Follow the Heart and Roots Route

In your work with plants, do you have instances of feeling in the flow where you experience states of connection, serenity, abundance, amazement and inspiration? This is what it’s all about—it’s why we engage in growing anything, rather than purchasing all our food and beauty from others. What we most enjoy about growing is that experience of sharing in creation; it is not that we enjoy it because we were told it is good for the environment. We find that the act of growing is inherently fulfilling and beautiful, so we keep planting!

What if understanding what truly motivates us to garden were the key to healing life on Earth and resolving the climate crisis? What if we’re being called to better tend to the life surrounding us, at the root level? As Charles Eisenstein asks in Climate: A New Story, what if the way out of our maze is to “protect and restore soil, water, and ecosystems worldwide”?

When we remember that “ecosystem” refers to every locality on Earth, we’re inspired to do the work of planetary restoration that is in our communities. We find joy working ardently to preserve and heal all the life in our backyards and neighborhoods. Each of us has special capacities that can serve beauty and healing in our local environments, so we ask ourselves: “How can I best nurture life in my community?” Not because I’m told I should, but because I love to.

The dominant climate narrative says we must focus first and foremost on reducing CO2 and methane emissions lest warming do irreparable damage. Can we really expect, though, to uphold a climatic balancing act if we continue degrading all the ecosystems that serve as the heart and lungs of the planet? The danger of greenhouse gases is real of course, but if we bank on the myth that scientists and politicians will innovate promising climate palliatives, then we’re forsaking our roots by not doing what is in our wheelhouse. To be sure, many macro-level policies and practices must change, but with each of those changes we must ask: is it fundamentally regenerating life in locales where it has been diminished, or is it merely shifting the problem onto lives in another time or place?

Climate change and the coronavirus pandemic are beckoning us to a radical approach, one that is holistic and bottom-up rather than reductionist and top-down. The top-down approach to climate says that we just need to manipulate our civilization’s exterior somehow to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere, that humans can survive alongside ecocide. Even if we believed this were possible, would we want to live on that planet? The top-down approach to the virus has us preoccupied with stamping it out and “getting back to normal” but does not ask us to change the systems that got us into this. These dominant narratives are analogous to that of conventional agriculture, which prescribes more force and “controls,” an approach that has failed our world in countless ways.

We’re desperate to embrace wholeheartedly a holistic narrative, one that calls for us to be more sensitive to the needs and capacities of the living land, the ultimate source of everything we know and love. Indigenous communities have held this wisdom all along, and we would do well to observe and employ practices of land partnership and community cooperation. The work we face is not technically complicated or difficult to do; as we more lovingly tend and protect all the grounds we call “home,” we may be astounded at how rapidly beautiful new life takes hold in an upward spiral or virtuous circle.

Many have framed the crises we face as warnings or admonishments from our Mother, but how about as beckonings from our friend and lover, inviting us into the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible? What if we followed the pull to reconnect with our purpose and the life that sustains us? How amazing our home could be...

– John Paul Rietz, Fedco Organic Growers Supply coordinator