the local level.
He writes: Whether we are looking through the lens of carbon or water, from the living systems perspective we see that climate health depends on the health of local ecosystems everywhere. The health of local ecosystems in turn depends on the health of the water cycle, and the health of the water cycle depends on the soil and the forests…The health of the global depends on the health of the local. The most important global policies would be those that create conditions where we can restore and protect millions of local ecosystems.
We in Yellow Springs are fortunate to live in a community that contains so much opportunity for appreciation and repair of the local landscape. From grade-schoolers counting trees and macroinvertebrates and eco-camps at the Glen, to biodiversity studies at Antioch, farmland preservation by the Tecumseh Land Trust, and the active local tree, environmental, and food committees, there are many avenues for citizens to participate in learning, growing—and regenerating. We hope to partner with you, in your neighborhood or ours, as we regenerate our home, and our ties to one another.