Yesterday I re-read John Perkins’ book, Shape Shifting: Shamanic Techniques for Global and Personal Transformation. John is a storyteller weaving in stories of his time with different indigenous people around the world, sharing ancient wisdom for a modern world.
At one point, John asked an Achuar elder to “help me find a way to give your young people gifts – or money – when they decide not to cut that old tree.”
The elder’s response was “we do not own these forests. They belong to no man and to all men. We use them for many things. Always with their permission. We honour and respect each tree. We know the forests are much older than we and that they will outlive all of us. You ask us to help you find ways to pay our people for not cutting. Well, we must answer that this is not even a question. How can we help you pay our young not to sell the trees, that they do not even own?”
Indeed, we do not own the trees. They belong to no one and to everyone and it is everyone’s responsibility to be conscious custodians of this planet. The trees are for everyone, taking in the carbon dioxide that we exhale and that is created by our industrialization, and returns to the atmosphere life-sustaining oxygen. The forests are the planet’s lungs, and our lifeline.
To pay someone not to cut down our forests is coming from a disharmonious angle. In this perspective, the trees are seen as a commodity, rather than something we should be protecting regardless. Something invaluable.
The elder ended by saying, “simply pay us to protect them from your own destructive people. Pay us to assure that your babies will have air and water.”
John shares that the Four Sacred Sisters – the elements of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air – need these forests and we need these elements to survive and thrive. It is a beautiful way to look at it, to remember the web of interconnectedness that we are all part of, seen and unseen.
This is why we support projects like building a rainforest nursery that iGiveTrees has on Indiegogo right now. The rainforest in Brazil is endangered, with more than 90% gone. This nursery is to give organically grown non-GMO native species of trees to communities through local NGOs. Founder Alana Lea stresses the importance of working at the grassroots. Big NGOs are often funded by agrochemical companies, whose interests are in opposition to iGiveTrees’ biodiversity-oriented conservationist efforts.
Alana, a botanical artist, has become an activist in the movement to bring back our rainforests. I first “met” Alana a few years ago when “somehow” I came across her crowdfunding project to gift trees. She is a wealth of information on many aspects of what is going on and I really raise my glass to her as it has not been easy. And she keeps on going, looking for innovative ways and like-hearted people and companies with whom to partner and align. You can read more about Alana in our interview with her in Issue №9 Living on Planet Earth.
Find out more about the background and the details of iGiveTrees is Building a Rainforest Tree Nursery on Indiegogo. As always the range of perks and contributions is large, including $25USD for gifting a tree to a rural family in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, which is something they have been doing since 2010. A $1000 contribution will get you your own forest of 10 trees that you can visit!
For this crowdfunding project, iGiveTrees has teamed up with a Brazilian-run Seattle-based organic coffee company called Kitanda. This is meaningful because much of the rainforest has been cut down for coffee plantations. In this way, we can enjoy organic coffee and still support the replanting of the rainforest trees. The message is that making conscious decisions does not mean the end of what we enjoy, but rather it is a shift – or a shape shift – in perspective and perception of what we value. And that possibility for change always exists.
If you are wondering how a rainforest in Brazil effects you or your family? Perhaps this story may help.
Being Canadian, I must admit I have taken fresh air for granted. That is, until I came to live in Singapore, where every year, we have the haze. This is the dry season during which farmers in Indonesia use the traditional method of fire-and-slash to clear land, for pulp and palm oil plantations. An illegal act.
This has been going on for decades, some years worse than others, such as this one. Because of the drier weather pattern, the fires are raging uncontrollably. To make matters worse, it is peatland that is being burned, releasing an astonishing amount of carbon monoxide.
The PSI got pretty bad in Singapore. Parents took their kids out of school. The playground and swimming pool were quiet on the weekend. People wore N95 masks outdoors, and inside their cars and buildings. Air purifiers were sold out or low on stock, even the very expensive BluAir.
A little while back, it got up to close to 500. The PSI is the Pollutant Standards Index and measures the levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM10), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (O3) in the air. 100-200 is considered unhealthy, with anything above 300 as hazardous.
Indonesia saw her PSI over 2300.
3 million hectares of land, along with the flora and fauna that call this part of the earth home, have gone up in flames. You may have see images of orangutans, first in a pleading commercial and now real in our media.
The pollution from these fires is an environmental crisis and disaster, and carbon monoxide is at a much higher level through Asia-Pacific, extending outside this region. You can see the effect on the map included in the article, “Business Take Heat from Haze in Indonesia” in the Wall Street Journal which tallies the economic damage in the billions.
Trees help to sink this carbon. We need trees. So yes I am nowhere near South America but like many people, I recognize that we do not live isolated lives. The air I breathe is the same as you breathe. What I buy as a consumer – whether it has palm oil – has consequences. Whenever someone buys palm oil or paper products from unsustainable sources, fires like those in Indonesia will continue. Palm oil is a tough one as it hides behind names like vegetable oil or SLS. This means palm oil is not only found in highly processed foods like cookies but also in shampoo and soaps, and in many products you would not think palm oil would be a necessary ingredient.
To stop at palm oil is missing the point. Is it not time that we re-look at what we buy? Why we buy it? At how much we buy? And how we as consumers have led industries to produce such toxic products? A plethora of chemicals whose effect we know very little, and whose interaction we know even less of? We are poisoning the earth and we are poisoning ourselves.
So please support projects and movements like iGiveTrees to stem the tide of environmental damage. When we hurt the planet, we are really hurting ourselves. When we stop hurting ourselves, we stop hurting the planet.