Here’s looking to a bright 2018 full of hope. There is an old proverb that says that he who plants a tree is planting hope. We could not agree more. Thank you to all of our Sponsors. Here is to 2018 and planting so many more trees together! Every tree makes a difference! We will tend them to maturity and grow future forests now for future generations! THANK YOU !!!
Tree Ambassadors Erica Largen and Faith Johnson traveled to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala to share a rainforest tree leadership workshop at Cosmic Convergence; an annual music, arts and culture festival on December 27, 2016 through January 1, 2017.
So there we were, Faith and I, traveling across mountains and towns of Guatemala. It’s amazing how a foreign language can make you feel like a humble idiot. Three days after tuk tuk trips, boat rides, airbnbs and loads of walking, we arrived at the festival.
With wrist bands on hand we went to our campsite where our tent, super comfortable sleeping pad and pillows were set up and waiting for our arrival. What hospitality!
We brought ourselves on behalf of nonprofit Community Carbon Trees. The fest featured incredible music and the opportunity to network with fellow activists and earth warriors.
While festival setup continued on the first night, we laid down to look at the stars. This gave our bodies, minds and spirit time to take in the sacredness of the land surrounded by ancient volcanoes and the high elevation Lake Atitlan. With our heads already in the grass, we were joined by an activist from Britain and a couple from Central America. We talked about ideas of living on planet Earth and our how to heal her.
During the days, when we weren’t putting finishing touches on our presentation, we attended other workshops. The topics of fungus, community organizing, health, women, social and environmental justice were fun and packed with useful knowledge.
Did you know:in Guatemala 98% of the land is owned by 2% of the people?
Today global economic interests and the national government continue to use police and military power to take land from native Guatemalan people to build hydroelectric electricity infrastructure, superhighways and pipeline infrastructure.
*Shameless plug* for community carbon trees and how we plant trees on farms owned by local farmers so we can develop long-term economic and environmental sustainability in the community.
On Saturday we presented our workshop in the Numundo workshop space. Highlights of the workshop –
We discussed why rainforest trees are important and how reforestation contributes significantly to global carbon sequestration.
Leaders as healers. Healers empower others and that’s what leadership is.Or as Lao Tzu once said, “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.'”
How community carbon trees empowers local families and how activists can get involved by becoming a tree ambassador.
We got our hands dirty making seed bombs as workshop attendees left the collaborative space.
The experience at Cosmic convergence was unmatchable. We rang in 2017, danced, sang, prayed, met contacts and grew our network of tree friends. Faith became a more confident public speaker.
We are grateful to work on behalf of an organization that allows us to do work that fills us with life.
Ut Prosim. That I May Serve.
Follow cosmic convergence facebook or visit their website. Buy tickets for next year! Time spent at this growing fest is time well spent!
DAY 16: Airbnb Solar Harvest home is the last stop on our Tree Tour! Providing 130% of the home’s energy needs, the system feeds extra energy to the grid and, once plug-in electric vehicles become available, will too power the family car!!
Notice the solar thermal panels up top (for hot water! An Al Gore-approvable heating system), the photovoltaic panels (converting sunlight to electricity!), The textbook passive solar overhangs (2′ for 40° N. Latitude that enables collection of winter sun and shade of hot summer sun!), Super-insulating walls windows and ceilings, a south-facing sunroom, and porous pavement!
The home also uses a geothermal heat exchange to heat the home in the winter. We talked R values of the building envelope. There is an impressive ventilation system!
Eric explained the all electric design allowed them to cap their natural gas line, which was of particular importance because of the environmental degradation caused locally by natural gas drilling and distribution. Carbon neutrality efforts extended from structure, to energy supply, and to finishes.
We must retrofit existing buildings! This is the suburban way to an efficient consumer-producing community net-zero electric grid!
(Disclaimer: Due to the variability of electricity source, home appliances and heating systems, I have not been calculating the carbon contribution of the lights, hot water or heating we use in the mornings or at night during the tree tour. We moved around too often, slept on too many couches, with too many end uses for those calculations to be feasible.) Happy our last two days of “building envelope energy” will be carbon neutral!
We have burned 7 gallons of gas since arriving in the Bolder/Fort Collins area 4 days ago adding 133 pounds to my carbon footprint! My total carbon footprint is 1.356 tons!
There’s something supernatural about New Mexico. We took a little break from our high energy “Tree Tour” to meditate, qi gong and yoga among the aspens and eagles. We NEEDED a break from the constant sharing and talking with businesses and individuals about how to offset carbon footprints with biodiverse rainforest trees!
We didn’t know where we were going – we just knew we wanted to be alone. We drove and ended up 8,528 feet above sea level at Eagle Nest Lake State park. WE were the only humans there… but WE were not alone. For many minutes that all feet like one moment, we watched the water and the clouds and the Ponderosa pine forest. There were two pairs of eagles flying higher than the clouds and hawks who flew much closer.
As the afternoon unfolded in bright colors of the high noon sun I knew it was time to get water! Jenny agreed to stay at our lake-beach-day-camp while Dea and I traversed to the mini van for water and rations. There was a large hawk hunting on the ground as we approached the deserted parking lot.
Then it happened. We were given gifts from aliens.
These were not just any gifts! What do all girls want? Purses and shoes! Yes, aliens gave us hand sewn leather vintage purses and quality platform shoes! The red bag came engraved with one word, “Salud”. Salud means health and good fortune. This all makes perfect quintessential sense. Yet! how strange to receive such TANGIBLE reminders of our purpose! The gifts were exactly what each of us needed.
When I saw the beautiful gifts, I immediately put on the shoes.
We brought the gifts back to Jenny!
The green platform shoes were for me. I’ve been looking for new shoes! These are the most comfortable and most green shoes I’ve ever owned. An obvious sign to get out there! Get going girl! I only ever buy flats, but with the state of the planet like it is, it’s no time to play it safe! The lovely vintage leather purses were for Dea and Jenny. Both needing the perfect bag to fill with good fortune to come.
Remember to slow down and take time for yourself. Remember to ask for what you need. Remember to listen to the music and dance of the trees. Remember to go into the desert. Remember to receive the gifts that are constantly given. Aliens are real. There is something sublimely supernatural about New Mexico.
Each planting season we collaborate with new Costa Rican host farm families to plant more trees on their degraded farms. To date, 21 families are collaborating with us to reforest pasturelands with more than 10,000 diverse rainforest trees. It is always a joy to move our tree planting work to a new host farm family in the Valley San Juan de Dios in Costa Rica. Maria and her husband Noah and their family are thrilled to be planting over 150 trees on their deforested land with your help this year 2016.
We toured Maria and Noah’s small farm with a group of agro-forestry students to decide what species to plant and observe any problems or challenges with the farm in general. There is a small stream at the foot of the hill exposed to the sun. So, we decided to plant large majestic rainforest trees perfect for protecting these precious waters and slowing evaporation for generations to come.
After a great tour and discussions of best land management practices, we all decided to plant at least 30 cocoa trees and many cashew trees mixed in so that the family could harvest these fruits and earn money in the future by collaborating with our cooperative group to make chocolate and other tree products.
A few days later, the trees were delivered and the whole family enjoyed admiring the over 45 species of hardwoods and fruit trees. The selection of tropical fruits include mammon chinos, guanabana, anona, breadfruit, oranges, lemons, caimitos, guavas, guayabas, cashews, almonds, karao, carambolas and more.
A crew of three women plus Alvaro planted the trees over a week of work and so far, every single tree is thriving. Our paid workers will be following these trees closely for the next four 4 years to achieve robust productive mature trees for maximum benefits.
The early months of every tree we plant are critical. We recently visited the newly planted trees with a touring group from another community interested in copying our community reforestation model. Seeing the freshly planted trees so healthy was rewarding for all.
The whole community benefits from paid tree planting work. The workers and neighbors producing and planting and caring for the trees enjoy being paid for their diligent work. Literally, we plant a grocery store on every farm where we reforest by including fruit trees, medicinal trees and lumber trees. The host farm family grows an abundance of opportunities for tree products.
The trees bring a notable positive social impact to families like Maria and Noah, living in marginalized areas of Costa Rica. They regenerate what was previously deforested and unproductive land. Families like them along with our paid workers develop valuable opportunities in collaboration with growing the trees and creating a wealth of products from the long term sustainable management of the land and the trees.
This is story of one family who travels the world and offsets their carbon dioxide emissions to pass on an abundant plant to future generations.
They have already compensated 2,5x times their world tour emissions, but were looking at compensating 5 tons of CO2 a year for the next 10 years to get closer to COP21 objectives ahead of time…
They explain, “We therefore looked for a grass root NGO that would help us to do real Carbon Sequestration. Not just preventing future emissions (like we did with other programs), but really taking C02 from the atmosphere in the form of… trees!
Trees are indeed the only real Carbon Sequestration system that is working for now (even some industrial projects are starting to show some efficiency like CO2 injection into former geologic pockets of oil and gaz). That’s why it’s so important to protect forests wherever possible, but also plant trees and rebuild an ecosystem where it has been destroyed.”
It was a joy to host them in Costa Rica and partner with individuals seeking real solutions to climate change.
Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a few days with Jennifer Smith and her ACCT organization. My purpose was to witness the on-the-ground reality of ACCT. I had already read through the website and was impressed. Now I wanted to see for myself what is really happening. Can I, and others who want to offset their carbon footprint, feel secure that something real is happening in this area of Costa Rica? Is it making a positive impact? Are the newly-planted trees receiving enough attention so that they will thrive and grow? How does the local community feel about the program?
If you have studied the website, you have learned that it takes more than just going somewhere and putting a sapling in the soil to accomplish something of real and lasting value in the world of carbon offset. The question is whether the tree—or, really, the tropical reforestation project itself—will still be there, growing, and thriving twenty five or more years later. There are both short term and long term challenges that can threaten survival and, to meet those challenges, the groundwork must be done both figuratively and literally:
Geographically speaking, a workable carbon-offset project in the tropics—the place where reforestation has the most impact on the global environment—one must choose an area not subject to a high probability of hurricanes.
Politically speaking, one must consider whether the national and local government support and recognize the non-tangible benefits of re-forestation vs. the selling off land for short term gain.
On both of these counts, Costa Rica—especially the southern zone area near Dominical—scores very high.
There are also issues of tree selection, adequate fencing to keep out animals from destroying the young trees, healthy soil, and planting in places where there is community support. You can read much more about these and other important factors in other places at the ACCT website.
For a tree to thrive, it must spread its roots wide and deep (depending on the tree species). Similarly, a successful planting project must also go wide and deep into the local community and create win-win-win situations for all the participants: the family, the community, and the trees themselves. This must happen on other levels too: ecologically, of course, but also economically, and even psychologically—where people are empowered to become more self-sufficient and environmentally aware.
On so many levels, ACCT succeeds in all these ways. First of all, there is Jennifer herself who wears many hats in a single day. She inspires, leads, teaches, consults, talks to a great variety of people: the farmers, the local community members, the volunteers, the donors and people she might meet randomly at the market and many other places. With all these people, she is always talking up ACCT—whether it is brainstorming, problem-solving, expansion, the bigger picture of carbon offset, etc. That, of course, is in addition to the work that needs to be done including tending the nursery (where I witnessed a tremendous variety of very healthy looking tropical trees), delivering the trees, consulting with farmers and the community and, of course, the actual planting of the trees—and I have no doubt that this is a very incomplete list as I was there for only a few days.
The work is, in actuality, about community building and doing so with integrity. It starts with love of the earth and the people. It proceeds with a clear and pure intention of being of service to each. It builds momentum one relationship or even one brief encounter at a time. Just as a single tree is part of a greater whole, so too is the planting and the care needed for that tree a result of a much bigger community effort. It really does take a community to raise a tree and ACCT does build communities.
ACCT’s main project is in the southern zone of Costa Rica between Dominical and San Isidro in a place called San Juan de Dios. It is where the trees are being planted and where the micro businesses (read about these at other places on the website) are being created. This large area consists of eighteen family farms. On one of these farms there is also the tree nursery where a great variety of healthy looking tropical saplings are being lovingly attended to.
Everywhere on these eighteen farms spread out over fifty thousand hectares (ninety of which have been re-forested) is where win-win-win (for the farmer, the community, and the earth) situations are being created. This effort asks all the participants to raise themselves a little higher to see how doing things a little differently can have a positive effect on everyone including the earth.
In the meantime, while this is all taking root, Jenny and her volunteers must maintain a presence and so, like hummingbirds going from flower to flower, they go from place to place offering a helping hand and sharing words of encouragement, education, and inspiration; and, even more, they help in the grunt work of—for example—carrying saplings across rivers and digging into the dirt. Nothing can be overlooked, no relationship is too small, everything is related and so everything needs attention.
Here, on these thousand of hectares in southern Costa Rica, a wonderful carbon offset project is happening and growing (this is in addition to 400 hectares of re-forestation on other private land). It is easy to see the community being created while the trees are being planted. I fully believe that this project—both by ripple effect and by carbon uptake—is having a positive effect on the world and this is cause enough for celebration. Still, the work almost demands duplication or imitation in other locations all around the equator. It is heartening to see the great work being done by ACCT and also to envision how wonderful the planetary transformation will be when the same is done in a thousand more places. I hope more “hummingbirds” will come to southern Costa Rica, witness this project, and then go out and do their own version around the globe.
Rainy season has begun in Costa Rica and that means tree planting season. With the support of donors like you, our reforestation work is able to expand to a whole new community in San Jose de Rivas, near Chirripo National Park. We chose this community for numerous reasons.
It all starts with a human connection because our reforestation work is socially integrated in order to assure long term maximum survival of every tree for future generations. The process started back in January when two leaders came to our nursery asking for assistance in reforesting some steep deforested areas around a water spring that nourishes the entire area with fresh potable water. Concerned for the future of their water supplies, we began investigating if the rest of the community would be committed to participating in efforts to replant and care for a wide diversity of trees in this zone. Jessica and Eduardo came to our biodiverse tree nurseries over the last six months to work and learn how we produce the baby trees as well as how to inspire the individual members of their pueblo to get involved.
After making a solid connection with the new community leaders, Jenny Smith offered an educational TREE TALK in the communal salon to gauge interest and commitment to the long term reforestation process. Because current employment only consists in coffee farming in the zone, fairly paid jobs are a huge incentive for many members of the community. So many people participated in the three hour conversation about biodiversity and the importance of trees to protect water supplies. All signs indicated YES!
Yesterday, we delivered the first of 450 biodiverse trees to a holding space in the community for acclimatization. Loading and unloading the trees is a great opportunity for everyone to connect and learn about the different species of high altitude trees we will plant in the beginning of July. Another delivery of 600 trees will be made in two weeks for a total of 1050 trees of 40 species to be planted this year. This weekend we are investigating the planting site with the 7 workers, men and women, who will be doing the physical labor of carrying the trees to the site, planting and maintaining them for a total of 4 years paid by your generous tree sponsorship.
Thank you for your continued support in our integrated work with communities in Costa Rica for the benefit of all of us!
At Community Carbon Trees, planting all different kinds of trees gives us plenty to harvest. We are growing sustainable business with rainforest reforestation in the center. The maximum positive impact to mitigate climate change on the planet is to reduce carbon emissions to lower temperatures and balances the water cycle. Trees on the Equator do all of this for us, and more. Planting new forests of trees with fairly paid local workers on their own farms creates a longterm commitment to rainforest conservation. Building a full circle of complementary entrepreneurial opportunities that empower women makes the reforestation work even more valuable.
For example, we plant hundreds of Theobroma Cocoa trees on every participating Costa Rican owned farm. In just four years, we have already begun harvesting the fruits. It all started when a cocoa chef from San Francisco Jay Holacek contacted us, seeking to participate with our active and organized community. Of course, we said yes. The local farmers all brought some of their cocoa harvest and we placed the beans all together inside a wooden box for fermentation for approximately one week. Often other fruit is also mixed in to accelerate the process. We learned to check the beans for good fermentation by cutting them in half and observing that no fungus has grown on the beans. This is key to flavorful, smooth tasting chocolate. The process is time-consuming and delicate. More and more, with the world demand for chocolate and dwindling resources, organic, wild crafted chocolate is a sought after delicacy. For now, we are happy to be learning the complicated process.
After proper fermentation, the beans must be dried. Most chocolate chefs prefer sun dried cocoa beans. They must be kept dry and for approximately three days and then stored in airtight dark place. We have learned that making chocolate is like making fine wine. Every harvest is different depending on the soils, the weather, the shade, the fermentation, and the drying and toasting process.
After the beans are dried, toasting the beans to the desired smooth flavor begins. On average, toasting takes about 30 minutes at 340 degrees. Then the shells are cracked open and the women roughly grind away the shells and break the beans into smaller pieces called “nibs”. Some people like to eat the nibs plain and we have already had success selling them at local farmers markets.
One the shells cracked away from the beans, we used a blow dryer to “winnow” away the shells from the cocoa “nibs”.
Now everything smells incredible and tasting begins in earnest. We used an old champion juicer to rough grind the toasted cocoa beans into cocoa “liquor”. This is a slow process. We ran the paste through twice to create a shiny, smooth liquor.
Now comes the sugar. But not just any sugar. Our chocolate is extra special because our ACCT community group grew and prepared the brown sugar too. Using traditional methods, the sugar was cooked down and poured into seasoned wooden molds. We toasted the grated brown sugar or “tapa dulce” to make sure it was dry before mixing in 35% sugar to %65 pure, cocoa liquor.
Our 1 kg batch of chocolate liquor was ground all night long with a fabulous machine that our chef loaned us. The next morning, we awoke to a completely homogenous and smooth paste, sweet, rich, flavorful and free of bitterness.
Stay tuned as we grow more opportunities from the trees you help us plant with your generous sponsorships. Thanks for your continued support. The more trees we plant the more chocolate we can make. The more businesses we grow from the trees, the more sustainable the rainforest can be.
Seems like no matter where you are, talk about drought is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. I was recently in California this past April and was surprised to see the all fountains, even the ones in Beverly Hills, completely turned off. Babylon is running out of water. How ironic because Babylon used to be known for its lush hanging hydroponic gardens overflowing with plenty of water and more than enough food for all. Now look at us.
Water wars have begun whether you know it or not. Competition for this precious resource is going to become ever more fierce because we have altered our air composition and cut down way too many trees. Excess carbon dioxide is driving up temperatures which is, in turn, trapping in more water vapor.
Rainforests balance the global temperature and water cycles through recycling huge quantities of rainfall. Enormous amounts of water are continuously being elevated through the one-way, antigravity valving system of trees. Each canopy tree transpires some 200 gallons ( 760 liters) of water annually. For every acre of canopy rainforest, trees transpire about 20,000 gallons (76,000L) of water.  The tree feeds the rain-forming atmosphere by leaking atomized water out through its leaves while at the same time sucking in fresh water through its roots. Trees run the rainfall/snowfall system through their evapo-transpiration. So how do the trees recycle the rain?
Water evaporates from the sea and from the trees, first rising as water vapor and then condensing and falling as rain, a process referred to as evapo-transpiration. Some rainwater sinks into the earth and some rainwater drains away over the ground surface, depending on the temperature of the ground surface coupled with whether there are trees there or not. In forested areas, the trees cool the ground off with their shading branches and leaves. When the the ground is cooler than the falling rainwater, the warmer rainwater to easily penetrate the earth. Around 85% of the water runoff is retained, with 15% being absorbed by vegetation and humus and about 70% going to recharge groundwater, aquifers and underground stream systems.
In the full hydrological cycle like this, the trees recharge the groundwater table by sending it down through interconnected webs of tree roots. This is why biodiverse groupings of different species of trees, like those growing in a natural forest or highly diverse reforestation project, ensure that water is, in fact, penetrating the ground at multiple levels and actually nourishing deeper underground streams and reservoirs instead of draining them like in a monoculture or single species plantation.
In a healthy, full hydrological cycle, diverse tree root systems play another key role in regulation of the water cycle. Roots from all kinds of trees reaching down to all strata of underground levels draw water up from different layers of the soil and underground aquifers. This water then transpires through the tree leaves and rises as water vapor, cooling with altitude and condensing into clouds. Finally, the water aggregates into bigger droplets and precipitates as rain. Some say that water rising from trees is more highly charged and healthy water because it emanates from a living source, with mineral and trace element content much higher than transpiration from the sea, where many creatures have already absorbed the oxygen and carbon dioxide content leaving the water empty.
Now think about what happens to the water when we cut down the trees, particularly around the Equator where the majority of rainwater and oxygen is recycled on our planet. In deforested areas without tree cover, the temperature gradient of the soil is normally so hot that the cooler rainwater cannot penetrate it at all. Instead, the water runs off and just evaporates away. It’s just like when you throw water on a hot skillet and it sizzles and skitters sideways, just evaporating into thin air. Without the trees and cooling clouds to shade and protect and keep the soil cool, the rainwater cannot sink in.
The water vapor in the atmosphere at first increases and the rain spreads out over a much larger surface area instead. Sometimes the rainfall is excessive, then flooding occurs. At the same time, enhanced evaporation causes the atmosphere to become overloaded with water vapor and make the water fall somewhere else instead – sometimes far from the original source of the water vapor. By this process, devastating droughts can also result from the vicious cycle of rain created by a broken hydrological cycle. Yes, a flood in one region begets the next flood, and conversely, a flood can also be the cause of a future drought.
How can drought occur from too much rain? Critical consequence of the half hydro cycle is that there is no groundwater recharge. Think about it. Most of the water is staying on the surface because trees are not rooting the water down and transpiring the vapor upwards in a slow steady balanced process. Instead, the water is rising very fast, in large part as hot vapor and falling as rain without ever actually penetrating the deep levels of the earth. Often, if there aren’t enough trees to hold moisture in the soil, and the winds end up moving the vapor elsewhere which effectively removes the water from that local system.
Where there is no tree cover, the groundwater initially rises and brings with it underground salts, which contaminate the upper levels of topsoil. The plants are not able to metabolize these salts and vegetation and soils dry up and die. Over time the groundwater table will sink and disappear, because there is insufficient rainwater to nourish it and in turn, the supply of nutrients to vegetation from below the ground ceases.
Esteemed scientist Victor Shauberger calls this a biological short circuit which ultimately leads to widespread desertification. Why? The nutrients present in the upper zones of the groundwater table, which are normally drawn up by the trees to a level where they are accessible to the lesser plants are left below instead to sink with the falling ground water. The water table eventually drops to levels far beyond the reach of even the deepest tree roots, taking all soil moisture and trace elements down with it. No water means the desert reigns supreme.
When widespread desertification is the norm, not only is water lost in the deep bowels of the earth, but it also begins to be lost at the great heights of the heavens. The initial greater intensity of thunderstorms and storm activity at first raises the water vapor to levels far higher than normal, even as high as 40 to 80 km above the surface of the planet. Here the vapor reaches altitudes where it is exposed to much stronger ultraviolet and high energy gamma radiation, which break apart the water molecules by disassociating the oxygen from the hydrogen. Due to its lesser specific weight, the hydrogen molecule then rises while the oxygen molecule sinks. This way the water is effectively removed forever – gone gone gone for good.
So what can we do to restore a healthy, full hydrological cycle for our planet? Planting bio diverse trees within 10° of the Equator is one of the best solutions. In badly deteriorated soils, pioneering species are able to handle the higher levels of soil salts and are critical to plant so they can provide some early shade and ground cover which begins to lower the soil’s temperature. Soil conditions slightly improve as the trees move rainwater deeper into the earth, taking the excess salt down with it. Meanwhile a mix of fruit and hardwood trees can survive in the regenerated soil thanks to the process of creating shade and more soil moisture. Eventually, the pioneer trees die off because the evolved soil conditions are now no longer suitable and the dynamic balance of nature is restored.