Today someone’s sitting in the shade…because someone else planted a tree.

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.

The Loess Plateau before and after restoration

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 March 14, 2023

Join Forgotten Democrats!

Friends!! You know how I feel about ensuring we find, fund, and support people running in every race across the country. And while I’ve been focusing a lot of attention on state legislative races (which are truly the sweet spot) by creating powerful grassroots communities with Blue Ohio, Blue Missouri, and Blue Texas… I’m super excited to announce a companion community that supports Democratic nominees for Congress!

In 2022, 23 Congressional races had no Democratic nominee on the ballot. A whopping 17.5 million people live in those districts. We are leaving those districts and those people behind when we don’t even find a candidate to run.

But it’s even worse when you consider that over 125 Congressional candidates had so little funding it’s as if they didn’t run at all.

We’re all so used to hearing about these races where the nominee raises $5 million – but there are so many races in the reddest, roughest, toughest districts where the nominee has less than $50k. They can’t get funding or support because they’re considered a “lost cause” and funding them is a “waste.”

Friend, nobody who is fighting for democracy should fight alone.

If Democrats say we fight everywhere, we have to mean it. And then we have to do it.

The great news is that we can make it easy and fun! Enter: Forgotten Democrats! It’s a community of folks like us who care about democracy and are ready to get off the sidelines. Members kick in a few dollars a month, which is used to both directly fund the nominees who have the least support, and the efforts to recruit and train them.

We meet monthly with folks like Marcus Flowers, Olivia Troye, and Fred Wellman (among others) to talk about progress, celebrate achievements, meet candidates and hear from special guests. I’m really, really excited about this venture and what it could mean for Dems in Red America.

So join today (tell them Michele sent you!) and you’ll be there for our first community call! CLICK HERE to join. (Yes, it’s a monthly membership community – we’re in this for the long haul and building an actual movement. But there is also an annual option if you’d rather not have monthly charges.) Check it out HERE.

New Comment Opportunity On Critical DEA Regulations

A few weeks ago I described a new DEA regulation that has the potential to create a public health disaster and kill a lot of people.

The new regulation rolls back flexibilities that were put in place to permit providers to prescribe controlled substances via telehealth during the pandemic. The problem is that the regulation rolls back the flexibility provided for medications that – while controlled substances – are literally the gold standard in treating opioid use disorder.

Health care providers have been able to prescribe Suboxone (Buprenorphine), one of those gold standard medications, via telehealth since COVID. Suboxone isn’t prescribed for pain, to relieve anxiety, or to treat ADHD; it’s prescribed for people who are trying to get clean from opioids.

It works. “Buprenorphine has been shown to lower opioid-related mortality improve treatment retention, and generally improve patient outcomes“.

The COVID flexibilities have opened up treatment for a whole segment of the population that otherwise has lacked access, whether because of transportation, insurance, the lack of providers – you name it. Many people have benefited. Particularly people living in rural areas that already lack access to healthcare.

But … these new regulations would add a significant road block: it would require an in-person visit within 30 days of a health care provider prescribing Suboxone to someone suffering from opioid use disorder.

Currently there are telehealth providers who are able to manage the HUGE amount of people who need access to this medication (which many primary care physicians don’t understand or don’t want to prescribe) and are able to do so safely with required drug screens and virtual follow up appointments.

With this new requirement, people would still be able to utilize those providers – but would then have to (somehow) get an in-person visit with someone somewhere who is willing and able to provide them with a refill.

Imagine finally deciding to get clean, getting yourself set up on a medication that will blunt your cravings for heroin, and then learning that now you have to – within 30 days – find/get a provider and get an appointment?

This requirement will kill people.

And to add insult to injury, the additional 30-day-in-person requirement provides no benefit. Because all of the prescribers already require drug tests and screening, the additional hurdle of an in-person visit is just that. A hurdle. Except this one will kill people.

The comment period is open for this regulation – but just for the next 17 days, and I encourage you to not only comment – but to share the need to do so with others.

This article from MedNews Today lays out very succinctly the problem with this new requirement:

But the comments that have already been written by providers and patients are enlightening as well and I encourage you to read some of them.

Again, the comment period ends in 17 days. So please, take some time today to comment!

When commenting, there are some things you can do to make your comment more helpful to the DEA – and more persuasive. Explain the reasoning behind your position (don’t just say “don’t adopt this rule”) so that they can understand your opinion and use it to craft the best policy.

They also suggest that you identify credentials and experience that may distinguish your comments. If you are commenting in an area in which you have relevant personal/professional experience, say so! So if you live in a rural area where it takes longer than 30 days to get a primary care appointment – or the closest MD is 30 miles away and there’s no public transportation, etc. – that’s information that is pertinent and important for the DEA to address.

Provide personal examples if you can and if it’s appropriate.

You can choose to comment anonymously or with your name.

Here’s where you can comment:

If I give you a draft comment, it can get batched with others – and its value diminished. So please write your own comment (it can be short!). Here’s a structure to follow if it helps:

First, explain who you are and if you have any specific experience with Suboxone or drug addiction (whether personally or loved ones).

Second, describe why you think adding this requirement is a bad idea for people in your own community. Do you live in a rural area? Is there transportation or lack thereof? How long does it normally take to get a MD appointment? Are there sufficient providers in your community?

Third, describe what message adding this requirement sends to people who are trying to get clean – or sends to your community. How does this requirement show the administration is handling the opioid crisis?

I hope that helps you organize your thoughts. But again – this can be a quick comment, and you can review some of the other 750+ comments that have already been made.

Roll Back Bank Deregulation

Obviously with the failure of SVB bank over the weekend it’s clear that Republicans’ grand idea of rolling back banking regulations was a bad idea. Elizabeth Warren sent a brilliant email over the weekend describing how and why.

Here’s what she’s calling for:

  • Reverse the dangerous bank deregulation of the Trump era. Congress must repeal the 2018 law right away. And bank regulators must ensure stronger oversight, taking a careful look under the hood at our financial institutions to see where other dangers might be lurking.
  • Reform deposit insurance. Large companies with billions in unsecured deposits should never again expect, or receive, free support from the government. Regulators should act so businesses affected by bank failures like these are fully covered when they’re trying to make payroll and do other ordinary financial transactions. And the financial institutions that pose the greatest risk should pay for it.
  • Deter this risky behavior by making sure it’s not rewarded. Executives at SVB and Signature — who made millions of dollars — need to be held accountable. That includes clawing back their bonuses. And it also means investigating whether they engaged in insider trading or any other unlawful activity.

Give a call to your MOC and ask them where they stand on reversing the deregulation of the Trump era this week – it sounds like by next week Warren may have some legislation that will address this crisis.


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. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

P.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.

Have a thought? A small deed to suggest? Share it here!

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