How Can America Heal Its Wounds?

Our democracy is in peril. So write the principals leading a nation-wide initiative to improve civics and history education. Led by the Educating for American Democracy (EAD) Principal Investigators—Danielle Allen of Harvard University, Paul Carrese of Arizona State University, Louise Dubé of iCivics, Jane Kamensky of Harvard University, Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg of CIRCLE, Peter Levine of Tufts University, and Tammy Waller of the Arizona Department of Education—EAD created a Roadmap as a guide for educators, communities, and citizens. Over 300 educators, students, and civic and history organizations contributed to the Roadmap.

EAD Vision Statement

“Our constitutional democracy is in peril. After years of polarization, the United States is highly divided, and there is widespread loss of confidence in our very form of government and civic order. For many decades, we have neglected civics and history, and we now have a citizenry and electorate who are poorly prepared to understand, appreciate, and use our form of government and civic life.

“At the federal level, we spend approximately $50 per student per year on STEM fields and approximately $0.05 per student per year on civics. A lack of consensus about the substance of history and civics—what and how to teach—has been a major obstacle to maintaining excellence. The Educating for American Democracy (EAD) initiative provides tools to make civics and history a priority so that we as a country can rebuild our civic strength to meet the modern challenges we are facing.

“The EAD initiative demonstrates that an ideologically, demographically, and professionally diverse group can agree about history and civics content, as well as pedagogy. This detailed consensus, presented in a broad Roadmap that allows states, localities, and educators to assess and reprioritize their own approaches, will encourage investments in civics and history at all levels.”


Go Here to Watch a YouTube Video Explaining How EAD Helps to Build Civics and History Education

The Promise of Regenerative Farming

Regenerative Farming is a major solution to removing carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane in the atmosphere. Regenerative farming recognizes the ecosystem of soil (the pedosphere) as advanced R&D from Mother Earth in which dynamic relationships among communities of organisms and chemical recycling best address erosion, flooding, and greenhouse gas pollution.

Soil amendments commonly used by agriculture to grow food crops act to tamp down the functioning of the soil ecosystem. From the Industrialization of Farming (i.e. use of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides) farmers have unknowingly drawn down the true wealth of soils. We were able to grow bumper crops of food but food produced is less nutritious, and pollinators and many beneficial insects have been reduced or eliminated. We are now contributing to the warming of the Earth by decreasing the soil’s natural sequestration of carbon. Healthy soils are the culmination of intricate, dense interactions among communities of soil organisms that deposit carbon in the soil, i.e. the ecosystem grows topsoil.

How It Works: Soil Food Web

Go here to see a series of animations prepared for the public that demonstrate what we have learned about the soil networks and how they are related for a fully functioning pedosphere. This site was developed by Dr. Elaine Ingham, who discovered the soil food web nearly 4 decades ago and has pioneered this research ever since. “Widely recognized as the world’s foremost soil biologist, she’s passionate about empowering ordinary people to bring the soils in their community back to life.”

Bottom Up Action in Response to Climate Change

As I participate in the 2021 NCSE and Project Drawdown Conference, one thing is clear: bottom up, local action is healthy and potentially how the flame will be lit for broader action in states, nations, and international coalitions. Be sure to see this blog’s pages above for more details on topics.

“Living Labs” are projects which are experimental and provide living examples of climate action through innovation and working across disciplines. The Lake Superior Living Labs Network is a prime example. The Solar Commons project is a good example. It combines a nonprofit, a community land trust, an academic partner, and people seeking energy justice. Go here to read the model.

Another critical force in local climate change and sustainability leadership is the Community College. At the conference the discussion is about changing the role of Community Colleges as education about Nature more than Workforce alone, but combining these so that young people can train for and be employed in green jobs. At present, there are still a lack of good paying green jobs, but graduates of CC Sustainability programs are employed over other candidates as most companies must now address sustainability as part of their long term planning and/or disaster mitigation. See video below.

Yuma, Arizona Farm Fields

Mary Oliver Reminds

Not this year, until now, did I turn to Mary Oliver’s poetry. I don’t know why except perhaps the numbing worry about erratic leadership, a pandemic, and climate change right here right now, and isolation.

In “Beside a Waterfall” Oliver draws our attention to the beingness in all the living world, our deepest connection with each other, the exchanges that give us life and purpose.

Mary Oliver, Beside the Waterfall, at the Poetry Foundation.

What if Climate Solutions Result in a Better Economy and Just Policies?

The National Council for Science and the Environment and Project Drawdown will host a conference, January 5-9, The NCSE Drawdown Conference to address solutions to a “planet under pressure”. The conference is free to students, $200 for the five-day, full conference. $75 for one day with Project Drawdown is also available as well as scholarships if you cannot afford the full registration.

I encourage as many of you as possible to register for the conference or some part of it. The reason? This is about coming together in partnership that builds trust among partners that may believe their mission is incompatible with the other, or partners have never thought to work together.

Project Drawdown offers a listing of scientifically researched solutions that may surprise you, especially in terms of the greatest contributors to the global carbon dioxide or pollutant concentrations. For example, refrigeration is at the top of the list of CO2 contributors. And, solving food waste is another.

This conference and these two very effective organizations are working on Applied Solutions that simultaneously address the economy, injustice, health, and building regenerative systems that secure life on Earth.

See a Powerpoint Presentation by both organizations hosted by the Sustainability and Security Forum to learn what is unique about the approach to solving common problems while protecting the Earth’s well-functioning.

Where We Go From Here

Dear Readers,

Like me, you may be wondering how our country can ever come together again as one nation. In every way, we appear to have moved into a new reality, two “countries” in our borders.

What separates us? Misunderstanding that results in two visions of not only who we were and who we are but also of what we are.

We are reminded by historians and previous presidents that democracy – a principle – is what we were founded upon and there are never any guarantees that we can keep it, as John Adams famously warned us at our very beginning.

There is no denying that social media and even our news networks polarize the public discourse and give easy venue to every voice no matter how glorious or how despicable. These changes have occurred in such as short span of time that most of us don’t recognize the impact unless we have the fortitude to turn it off — the constant electronic feed of images, information, and angst.

To save ourselves and our Republic, we each now must make a decision. How will we take responsibility in our own circles of influence to grasp hold of the treasure of that idea – a democratically motivated public – to save it and to improve it?

I would offer this. M. Scott Momaday, author and Kiowa elder, has written in A Man Made of Words, that words matter — words carry in them a force for good or evil, repair or destruction. Words also carry a nation’s experience and deep culture and history.

We must use words with care, more care now than ever. How can you and I speak, write, and create words that will bring us together again for that noble goal of creating a self-governing society in which each individual is treated equally, his or her rights considered as sacred among us?

How can we each use our voices to unite the nation again, and even though we may disagree, use words of respect and acknowledgement while disagreeing?

Our republic, a representative form of government, is built on words. We can oppose ideas as a loyal opposition, i.e. loyal to the ideal, the principle, that is the basis of our national identity.

What might happen if each of us choose our words with democracy in mind, with the knowledge that words can protect it or destroy it?

That is our choice now.

Taking Flight. Photo by Susan Feathers

Emergence Magazine Essay about words, words expressed in the language of trees. Relates to this article by shaking up our imagination.

Big Old Trees

Who doesn’t love a tree? Its beauty, fruits, colors and graceful lines. Trees are important characters in the play of life. We pass by them everyday but most of us have little understanding of all the things trees are doing. Yes, we’ve all learned the O2- C02 exchange between living creatures and trees, but there’s much more going on. If we knew about it all, might we value trees more, not cut them down and plant the native trees of our region? Here is one older tree that sits in a hedgerow near a medical complex in the industrial park near my apartments.

It is a sugar maple. It is a “mother tree” providing benefits to all the trees and plants, and animals that are part of its area of influence. It has provided a hard wood for human needs and provides syrup that is used by animals and humans, insects and myriad organisms. But, its most important contribution may be its brilliant colors in the Fall.

Trees also provide other critical benefits to human health by providing the connectivity in the natural environment from which health arises.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a scientist and writer whose work is devoted to understanding the numerous roles of trees in the ecological health of natural habitats, plants and wildlife, and of the human species. Follow the link below to learn more.