Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. ~Warren Buffett
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. ~Eleanor Roosevelt
About 20 years ago, they decided to do something.
The land was dead. Brown, used up, dusty and gray.
But it once had been a forest. Not so very long ago, it was lush and green and home to lots of animals and birds. It had been magnificent, once.
Sebastiao knew, because the land had once been owned by his parents. A photographer, he spent the mid-1990s documenting the genocide in Rwanda; more than a little emotionally battered by that experience, he came home to that land – hoping to restore his peace among the trees.
But instead of peace, he met a dried and deadened landscape.
And so, 20 years ago, surrounded by 17,000 acres of dusty, dry and dying land, he and his wife decided they should do something about it. And they did.
Little by little, bit by bit. They raised money. Created a foundation. Planted. First they planted beans to restore nitrogen to the soil. Then they planted trees. Most of them died. They cried. They didn’t give up.
They groomed. They fed. They tended and nurtured.
Now, 20 years later… They have a forest.
Their land is a lush, green oasis among the surrounding dusty landscape. Animals and birds have returned – dozens of species – some of them at critical risk of extinction.
Neighboring landowners have seen the benefits of restoring the forest. Their cows are producing milk. The springs have come back. And now they are planting trees on their own land, with the help of the nursery that Instituto Terra has created.
The Instituto has started teaching students how to re-forest. They’re spreading the word about what they’ve done and how they did it – sharing the knowledge borne of 20 years of hands-on experience re-creating natural magic.
Two people and ingenuity. Patience, persistence, and resolve.
Over 2 million trees.
On the other side of the world, the Loess Plateau in China had turned to desert. Thousands of years of farming had made it barren and infertile. Soil was being lost at devastating rates. People lived in extreme poverty, trying to farm the dust.
Thirty years ago, the Chinese government, the World Bank, and other partners took action and started rehabilitating the land. The restored area is the size of Belgium. Over 8.5 million acres of wasteland have been transformed.
Agricultural income has increased 300%. Millions of people have been lifted out of poverty.
And the soil is no longer blowing away.
Friends, there is so much going on in the world that it’s easy to look around and only see the vastness of the destruction that’s occurred over decades … and centuries.
It’s easy to just kick at the dust and say there’s no use. There’s just too much to do.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the enormity of it all, and to feel like planting one seed, or one tree, or one meadow (or make that one call, write that one postcard, or make that one $5 donation…) is so insignificant that it’s just … a waste.
I hope these stories of grand transformations taken over decades remind you of a few things. First, that it’s not insignificant to that tree, or that bird, or that insect that benefits (or that piece of legislation, or that candidate, or that cause).
Second, that we are capable of great things. Truly remarkable things. If we get out of the way of our own self-doubt.
Hope is that secret sauce that fuels inspiration. Without hope, there’s no creativity – there’s no dreaming about what might come … what might be possible … what you might help to create.
Despair and overwhelm are the enemies, and they’re a powerful duo.
But, in my experience, it’s tough for them to take hold when you focus your attention on the task at hand, and keep focused on your progress. One more seed, one more acre, one more mile…
I’m not advocating that you stop paying attention to the destruction that continues and the mountains of work ahead.
But don’t let the enormity of it all suck the hope out of you.
Keep moving forward – inch by inch, foot by foot. And in time, perhaps a long time, we’ll see what was once barren land transformed into a world that’s a haven for all.
Warren Buffett once said that “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
I’m right there alongside you, planting those seeds.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the week of April 20, 2021
Note: The jury has begun deliberations in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Know that regardless of outcome, it’s a near certainty that actions will arise after the verdict. Be safe when protesting, and remember your rights, which you can find here: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/protesters-rights/#im-attending-a-protest
Tuesday: We Shall Breathe
Join the Hip Hop Caucus for a virtual event at 7pm (EST) tonight that will “bring together some of the most powerful, multigenerational Black, Indigenous and Brown leaders working on pollution, the pandemic, police brutality, poverty and policy to affirm to the Biden Administration that racial justice and climate justice solutions must come from frontline and BIPOC communities. Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., Founder & President of Hip Hop Caucus; Emerald Garner, Daughter of Eric Garner, We Can’t Breathe Inc.; Elizabeth Yeampierre, Climate Justice Alliance and UPROSE; Chase Iron Eyes, Indigenous Peoples Movement; and many other important voices will be in attendance.”
From the event page: “We can’t breathe because of police brutality, pollution, policy, poverty, and the pandemic. Hurting people, hurts the planet. If the people are taken care of, the planet will be taken care of.”
The demands of the group are important, and I suggest (even if you do not attend the virtual summit) that you check them out and consider how you can fold them into your own work: https://weshallbreathe.com/demands/
The register for the online event, which will have numerous diverse and fantastic speakers discussing environmental justice at Register at: https://weshallbreathe.com/register/
You can watch on Facebook via partner accounts @HipHopCaucus and @think100climate or on the website https://weshallbreathe.com
Wednesday: Earth Day events & Teachers
Earth Day is Thursday, and there are MANY Earth Day events this week. You can go to the official Earth Day page (www.earthday.org/earth-day-2021/#map) to see what is going on near you and how you can join in.
On Wednesday at 7am (EST), Education International will lead the “Teach for the Planet: Global Education Summit.” The multilingual virtual event will feature inspiring teachers, student leaders, prominent activists, engaged ministers, and examples from every continent focused on the crucial role that educators and their unions play in combating climate change and why we need transformative climate education now. The event will launch Education International’s Manifesto for Quality Climate Change Education for All and its Teach for the Planet global campaign leading up to COP26. The event will include interpretation in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
For more information, please visit: https://www.teach4theplanet.org and register at https://www.teach4theplanet.org/join-us/
Thursday: Earth Day!
Earth Day Live is an event on April 22. Join on Facebook at @earthday.org
For the 51st Earth Day, EARTHDAY.ORG has gathered a diverse lineup of activists, global leaders, musicians, educators, industry leaders, influencers and artists from around the world for the second annual digital livestream event. Discussions, performances, presentations and films will explore the innovative and powerful solutions to Restore Our Earth.
Earth Day Live: Restore Our Earth will be streamed live at 12PM ET on April 22 via earthday.org, Facebook (and via Facebook’s Climate Science Information Center), Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and GEM-TV. The virtual event will be hosted by Alexandria Villaseñor, Founder of Earth Uprising and Youth Climate Activist, and Milana Vayntrub, Actress, Comedian, Writer, Director. For more information on Earth Day Live and Earth Day 2021, please visit: https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2021/
As a part of EARTHDAY.ORG’s partnership with TED Countdown, the digital event will include three original TED Countdown Talks by John Marshall, Cory Combs and Rumaitha Al Busaidi. Additionally, the program will feature segments from Education International’s “Teach for the Planet: Global Education Summit,” Hip Hop Caucus’ “We Shall Breathe” virtual summit, as well as Earth Uprising’s “Youth Speaks Summit.”
Friday: Kiss the Ground
I’ll admit that I had little hope this Woody-Harrelson-narrated documentary would be any good. And truthfully, some parts of it are gratuitous celebrity spots (I could have done without Gisele Bundchen’s lunch, for example). But honestly, the bulk of it was quite good.
And, in keeping with Earth Day, it’s a good documentary to sit down with and watch as part-entertainment, part-education. The health of our soil is important for many reasons, not least of which is its usefulness as a carbon sink. No-till farming and gardening, which is gaining in popularity, is discussed at length, and for that reason alone I think it’s worth some of your time.
But, as one would expect with a documentary with some star power behind it, the website for the documentary is also full of information and some great actions. In the “take action” portion of the website, you choose your areas of interest and they curate a few actions you can take that are in keeping with your personal preferences.
So, in keeping with this week’s “earth” action themes, I encourage you to go and check it out. Find it here: https://kisstheground.com/find-your-path/
You can find the documentary on Netflix.
DID YOU KNOW YOU’RE A ROCK STAR? I DID. SUPER PROUD OF YOU!
If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
P.P.S.: If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.