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Cosmic Convergence Outreach Workshop

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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 –

  1. We discussed why rainforest trees are important and how reforestation contributes significantly to global carbon sequestration.
  2. 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.'”
  3. How community carbon trees empowers local families and how activists can get involved by becoming a tree ambassador.

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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.

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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!

Tree Tour Carbon Footprint

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!

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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!

Do you believe in Aliens?!

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.

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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.

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We brought the gifts back to Jenny!

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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.

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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.

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Namaste.

One Family One Planet

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.

Plant a Tree
A family on a mission to offset carbon! We can help!

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.

Read their whole post here.

It Takes A Village To Plant A Tree

Written by John Stern

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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.

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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.

Why don’t I just plant trees in my own community?

You can plant trees where you live for all the beauty and services they give us. But, if you are looking to make a bigger difference per tree in cleaning the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, planting trees near the Equator gives you greater results. Without a cold dormant period, the trees planted in tropical rainy climes near the Equator far exceed growth rates of trees grown in North America and Europe The abundant undergrowth commonly found in tropical forests adds even more carbon sequestration capacity, not to mention all the other host of environmental services trees provide every minute of every day.

Visit our website for more information.

Equador Meteorological

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