March - April 2021 Newsletter
What’s been growing in your neighborhood these days?
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, spring has come. My best friend told me that his grandmother counts the blooming forsythia as the official start to spring. Whether you mark it by the vernal equinox, the shift to daylight savings time, warmer weather (surprise April snow flurries notwithstanding), or the blooms of forsythia, tulips, or magnolia (my personal favorites), the change of seasons is evident.
In a year when time has taken on new fuzziness, seasonality matters more to me than ever. It is one of the many ways the pandemic and ensuing lockdown have brought me closer to a natural pace in the world, paying more attention to moon phases, the timing of sunrise and sunset, and the activities of plants and animals around me. I’ve faithfully tracked how bare trees’ skeletons began to change shape as their buds emerged, marveled at the variety of budding - from bits of fluff to insect wings to classic casing - and even scavenged myself a little windowsill altar to Spring.
This reminds me of the beauty to be found at every stage of time, and how enormous potential can be coiled in such humble beginnings.
In so many ways, we are tempted to think of springtime as a start, as the beginning of new life instead of a new cycle within a larger ongoing process. We accuse winter of being the season of death, while spring gets to be a time for life and change.
What I’m realizing is that new doesn’t have to mean discontinuous - all of the budding and flowering now filling my days with wonder really emerges from processes that have been gestating all winter long. Just because we don’t see that activity in the wintertime doesn’t mean that the season is static. If there’s one thing we can say of life, no matter what, it’s that it is in a constant process of change.
So too our own work flowers and sprouts in new ways, often after long and quiet toil. People are paying attention, both to climate change as a whole and to the positive opportunities for climate action in natural solutions that rely on and bolster biodiversity. The UN has declared this the Decade for Ecosystem Restoration, and we are seeing wider and wider mainstream recognition for this mission. Now is the time where our educational efforts, advocacy, resources, and expertise can guide a new audience forward. We are looking to accelerate our work to meet this moment with our Planet Partners Campaign, and we’re planning all kinds of conversations, lectures, conferences and more to grow the ecological restoration movement and help our community and our planet flourish.
Let’s celebrate the joys of spring and harness the changes rolling through on friendly winds. Now is a time to be delighted and deliberate.
Very best wishes,
Research and Outreach Coordinator
Save the Date - Wednesday, May 26, Dawn Knickerbocker joins our Life Saves the Planet lecture series
In this issue:
Spotlight: Ecosystem Restoration Camps
Update: Life Saves the Planet lecture series
- Book Review: The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery
Featured Video: The Secret Language of Trees
- Spotlight: Calling Home, an e-zine from Doug Zook and the Global Ecology Education Initiative
- Featured Poem: Equinox by Tamiko Beyer
- Announcing our Planet Partners Campaign
- Featured Article: The Guardian, ‘Teeming with biodiversity’: Green groups buy Belize forest to protect it ‘in perpetuity’
Compendium Notes: Integrating Agricultural Landscapes with Biodiversity Conservation in the Mesoamerican Hotspot, Harvey et al. 2007
Spotlight: Ecosystem Restoration Camps
Ecosystem Restoration Camps
We at Biodiversity for a Livable Climate are thrilled to introduce our partner, Ecosystem Restoration Camps (ERC). A remarkable organization of passionate individuals, ERC is committed to implementing restoration projects across the globe, while training and educating people on how to regenerate degraded landscapes. They work to address the urgent issue of land degradation and the way it precipitates biodiversity loss and food scarcity. They firmly believe that every person has a role to play in restoring the planet, and they give ordinary people a chance to participate by joining a camp, contributing to a project, and returning home with knowledge they can spread to their own communities on how to protect and regenerate ecosystems.
ERC, founded in 2017 by filmmaker and ecologist John D. Liu, has already set up camps on six continents. At their Camp Altiplano in Spain, they have watched as the semi-arid landscape, featuring massive soil compaction and erosion, was transformed into one that holds water and sports greenery. One camper describes noticing butterflies and other insects at the camp-- an indicator that life is returning to the area. In the same breath she shares her excitement at seeing all the campers bustling about the site. The vitality of the ecosystem goes hand in hand with the energy of the people who came there to work, and the participants’ joy and engagement is evident.
At their sites, ERC practitioners work with local farmers and other community members, supporting them in their transition to regenerative agriculture. In this way, they can fuel the regenerative agriculture movement and help farmers begin the practice even if they lack the resources needed to transition; meanwhile they spread practical knowledge of landscape restoration and all share in the fulfillment of doing such important work. Ecosystem Restoration Camps hosted their first symposium with us in January, and we are looking forward to ongoing collaboration with this wonderful group. And check out their Facebook page!
Through Life Saves the Planet, our online lecture series, we continue to offer engaging and informative talks each month. The latest featured Doug Zook sharing some perspective from the history of our biosphere, joined in conversation by Dave Morimoto. If you weren’t able to join last Monday, the recording will be posted online soon.
Our February and March installments are now available. In March, Ridge Shinn talked about regenerative grazing, and in February, Mike Hands and Rattan Lal discussed the novel Inga Alley Cropping technique and agroforestry. Check them out, along with our past event recordings, at our GBH Forum Network page here!
And save the date for Dawn Knickerbocker speaking on May 26th, 2021.
Dawn is a member of the Anishinaabe people and a citizen of White Earth Nation who works at Native Americans in Philanthropy. She is a published nonfiction writer, poet, columnist, and speaker, and the 2020 Martin Luther King Drum Major for Justice Award recipient. A seasoned activist and talented writer, Dawn has much to share from her decades working on culturally based sustainable development issues.
We are so excited to welcome her to this lecture series. Further details and registration to be announced!
Book Review: The Soul of An Octopus
Those of you enjoying our Featured Creature series may be aware of the animal fever we’re experiencing at Bio4Climate. In writing my feature on octopuses, I was inspired to pick up Sy Montgomery’s iconic book The Soul of An Octopus, which you may already know.
This moving introduction to four octopuses and their unique minds, personalities, and lives offers a sense of connection with an animal I’d most often thought of in a purely fantastical context. Despite their amazing features, I’ve always found octopuses rather strange and scary, but Montgomery’s observations and the relationships she develops with Athena, Octavia, Kali, and Karma, four octopus individuals around the world, invite the reader into a sense of intimacy with these clever creatures.
Montgomery is a naturalist, and she eschews the tendency of traditional science to keep matters emotionless and reserve subjectivity and intelligence for humans only. Instead, she invites us to explore the ways octopuses experience the world, feeling, playing, and making choices based on their curiosity or desire for freedom.
Montgomery writes in a way that is both very informative and accessible. Although The Soul of An Octopus is nonfiction, it reads like a story, or multipart biography. Most importantly, it invites the reader to reflect on how we experience our own consciousness, and other ways consciousness might exist. This book is, for lack of a better word, full of soul, and it reminds me how much complexity and wonder there is in the world.
Featured Video: The Secret Language of Trees
I wrote in a past newsletter about the wondrous communities of trees illuminated in Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees. Now TED Ed has put together a lovely animation on the communication networks of trees, based on the groundbreaking work of forest ecologist Suzanne Simard. It showcases the beauty and vital importance of the interconnectedness that nature, including ourselves, relies on.
Spotlight: Calling Home e-zine
Doug Zook, who joined our Life Saves the Planet lecture series this April, has been putting together his own e-zine for the Global Ecology Education Initiative. This online newsletter is released periodically with stories, interviews, and news items on topics in environmentalism. A lengthy read that is overflowing with news, interviews, and features, Calling Home is an excellent resource. Check out their website here!
Dear child of the near future,
here is what I know—hawks
soar on the updraft and sparrows always
return to the seed source until they spot
the circling hawk. Then they disappear
for days and return, a full flock,
ready. I think we all have the power
to do what we must to survive.
One day, I hope to set a table, invite you
to draw up a chair. Greens steaming garlic.
Slices of bread, still warm. Honey flecked with wax,
and a pitcher of clear water. Sustenance for acts
of survival, for incantations
stirring across our tongues. Can we climb
out of this greedy mouth,
disappear, and then return in force?
My stars are tucked in my pocket,
ready for battle. If we flood
the streets with salt water, we can
flood the sky with wings.
A grounding vision for the future, for the hard-won but nourishing rewards open to us when we meet our challenges.
"Equinox" was published as the Poem of the Week in The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database. The Quarry is a searchable collection of over 300 poems by contemporary socially engaged poets, published by Split This Rock.
For those of you who may have missed it, we’re launching our Planet Partners Campaign this Spring, inviting you to imagine the future with us. As we embark on the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, we at Bio4Climate have been envisioning what Earth Day might look like in ten years, and reflecting on how our present actions shape the future we and our children and grandchildren will experience.
Let’s celebrate our planet in all its magnificence and resilience, along with our role here as partners of the planet, committed to its thriving. Read more and participate here!
An ocelot in the Belize Maya Forest (Photograph: Sergi Reboredo/Sipa USA/PA)
Conservation and restoration of ecosystems are the pillars of effective stewarding of climate, biodiversity, and a livable future for the planet’s many inhabitants. Conservation of biodiversity hotspots and corridors for wildlife to move through is particularly important, and it has been shown how conserving connected landscapes is a much more effective way of helping species thrive than disconnected patchworks (you can read more about connectivity conservation in the recent issue of our Compendium). That’s why the recent move to conserve 950 sq km of rainforest in Belize comes as such good news.
An area formerly owned by Forestland Group and permitted for “sustainable logging,” this land, now known as the Belize Maya Forest, was purchased by various conservancy groups. According to Elma Kay, one of the directors of the Belize Maya Forest Trust, they are “engaging all the different communities to participate in a conservation action plan. Most livelihoods are based on agriculture. One objective will be making agricultural livelihoods more sustainable, so there will be more climate-smart agriculture, agroforestry systems, systems that are restorative for soils.” It will be great to hear more about how the plans for the lands ongoing stewardship will involve community decision making.
The forest is a habitat for five species of wildcat, including the endangered ocelot. Kay says, “For Belizeans, this forest means we get to safeguard our biodiversity – from iconic jaguars to critically endangered Central American river turtles to endangered tapirs – which is the lifeblood of our economy and our cultural heritage.”
Read the full article here.
The fate of biodiversity within protected areas is therefore inextricably linked to the broader landscape context, including how the surrounding agricultural matrix is designed and managed [Harvey 2007: 8].
Rather than discussing ecological corridors per se, this article emphasizes the importance of a whole-landscape approach to biodiversity conservation. Pointing out that protected nature reserves are weakened when isolated, these authors focus on the role of the entire surrounding agricultural matrix restoring connectivity.
In contrast to the prevailing trend of managing protected areas and productive lands separately, we propose integrated landscape management in which conservation and production units within the agricultural matrix are managed jointly for long-term sustainability. We do not advocate agricultural intensification to spare further forest conversion because this approach is unlikely to have the intended outcome, for reasons discussed. Instead, conservation efforts should be based on the recognition that how agriculture is conducted and how different land uses are distributed spatially and temporally determine the region’s biodiversity. Lasting conservation will therefore require alliances among conservation biologists, farmers, and land managers to actively plan the future of Mesoamerican landscapes [Harvey 2007: 9].
The sections of the agricultural matrix the authors prioritize for biodiversity conservation include areas near riparian and other key ecological corridors, and they recommend leveraging support for the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor to spur regional action. Priority conservation areas are also more likely to encompass landscapes with a high diversity of indigenous and traditional cropping systems than those dedicated to industrial agriculture because “the chances of reconciling farming and biodiversity conservation there [agro-industrial systems] are slim” [Harvey 2007: 10].
The authors argue that, in contrast to large-scale, export-oriented industrial production, small-holder and indigenous agricultural systems are more compatible with biodiversity conservation, increased food production and rural income. The authors propose economic and regulatory instruments and greater regional collaboration to enhance native tree cover on farms, promote traditional, ecologically based farming practices, and to protect remaining intact habitat and restore degraded lands. The overarching vision is to accomplish conservation and agricultural production objectives for the region in mutually reinforcing ways.
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