Planting Hope in Young Hearts

Earth Day 2017 – I was invited to give a talk at the beautiful Manzanita School in Topanga, California. Now we’d like to share a few highlights of the talk with you…

The Power of Cookies

Brazil is Home to 33% of the World’s Remaining Rainforests

Rainforest Regeneration is Possible

Former Coffee Country

Organic Agroforestry

Planning an Urban Food Forest

The Abundance of the Earth

4per1000 and Kiss the Ground – Compost Story

More on the 4 per 1000 “A 4‰ annual growth rate of the soil carbon stock would make it possible to stop the present increase in atmospheric CO2.”

So what are we waiting for? Let’s do this.

Let’s Go: Drawdown


You will note, that Van Jones “liked” the link above when I shared it on Facebook 🙂 so I hope you’ll like what it represents here!

Seriously, this book, Drawdown, is filled with verifiable good news. And since returning from participation in COP22, the iGiveTrees project has refined focus to 4 of the Top 30 solutions to global warming:

Assets and Resources Being Shared Among Global Citizen Initiatives


Ever since we were invited to participate in 100 Projects for the Climate by Mission Publique, I could feel the direction of the wind had changed. It was now at our backs, rather than blustering at gale force in front of us. It’s a lot easier to move forward now.

We placed as #64 out of 100 projects, and then participated in a survey of needs to assess what’s needed to increase capacity. If you’re interested in the results of the survey, just click here or on the image to be directed to a fascinating collection of statistics, pie charts and word clouds! I learned that as a North and South American female over 50, I am most definitely in the minority among the contestants.

The French Ministry of Environment, Energy and Sea launched this global initiative with the following criterions:
  • Projects led by citizens

  • Innovative

  • Repeatable at a broader scale

  • Already in activity or close to be

  • In relation with climate change

It appears that we all need two of the same things: funding and visibility. So a series of webinars is being offered during the month of October, through the French Ministry, to help us to develop and share our resources.

And those of us who are able to raise funds to participate in COP22 will meet in Marrakesh this November. I’m nearly there, so if you’d like to help sponsor my full on participation, please feel free to make a NON tax-deductible donation right here, or to mail a check to our fiscal sponsor, the EarthWays Foundation before the end of September.

I’ll be back with more news as it reveals itself to me…



Q. When Trees are Planted in the Forest, Do They Make Music?

Q. When Trees are Planted in the Forest, Do They Make Music?
A. They do if iGiveTrees raised the money to plant them!

When you contribute by clicking on the photos or orange banners on the right column, you receive downloads of music from recording artists who support this campaign!

Since our beginning, the project has attracted a range of supporting recording artists: Rickie Byars Beckwith (founder of the Agape International Choir), Faith Rivera (Emmy-winning Singer, Songwriter), Daniel Nahmod (Humanity Music Co.) and Nimo (Empty Hands Music) are among them.

Today we’re so pleased to share the news of 500 more trees that have been planted in the Atlantic Rainforest due to our fundraising efforts! These trees were planted at SINAL the inspiring environmental education center I first visited after Rio+20 in 2012.

Harvard is Planting at SINAL

A group of undergraduates from Harvard were part of the learning journey.

As part of a generous donation made to SINAL thanks to the iGiveTrees Campaign, we were able to plant 500 trees in some of the most degraded lands of our property. This planting was particular special because we were able to obtain saplings from two highly threatened tree species that are nearly extinct – Jussara and Jacaranda Caviuna. Jussara trees have little blue berries, similar to the acai berry, that are edible; however, the tree has been brutely cut down for years for its palm heart, that while delicious, is deadly to the tree. In fact, the tree has become so endangered that it is actually a federal crime to cut down a tree and can land one in jail. Yet somehow, it continues to happen.

The process of planting these trees was quite special as well because of several reasons. Firstly, in our search for the 500 saplings, we took several journeys to different nurseries in the area. Specifically, we discovered that the state water treatment company has reforestation projects throughout the area where they produce saplings. They understand that the forested hills of the Mata Atlantica are what allows the entire city of Rio de Janeiro to have fresh water – therefore, restoring the degraded lands is absolutely essential to them. We visited two different nurseries, each with a different variety of species. Therefore, we were able to maximize the biodiversity of the 500 trees we planted.

Secondly, throughout the process of the tree planting, we were able to include many diverse groups of people to planting. From local community members in the town of Santo Antonio, to international volunteers, to a group of undergraduate Harvard students who came for a  learning journey at SINAL, many hands and hearts were part of the planting. It was very touching to see how inspired people were to be able to be part of the planting – there is something very special about getting to plant a tree in the Mata Atlantica. We are very, very grateful for the donation and are honored to have been able to be part of it.

The following is a list of species from the Mata Atlantica that we planted:

Euterpeedulis (jussara)*,
Garcinia sp. (bacupari),
Jacaratia spinosa (mamao do mato),
Eugenia brasiliensis (grumixama),
Spondias morbin (caja mirim),
Inga vera (inga),
Zeyheria tuberculosa (ipe felpudo),
Dalbergia nigra (jacaranda caviuna)*,
Senna sp. (aleluia),
Cedrela fissilis (cedro),
Cassia leptophylla (falso barbatimao),
Schinus molle (aroeira salsa),
Citharexylum myrianthum (pau viola),
Ceiba speciosa (paineira rosa),
Handroanthus sp. (ipe cascudo),
Albizia sp. (angico pururuca),
Licania tomentosa (oiti),
Pterocarpus violaceus (aldrago).

Great work team SINAL, we’re looking forward to planting more with you! And I’ll share more about SINAL’s upcoming events in a future post, but wanted to share this fresh news with iGiveTrees supporters right away!

Initiative 4 per 1000 Declaration of Intention

Rainforest ECO Enterprises and the iGive Trees project and are both honored to be among the signatory organizations of this Declaration of Support for the Initiative 4 per 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate. We look forward to meeting with the other global citizen initiative representatives in Marrakesh at COP22 this November.

The Initiative has set itself the goal of helping address the following three issues:

  • Improvement of food security by enhancing soil fertility and combating land degradation.
  • Adaptation of agriculture to climate disruption.
  • Mitigation of climate change.

We were included thanks to recognition by the French Ministry of Ecology  for our citizen initiative projects in Brazil.


As an artist, I was inspired to translate the Declaration of Intention into the font TREE created by Katie Holton, in symbolic commitment. What you see planted on the right is a transcription of the words you see on the written on the left.

May these words take root and grow.


2017 UPDATE: To see photos of the actual banner and its international signers at COP22, visit my blog post on Medium.

Has big conservation gone astray?

Photo by Rhett Butler/Mongabay

ANALYSIS: The world’s biggest conservation groups have embraced a human-centric approach known as “new conservation.” But is it up to the task of saving life on Earth?

Read Part 1 of Conservation, Divided: Mongabay’s four-part series investigating how the field of conservation has changed over the last 30 years.

Source article: Has big conservation gone astray?
by Mongabay reporter Jeremy Hance | photo by Rhett A. Butler

One of the things you discover as an environmental journalist is just how quickly scientists and conservationists are happy to bash — off the record, of course — big conservation groups. These include four of the world’s largest wildlife and wild-lands-focused groups with a global footprint: WWF, Conservation International (CI), the Nature Conservancy (TNC), and at times, though to a much lesser extent, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Together these four groups employ over ten thousand people in nearly a hundred countries and have a collective annual income of around $2 billion. In many parts of the world, if not most, one of these four groups is likely to be seen as the public face of conservation efforts.

Over the years former employees have regularly dished the dirt to me about missed opportunities, misplaced values, and projects that seemed to fail as often as they succeeded, while current employees often sounded like public relations officials speaking in staccato. Outside conservationists often complained that the big NGOs took credit for their hard work and bungled local relationships. The same concerns would come up repeatedly: an obsession with the organization’s brand at the expense of success, a corporate-mimicked hierarchy, cushy relationships with some of the world’s biggest environmentally destructive corporations, radio silence on so many environmental issues, and an inability to respond to crises that are appearing with ever-more regularity.

Calm down Zika people, calm down

Clippings from a Reuters article titled “Why Brazil has a big appetite for risky pesticides” last year:

<<In 2012, Brazil passed the United States as the largest buyer of pesticides. This rapid growth has made Brazil an enticing market for pesticides banned or phased out in richer nations because of health or environmental risks.>>

<<At least four major pesticide makers – U.S.-based FMC Corp., Denmark’s Cheminova A/S, Helm AG of Germany and Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta AG – sell products here that are no longer allowed in their domestic markets. … Among the compounds widely sold in Brazil: paraquat, which was branded as “highly poisonous” by U.S. regulators.>>

<< Brazilian regulators warn that the government hasn’t been able to ensure the safe use of agrotóxicos, as herbicides, insecticides and fungicides are known in Portuguese. In 2013, a crop duster sprayed insecticide on a school in central Brazil. The incident, which put more than 30 schoolchildren and teachers in the hospital, is still being investigated. >>

<< Screenings by regulators show much of the food grown and sold in Brazil violates national regulations. Last year, Anvisa completed its latest analysis of pesticide residue in foods across Brazil. Of 1,665 samples collected, ranging from rice to apples to peppers, 29 percent showed residues that either exceeded allowed levels or contained unapproved pesticides. >>

<< Since 2007, when Brazil’s health ministry began keeping current records, the number of reported cases of human intoxication by pesticides has more than doubled, from 2,178 that year to 4,537 in 2013. The annual number of deaths linked to pesticide poisoning climbed from 132 to 206. Public health specialists say the actual figures are higher because tracking is incomplete. >>

<< “This is a giant laboratory for the worst of industrial-scale agriculture,” says Raquel Rigotto, a physician and sociologist at the Federal University of Ceará in Fortaleza, the state capital. Rigotto says her research team has found traces of many pesticides in water taps in the area, and a higher rate of cancer deaths there than in towns nearby with little farming. >>

<< In 2013, the last year figures are available, Brazilian buyers purchased $10 billion worth, or 20 percent of the global market. Since 2008, Brazilian demand has risen 11 percent annually – more than twice the global rate. >>

It could be Zika. Or… it could be any one or many of the more than a dozen highly toxic and controversial pesticides–most of which are banned around the world, but not in Brazil. It could be Zika, or it could be Paraquat, or it could be Furadan, or any number of other poisons contaminating the soil, the water, the food and the air.

— Marco Cáceres

This was clipped from Source article: Calm down Zika people, calm down

You drink Coffee. We plant Trees.

If you’ve followed this blog through the years, you know I’ve lost hope more than once along the way, due to the many challenges faced by my field partners. While searching for even a glimmer of hope to keep this project alive in my heart and mind, I discovered two pieces of history:


1 – The first Europeans to arrive in Rio de Janeiro cut the forest for firewood and construction. Then lower areas were slashed and burned to clear land for sugar plantations. When coffee was brought to the area in 1760, further swathes were cut to create plantations. By then, deforestation had destroyed Rio’s watershed.

In 1861 one of the world’s first environmental restoration projects was initiated when the imperial government of Brazil decided that Tijuca should become a rainforest preserve. Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II assigned the enormous task of replanting the entire forest to a military commander. With the labor of 7 people (unknown slaves) they took saplings from other areas of the Atlantic Forest and planted native trees with a selection of exotics, in less than 13 years. In 1961 Tijuca was declared a National Park.

Mother and Child planting Tree

2 – The 5,000 trees we’ve given back to the land over the last years were planted in the Vale do Paraiba, São Paulo state, Brazil. The very area pictured in this photo from 1882, showing slaves working in coffee plantations of the denuded rainforest. Some of the people receiving the trees now, could be descendants of people who had worked in these fields. Both land and people are healing.

Slaves at a coffee yard in Vale do Paraiba, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Now, you can receive 2 bags of organic coffee beans as a gift of gratitude for supporting our goal of creating new rainforest tree nurseries in areas where people want more trees to restore their aquifers. And coming from you, through us, recipients will use only the labor of love, for their own health, water and land to care for the trees.

It’s taken years to find an organic Brazilian coffee company to partner with our reforestation project. Years. This month we’ve successfully made the first deliveries, via our new “I GiveTrees is Building a Rainforest Tree Nursery” campaign on Indiegogo!

If you’d like to receive 2 bags to help us keep planting trees in former coffee country, just click here to go directly to a payment page. We can only ship within the USA.

Finally, coffee that restores the rainforest. And hope.

Finding Hope During a Dark Night of the Earth’s Soul

Over the last six years of rainforest renewal projects in Brazil, I’ve had to dig deep to keep finding hope for our beautiful planet’s future.

Once a haven of biodiversity, 93% of Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest has been destroyed during the last centuries, resulting in heavily populated areas like the city of São Paulo, to suffer from an epic drought in 2015. Mining the history of Rio de Janeiro, the city where I was born, for a glimmer of hope, I found one: the story of the restoration of the Tijuca Forest. It surrounds the iconic statue of Cristo Redentor, atop the mountain of Corcovado that represents Brazil to the world.

The first Europeans to arrive in the area cut down trees for firewood and construction. The lower areas were slashed and burned to clear land for sugar plantations. When coffee was introduced to Rio de Janeiro in 1760 further swathes were cut down to install fazendas –– plantations. But the deforestation had destroyed Rio’s watershed.

In 1861 one of the world’s first environmental restoration projects was initiated when the imperial government of Brazil decided that Tijuca should become a rainforest preserve…

Read the full article on It’s All Well and Good Magazine.

I deeply appreciate your support for ongoing reporting and advocacy on behalf of the small organic tree growers and organizations in the Atlantic Rainforest…

2015 International Day of Trees News Snips

Image: Peter van der Sleen

The flying river is a movement of large quantities of water vapor transported in the atmosphere from the Amazon Basin to other parts of South America. The forest trees release water vapor into the atmosphere through transpiration and this moisture is deposited in other localities in the form of precipitation, forming a virtual river.


Taps Start to Run Dry in Brazil’s Largest City – São Paulo Water Crisis Linked to Growth, Pollution and Deforestation

Deforestation in the Amazon River basin, hundreds of miles away, may also be adding to São Paulo’s water crisis. Cutting the forest reduces its capacity to release humidity into the air, diminishing rainfall in southeast Brazil, according to a recent study… Click here to read more.


Massive new study shows that pressures on the Amazon rainforest mean it can no longer be relied on to soak up more CO2 from the atmosphere than it puts out.

Two decades ago, the forest drew down a peak of two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year from the atmosphere. Now, according to a massive new study in Nature journal by more than 90 scientists, the rate of withdrawal has fallen to around half that total. Click here to read more.


I was searching for even a morsel of good news to report while composing this post, and received this message of genuine hope from John Liu, in response to my Facebook comment about the despair many of us feel these days. He wrote:

“I think that we need to realize our own limitations. As individuals we cannot solve the problems humanity faces. We need to do this together with large numbers of like minded people. This will have to be done by creating a new society and economy and way of life. COMMUNITIES dedicated to creating the models necessary. It is not an accident that this discussion is emerging now. We need to have a profound and ongoing conversation, to create an inclusive way that everyone can live in peace and achieve their full potential for themselves, for human society and for the Earth. I’m still overall encouraged by the recognition of the need. But we must go much further and LIVE THE CHANGE. This means shared ownership of land, tools, vehicles, and transparent participatory governance. But it also means full employment – WORK not JOBS – and it means equality of ownership. It will not be easy but there is great satisfaction and great rewards in joy, resilience, health and consciousness.”

“I think we need to realize that the problem is bigger than simply ecological degradation and the need to restore natural water regulation, soil fertility and biodiversity. It is also bigger than simply growing good healthy food. These are fundamentally important but there is much more that needs to be done. We need to remake human society and economy. This requires creating new institutions because the ones we have serve a corrupt and corrupting world view. One thing that I notice is the number of people who want to do restoration but don’t know where to work. These people must find each other and join together in social and professional partnerships. I think Benefit Corporations may be a good transition model. A way needs to be found to bring financial capital together with “Life’s Energy” from people who devote their lives to restoring the Earth. We need to value the “Life’s energy” higher than the financial investment and make both of these ways toward ownership. Equality, ownership, homes, food, ecological restoration, education healthcare, freedom, peace are all needed and possible but require us to begin a profound societal conversation and work steadily toward creating the human civilization we can be proud of and want our children and future generations to inhabit.”

I deeply appreciate your support for ongoing reporting and advocacy on behalf of the small organic tree growers and organizations in the Atlantic Rainforest…

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