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Harvest Report for California Ecosystem Restoration Council 2019

In a rustic yet comfortable barn on a rain-nourished green landscape in California, critical conversations emerged like vibrant wildflowers blooming into being. Person after person stood at the front of the room to passionately announce a topic they were taking responsibility to host a conversation about. The energy in the room was hopeful, buoyant, and full of anticipation for what next steps and actions might be collectively harvested.

After two days of relationship-building, storytelling, shared meals, and centering the importance of listening and being present, at long last, the moment had come for the 110 attendees to co-create plans for implementing large scale ecosystem restoration throughout California.

This abundant emergence of ideas and actions took place during the California Ecosystem Restoration Council at Paicines Ranch in Hollister, California on March 22-24, 2019.

This “harvest report” aims to capture not only what happened during the event, but also what emerged as next steps. Also, look for event process reflections from the organizers (signaled by this icon 💡) about how to offer even more engaging, productive, and transformative events going forward. For those seeking direction in this work, the report also describes some of the many ways for folks to offer support in order to bring ecosystem restoration to landscapes throughout California.

The Invitation

The invitation for the gathering, which was shared far and wide to folks throughout California, acknowledged that for many years, indigenous peoples, scientists, educators, organizations, and government agencies have worked to protect and restore ecosystems of the West Coast. Today, there is growing awareness that we must scale up and collaborate on these efforts.

One goal set forth by the planning committee for this event was to co-create a vision for the future of California based on working with nature, and they posed a series of questions to be explored in various ways throughout the weekend:

• How can the wisdom of Indigenous Peoples help influence present-day policies?

• How do we learn to live with fires, drought and the needs of a growing population?

• What permaculture and other practices can be used to restore the water cycle?

• How can we most effectively sequester carbon while rebuilding our depleted soils?

• How can we galvanize collective, large scale action for healing the ecology of the West Coast?

• What can we learn from others working on similar projects?

• Where do we go from here as a growing movement?

The schedule for the California Ecosystem Restoration Council March 22-24, 2019.

The People

Among the 110 people who attended the event were permaculture designers and practitioners, nonprofit directors and employees, housing advocates, nutritionists, farmers, homesteaders, artists, event organizers, herbalists, environmentalists, gardeners, parents, children, climate activists, social justice activists, musicians, spiritual practitioners, purpose-driven business owners, educators, filmmakers, writers, conservation professionals, and more.

Event organizer JC Jaress described those who attended the event as people who “came with open hearts and minds and worked through a process of deconstructing old ways of thinking and planning and which asked us to envision a future which could fulfill on our co-discovered wants and needs.” By the end of the weekend, “we came away with several activations, myriad possibilities, collaborations, friendships and a ton of knowledge and energy for moving forward!”

💡Event Process Reflection:

The attendance at the event surpassed original estimates and those who attended represented the diverse roles listed above. However, there were still a lot of folks missing from the event whose input and participation would have been valuable. Two notable examples are that the attendees were predominantly white, and it seems we attracted people who could come for this as a sort of weekend workshop but not the people who make their livelihoods doing this work Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
 
The diversity of participants present at the event, particularly the representation of indigenous leadership, people of color, restoration practitioners, and families, was essential to its success. Further outreach and engagement of diverse groups, meaning cultural and racial representation by people of color, and professionals from business and government, is necessary for this to truly capture the needs and perspectives of Californians. Going forward, effort should be made to develop stronger connections with more organizations and networks representing the cultural and socioeconomic diversity of California to address this issue. Key in this work will be inviting feedback to create events in which people of all backgrounds feel welcome, comfortable, and able to attend and participate.

The initial idea for the gathering was suggested by John D. Liu, who has been helping promote the idea of Ecosystem Restoration Camps (ERC), a global movement to address climate change through large-scale, hands-on land restoration and regeneration. The organization’s website describes that, “Ecosystem Restoration Camps is a non-profit organization founded by a movement of people who wanted an action-based solution to address accelerating climate change. The camps are a practical, hands on way to restore land degraded by humans. Our mission is to work with local communities and build camps that transform degraded landscapes into lush, abundant, life-giving ecosystems. We are committed to preserving our planet for future generations.”

The camps were a primary focus of the gathering, with multiple presentations and conversations focused on how camps elsewhere in the world can serve as models for creating place-specific and community-supported camps throughout California. In addition to the ERC movement, numerous other strategies for large scale ecosystem restoration were explored, as well.

Although the idea initially came from John D. Liu, this event was organized by a committee of people from different backgrounds and organizations around California. A list of the people and organizations who made the event possible is available at the end of this report. Some of their reflections and stories are also captured in this harvest report.

Panoramic photo of people sitting in chairs in a large circle on a green lawn, smiling at the camera. There is a large barn in the background, as well as trees.

Friday (Co-Initiating)

Land Acknowledgement

The event began Friday evening with a land acknowledgement by Kanyon Sayers-Roods, who is Costanoan Ohlone-Mutsun and Chumash. Kanyon was raised in Indian Canyon south of Hollister, which is currently one of the few spaces in Central California offered to Indigenous groups for ceremony. Kanyon is the Co-Founder and CEO of Kanyon Konsulting LLC, a consultation firm that specializes in Indigenous pedagogies. She is also an artist, poet, published author, activist, student, and teacher motivated to learn, teach, and start conversations around decolonization and reindigenization, permaculture, and art.

Paicines Ranch, where this event was held, is on ancestral Ohlone-Mutsun land. As part of her land acknowledgement, Kanyon sang a grandmother’s song that was inspired by a traditional song she learned from a Chumash mentor.

Kanyon, along with many other indigenous youth in California, have been relearning their cultural heritage through songs and traditional practices, as well as by learning languages once thought to be completely lost. “We are still here,” is one of Kanyon’s most critical messages.

Circle of people sitting in chairs inside a wooden room with white curtains draped from the ceiling. An indigenous woman performs a welcome ceremony at the far end of the circle.
Photo credit: Kirti Bassendine

The practice of land acknowledgements brings attention to the fact that any land we stand on in North America (and many other parts of the world) was tended by indigenous people for millennia, who intimately knew and cared for the land and local ecosystems. In addition to recognizing whose land we stand on, this practice acknowledges that white and European settlers colonized these lands, violently removing indigenous communities and attempting to eradicate any ties to cultural and ecological knowledge.

💡Event Process Reflection:

In the context of an event focused on ecosystem restoration, which requires intimate knowledge and awareness of place and natural processes, this acknowledgement is particularly important. It serves as a reminder that caring for the land is not something new to California. It’s a return to an ancient, deeply human ethic that has been hidden and buried by a dominant culture that has largely lost connection to nature and contributes to ecosystem degradation in myriad ways. 
 
Acknowledging the history and continued work of indigenous people in caring for our landscapes helps to center and honor the traditional ecological knowledge that has worked in collaboration with, rather than against, nature since the beginning of time and offers solutions in these present and critical times.

Theory U

Following Kanyon’s land acknowledgement, Della Duncan began to set the context for the weekend as facilitator. Della is host and co-producer of the Upstream Podcast, an instructor in the Economics for Transition Masters program at Schumacher College, leads courses as a Gross National Happiness Master Trainer, facilitates Work that Reconnects workshops, and serves as an alternative economics mentor and consultant.

She introduced the framework of Theory U, which was a guiding roadmap for the flow of the weekend.

Theory U was developed by the Presencing Institute, which describes the process in this way on their website: “Building upon two decades of action research at MIT, the process shows how individuals, teams, organizations and large systems can build the essential leadership capacities needed to address the root causes of today’s social, environmental, and spiritual challenges. In essence, we show how to update the operating code in our societal systems through a shift in consciousness from ego-system to eco-system awareness.” A more in-depth description of the process is available on the Presencing Institute website, and below we’ve captured how it was introduced at this particular event.

A white woman in a blue dress with a black shawl and black leggings speaks into a microphone. The wall behind her is wooden. Beside her is an easel with flip-chart paper that reads Theory U and shows a U with Co-Initiating, Co-Sensing, Presencing, Co-Creating, and Co-Evolving written along the shape of the U.
Photo credit: Kirti Bassendine

If you imagine a U, the upper left point of the U begins with a phase of Co-Initiating, which includes getting to know one another and identifying why the group has gathered, both as individuals and as a collective.

The second phase as you move down the figurative U is Co-Sensing, which emphasizes observation with an open mind and heart. It’s about using all of our senses, our bodies and our hearts, to sense what wants to emerge. Rather than leaping from identifying the reason for the gathering–typically a problem that has been identified–to immediately taking action, Theory U and the phases that occur as you move down the U, allow the group to really listen and observe the issue in a much more in-depth way.

Once observation has occurred, then comes Presencing, at the bottom of the U. Presencing was brought into the event through grounding moments of silence, which helped bring people back into the process after breaks and also created opportunity for inspiration and ideas to emerge from our own “inner knowing.” Moments of silence took place throughout the weekend, with a nature sit spot activity on Saturday.

Following Presencing is Co-Creating, which is where the process moves from the bottom of the U up into crystallizing and starting to identify what is emerging. In this phase, there’s an emphasis on seeking what is new and not just identifying existing solutions or patterns. It’s about recognizing the potential for unexpected and new opportunities.

Then comes Co-Evolving, in which something from the weekend evolves out of this U into new forms and iterations, prototypes, relationships, and connections beyond the event. This is the upper right point of the U.

Overall, Theory U is about practicing being and not just doing, allowing space for reflection and observation of what is possible, rather than moving too quickly into action. It also centers the value of collective wisdom. It encourages “moving from ego-system leadership to eco-system leadership” as facilitator Della Duncan put it.

💡Event Process Reflection:

Theory U is a wonderful process that a number of the event organizers have a background with. However many of the organizers of the event left feeling that Theory U was not a good fit for what the group was trying to accomplish. Theory U – which is both a “theory” and a “U process” – is a framework that usually takes a multistakeholder group through a longer term changemaking process, sometimes six months or more. This framework was used to try to avoid the group moving quickly from problems to easy answers, snap judgments, and “fix-it” solutions. These kinds of quick solutions that are common when there’s a sense of urgency can leave people feeling uneasy. They can also unintentionally repeat patterns and thought processes that are based in the same mindset that led to the issues in the first place. Although the intention in using Theory U was to move toward deeper understanding and observation before taking action and it did add a unique process to the gathering, the implementation of Theory U for this particular event might have actually prevented deeper networking and visioning to occur. There was a sense by some that the bioregional breakout, World Cafe, Open Space Technology sessions, and the many casual conversations happening “on the edge” of the event were the most generative conversations, and that Theory U would be more appropriate as a long-term changemaking process at some point in the near future.

Context-Setting

The theme for Friday evening was Co-Initiating, starting to build the collective sense of “we” at the event. As an introduction to the “we,” Ellen Farmer, event organizer and writer, and John Liu, Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Ecosystem Restoration Camps (ERC) Foundation shared the purpose of the event. The purpose was to gather the wisdom of as many willing participants as could make it to this first California Council and ask the question, “What is the future asking of us?”

At this time, Matthew Trumm also introduced the Camp Fire Restoration Project initiative, which will be the first official Ecosystem Restoration Camp in California. It was also noted that the group recommending this council was formed at the Soil Not Oil conference in San Francisco in September 2018.

After this context-setting, the group shared their first meal together. It was catered by Ballesteros, a Watsonville-based catering company with an emphasis on sourcing locally from organic farms like Live Earth Farm and local seafood providers like Real Good Fish. They prepared meals throughout the weekend.

Why Are We Here?

Everyone’s bellies full and even more connections forming over dinner, the group participated in their first home group discussion, which provided a more intimate check-in group for folks to share throughout the weekend.

In groups of 8-12 people, participants discussed “why are we here?” and “what questions are we being called to ask?” Each person wrote their own answers on post-its and shared in their groups. These were then shared with the larger group and post-its were collected to hang up in the Barn.

Photos of some of the notes from this activity are below:

Photo credit for the above images: Kirti Bassendine

Some of the themes identified by facilitator Della Duncan included:

  • Deep love and connection with the more-than-human world, the natural world
  • Experiences of pain, urgency, sorrow, despair, unease, and a resulting feeling of being called to take action
  • Desire for co-creative action to be joyful and fun
  • Questions around livelihood, action, how to balance being and doing, rest and action, how to meet our needs while doing the important work we feel called to do

With many new connections emerging and ideas circulating, the group said goodnight and folks found their tents or cottages for the evening.

Saturday – Co-sensing

Introduction

After breakfast the next morning and the arrival of about 30 more participants, the day officially began with a second land acknowledgement by Kanyon Sayers-Roods. Della reintroduced Theory U for new folks, and focused in on Co-Sensing for the morning. You can watch a video of Della introducing Saturday morning’s activities and sharing an overview of Theory U here.

Video by Jay Wilson

Group Guidelines

To create a culture of care, a space for people to feel comfortable sharing and going deep into the questions of the weekend, Della proposed some community agreements:

  • Trust the Process: trust the Theory U process and flow of the event
  • Step up/Step back: self-awareness for more vocal folks to give space to other voices in the group, or speak up more for those who haven’t shared yet
  • One Person/ One Mic: one person at a time speaking so that each speaker can be heard
  • Open Mind/Open Heart: being open-minded and curious in listening and sharing
  • Oopsies and Ouchies: seeing feedback as a gift, being guided by humility and acknowledging when something you said might have caused harm to another, as well as giving feedback when you are the one impacted to let the person know
  • Brevity: getting to the essence while speaking to honor the short time the group has together


Photo credit: Kirti Bassendine

Bioregional Mapping

After this introduction to the weekend, a somatic geography activity was introduced as a chance to “sense” into the California landscape. Bioregional mapping took place in which people were able to briefly connect with others from their bioregion.

The activity explored geography, ancestry, places of special meeting, language, and indigenous history of California, and bioregions. Needs and resources that were shared were captured on a large California map.

💡Event Process Reflection:

Many participants expressed enthusiasm about this activity and wished more time had been devoted to it in the agenda, indicating an opportunity for more in-depth bioregional-focused discussion at future events like this. This activity could have been a half-day activity, and it would have been helpful to gather and share contact information within each bioregional group.

In addition to this activity, there were also large papers on the walls to collect offerings, needs, requests, events, and other content that individuals could share to the collective group throughout the weekend.

People sitting along a wall in chairs, all facing to the left. Behind them on the wall are large pieces of paper with notes and post-its on them.
Photo credit: Kirti Bassendine

Storytelling

Before lunch, four stories helped set the context for the broader ecosystem restoration movement. The presentations also created an opportunity for Co-Sensing, allowing participants to observe and listen for points of potential, threads or patterns, and sources of inspiration to sense what is possible in California. A video recording of the introduction and all four stories is available here.

John D Liu, Ecosystem Restoration Camps

Hannah Apricot Eckberg, an organizer of the event who works with Abundant Earth Foundation, introduced John Liu by saying that his “over 25 years of work and scientific research has really helped capture not only the problems that our ecosystems are facing worldwide but the solutions. He’s a bit of the brainchild behind the camps idea. How do we come together and do this great, ever-important work that everybody depends on for their survival, but how do we do it while having fun and working together and rebuilding community?”

In addition to being Chairman of the Advisory Council of the ERC Foundation, John D. Liu is a filmmaker who has studied function and dysfunction in terrestrial ecosystems for decades. John’s published works are available here, and his biography is available here.

John described the beginning of the ERC Project. He said that this Facebook group was formed in 2016 and filled very quickly with thousands of members. It now has 16,000 people sharing interesting projects from around the world every day. At some point, the idea of creating on-the-ground camps came up, and as people discussed the logistics, a thousand people said they could donate 10 euros a month to support these projects. To collect the funds, the ERC Foundation was formed.

The first camp was started in Spain, and 100 people have since been part of the camp. Learn more about the camp and the experiences of campers on their Facebook page, Ecosystem Restoration Camp Altiplano.

John shared the vision of the camps: “We envision a fully functional, peaceful, abundant, biologically diverse Earth brought about through cooperative efforts for the ecological restoration of degraded lands.”

He also shared an important and hopeful observation: “I have been to about 90 countries around the world, and in those countries, I’ve seen that biodiversity, biomass, and accumulated organic matter are the factors that are the difference between functional and dysfunctional systems and that these are dynamic and that they can be changed.”

“We cannot solve this locally; we have to work locally but we have to do this on a planetary scale and we have to do it fast.”

For his full presentation, watch the video.

Video by Jay Wilson

Erin Beasley, Ecosystem Restoration Camps

Next, Erin Beasley shared stories about camps that she has visited and been involved with in Spain and Mexico. Erin works with Conservation International on global climate policies, particularly supporting countries in tropical areas by providing technical knowledge to advocate for nature during U.N. climate negotiations. She has also been volunteering with ERC for the last two years and serves on the Supervisory Board for the organization.

In her presentation she talked about why ERC is a project she continues to support in addition to her work at the global level: “Global information is really important but at the same time, at the end of the day, the actions that occur on the landscape are taken by the people who are inhabiting the landscape.” The work of restoring ecosystems happens in those ecosystems.

She continued: “Bringing that to the action level, getting people involved in their landscape is really essential to be able to achieve these larger planetary ambitions that we might collectively aspire to, so we need to have our hands in the dirt, the work actually has to happen on the ground.”

Policy work at a global scale is also critical, but while we advocate for countries around the world to enforce emissions reductions, there is work to be done now by everyday people.

Erin described that it’s also important that each project be place-based and supported by the people who live there: “People just want to have an answer of how to fix this, but at the end of the day, each place is so different. Even though some of the patterns of degradation might be similar, the social climate, the mental climate, the ecological climate is distinct in each place and really needs to be sustainable within itself.”

The landscape in Spain near the first ERC is actively tilled 8-10 times per year. The complex microbial, fungal, and insect life that once thrived in the soil before this industrial-scale tillage has been decimated by ripping apart the soil ecosystem. Erin described a feeling of hollowness when driving through this landscape to reach the camp. She took a moment to applaud those who are living at camps around the world daily, regenerating landscapes like the one in Spain, sharing meals, and building community in order to accomplish this work.

Throughout her storytelling, she shared some of the challenges that camps face in starting up in barren places, as well as the successes and celebrations that have occurred as local communities have been inspired by the regeneration happening in their landscape.

ERC often partners with existing organizations in the communities where camps are established to honor the work that has already happened and get projects going faster with community buy-in and support. It also allows projects to be sustainable long-term and not be dependent upon the ERC organization to maintain ongoing work.

Erin briefly described that ERC uses a blend of sociocracy and holacracy in their decision-making. This allows the decision-making to be place-based at each site and allows those with the most stake in the landscape to have more say in how the camp operates.

As Erin wrapped up her presentation, John Liu shared five things that ERC is able to really offer to projects that officially register with the organization:

1.Local camps that register through the ERC foundation are shared with the global network, providing a platform to invite campers or seek resources

2. ERC doesn’t want to own land; it wants to restore it and there seems to be unlimited numbers of people who want to be campers who do restoration work so long as they will be fed, sheltered, and offered some basic income.

3. ERC has an advisory council, so when problems arise in camps, there are people who can help resolve questions through collective intelligence

4. ERC can collect funds from people who are able to contribute financially, even in small amounts per month

5. ERC connects camps around the world through its network, allowing information and breakthroughs to be transferred throughout the network

Watch Erin’s presentation on Youtube here:

Video by Jay Wilson

Matthew Trumm, TreeTop Permaculture

After Erin’s discussion of camps globally, Matthew Trumm brought the topic of ecosystem restoration to a California context. He shared his personal experience with something that many attendees could relate to personally: the devastating Camp Fire in the Paradise, CA area.

He started by sharing about his family’s property in the mountains near Oroville, CA, where a neighbor had clear-cut 20 acres of forest. He immediately experienced significant wind and major erosion issues. “I had a really close experience of what it’s like when you remove ecosystems and how the climatic energy starts to increase and you start to see that,” he said.

Matthew went on to describe his work learning permaculture, teaching permaculture in his local community, starting a nursery, and implementing projects.

Then he shared his personal story about the Camp Fire and earlier fires that had affected the Oroville area and how he got connected with John Liu. He described the vision and work that has taken place so far to bring ecosystem restoration camps to Paradise to rebuild and restore.

The Rebuilding Paradise project is having a restoration weekend April 26-28 that is primarily geared toward locals but open on a limited basis to service-oriented participants from around California. You can see photos of some of the projects that have already taken place at the website.

Watch the video of Matthew’s talk here:

Video by Jay Wilson

Michael Nichols, Seven Ravens Farm

The fourth story of the day was by Michael Nichols from Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, who shared his personal story about the permaculture restoration work he has been doing for the last three decades around the world.

He began by sharing: “It’s about teaching the youth about planting trees.” His work has focused on developing tree nurseries and supporting local communities in planting trees. Most of his work has also partnered with schools to educate young people about landscape restoration and tree planting, as well as permaculture and growing food.

After fifteen years of growing trees in nurseries in East Africa, Michael started a food garden for a school in western Kenya, and the work grew from there. He emphasized the importance of empowering local folks to maintain their nurseries and plant out their own trees. He also helped schools in the region grow vegetables and fruits in order to provide the schoolchildren with healthy nutritious meals.

After beginning to serve nutrient-dense food to the students at the school, their grades improved dramatically. Some of the children who learned about permaculture brought the knowledge home and shared it with their families, encouraging them to implement changes to their farming practices for increased water catchment and abundance.

He has a permaculture and eco-forestry school called Seven Ravens Farm in Canada that students from all over the world attend. The school also trains 1000 teachers a year, who in turn will have trained 2.5 million children by 2022.

He ended his talk by bringing it back to fire ecologies and how to mitigate for disasters. He said he envisions California “building hundreds of thousands of ponds and swales to infiltrate the water to recharge the bottom valleys and ponds all over the place to hold the water to create fish farming, to create hydroelectricity, and then to create the opportunity for all that water to be” used in putting out fires.

The final story he shared is that at the school his own children attend, students are participating in the Friday climate strikes. To use that strike time productively, they are starting a tree nursery and will be planting trees. They will also be writing to ten schools to encourage them to do the same, and ask that they write to ten more schools. It’s an inspiring and quick way to get lots of people planting lots of trees in their communities around the world.

Watch Michael’s presentation here:

Video by Jay Wilson

Silent Nature Solo Time

After lunch, the focus shifted to Presencing, which combines “presence,” the state of being in the present moment, with “sensing” into what wants to emerge.

Hannah Apricot Eckberg described: “We’re gonna go into some time where we’re leaving the head and the stories and the words and all of that, and we’re gonna drop into silence together.”

Participants were encouraged to find their own place outside in nature to sit or walk in silence. The goal was to allow inner knowing to emerge from a place of silence after all of the observation that had taken place earlier in the weekend.

When the group came back together, folks got into their home groups again (with new people added) to share what had come up for them during their silent nature time. People shared in their groups and captured the notes on paper.

Organizer Ellen Farmer shared that the opportunities for silence throughout the event, and Della’s ability to ground the group at each step of the way, set a tone that helped people feel “embraced by the circumstances of the event,” even if they had come with some fear or nervousness about the future of our planet. Throughout the event, people were able to have conversations about their fears and be reaffirmed in their commitment by seeing they were not alone.

Photo credit: Kirti Bassendine

World Cafe

The next activity for the day was a World Cafe session around the concept of Crystallizing: Sensing into the emerging future.

After an introduction to the World Cafe process (which you can learn more about here), the first question was posed: What is starting to take shape here? In small groups around tables, participants explored this question.

Folks got up and moved to new tables for question two: What is missing from the picture so far? What are we not seeing? Where do we need more clarity?

The third and final prompt was prefaced with some context that we have an opportunity to dream into being what collective actions we might take. The prompt was a fill-in-the-blank sentence: What if together we ______?

Before diving into discussion in small groups, participants were asked to each fill in the blank on their own post-it. Once everyone had a chance to reflect and respond, the groups engaged in conversation.

Harvest

The World Cafe was an opportunity for the group to access collective thinking and identify patterns that were emerging across different conversations. The harvest at the end of the World Cafe brought up some of the following themes and topics:

  • What does a decentralized movement look like?
  • What models can be replicated yet adapted to each unique place throughout California?
  • Need for deeper networks and connection, working together, the mycelial network as a model
  • Humility
    • No one has the one right answer, we’ve never been here before
    • Caution
    • Acknowledgement of power and responsibility
  • Urban/city ecosystem restoration – models such as City Repair, Ecocities, Treepeople
  • What is our work to do?
  • Sense of urgency – start now, experiment, don’t wait for permission, just do it!
  • Intentionality & thoughtfulness
  • Wise & mindful use of resources
  • Become familiar (family) with nature again
  • Community people power = fun!
  • Healing:
    • Inner restoration & self restoration in order to heal the land, ancestral pain, personal hurts; psychological distress cannot be ignored
    • Healing isolation, despair, feelings of not being “enough”
    • Importance of hope
  • New economic systems, systems change, creating opportunities for right livelihood through this work
  • A need for greater diversity of representation
  • Prioritize indigenous voices, indigenous knowledge
  • Deconstruct unconscious racism
  • How to bring this movement into the mainstream, into our education systems, how to find allies in government

💡 Event Process Reflection:

The World Cafe allowed for a lot of collective wisdom to emerge. However, it could have been a generative opening activity for the group at the beginning of the event. It also would have been valuable to have a graphic recorder capture all of the sharing and learning visually during the World Cafe.

Throughout the World Cafe process, children who were in attendance at the event particularly enjoyed doodling on the paper provided. Children also had opportunities to play throughout the weekend, including a kickball game on the last day and fort building. The ranch was a great place for them to ride bikes. They also helped with some of the food preparation as several of Ballesteros chefs also teach youth cooking classes.

The presence of children was intentionally welcomed in the event invitation, and their presence brought a joyfulness and important reminder of who is inheriting our world in all its beauty and chaos.

Saturday Evening – Celebration / Emergence

After a day of new connections and conversations, the evening was filled with dinner, music, drinks, and a fire circle.

The fire circle was called a “Char-B-Q,” which was a large open fire circle for the dual purposes of spending time around the warm fire together, as well as harvesting biochar to later be used as a soil amendment.

The creative and emergent energies of the day’s conversations and presentations emerged in artistic and celebratory ways during the evening–from live, impromptu musical performances to dancing to deepening conversations.

Folks had fun Saturday evening in the arcade at Paicines Ranch. Photo credit: David Shaw

Sunday – Co-Creating

After an evening of celebrating new friends, learnings, and ideas, the group moved into the theme of Co-Creating and Prototyping.

The introduction to this part of the weekend described manifesting the power of our intention into action, and integrating thinking, feeling, and will. In this phase, there’s an emphasis on employing beginner’s mind to invite curiosity, including play and the freedom to make mistakes. This phase is about actualizing ideas into action.

Open Space Technology

At this time, the group participated in an Open Space Technology (OST) session (learn more about this process here). Della framed the activity by explaining that this was the time for depth and co-creation. Yesterday the group heard dozens of potential projects answering the question, “What if together we ____?” The group needed time for people to start working together, and this was the time! In this activity, groups of people were invited to plan collective next steps.

The calling question for the OST session was: If our success was completely guaranteed, what prototypes would we put our energy and intention towards? What are your next steps? Some projects are local or small, some are statewide and big, some are land-based, some are socio-political-economic-spiritual. All are welcome!

The beginning of OST includes a village market place, when people post topics for sessions they want to create and host. There were two session times.

After folks shared their session topics, the group split into these sessions.

Session One

Topics in session one included:

  • Launching Silicon Valley Compassionate Action Network
  • Indian Canyon restoration projects, opportunities
  • Economics of Ecosystems Restorations Camps, Sharing, Land Access
  • Ecosystem Restoration Technician Training
  • Vision Crafting through art and Immersive/Emergent/Experiential Futures
  • Kalana Ecovillage, Good News Salvation
  • The Mirror Effect, Nature -> State of human beings
  • Restoring Human Nature Connection
  • Bioregional Consortium Networks
  • Weaver Network platform for connection and sharing info
  • Communication: resource, documentation, networking, wiki, sparing
  • Ecological Restoration Best Practices at Paicines and Beyond

Session Two

In session two, folks found the next topic of their choice and dove deep into topics like:

  • Paradise Camp
  • Camp Infrastructure: Paradise, Indian Canyon, and Beyond
  • DIY Community Environmental Observation Networks
  • Local/State Guidelines for Off-Grid Restoration VIllages
  • Regenerative Urban Community Living
  • Restoring Franklin Hot Springs (Paso Robles)
  • Scaling Carbon Sequestration (soil organic matter, biochar, NETs)
  • NET – Underground networking, clear communications
  • Urban Ecosystem Restoration and Village Repair
  • Transparent Budgets
  • Death = Life – Using regenerative burial as a financial model to support ecosystem restoration
  • Herbal Medicine First Response to the next catastrophe
  • Mesh Network

Harvest

At the end, the group came back together to share what individual or collective next steps came out of their sessions.

The outcomes and next steps identified included:

  • Ecosystem Restoration Camp in Paradise, CA
  • Invitation from Kanyon Sayers-Roods for site restorations at Indian Canyon, CA
  • Communications and Networking development
  • Ecosystem Restoration Camp Infrastructure
  • Invitation from Kalana EcoVillage in San Jose
  • Economics of Ecosystems Restorations Camps
  • Need for Transparent Budgets
  • Ecosystem Restoration Technician Training
  • Restoring Human Nature Connection
  • Ecological Restoration Best Practices at Paicines and Beyond
  • Regenerative Urban Community Living
  • Invitation from Franklin Hot Springs (Paso Robles)
  • Underground Networking – Maintaining Communications with NET
  • Urban Ecosystem Restoration and Village Repair
  • Death = Life – Using regenerative burial as a financial model to support ecosystem restoration
  • Herbalists and Herbs as First Responders

Participants typing notes from the OST sessions to share with the group. In the foreground you can see the map of California that folks could add pins and notes to regarding projects and resources in communities throughout the state. Photo credit: David Shaw

Sunday at lunchtime was the final shared meal. Throughout the weekend, many conversations occurred during these meal breaks in between the programmed sessions. During breaks, folks had a chance to go deeper into speaking about ideas that emerged in the sessions.

Sunday – Going Forth

The group came together after lunch to celebrate and acknowledge all that had happened during the weekend. This celebration was a “popcorn” style sharing session where folks spoke takeaways for them from the event. We asked people to share significant outcomes from the gathering in the form of “I _____” in present-tense. People shared outcomes such as:

• “I found my life purpose.”

• “I know what I am here to do.”

• “I connected with people who shared my values.”

• “For the first time in my life, I spent time with people who all returned my gaze and gave me presence with eye contact.”

• “I met people to collaborate with.”

Each time someone shared, the entire group applauded and celebrated these outcomes.

💡 Event Process Reflection:

Creating space for folks to share their personal outcomes in this pop-corn style sharing session was particularly inspiring and celebratory.

Following this outcome sharing, the group ended in a circle for a song and spiral dance led by Coleen Douglas and Carly Ko. The event closed on a note of hope, togetherness, and looking forward to everyone’s next steps in this movement.

Reflections and sentiments from some of the organizers of the event included:

Ellen Farmer: “It was a rousing, energized, heartfelt weekend. I really benefited personally from the ‘home group’ — having time to get to know a few individuals when the big circle was divided randomly the first night and again reuniting at the end of the afternoon on Saturday with day-only attendees joining. The home group was a safe, facilitated place to put our feelings out there and connect with other individuals from around the state. What we are taking on collectively is awesome, and I was inspired hearing about the work and feelings of others.”

Robin Woolner: “People were not shy to collaborate, and this was an indicator of success. People trusted each other, knew each other, and the right people were there. We also had fantastic outcomes from the process for all of the participants in terms of moving forward toward ecosystem restoration. […] We are existing in a very historic moment of reorganization. We’ve spent the last decade kind of meditating on the nature of the challenges around us and developing more or less a collective vision of where we’re moving in the world. There is a new narrative that’s forming right now, and the ecovillage movement I think is part of that, and transition towns are part of that. It’s more than I can express. We are in a moment, especially in California where we’re starting to have a collective of more or less where we’re moving toward. This was a moment of state change within our organization as humans. There’s a real itchiness for building and creating and connecting, it’s not just this ego-driven do do do do do, which is a shadow of the American psyche.”

David Shaw: “We had fantastic outcomes from the process for all of the participants in terms of moving forward toward ecosystem restoration. The World Cafe and Open Space really allowed for creative wisdom to emerge.”

Nik Bertulis: “Megan [another organizer] sat down with me at lunch the second day and said something that really moved me that encapsulated my weekend, which was ‘Ceremony before swale.’ Yes, that’s exactly it. It not only encapsulated my personal revelation but also my revelation about who we are. I feel like a lot of the scientific restoration community and even the mainstream permaculture community tends toward ‘let’s go assess the land and build swales where we need to,’ and it’s a little bit yong, if you will. “Ceremony before swale” encapsulates the need for a deep listening, a softening, a togetherness, a humility that’s ritualized as you go into any piece of land, and being able to listen from that perspective to what the land needs. I thought that was really nice.”

Photo credit: David Shaw

Gratitude

Thank you to the more than 100 people who took the time and energy to attend and participate in such an engaged and thoughtful way in this momentous event!

Special thanks to all of those who volunteered to plan this event, volunteered during the event, prepared meals, contributed to this harvest report, and sponsored the event:

• Abundant Earth Foundation, sponsor

• Hannah Apricot Eckberg, planning committee

• Ballesteros Catering

• Erin Beasley, presenter

• Nik Bertulis, planning committee

• Sallie Calhoun, Paicines Ranch

• California Center for Natural History, sponsor

• Collaborative Ventures, sponsor

• David Abramson, volunteer

• Della Duncan, facilitator

• Ecosystem Restoration Camps

• Ellen Farmer, planning committee

• Alison Hensley, planning committee

• JC Jaress, planning committee

• Kiss the Ground, sponsor

• John D. Liu, presenter

• Hana Lyon, planning committee

• Caroline Mizumoto, volunteer

• Michael Nichols, presenter

• Galen O’Toole, planning committee

• Paicines Ranch

• Rudra Palmer, volunteer

• Brendan Quirk, planning committee

• Mary Rowen, Paicines Ranch

• Kanyon Sayers-Roods, land acknowledgement

• Megan Szrom, planning committee

• Matthew Trumm, presenter

• Lauren Tucker, planning committee

• Santa Cruz Permaculture, sponsor

• David Shaw, planning committee

• Treetop Permaculture

Resources

To learn more and get involved, you can:

Plug in with ecosystem restoration efforts in your bioregion.

• Chances are there are already groups in your area that have activities for you to get involved with. Some efforts that were featured over the weekend are

Attend the April 26-28, 2019 camp in Paradise (fill out the survey here as well as purchase your ticket)

Contact Kanyon Sayers-Roods to get involved with projects at Indian Canyon

• Explore your local Fire Safe Council options, and/or FireWise groups

• Explore local stewardship groups in your area. For example, in Santa Cruz this might include groups such as the Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network, Coastal Watershed Coalition, Watsonville Wetlands Watch, etc.

Connect with the Ecosystem Restoration Camps movement

Join the CA Ecosystem Restoration Camps Facebook group and use it to communicate with people in your area. Plan a camp!

• Learn more about Ecosystem Restoration Camps and become a monthly contributor.

Stay in touch

Sign up for future email updates about the Ecosystem Restoration movement in California

• A new website called Weaver Network is in the works to grow stronger connections with fellow permaculturists, agroforesters, ecovillage members, and the many other people who are working to make the world a better place for all. The site is currently in Beta Testing mode, but as soon as it is ready for public access, instructions for signing up will be shared with all participants of this event and those who join the email list.

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