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Few people can see nature, having only a superficial seeing. But for the dedicated watcher, every hour and season yields its tribute of delight~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Welcome all new subscribers and thank you to all paid subscribers. We are in the home stretch to the holidays and I wish you a wonderful one wherever you spend it.
This will be the last newsletter for 2022 and the next time we meet, it will a new year! I close out with several things that I care about, from learning ways to reduce food waste, to creating the framework for a healthier lifestyle outdoors, supporting local farms (especially the organic ones), clay, regenerative agriculture and find out who the winners are of the EarthShot prize I wrote about in the last newsletter. Enjoy!
#1-Humanity’s Oldest Art Material
-a clay library-
As a recent discoverer of the world of clay and in my case, on the edge of the river near my River’s Edge Farm in upstate New York, my clay reveals itself in early summer until fall, when the river drops a foot or two. As soon as I see the clay, and the water current has slowed, I grab my shovel, pull on my waders and step into the cold water (thankful for the waders!) and harvest the thick, heavy clay. It feels amazing digging it up and it’s hard work too! Nothing better than being in the sunshine, breathing fresh air, and standing in a beautiful riverbed.
I’ve been inspired by the work of artist Heidi Gustafson, who is an ochre specialist based in the rainy, volcanic Cascade foothills of rural northern Washington.
The word ochre tends to be associated with the warm brownish-yellow color seen in ancient Egyptian paintings or lining the walls of Mediterranean cities. It also refers to a physical substance found deposited in mesas, caves, and other landscapes around the globe that once removed, ground, and combined with liquid, becomes paint. With a lifespan as long as the geography of its origin, the organic matter is widely regarded as humanity’s first art material.
An ochre sample from rock (left) to paint (right).
Housed in a North Cascades cabin, the Early Futures Ochre Sanctuary collects and preserves hundreds of samples of these pigments. Rough chunks of material and powder stored in vials fill the space and vary widely in hue, ranging from deep rust and gold to cool robin’s egg blue.
The ever-growing archive is the project of Heidi Gustafson, who established the sanctuary back in 2017. She’s since amassed an incredible collection through a community-based practice involving scientists, archaeologists, creatives, and generally curious folks who donate the pigments they discover for safe-keeping.
Heidi Gustafson gave a interview about her work. Read the whole piece here:
Heidi Gustafson has a book coming out in May 2023 titled
Book of Earth: A Guide to Ochre, Pigment and Raw Color.
All images © Heidi Gustafson and Early Futures
Learn more about artist Heidi Gustafson and her Early Futures research site here
-thinking out of the box-
Recently, I learned about a campaign to reduce household food waste. One method is composting (which I have been doing for many years), but there is another option.
Years ago, a small town in Belgium came up with the idea of giving 50 pairs of chickens to families with sufficient space to keep the birds in their gardens. Those taking part in the scheme were given basic instruction on chicken care and had to agree to not eat the chickens for at least two years.
The aim of the project was to publicize alternative methods of waste management.
Apparently, 100 tons of food waste never made it to the landfill!
#3-Global VS Local Food Systems
-local farmers are the backbone of food autonomy-
Do watch this short snippet from Local Futures' documentary 'Planet Local: A Quiet Revolution' , which contrasts the global food system versus localized food systems, highlighting their dramatically different outcomes re- productivity, sustainability, and human and planetary health.
Watch this video:
Although we haven’t heard a word of it in mainstream media, it’s thanks to small farmers that people are being fed in many parts of Eastern Europe. With international supply chains failing, the fields of export-oriented farms lie fallow. Meanwhile, small local farmers have stepped up, adapting to a rapidly changing situation.
In a recent article, Szocs-Boruss Miklos Attila, a small farmer in Romania and president of Eco Ruralis, stated:
“The paradox of the situation is that the big farmers stopped immediately … The small farmers became the backbone of food autonomy in Ukraine in times of crisis.”
Szocs-Boruss speaks out against pursuing “food security” through subsidizing the global market. He believes it’s more important than ever to support small farmers in Ukraine and around the world, and for people to demand “a fairer and more localized food system”.
Read lots more great info from the Local Futures page here
#4-The 2022 EarthShot Prize Winners are…
Congratulations to the winners and all the participants of the 2022 Earthshot Prizes! Thank you for making our world a better place.
Protect and Restore Nature
Kheyti offers a greenhouse-in-a-box to small farms, helping them reduce climate risk and increase their yield.
Clean Our Air
Winner: Mukuru Clean Stoves
Rather than burning dangerous solid fuels, Mukuru Clean Stoves use processed biomass made from charcoal, wood and sugarcane. This burns cleaner, creating 90 percent less pollution than an open fire and 70 percent less than a traditional cookstove. They are cheaper too, costing just $10 and halving ongoing fuel costs.
Revive Our Oceans
Winner: Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef
The region’s indigenous rangers are vital in defending the Great Barrier Reef. Their work brings together ancient knowledge, passed down from generation to generation, with modern tools, like drones that monitor coral changes, forest fires and land degradation.
Build A Waste Free World
Country: United Kingdom
Notpla is an alternative to plastic made from seaweed and plants. It is totally natural and entirely biodegradable, and can be used to create a range of packaging products, such as a bubble to hold liquids, a coating for food containers, and a paper for the cosmetic and fashion industry.
Fix Our Climate
Named after the molecular weight of carbon dioxide, 44.01 removes CO2 permanently by mineralising it in peridotite, a rock found in abundance in Oman as well as in America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. Peridotite mineralisation is a natural process, but in nature it can take many years to mineralise even a small amount of CO2. 44.01 accelerates the process by pumping carbonated water into seams of peridotite deep underground.
Watch a video of the winners here:
Watch the entire award ceremony here:
#5-Bike Path Across the USA
Did you know that a bike path is being built that goes all the way across America? I think this is so wonderful.
The Great American Rail Trail is bringing to life this cross-country rail project, spanning 24,000+ miles of rail-trails between DC and Washington State. In addition, there are 8,000 miles of rail-trails ready to be built, with the focus being on linking these corridors—creating trail networks that connect people and places, bringing transformative benefits to communities all across the country.
To meet the needs of car-less Americans, communities must be retrofitted to make it safe and convenient to walk, bike and ride public buses and trains. Active transportation and transit work together to make it practical to get around without a car. With half of the trips taken in America within a 20-minute bike ride and a quarter within a 20-minute walk, active transportation can replace many short car trips. Further, safe walking and biking routes to trains and buses are critical to the success of transit and enable car-less Americans to reach more far-flung places.
UCLA published an article about the benefits of biking to our health and that of the planet’s:
Riding a bike is not only a great way to improve your physical and mental health, but also the health of the planet! Here are some of the ways you'll be helping the environment just by replacing a few car trips with bike rides.
No Gas, No Pollution
By not using any gas, bikes don't release harmful emissions that pollute the atmosphere, nor any carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change. Just moderate increases in bicycle use each year could save an estimated 6 to 14 million tons of CO2.
Harmful Chemicals Are Reduced
We usually think of gas as the only pollutant when it comes to cars, but they also use antifreeze and other fluids that are bad for the environment. Biking instead of driving cuts down on all of them.
More Bikes Equals Fewer Roads
More cars mean more roads need to be built, which causes water run-off that contributes to ground and water pollution. More bikes mean more bike paths and lanes which are more sustainable.
Noise Is Also Pollution
We rarely think of noise pollution when it comes to cars, that is unless you live by a busy street. Swapping bike rides for drives will make your neighborhood quieter to everyone's benefit.
Help fund the completion of the rail-trail here
More info here
#6-What is Regenerative agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture is our only meaningful pathway forward.
Regeneration puts life and connection at the center of every decision we make. A safer, fairer and more resilient world is possible, and we already have the solutions.
Watch the short film (5 ½ minutes long) which features Jeff Bridges, George Monbiot, Juma Xipia, Kate Raworth, Christina Figueres and many others.
If you are interested in watching the recent live-stream event discussion around regeneration, click here
Whether you are a paying subscriber or enjoy the free version, thank you so much for your support this year. I love hearing all of you comments and thanks so much for sharing and supporting what I do here.
Wishing you and all of your loved ones health and happiness in the new year
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