with all these challenges we are facing as a people, i still remain hopeful that we can turn things around. the single most encouraging thought to me, in the midst of all this chaos, is the notion that everyone wants to be happy, and we are all doing our best to be as happy as possible from moment to moment. i also feel that more and more, people are taking joy in doing what they can to help these various issues. mostly importantly, naive though it may be, i feel that the solutions to all of these problems are very simple and accessible to all people (in varying degrees).
i feel that the biggest key to overcoming all of these challenges lies in an effort to form a deeper relationship between people and plants.
plants provide humans with everything we need to thrive! food, shelter, fire/fuel, clean water, clean air, clean soil, even companionship. in every breath we breathe, in every bite of food that becomes our bodies, every time we turn on a light switch or drive to the store, plants (young and fresh, or ancient and decayed) are supporting us every step of the way. unfortunately however, this continuous flow of support from the plants is often taken for granted. our dinner is seen as "food" rather than plants, our fuel is seen as petroleum, rather than ancient forests of botrychium and equisetum, and our breath is completely ignored.
if we can begin to remember this simple truth, that everything we depend on comes from plants, we can begin to build a more conscious re-elatioin-ship with the plant beings of the world. if we surround ourselves with loving and supportive plants, we can have all of our needs met from the habitats where we reside.
here are some direct actions you can take to help deepen the relationship between people and plants:
1. Eat something wild everyday!!
these words from my favorite plant person, frank cook, have the power to transform everything within and all around us. most of the food consumed in first world countries, is highly processed, factory farmed, poison, and even the most wholesome local organic produce is pampered and domesticated. as such, wild plants tend to offer a much broader spectrum of nutrients in a much higher density, that means you get more nutrition from less calories. wild foods adapt to a variety of conditions and have developed very clever survival strategies. in short wild plants are wise, and the wisdom they have gathered and stored in their cells becomes the wisdom of our own cells. whether it be a dandelion leaf, or an american lotus root, eat something wild everyday. (always consult a skilled forager to meet a plant face to face and be certain of a proper identification before consuming any wild plant)
"if you eat something wild everyday you become a wild person".
2. Grow more vegetables!!!
this message is especially directed at single family home owners. food production is easily the single most destructive industry of our time. soil is being depleted, biodiversity is being lost, water is being polluted, sea life is suffering, and we dedicate close to half of all the worlds petroleum each year to the production, distribution, and preservation of food. by cultivating vegetables and learning how to care for them well, we can simultaneously save time, money, energy, and eat fresher, more nutrient rich foods.
3. Plant fruit and nut trees!
fruit and nut trees can provide food for hundreds or even thousands of years if properly cared for. they can be extremely productive and require minimal maintenance once established. a single chinese chestnut can yield an average of 100 pounds per year, which would account for around 10% of a person's calorific needs for the year. to put it another way if we covered all the lawns in america with chinese chestnuts we could produce 60,000,000,000 pounds of chestnuts each year and meet the calorific needs of over 80,000,000 people (based on a 2000 calorie diet). not to mention, pine nuts, blueberries, cranberries, and shade loving vegetables can be grown underneath of them. this brings us to the next action item ;)
4. Lose the lawn and create an ecosystem!
although i definitely think petrochemical agriculture is the most destructive practice of our time, the american lawn is certainly a significant contributor to the degradation of our environment. here's some fun facts about american lawns from http://www.epa.gov/greenacres/wildones/handbk/wo8.html
U.S. Lawn Care Facts as Annual Totals & PercentagesFrom Redesigning the American Lawn by F. Herbert Bormann, Diana Balmori, Gordon T. Geballe, Yale University Press, 1993
- A lawnmower pollutes as much in one hour as does driving an automobile for 350 miles. (We have found that this information, though valid at the time of publication, is no longer accurate. Based on current calculations, EPA estimates that the amount of pollution emitted by a lawnmower operating for one hour is equivalent to the amount of pollution emitted by a car driven for approximately 45 miles.)
- 30 to 60 percent of urban fresh water is used for watering lawns (depending on city).
- $5,250,000,000 is spent on fossil fuel-derived fertilizers for U.S. lawns.
- 67,000,000 pounds of synthetic pesticides are used on U.S. lawns.
- 60,000 to 70,000 severe accidents result from lawnmowers.
- 580,000,000 gallons of gasoline are used for lawnmowers.
- $25,000,000,000 is spent for the lawn care industry.
- $700,000,000 is spent for pesticides for U.S. lawns.
- 20,000,000 acres are planted in residential lawns.
you can stack functions here (a commonly emphasized practice in permaculture), and eliminate the lawn while cultivating edible plants, but even if you simply desire to fill your yard with ornamental flowers and shrubs (not that the two are mutually exclusive, many ornamental shrubs offer very tasty fruits and nuts) you are taking a wonderful step in removing toxins from the watershed and saving energy. remember to garden organically and be careful not to overfertilize, even organic fertilizers can do harm to rivers and streams.
5. Teach everyone about the plants you love, and get to know those plants on a deeper level.
every plant has a rich history and many secrets to share. as you spend time with them, you will learn more and more about who they are and what they enjoy doing. anytime you feel appreciation for a certain plant, it is important to share that appreciation with others and help them to love and support that plant in their journey, if they feel called to. on a practical level, if there is a plant you enjoy cultivating and eating, share it with others. if you find an herb to be helpful in recovering from some discomfort or disease, pass that knowledge on to people who may encounter the same discomfort in their lives. if you discover an effective way of building soil, or increasing your vegetable production, or maybe a particular group of plants that work well together and maximize space, inform your friends so they can enjoy the same harvests.
6. Grow mushrooms!!
its not only the plants that are here to help us...we have many fungal allies that are eager to help us clean up our habitats and keep us well fed in the process! if you want to learn more about how incredible mushrooms really are, i highly recommend watching paul stamets ted talk "six ways mushrooms can save the world", suffice to say that there are easy to cultivate species of fungi (stropharia rugosa annuata & oyster mushrooms/pleurotus spp.) that can clean fecal coliform bacteria, and hydrocarbons (toxic petroleum byproducts) from the water and soil, and they are edible (although i dont know that i would be too inclined to eat the ones that to the bioremediation work).
7. Breath more consciously _()_
this might be the most profound way of honoring the plants and appreciating their support. breath is chronically taken for granted in "modern" society. all too often i think we forget that we are only one breath away from being compost, and that without breath we are not capable of experiencing anything, or accomplishing even the most simple task. we owe everything to our breath, and to the plants that fill the air with life.
aside from these external activities, direct more energy inward towards cultivating peace, patience,compassion, kindness, and joy in your heart. weed out thoughts of judgment, jealousy and fear. and whatever you do, do it with all the love and gratitude you can conjure up.
links to explore:
expected yields from various crops: