The core of what Mountains and Waters Alliance is about, translated into a grant application in 2016, with a few notes for the reader. Doing this work helped me see what it’s about. Still true, except minor details.
Our work is to heal the mind of separation, the cause of our time’s unthinkable violence, and to ally with forces of nature to protect and restore the wholeness of life. Releasing human arrogance, with love and beyond conventional wisdom, we seek and follow guidance from those forces: land care, growing food, teaching, writing, retreats, and whatever is required. This is our intervention on climate catastrophe, while we prepare to offer hospice if needed.
Compassion: Who are you?
I grew up nourished by woods, fields, and waters, and watched them degrade. Now I watch brutality and racism rise along with climate change. Meanwhile I wonder how to protect the orchard without killing gophers, restore forest without violence against buckthorn.
I’m a Zen priest, grandmother, retired psychotherapist, published author, permaculturist, beginning farmer. I’ve done activism but avoided arrest. I joined two pilgrimages and founded another.
The Compassionate Earth Walk was born during a meditation retreat. Mountains and Waters Alliance appeared after I asked the trees for help. I trust dreams and visions. Intimacy is the guide.
Why is your project needed?
Human beings are destroying the earth – because we don’t understand we’re actually part of the community of life. Some human societies do understand; the dominant society silences them. Wealth and power intoxicate a few people, who cling to them unable to imagine real human connection.
Most attempts at healing, change, and resistance arise from the same illusion: that we are alone and powerful in an inert world; that any god is remote. (Exceptions include some indigenous groups integrating resistance, spirituality, and culture.)
Our work is neither magic nor religion, but much-needed technology suppressed by the dominant culture. The way trees in forests communicate and send nutrients to each other through mycelial (fungal) networks shows the power of the community of life. I propose returning to our place in that community, asking to join with that power, offering our hands and voices to its work.
The need is demonstrated by the many, increasingly visible climate events; by increasing violence from human genocide to industrial agriculture, and by the spectacularly ineffective institutional responses to environmental crises.
What does your project involve?
We work together with trees, oceans, continents, soil, fungi, all beings, to heal the energetic structure that gives rise to the earth. Those beings are powerful; they have created life on earth for millennia. Our best hope is to listen, learn, and join with them if they accept our offer.
The primary location is a 17-acre farm in Minnesota. Ultimately there must be a world-wide network.
We train ourselves by doing land work based on their guidance, as we learn to receive it. Presently I study in this way for two hours weekly, with a part of this land called the East Gate.
I teach wherever invited, currently 3-4 talks and one retreat per year, plus monthly silent retreats here, a small Zen class, and informal sharing. Human teachers have come here to teach or work with land energies.
We act toward healing the whole, in concert with the forces of nature. This could mean anything including direct action. Current focus is land care, but has included joining pipeline resistance and Black Lives Matter events. The Compassionate Earth Walk was imagined as a three-month ritual of healing, education, and solidarity.
Interns or residents will join the work while here: To date there have been four short-term residents; two others plan longer internships later this year.
A wide network of groups doing this work will be essential, as will a stronger Internet presence, writing, and physical presence in communities and at points of conflict. Outreach is the most urgent next step.
Who else is directly working with you on this project?
About five people are actively involved with the core mission. 50+ volunteers have worked on land conservation with us. I also acknowledge the participation of nature spirits.
There are no formal partnerships yet. I have volunteered with, donated to, or received support from:
- Indigenous spiritually-based land defense groups: Unistoten Camp, Honor the Earth, Owe Aku.
- Conservation and agriculture organizations returning humans to working harmoniously with the earth: Land Stewardship Project*
- Savory Institute, White Earth Land Recovery Project.
- Buddhist environmental groups: One Earth Sangha, Kindness Circles*
- other activist groups including Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Black Lives Matter, and a local resistance school*. I founded and led the Compassionate Earth Walk.
Local organizations include Main Street Project, The Organic Compound, student agricultural groups at Carleton College, Sustainable Farming Association*, Permaculture Research Institute – Cold Climate*, Cannon River Watershed Project*, Transition Northfield*. I’m a member of asterisked groups. None duplicate our mission.
Who will be served by this project?
There is no “target group.” Those directly served include:
- Nonhuman beings here – by the restoration work, and by a non-exploitative relationship with humans.
- Every human who volunteers here, attends a class, workshop, or retreat – personal healing, skills learned, consciousness expanded.
- Possibly, people who come here for refuge after financial or ecological collapse.
- Hopefully, everyone who benefits from collapse prevention, consciousness change, cultural healing.
I came to this area five years ago because it is rich in land-based activism, because so many people share my values, because it’s close to my grandchildren. It’s an easy place to live, relatively safe in climate change, easy to find support, beautiful. I wake up grateful daily. This is my home.
Connections include some small organic and permaculture farmers, people in the Transition group, a “history movie” group, a resistance school, miscellaneous activists; area Buddhists, Unitarians and Quakers; volunteers from local colleges or the Twin Cities who come by word of mouth, internet, or mystery. Everyone is in my life because I respect them.
What goals do you have for your project?
The dominant culture is healed, kindness returns, hate is unpopular, children are safe. Agriculture is transformed, animals are respected. Population is reduced without disaster. Fossil fuels are considered unthinkable. The wealthy and powerful make amends. Political prisoners are released. Laws prioritize beings over profits. Temperatures fall, mass extinctions cease, the physical world begins to heal.
Long Term Broad Goal:
The dominant culture is mostly healed, though power imbalances continue. As climate collapse proceeds, the common response is caring, love, and mutual action.
Long Term Local Goal:
A stable living community at the farm is ready to welcome and feed climate refugees, and is a place of safety and peace as collapse proceeds.
People: 2 or more residents/interns most of the time, living here and doing the work; 5 or more regular volunteers. Visibility: functional website, lively interactions on blog and facebook; 6 or more speaking/teaching engagements. Progress healing the land here.
2-4 residents/interns; 2 partner groups and/or formal relationships with other groups; 10+ regular volunteers; 10+ speaking/teaching engagements.
How will you know if your project is successful?
The most important things are not measurable, just as the Compassionate Earth Walk could not take credit for the veto of the KXL or the present massive land defense movement.
These things are measurable:
- Number of people involved here – residents, interns, volunteers, others.
- Partner groups in other locations.
- Existing organizations making formal connections with us.
- Public response to our work (measured by online response, donations, speaking invitations).
Measures of a more compassionate society, for which we cannot take credit, are the real ones.
- Public discourse showing attitude shifting from separation to belonging.
- Income inequality lessens.
- Less hate speech and hate crimes, more kindness to refugees, immigrants, Muslims, people of color, LGBT people. More money for schools, less for prisons.
- Changes in agriculture, away from CAFOs, monocrops, and poisons.
- Less fossil fuel use.
- Healthier planet, again not directly credited to us:
- Healthier forests, prairies, animals, humans.
- Reduction in CO2 levels, in pollution, in climate events such as droughts and floods, and in slavery of all kinds including animals.
Sustainability of your project
The seed grant (website) will help us gather people who will do the work, donate, and/or become the core working team.
Current funding: donations, my Social Security, my life savings. I’m protecting about $20,000 for emergencies.
Mid-term funding (1-10 years):
- We are working on two other grant applications, one supporting student internships, one for staffing to give me outreach time. A foundation has promised to consider a proposal in 2017.
- Solar panels will provide a small income.
- Everything listed below.
Long-term funding (beyond 10 years):
- Workshops, retreats, trainings, offered here and elsewhere, will be primary income source. In 2016 we offer two workshops and several retreats, with modest income to the Alliance and a public awareness benefit.
- Farm (independent but host of Alliance; no animals) will provide modest income but most of our food. We have just begun to sell produce and foraged products. Fruits, nuts, berries, medicinal herbs will be primary.
- Residents may pay rent or provide farm labor.
- Cost reduction: wood heat and cooking, free electricity, no mortgage.
Not including your personal funds, how much money have you raised for your project so far?
- Total $7148 plus donations of food and tools – not quantified – from volunteers, friends, and acquaintances.
- $6166: Personal requests, YouCaring fundraiser, social media, and unsolicited gifts (nearly $2500 of those).
- $982 cost-sharing funds from NRCS, used for tools and labor on a conservation project (supplementing primarily volunteer labor).
Will your project generate any income?
$10,000/year (wild guess), from donations, fees for writing/speaking/teaching, small income from solar energy sales.
Pay internet fees, phone, website; travel to teach; housing & food for volunteers, interns, resident volunteers. Legal & accounting fees.
Do you require more than $1000 for your project to be successful? (They give $1000 grants.)
$3000 legal fees: transfer the land to the Alliance, to protect it if I have a health emergency. Homeless, could the work continue? Yes, but changed.
$20,000 to support interns and volunteers until income stabilizes. I’m writing grants. If unsuccessful, I look for a job; everything slows down.