Tag Archives: plant trees

Maasai Community Carbon Trees — We are replicating to Kenya, AFRICA!!!

Yeah VISAS for Africa are in hand…. and Super Tree Friends are coming together!! THANK YOU Dalmas Tiampati Director of Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism…and everyone who is already supporting our work to replicate our community empowerment fair pay tree planting model in Kenya Africa with the Maasai clans. 
Dalmas Tiampati Project Leader Executive Director of Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism
and all the Maasai people welcoming us to their villages in November 2018.

13606635_1573958189564563_4427856458040227115_nExecutive Director of Maasai Center for Regenerative Pastoralism


The Maasai people have experienced extreme drought due to climate change and deforestation. There are no opportunities for employment and the pastoralist lifestyle is no longer supporting the tribes as before. Concern for the environment and for mitigating climate change has inspired the Maasai people to reforest their lands in ways that establish silvo-pastoral cultural systems that respect their unique culture while creating fair opportunities for employment through growing diverse trees.


Paying people a fair wage for producing and planting and caring for trees long term including women is good for the community as well as the environment. Establishing new relationships with the land and neighbors requires collaboration and time. The process of producing compost with local women serves the purpose of providing organic fertile soil for the tree nursery as well as for local vegetables. Fair pay tree planting model strengthens community economic and environmental resilience.

Long-Term Impact

Addressing climate change by planting highly diverse mixes of native trees near the Equator is a winning solution for everyone living on Planet Earth. Equator trees sequester tons of carbon dioxide over the 25 year period they are guaranteed through managed long term care and accountability.

To donate through Global Giving and receive a full US tax deduction, here is the link!

Thank you to our amazing colleague Elena Vargas who will accompany me on this visionary replication of our successful community reforestation model to Africa, especially with the Maasai clans in Kenya. Together and united we can all do so much more!
Elena Vargas and Jennifer Smith (Tree Jenny)
Thank you Franck St. Loubert for being such a trustworthy and wonderful team member and funding support! We look forward to seeing YOU in Kenya! Also huge shout out to Gabriel Cine Hildalgo who will be joining us for the last two weeks to document and tell the story of our seed safari mission. 
Thank you Jessica Manley, Eduardo Hidalgo Cruz, Teresa Badilla, Alvaro Cerdas, Cristian Mena, Diana Saborio, Yedier Gamboa and all the workers who will HOLD DOWN THE FORT while we are away….
Thank you to my parents and Super Tree Friends cheering us on…
I will be personally funding $$$$ for this Foundation SEED Mission and trust that the funding will come in One Tree at A Time just as we have been doing for the last 10 years. It is a big step for us and does not come easily and we appreciate all well wishes of protection and support. And of course Tree Sponsorships! Our new button for Kenya will be ready on our updated website soon!! 
Our goals include: LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN and respond adequately with respect for cultural ways. Build resilience in an area often visited but usually forgotten in terms of long term community empowerment and afforestation. Engage with youth and elders who love trees. We will teach compost production as we always do right from the start… the secret is in the soil…. we will build a community tree nursery for production of biodiverse native species important to the area. We will go on a seed safari and establish seed collection networks and figure out where to plant the trees and who to plant them with fair pay… we will teach and build accounting and administration foundations for transparent and exact reporting about how we spend the money you so kindly and generously donate. May I remind you… this work not  exactly “charity” … everyone will be working very diligently and many many of us work countless hours without being “paid” … we will connect with NGO’s and the Kenya Forestry Service and become a positive FORCE for silvo pastoral afforestation in the region in such desperate need. in all these things…
There are all kinds of Tree Friends coming out of the woodwork interested in helping us connect with NGO’s in Kenya and surrounding areas.  Solar companies and water producing inventions and collaborations for innovative pastoral grazing practices are all part of our mission! We do have plans to apply for grants once we establish the foundations and work with the clans for a while to “get it going”….
TRUST is my mantra … Listen and Respond… Stay in alignment…
What about you? Who can hear us?


Our strongest and deepest roots are based in love! Another Kids' Nature Day creation we use to announce all of our fun educational activities!
Our strongest and deepest roots are based in love! Another Kids’ Nature Day creation we use to announce all of our fun educational activities!

Replication of our Tree Planting Model in Rivas, Costa Rica


donate-a-treeWe have been working hard with our new community project replication in San Jose de Rivas Costa Rica to plant 2500 more diverse rainforest trees on 7 different family farms. The local farmers learn more about mechanics of long term reforestation through the actual hands on work of touring their farms, designing the project, selecting species and doing the actual work of planting the trees to restore and regenerate their own deforested and degraded lands. Working in the tree nursery and making fertile bokosha soil for filling the tree bags in the nursery also requires a lot of woman power and the community has been more than happy to be part of the weekly crews.




Just look at the pictures. People are all smiles! Our social impact studies have revealed so much to us already. It was shocking to me to learn that despite lots of visits and programs offered by FONOFIFO ( Costa rica Forestry Service) and the Minister of Agriculture and Ganaderia (cattle), farmers have never before received real technical assistance on their own farms. Many feel very forgotten and taken advantage of by government programs requiring their time but failing to pay them for it. So, obviously, it is new experience being paid for their work and this has taken some time to sink into the community. Collaboration takes group interest instead of self interest and our system of planting a wide diversity of fruit and lumber trees on local family farms is effectively teaching them about the benefits and the challenges of working in a unified group.




The four leaders working in this community, myself included, have also gotten a work out on the listening and cooperation aspects of working in a community that has been impoverished by deforestation, monoculture coffee farming with heavy reliance on chemicals to deal with degraded and dead soils.


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Everyone we have interviewed want to improve their soils and stop using herbicides and pesticides so we are thrilled to offer them the opportunity of restoring their soils by growing biodiverse trees with ACCT empowerment from your sponsorships and collaborating grant money to ultimately encourage organic agriculture. Fair pay for hours spent chopping the regenerating grasses and vegetation encourages the community to stop taking the easy way out using poison to kill the grasses to avoid the heavy work of chopping them by hand with machetes.

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Regrowing rainforest helps all of us no matter where we live. We are all breathing oxygen produced by trees near the Equator.  And we are all drinking water and eating food nourished by rain water. The rainforest near the Equator is what drives and maintains balance in all of the life cycles. And humans keep cutting down more. How do we get people to stop? And contribute to the regrowth of rainforest which sustains our very lives?

jenny diagram


We ask you to sponsor trees… and meanwhile, we also look for money from businesses and foundations. We work hard to keep this work funded by applying and managing grant money. Our administrative costs are extremely low and many of us leaders definitely do not get paid for all of the work we do. It takes a big dedicated team of people truly collaborating at every level to do this work. And all the tree planters and seed collectors need you too just as you need them.

all in it together


After more than 20 years developing this reforestation work in Costa Rica, and as we approach replicating our ACCT model now to other countries on the Equator, and so many experiences participating in and measuring the process, I’ve come to believe that changing the consciousness of all the people involved through the process is the key to our collective success. Shifts in the way we live globally and act globally to manage our Earth’s natural can generate a new awareness about giving back to our earth. The highest levels of being human are accessed when we are in our gift state and that’s why giving back feels so good. And as we keep working, we love to be able to assure you that every tree  we plant now resulting from your generosity will be protected and accounted for over the long term by resilient and committed human communities.


We love trees! Have you sponsored a tree lately? http://www.communitycarbontrees.org/plant-a-tree/

Hemos estado trabajando arduamente con nuestra nueva réplica de proyectos comunitarios en San José de Rivas, Costa Rica, para plantar 2500 árboles más diversos de selva en 7 granjas familiares diferentes. Los granjeros locales aprenda más sobre la mecánica de la reforestación a largo plazo a través del trabajo práctico de recorrer sus fincas, diseñar el proyecto, seleccionar especies y hacer el trabajo real de plantar los árboles para restaurar y regenerar sus propias tierras deforestadas y degradadas. Trabajar en el vivero de árboles y hacer suelo fértil de bokosha para llenar las bolsas de los árboles en el vivero también requiere mucho poder de la mujer y la comunidad ha estado más que feliz de ser parte de los equipos semanales.


Solo mira las fotos. La gente es todo sonrisas ! Nuestros estudios de impacto social ya nos han revelado tanto. Fue impactante para mí saber que a pesar de una gran cantidad de visitas y programas ofrecidos por FONOFIFO (Costa R ica Servicio Forestal) y el Ministro de Agricultura yGanadería (ganado), los agricultores han nunca antes recibido asistencia técnica real en sus propias fincas. Muchos se sienten olvidados y aprovechados por los programas gubernamentales que requieren su tiempo pero no les pagan por ello. Por lo tanto, obvio usualmente, es una nueva experiencia ser pagada por su trabajo y esto ha llevado algo de tiempo para hundirse en la comunidad. La colaboración toma interés del grupo en lugar de interés propio y nuestro sistema de plantar una gran diversidad de árboles frutales y madereros en fincas familiares locales les enseña de manera efectiva sobre los beneficios y los desafíos de trabajar en un grupo unificado.


Los cuatro líderes que trabajan en esta comunidad, incluido yo mismo, también hemos trabajado en los aspectos de escuchar y cooperación del trabajo en una comunidad que ha sido empobrecida por la deforestación, el cultivo de monocultivos de café con una gran dependencia de los químicos para lidiar con la degradación y suelos muertos

Todos los que hemos entrevistado quieren mejorar sus suelos y dejar de usar herbicidas y pesticidas, por lo que estamos encantados de ofrecerles la oportunidad de restaurar sus suelos cultivando árboles biodiversos con el empoderamiento de ACCT de sus patrocinios y donaciones de fondos para finalmente fomentar la agricultura orgánica. El pago justo por las horas dedicadas a cortar los pastos y la vegetación en regeneración alienta a la comunidad a dejar de tomar el camino más fácil usando veneno para matar las hierbas y evitar el trabajo pesado de cortarlas a mano con machetes.


Regrowing rainforest nos ayuda a todos sin importar dónde estemos . Todos respiramos oxígeno producido por árboles cerca del Ecuador.   Y todos estamos bebiendo agua y comiendo alimentos nutridos por agua de lluvia . La selva tropical cerca del Ecuador es lo que impulsa y mantiene el equilibrio en todos los ciclos de vida. Y los humanos siguen reduciendo más. ¿Cómo hacemos que la gente se detenga? ¿Y contribuir a la generacion del bosque lluvioso que sostiene nuestras vidas?


Le pedimos que patrocine árboles … y mientras tanto, también buscamos dinero de empresas y fundaciones. Trabajamos arduamente para mantener este trabajo financiado aplicando y administrando dinero de la subvención. Nuestros costos administrativos son extremadamente bajos y muchos de nosotros, los líderes, definitivamente no nos pagan por todo el trabajo que hacemos.  Requiere un equipo grande de personas que realmente colaboran en todos los niveles para hacer este trabajo. Y todos los plantadores de árboles y recolectores de semillas también lo necesitan tal como los necesita.


D espués de más de 20 años en el desarrollo de este trabajo de reforestación en Costa Rica, y cuando nos acercamos a replicar nuestro modelo ACCT ahora a otros países en el Ecuador, y tantas experiencias que participan en el proceso de medición y, he llegado a creer que cambiar la conciencia de todas las personas involucradas a través del proceso es la clave de nuestro éxito colectivo. Los cambios en la forma en que vivimos a nivel mundial y actuar globalmente para administrar la naturaleza de nuestra Tierra pueden generar una nueva conciencia sobre cómo devolver a nuestra tierra. Se accede a los más altos niveles del ser humano cuando estamos en nuestro estado de regalo y es la razon porque devolviendo a la tierra y a la humanidad siente tan bien. Y a medida que seguimos trabajando, nos encanta ser capaces de asegurarle que cada árbol   plantamos ahora como resultado de su generosidad será protegida y representó a largo plazo de las comunidades humanas resistentes y comprometidos.


Community Carbon Trees Reforestation Model

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 !!!


ACCT TREES PLANTED AND SPONSORED Total-trees-planted-per-farm

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MeetNew People Collaborating to Plant Trees on Deforested Land

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.

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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.

Rainforest Trees Make Healthy Precipitation For the Whole Planet!

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.

Empty fountains in California reveal just how serious the water shortage situation really is!
Empty fountains in California reveal just how serious the water shortage situation really is!
We are in fact running out of water!
We are in fact running out of water!

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.

Deforestation means hot ground surface temperatures and NO water absorption.
Deforestation means hot ground surface temperatures and NO water absorption.


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. [1] 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.jenny diagram

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.

4year old trees

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.

Excess water vapor is creating destructive flood and drought cycles.
Excess water vapor is creating destructive flood and drought cycles.
Floods are a consequence of a broken water cycle due to deforestation.
Floods are a consequence of a broken water cycle due to deforestation.

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.






How a Costa Rican Cattle Farmer Taught Me a Lesson About Compassion, Social Justice and Stopping Deforestation

I used to wonder why the rainforest gets cut down.  I must admit, I had even thought  to myself , “Why don’t ‘those people’  just get out there and plant some more trees? ”  I mused how they had the land and it seemed like they had the time, so why not just do it?  Back then, I didn’t really realize how hard it was to reforest on a large scale. I had no idea how long term the activity was in order to make sure the trees survive.  And, I didn’t realize that in my own self righteous and innocent ignorance, I was expecting the poorest people on the planet to protect our most precious and beneficial resource, the RAINFOREST.  I guess I was just expecting them to do it for free. Thank goodness some humiliating experiences came to show me how I was wrong, ultimately changing me, my work and everyone around me. Each and every hard lesson uplifted me to forge forward in a better direction for being an agent of change. Here is a glimpse into our journey of creating Association Community Carbon Trees-Costa Rica.com.

Maybe you have seen my posts before where I basically beg for tree Sponsors. Yea, I know, it can be tiring for you. Just think how I feel? Most days, my posts are completely ignored, no one likes our page and even so called “friends” don’t even like our page. Much less sponsor a tree! If I let it get me down, it would.  But I pick myself up, and try again because I have seen what ACCT is doing and how it works for all of us. You could definitely say I’m committed.

Maybe you find yourself thinking,  “Why should I care?”  Some people just are not interested in planting trees or climate change. Or at first glance, you might think there are enough rainforest trees out there.  Like all of us, you understandably have other things to spend your money on like dinner and movie, a new pair of jeans, yoga classes, going to that awesome Festival or vacation, your kid’s college education, the mortgage.  I get it. I really do.  You might just think your single tree just won’t make much of a difference. So why bother? But every single tree does contribute to the whole forest. No one has to break their bank or become a total non-consumer to be part of the ACCT movement.

all in it together

Sometimes  seemingly “awake” people ask me why we have to help people in a foreign country, like Costa Rica, when their own country has so many problems and poor people in need?  Other times, I get the “feel good” retort from well meaning folks,  “Oh I’m sorry, I cannot give $25 for a  campesino to produce, plant and care for a real rainforest tree for 25 years because I already donate to (fill in the blank with other philanthropic organization). Or, I get the back slapping permaculture crowd telling me they are already doing their part where they live.  And so it is. More people than ever are acting on a local level. Awesome job folks!  But what about the global scene? The rainforest is still being cut down faster than ever. We are still losing species at an alarming rate, droughts and floods are plaguing our planet and CO2 is out of control. No matter what we are interested in, we all need air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat. The rainforest gives us all of this.

Trees cut down by poor family to plant palm oil in 2014.
Trees cut down by poor family to plant palm oil in 2014.
Deforestation is alive and well in Costa Rica.
Deforestation is alive and well in Costa Rica.

For me, such conversations with people who resist planting even one rainforest tree can be disappointing and discouraging, to say the least. It’s hard to explain why the rainforest affects all of us, how every single person has a carbon footprint no matter where we live which can be erased by planting trees on the Equator. In general, I guess people have enough problems and do not want to think about how we are relying on the poorest people to protect and regenerate our most beneficial natural resource.  Out of sight, out of mind. Today, I try to inspire and encourage myself by remembering my own learning curve when I first started doing reforestation and conservation work for private clients over 15 years ago.  So, I want to share a true story with you that helped me to open my eyes and my heart and learn to be the change.

One of the most notable and humiliating reality checks was handed to me back in 2007 while I was the President of a local conservation group in the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica. The real estate frenzy hit our area bringing with it the development of new roads and ocean view homesites.  Cultural norms were changing all over the place and the once quiet, simple Costa Rica “Pura Vida” lifestyle had given way to a hotbed of realtors and speculators looking to buy their piece of Paradise. But who was I to judge? I had come to live here myself back in 1998 to establish  a “for profit” reforestation company and, in so many ways, I understood the allure of the lush green jungles, slow pace and  laissez fare.  But push did come to shove and people started calling me to seek help when the chain saws screamed and the tractors rolled damaging irreparably ecosystems at every turn. Since most foreigners did not speak enough Spanish to deal with the local authorities, who often were corrupt and accepted bribes from developers to turn a blind eye,  I took it upon myself to be the one to prosecute people who cut down trees without proper permits.  

My self created “job” was not  popular with some folks. It was not usually fun nor lucrative.  But I knew someone had to do it. I was bold and strong and knew how to cause a ruckus. I could swing a big chain and I carried a big stick. I was ready to stand in front of a tractor or chain saw and fight for the forest. Word got out, more and more people called, and little by little, good people were seeking pre-construction assistance so they could  respect  Nature in the process of building their dream. We offered free environmental law seminars and the room was packed every time. People were hungry for the information and I was willing to share as much as I could.  We cleaned up and kicked out some of the corrupt  local resource MINAE guards and SETENA began to take notice and realize that real environmental impact studies were necessary to protect this last stretch of rainforest prime for development in the southern Pacific zone.  For a while, we could see that we were  making a difference. I knew the high impact self proclaimed “eco” developers were feeling the pinch when one of them flew in one afternoon on his helicopter to meet me.  After complaining that I was ruining job opportunities for Costa Ricans, ( janitors, maids etc.), he proceeded to tell me I was despicable.  I laughed. I could live with that accusation.  I had already won over 20 cases with my big lawyer stick. I possessed a whole lot of good intentions and felt ridiculously invincible. Unbeknownst to me, my good intentions had paved my own road to hell. So many  rich investors were still doing whatever they wanted while their equally “well off”   neighbors came to me expecting free legal work to fight them. And the Costa Ricans were now wise to the game and ready to cash in on it too. It was only fair. Something was wrong with the bigger picture.  I had so much to learn.


When the student is ready, the teacher appears.  One day,  I came head to head with a local Costa Rican man who happened to be my neighbor.  We had always been on good terms. Just a few months before he had explained to me in a friendly conversation how his late grandfather had been paid by foreign government subsidies to burn the rainforest down in the 1970’s. I just couldn’t  believe it.  So, like any good lawyer striving to be an eco-warrior, I began to research.  I found out quite easily in the Library of Congress that Costa Ricans were indeed paid to cut down and burn their forests in favor of producing cheap beef for export to foreign markets, particularly the United States. Wendy’s and Burger King were two of the primary consumers.  I began asking every Tico I came into contact with about how their land came to be deforested.  I always got the same story. The land was too steep to even pull out the wood for personal use or sale. Poor farmers did not have tractors or trucks and were understandably looking for the easiest and  cheapest way to convert their forest to cattle land. And so, they burned it down. It appalled me that on top of the obvious destruction of ecosystems, all the carbon dioxide stored in these giant Tree beings had been toxically released into our atmosphere.

Slash and burn to convert rainforest into cattle land.
Slash and burn to convert rainforest into cattle land.

I am a dirt lover. I could touch, see, smell and feel just how fragile and thin the topsoil is in the tropical jungle. Covered by trees, the soils are a bastion of biodiversity important in countless ways to the overall health of the biosphere. But when the trees are chopped down and the soils exposed to months of blazing Equatorial sun, followed by 8 months more of torrential rain running on steep terrain, it spells dirt disaster.  Within just 7 years of cutting down a forest, the once fertile dirt is degraded. Dead soil full of cow poop runs off into rivers, causing sedimentation and nitrogen pollution which then flows downstream polluting estuaries and heating up oceans. Over time, landslides threaten and destroy communities, even killing people as a result of unstable, deforested land.  Water springs, once healthy, dry  up and rivers evaporate under the sun. No animals, no food, no water is left. And the cow business? A total flop. They are skinny and tough and require concentrated GMO  foods to put on weight. Farmers lose money on top of destroying their land. No one wins. 


Rainforest converted to cattle pastures is not sustainable.
Rainforest converted to cattle pastures is not sustainable.
Converting rainforest to cattle farms degrades land and causes landslides which ultimately flood rivers and pollute sensitive ocean environments.
Converting rainforest to cattle farms degrades land and causes landslides which ultimately flood rivers and pollute sensitive ocean environments.

But I digress from my story. One pleasant morning, I went on a brisk walk, enjoying the peace and quiet, marveling at the Nature all around me.  I looked up out of my reverie to see a sleek, black Jaguarundi stealthily leap across my path. I gave thanks and wondered why it is said that a black cat crossing your path means bad luck. Uncannily, seconds later, I heard a nearby chain saw whirring. Before I knew what was happening, I heard a vicious CRACK and wood SPLINTER, then an eery  “KABOOM” echoed through the area. Monkeys  were screaming wildly and dogs were barking all around me.   One after the other, huge tall trees were falling and branches were flying.  I could feel the desperation of the animals in the air.  It was contagious. My mind was racing and I kicked into reaction mode, running toward the mayhem. A million thoughts flitted through my brain as my blood pressure rose.

I had fought so many other battles on behalf of other people in defense of  trees, mostly for free. Even though I had recently vowed to stay out of “these kinds of fights”, the fact that it was happening in my own “backyard” spurred me onward.  Something would not let me walk away. Little did I know how that black cat foreboded a warning that I am ultimately glad  I did not heed.

My Costa Rican neighbor had begun to illegally deforest the rest of his land which was partially covered at the time by a Mayo Colorado forest. This type of tree forms a natural monoculture and serves its own unique purpose. A Mayo Colorado tree forms a network and basically does not allow any other type of tree to grow. They are home to countless pollinating bees and understory plants and upper story epiphytes and bromeliads. It felt like a cathedral under those trees. They shaded the nearby water stream and protected the healthy soil. They were central to the natural, healthy ecosystem that was thriving there.

I approached the crew of men still wielding their murderous chain saws faster than I could gather my wits. No one even looked up at first. It was Sunday, perfect for illegal cutting since there were no MINAE resource guards available until Monday.  No one was scared of little ole me. I wish I could say that I was cool, calm and collected. No way. I was wild.  Looking back I see how ineffective I was because my emotions had gotten the better of me. Seeing the trees ooze their bloody cellulose while birds searched for their fallen nests was just more than I could handle.

I confronted Sergio, the land owner and stood in front of a giant tree next in line for the killing frenzy.  My once neighborly friend began waving his sharp machete at me, convincingly threatening my life and scaring me half to death. He had major back up too. Men with chain saws.  I was all alone. I knew I was terribly outnumbered. I tried to reason with each of them, but all of my pleas were falling on deaf ears. I ran home and cried my eyes out and began to formulate a plan to get the MINAE guards there the very next morning. Somehow, I knew it was going to be too little, too late.

Meet my neighbor Sergio!
Meet my neighbor Sergio!


The destruction was done, acres of forest were cut down in a single day. Yet, the lesson would take months and years to germinate and take root.  My neighbor became even more angry at me when the MINAE guards came out a few days later to investigate and issue the Denuncia to begin the lawsuit. Everyone in Costa Rica, whether a citizen, a resident or a tourist, has standing to defend trees, rivers, and  animals who do not have a voice under Article 50 of the Costa Rican Constitution. This was one of the things that truly impressed me about Costa Rica early on. I had witnessed superb rulings by the Sala IV or Constitutional Environmental Court made up of brave judges,  willing to enforce the environmental laws in favor of protecting Nature. I felt like I was on the right side of the fight.

But Sergio felt equally justified in his actions. He  began to enlist other neighbors to threaten and harass me. I did not feel safe. My adorable new German Shepard puppy dog mysteriously turned up dead. One gentle man came to my house a few days later to  counsel me. He told me no matter how much he understood and even agreed with me, I should back off or end up dead in the ditch. I called my Mentor who immediately told me I should be careful too.  When he said I did not have to worry about the people who threatened me to my face, I felt a little better. But then he told me that I SHOULD worry about the people who did not say it to my face. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest. How many peoples’ buttons and pocketbooks had I already hit?   I thought I loved what I was doing. I thought I was right.  I did not want to go back to the USA and be a lawyer in an office. I was conflicted. I lost a lot of sleep.

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In due course, my wise life partner from Argentina, Juan Angel, drew a very bright line in the sand for me.  “Quit or I’m leaving”.  I knew he was thinking about my physical safety and peace of mind.  He knew more about how things work in Latin America and understood my unique weakness as a woman alone in a strange land. His stern words convinced me in no uncertain terms that I had bitten off way more than I could chew. I withdrew the complaint and resigned as President of ASANA the very next day.

In the coming weeks and months, Juan and I got into some deep discussions about conservation and equal justice. I read voraciously. I meditated. Through a myriad of examples, we explored how social justice is key to being successful in any realm,  conservation included. While Juan is not a “tree hugger” per se,  he did share my revolutionary spirit and search for justice. He knew my heart and how much I had given up for the “work” and how much I wanted to be truly effective. Although he believed in what we were doing with the private reforestation work, he challenged me to look at it from a new perspective.  He asked me bluntly, “Why are you working so hard to fight battles for rich people developing their ocean view lots? ”  He admonished, “Wake up Girlfriend!”  He showed me the shallow roots of my work.  He quipped, “Why are you running around fighting poor Costa Rican people who are just trying to survive Jenny?” He went on, “If you are going to work so hard, for free, and you really want to make a difference, why not get out there and work with the poor people who are struggling to survive while protecting the forest in a positive way.”

Juan Angel is my rock!
Juan Angel is my rock!

All of his questions and comments shed new light on my worn out path. I had to dig harder and set more solid roots that would  grow to support me and everyone and everything I cared about. I wanted to be a force for environmental AND social justice. My abiding LOVE for trees and forests and wild spaces and clean rivers and clean air had been driving me all along. It was time to change. It was time to work in the positive, and move on from the negative.

Drawing from ACCT Kids' Nature Day regular participant Ava Sylvester
Drawing from ACCT Kids’ Nature Day regular participant Ava Sylvester
Our strongest and deepest roots are based in love!  Another Kids' Nature Day creation we use to announce all of our fun educational activities!
Our strongest and deepest roots are based in love! Another Kids’ Nature Day creation we use to announce all of our fun educational activities!

After a few weeks, I began to try to make amends with Sergio. I requested a meeting with him. I reached out to community members. I ate a lot of crow.  Sergio resisted. I eventually knocked him off guard by asking him for his forgiveness for the scene I had created, the problems I had tried to cause him and his family.  I swallowed my pride and released my anger about the dead trees, the dead dog, all of it. I wanted to move on. I wanted to understand and evolve.

When he was ready to talk, I listened intently to Sergio’s side of the story.  Although he could not read or write very well, he was intelligent in so many ways that I was humbled and embarrassed for my ignorance despite all of my book and forestry training.  This amazing man explained to me that the only way his family could eat was to cut down the last bit of forest left on his land. He could not grow any food on the previously deforested areas because the dirt was dead. He intended to plant all kinds of fruit trees in  place of the forest he cut down, plus pineapples, black beans, yucca, ancestral corn and sweet potatoes. He was not going to graze any more cattle on the newly cleared land because he had already learned what a losing proposition this was over the last  25 years.

I could tell that Sergio genuinely shared my sadness for the plight of the fallen forest and the displaced animals.  We shed tears together. It was cleansing for us both. He told me again about his tragic childhood memories watching his grandfather and their neighbors burn down the forest for the cows in promise of a better life that never came.   He even admitted to agreeing with me that it is a crime to cut down the forest.  He felt he had no alternative.  All of his water springs had dried up in the previously deforested areas and now he had to pay for water from the aqueduct. The rest of his cows would die without plenty of water. The rest of his soil was dead and eroding away year after year with no solution in sight. Every rainy season he feared landslides during the hardest downpours.   He did not have a job, he had no hope of a job, and he was angry and depressed  because he could not adequately  care for his family. There was no social welfare and no soup kitchen to go to and he was desperate. He made it clear to me that if the Gringos could cut down trees for mansions with pools, there was NO WAY that I was going to tell him that he could not cut down trees to grow food. I did not argue with him.


So many experiences, at once so humiliating and yet uplifting, contributed to my growing understanding that planting trees on land owned by “rich foreigners” or “big nonprofit conservation corporations” was not going to be enough to stop deforestation.   No matter how many hundreds of thousands of different kinds of trees we planted for private clients on their own land, no matter how many jobs we created for poor people on “other people’s land”,  little by little, I saw that we were not going to save the rainforest without getting deeply involved with the the local people in rural communities.  On the ground experience over a decade taught me that  both local men and women needed paid alternatives to stop deforestation.

I began to gnaw on the agony of what, at first,  looked like defeat. This experience, and many others, was pivotal in changing my dense “first world” self important attitude and approach to saving the rainforest. I became driven to invent something that could really work for everyone. I poured my heart and soul and energy more than ever into seed collecting, tree production and private planting projects with a new found vigor. I went back to Sergio’s humble wooden house the next year in June 2008 to give him 15 diverse fruit trees to plant on his newly deforested land. It was the least I could do to thank him for the lesson.  Then it hit me like a bolt of lightening. If I felt so much joy and happiness and satisfaction from planting trees, then I should focus here. I began questioning how could I share this good feeling? Wouldn’t other people like to feel this way too?  What if I could figure out a way to pay Sergio to plant and maintain these 15 trees long term? What would such an endeavor look like? Would anyone participate?

Having already planted over 450,000 diverse native trees with private projects over the previous 10 years, I knew how much long term, hard work was necessary to successfully grow the trees.   It had become clear to me how  unfair it was to ask poor people like Sergio to work for free. If we all relied on people just like this man and his family to stop deforestation, did they have to go hungry and be angry to do it? What did a life affirming alternative look like? It needed to be esteem building work, not charity.

So, I ran the numbers backwards and figured out how much money we needed to be able to produce the trees and pay the farmers over the first four years to take care of them on their own farms. ($25). I hated monoculture tree farms and wanted to produce high diversity saplings.  This was a critical component of the model. We needed money and resources and time to seed collect and build nurseries. I needed lots of help and had no money. I wanted to help educate children, adults and tourists too. All this played into my plan to create a way for other people to get involved and put in their time and energy and money.  I got inspired. I dreamed big. I went out on a limb and put up our simple, (but of course, long winded ha ha ha)  Website in late 2009. And to my sweet relief, slowly, other people crawled out there on that limb with me. People sponsored ACCT trees. Thank you. We are still out there today!

Five years later we have planted over 5000  diverse native trees on 16 different participating family farms. To date, 3497 trees are sponsored and we have 8 recurring monthly individual donors. We’ve recently built a Reforestation Partnership for business who want to offset carbon dioxide. We are growing alliances with Festivals like The Envision Festival. We are working with professional athletes like snowboarders DCP and Jeremy Jones. We are allies with other non profit climate change orgs like Protect our Winters.  We were awarded a small United Nations grant to build two huge community tree nurseries. We just received a Peace Corps volunteer to help our burgeoning Women’s group of over 35 women who are building sustainable businesses including fertile soil compost , chocolate,  and coconut oil.  We employ over 25 Costa Rican tree planters, tree maintainers and nursery workers.  We produce over 20,000 trees per year. We have hosted over 60 different volunteers from around the world. We give great educational eco tourism opportunities. We have hosted more than 60 Kids’ Nature Day educational activities. I speak at conferences around the world. I am a trained Climate Reality Leader. We still have  very low overhead. This is what  ACCT is all about.  I will forever be humbled by the trust and support shown to me and our growing community of farmers.  A seed must go through complete destruction and total transformation to germinate. And with time and nurture,  it grows, blossoms and gives ripe fruit. And so it is with Community Carbon Trees – Costa Rica.