Article Published in the Sonoma County Peace Press fpr August
“What a time to be alive!” The opening words of Reverend Sekou’s anthem, “The Revolution Has Come”, have echoed in the back of my mind for the past several weeks. Our long slide down a dark road of oil, war and corporate power has corrupted our political, economic and cultural life and brought us, finally, to the Trump administration. My friends, family and associates are looking hard at how we got here and what we must do now to recover a more just and sustainable future for our children and grandchildren before it is literally too late. The challenge can seem overwhelming.
“RESIST!” shouts the bumpersticker on my Spark EV. The question is how can I keep resisting without becoming exhausted and discouraged? How can I balance resistance – signing petitions, making donations and joining protests– with actions that are energizing and hopeful within our community. Both gestures are essential: blocking soulless greed and ambition and acting creatively and positively to transform the conversation.
For me, positive action is an outgrowth of my reflections about my lifelong experience as a teacher and my relatively new understanding of the principles of regenerative agriculture. In both education and agriculture, we have inherited systems whose assumptions are not life-based, that have forced increasingly unnatural processes on our children and on our gardens and farms. We need more assessments and textbook driven programs to ensure that children are successful, more chemicals and pesticides and GMO’s to ensure that we can grow enough food, so-called experts repeatedly have told us. Wrong on both counts. This vaunted knowledge and hubris mask profound ignorance of natural processes supporting life and our continued survival.
In our ignorance, we have inflicted children with top-down information-based group learning, driven by competition, rewards and punishments, with drugs to control their resulting restlessness. As a consequence, many children are failing and all are arguably damaged by their educational experience. In our ignorance, we have disrupted soil communities by digging and plowing and planting monocultures that have required increasing use of pesticides and fertilizers. Our once soil-rich valleys of California have released carbon to the atmosphere at an alarming rate, increasing global warming, polluting water and contaminating our food. Our soils are almost gone.
I know that children are avid learners; their survival depends on it. But they have requirements. They need strong relationships with trusted adults who respect their needs and encourage them to explore, to ask questions and to learn through experience. They need stories that help them chart their way and understand their place in the community. They need to be held by real communities that provide models of caring, responsible development for them to emulate.
I taught children how plants grow and flourish by performing the magic of photosynthesis – transforming light into food. Plants also have requirements. What I didn’t fully realize is that plants flourish through the support of a diverse and largely invisible community of interdependent microorganisms who live beneath us, invisible to our understanding until very recently. These microorganisms are the basis of all carbon-based life forms, including humans. Plants drip carbohydrates from their roots to attract them and the microbes respond by bringing plants the minerals they need, by forming communication webs that help the plants resist pests and diseases. Healthy living soil is a vibrant community of interdependent beings. It is also a brilliant metaphor for what we human beings have to consciously foster and create –more just and sustainable communities that celebrate and protect our interdependence with the natural world and with each other.
I have written a book to share my ideas for positive change in our public schools, inspired primarily by my experience as a Waldorf teacher and by current practices in Finnish public schools. Our 350 Sonoma regenerative agriculture group has formed a coalition with local farmers, orchardists and grape growers to test the research of Dr. David C. Johnson, a molecular biologist at NMSU, who has developed an effective high-fungal compost (BEAM) that supports soil regeneration and drawdown of atmospheric carbon. BEAM byproducts are healthier food and cleaner water These activities and relationships give me the energy to keep resisting and the hope that, indeed, the revolution has finally come.