Inspiring Landscapes: Greening the Desert

Nearly 10 years since the first time I saw Greening the Desert and it still inspires me!  There was a sequel added in 2009 which I also recommend. In this short film, Geoff Lawton shows us how we can heal even the most degraded landscapes by managing our resources differently.  The idea is to utilize the natural cycles (carbon and water cycle) to improve nutrient cycling in a system. The effects are: increased food production, with less water, greater resiliency, with less inputs.  Why aren’t more people doing this? Designing with nature is a very different perspective from trying to control and mitigate for natural cycles.  Why do we run the water from our roof tops into storm water drains and then pipe water in for irrigation? What if we looked to catch and store water? How could you incorporate some of these ideas into your landscape?

An Interview with Sarah Brinker

Sarah Brinker is a talented lady.

She’s a certified permaculture designer, permaculture teacher and health coach. Not too long ago, she moved out to California from North Carolina to start growing at new business, one that will center on environmental consulting, lifestyle and health coaching (yep, all three of those together). We got the chance to speak with Sarah a few weeks ago – over Skype since we unfortunately didn’t get a chance to connect with her before she left the east coast.

Sarah majored in Environmental Studies in college, which she describes as being “broad” and without a lot of direction. But she had a “passion to make the world better.” While in school she studied abroad in New Zealand and delved into a wide range of subjects, including engineering to forestry to biochemistry and health. Several weeks after graduating in the States, Sarah returned to New Zealand and eventually her journey led her to Rainbow Valley Farm. It was there that she met David Holmgren (one of the founders of permaculture) and took an advanced permaculture class. This led her into green building, environmental consulting and health coaching. Sarah said she’d call herself a “professional generalist.”

When we asked Sarah what she’s doing now that she’s in California and she answered: “Yes…excellent question.” She’s working to construct a business that weaves together environment, lifestyle and health, centered around “the permaculture philosophy of care for the land, care for the people and share resources.” She’s been in California for about a month and says she’s “doing a massive learning curve.” The town she is in very small, right outside of Sequoia National Park, and she’s having to adapt to the desert-like climate (there’s an olive tree in her backyard). Her main mode of transport is currently a bicycle.

Sarah said one of the most valuable things she’s taken away from learning about permaculture is the importance of creating healthy relationships: “…And taking taking a holistic perspective: relationship with field, community, partner, self. You know, Zone 0.” Additionally, she talked about connecting people with nature through indoor/outdoor spaces.

With her business, Sarah hopes to be able to guide people through learning how to live out their goals, to build new skill sets. Not everyone, she said, has time to grow, cook or store their own food:  “So looking at other ways that people can connect to their community, whether it’s through CSAs…connecting to other people who are doing that, and just trying to create more community resilience.”

For the full interview visit:

Food for Thought

NPR did a story this morning on the relationship between our brains and our gut.  Looking at how food affects the microbes in the gut and the correlation between those interactions and our brain. Turns out what you eat could be affecting your emotions. Could probiotics improve your mood? Depression and anxiety? Magical microbes…fermented foods?  Are our sterile environments and use of antibiotics affecting our mood?

There are so many new discoveries being made in regards to how quality of our gut and the food we put in it affect gene expression….the study of nutrigenomics.  These ideas take the old adage: You are what you eat— to a whole new level.  Our bodies really are fascinating!

Life experiment challenge: Take stock of how you feel, the quality of your thoughts after you eat.  What do you notice?

If you’d like to listen to the 8 minute Morning Edition cast, listen below.

Do you ever get in your own way?

Do you feel guilty for embracing pleasure, for taking steps to your best life? Why do we get in our own way? Do we not feel deserving? Are there qualifiers to our worthiness? What are yours? Where do they come from? I can hear a little voice say ‘don’t be lazy, you are what you do, what you get done, what you produce.’ In some ways there is inner drive and motivation but on the other hand there is this ‘never enough’ undercurrent. When have I accomplished enough? Is is to please others? Where does my value come from?  I want to live differently, from a place of wholeness, plenty, of deeply valuing myself.  Maybe it is just a matter of practicing and keeping the inner critic(s) in check. A commitment to self.

After writing this post, I watched this TED talk which was right on point.  Check it out.

Climate Change: 2 Steps From Overwhelm to Empowerment

OVERWHELM: Climate change, oh my! The earth has warmed 1.4 degrees in the last century.  2000-2010 was the hottest decade on record. 2005 and 2010 tied for the hottest year!

Now, 1.4 degrees may not sound like a lot…I mean whether it is 78 or 79.4 seems like no big deal, right? Wrong.  Here is the bummer, it is ecologically significant and will impact you.  I will explain.

Stats from the EPA:

For every degree of warming we can expect:

  • 5-15% reduction in crop yield

  • 3-10% increase in the amount of rainfall and snow….more major storm events (floods…)

  • 5-10% decrease in some stream flows (some places will be getting much wetter others will find themselves in drought conditions)

  • 200-400% increase in wildfires in the northwest

The spectrum of projected temperature rise for the next 100 years is between 2-12 degrees!

Even if we are at the low end of that spectrum the changes are SIGNIFICANT.

What do these changes look like?

  • Food insecurity
  • Changes in rainfall frequency
  • Floods
  • Droughts
  • The Super-storm norm
  • Ocean warming and acidifying
  • Ice caps melting
  • Sea level rising

How’s everyone feeling? Depressed? Hopeless? Heavy? In denial? OVERWHELMED?

STEP 1: Shift focus.

This idea comes from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Circle of Influence vs. Circle of Concern

Yellow circle = Circle of influence: things in your life that are actually within your control. Blue circle =  Your circle of concern: these are all the things that keep you up at night that are outside of your control.  The above diagram depicts a person whose perspective is looking outside of themselves.  They may feel that their life is out of control, the world is happening to them, they may be glum, depressed, apathetic, a constant worrier…cynical and generally dis-empowered.

Or you could choose to focus on your circle of influence, looking inward.  Focus on areas of your life within your control. You can choose to adopt thoughts, actions, re-actions that empower you, which will only cause your circle of influence to grow and spread light to others. Look for positive changes you can make.

I show you this because the problems we are facing right now are great whether you are looking at climate change, the economy, the breakdown of communities, the degrading health of our country…we need more people to live their lives from an inspired and conscious place. We all play a part and have influence. Each of us must decide whether that influence is positive or negative. Every thought and decision we make, every dollar we spend is like casting a vote and it DOES MATTER, YOU MATTER.  ”If you ever think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito.”- African Proverb

STEP 2: Take Action

I want to leave you one more visual which comes from Brian Johnson.  He talks about the dynamic tension between where you are and where you want to be…hold your two pointer fingers out in front of you about a foot apart- imagine a rubber-band strung between those two fingers.  Your right pointer finger represents where you are and your left pointer represents where you want to be. Feel that band of tension between the two. Take a deep breathe.  What happens to the tension if you take a step backwards, pulling your fingers away from one another? What if you take a giant leap forwards? Sling shot is the image coming to mind.  Have you ever sling shotted yourself… there is probably a place for the occasional slingshot as long as you can get your bearings again.  Brian challenges us to take baby steps towards where you want to be, slowly releasing that tension.  My challenge to you is to consciously choose a more empowered life for yourself and future generations.  Remember, as Brian says, take – baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. What is your baby step?

When overwhelm hits, shift focus and take action. Step into EMPOWERMENT.

The what to do with your life handbook!

Okay, cruel joke.  Ever find yourself just dreaming of being able to open a book and see: Step 1. to a happy life XXXX, Step 2. (insert name here) is going to be a (insert amazing job title you never thought of but meets your every desire for meaning, fulfillment, balance, and abundance here).  Whoop, whoop…clarity! Celebration! Hmm… Are we asking the right questions?

Looking for someone to tell you the next step to take? But here is the kicker, lots of people could tell you.  Their answers would be from various perspectives and projections. But then, would you be living your life or just the life your friends and family think you should live.  What is the fun in that? Maybe what you really want is a sense of knowing? Security? A clear sense of direction? Of place?  A comfortable change? Is there really such a thing? What if the answers lie in the uncertainty, in the uncomfortable places that make us squirm, that challenge who we are? What if the answers are in our resistance? Maybe we dive in instead of running away.

There is value in talking, connecting with others, exchanging ideas…sometimes we have to speak and get out of our heads to see if our words actually resonate within our bodies. Do they feel authentic, exciting? Have you ever suddenly been aware of “your story” as you speak about your situation…almost as if you are watching yourself just outside of your own body? The “story” of excuses, of ‘yeah buts’, of ‘why you couldn’t or didn’t’….these conversations bring with them fruitful territory, an opportunity to pause and check in. We can ask ourselves ‘is that really true?’

The time is now, to get real. Your life is happening now, right now. I heard someone say once that ‘Life ain’t no dress rehearsal’— so what are you waiting for? What am I waiting for? This is our life, happening right now. Let’s live it all the way, not start one day when everything is perfect. Let’s be honest here, the perfection is in the imperfection—- the beautiful messiness of the journey. Let’s be present.  Let’s be passionate! The world is begging for all of us to grab life by the balls and dare to trust our own inner knowing and power, dare to move forward no matter how small the first step is. What is your first step to a more inspired life?