rites of passage

earth message

Earth Message for you weekend, I offer a woven story.

Moratorium on Business-as-Usual (Part 1)
Project Drawdown:
>>Forest Protection: 38th ranked Drawdown Solution: 896 Gigatons of carbon saved
>>Temperate Forests: 12th ranked Drawdown Solution: Net carbon sink

Since I have lived most of my life in the wild west of the US, I am able to report about growth and change over more than 60 years. When I moved to the Idaho Panhandle 12 years ago, the first Al Gore movie was about to come out and we started a citizen’s climate action group. This group worked miracles retrofitting the city buildings and we raised local awareness. We didn’t persist, we didn’t go far enough. Eventually we were remade as Sandpoint 350. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change continued reporting and I numbed like so many others. Inner spirit in me as a spiritual activist didn’t start writing about possibilities or telling stories about core issues until Pachamama Alliance caused a personal shift. My voice does matter, so does yours.

I heard a voice the other day, a beautiful place-holder talked about living off the grid for 40 years at the headwaters of my watershed. She brought to my attention a theory that startles at the thought: Generationally, what we see, feel, and touch, literally using all of our senses, seems normal. This is not a phenomena that is well known, we have to hear from our Elders―what are we not seeing? Marilyn McIntyre introduced me to “shifting baseline syndrome” and I searched out a definition from an ecological journal: “People’s accepted thresholds for environmental conditions are continually being lowered.”

I am a logger’s Granddaughter. We are old together now, my Granddad and I; we remember the old ways with big hearts. After selectively logging with draft horses his whole life, he passed in 1970. Horse logging, selective logging is a dying art. It could be re imagined. Surviving into this century, in each of these western states, there might be one or two with skills like Granddad Board.

When I see a clear-cut forest I feel a deep heart pain. The Earth was not meant to be treated this way; there is something too greedy afoot. Useful and grounding words of Chief Seattle come to mind.

Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does
to the web, he does to himself.
~ Chief Seattle

With my spiritual eyes, I too can see huge differences in my childhood forests and those that are surviving today. Limiting the variety of tree species is one big difference, and a die-off is currently underway, maybe gaining speed. Whole species are no longer growing in our moist montane forests. This is what my friend Marilyn reported. She went back through her journals, as a life-long forestry technician and an artist, she kept good journal records. Some of the keystone species that welcomed her 40 years ago no longer even grow in the watershed we share. Sub-alpine fir and White Bark Pine are absent along Grouse Creek in North Idaho. Without her notes, I could not have known what I was missing. I did know about the blister rust that took out the Western White Pine. Intuitively and reaching into my heritage, I felt my own shifting baseline and planted 100 trees in an arboretum that included Ponderosa Pine, a reinvigorated Western White Pine and a little tree the deer loved, fast growing poplars.

It’s time now to call a moratorium on tree cutting. Even though many of the big timber businesses do replant and many consider trees a renewable resource, we no longer have 40 years to grow a tree. The tipping points in the climate are so close we can see them, feel them, and speak about them. We must stop business-as-usual at least until we begin to draw down the carbon from the atmosphere. Then, after the moratorium, we can re-imagine the logging business.

Pain Replaced by Sacred Activism

Drawdown is a huge concept, at least as big as the industry that put all that carbon out in the atmosphere in the first place. We are already drawing down and capturing carbon in more than 100 ways. I believe that drawing down begins at home, first by spreading information, teaching others to speak the language, and then by planting trees. Trees have been called the standing people by our indigenous Ancestors. In the language of Drawdown, trees worldwide are also precious because they are stored carbon.

Since we all suffer from “shifting baseline syndrome” and we view nature with eyes in this present-moment, it appears normal. This new level of suffering feels especially painful because we fail to realize the illusion and trickery of our own eyes. From the deep knowing, from the history alive from our Ancestors, each one of us can find our spiritual activism in relationship with the standing people, our tree friends.

We can give thanks, collectively, for this spectacular feedback from Mother Earth. That her messages are being gathered, noticed, and shared is outstanding! Normal is shifting so rapidly now a simple search back a few decades might begin with conversations with Elders. Those bridges are easy to build. Those of us with a few decades of growth, like old trees, we can see the difference in our memory banks. We welcome deeper conversations, we can talk ourselves into spiritual activism.

One thing our Ancestors all did, they planted trees! To honor the early passing of a young man in my watershed, he urged us to plant trees. After planting, give them a bit of extra care because they need to survive the shifting climate that we cannot see or feel, but we believe. I give thanks for the signs and the stories of the many Elders who keep our memories enlivened.

With love from me, Story Activist, Gail Burkett
October 2018

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