Aaron Perry


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  • Episode 84 – Judith Schwartz, “The Reindeer Chronicles” – Scaling Regeneration Globally


In her latest book, the Reindeer Chronicles, author Judith Schwartz documents amazing large-scale ecological restoration projects in China, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Norway, New Mexico, Hawaii, and elsewhere around the world. Delving in to the individuals, communities, and their unique stories, Ms. Schwartz reveals universal patterns of people coming together to heal their environments while also improving their human relationships and quality of life. This is a MUST READ for any of us engaged in regeneration, stewardship, ecological, and social/community restoration work – a MUST READ!

USE CODE: YOE10 for a 10% savings on your book purchase at https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/the-reindeer-chronicles (and partial proceeds will support the Y on Earth Community!)

Environmental restoration is possible, and is possible at the scale of millions of acres. Strategies for restoring soils, vegetation, and even food forest systems – in regions previously plagued by drought, desertification, famine, and poverty – not only improve food security, economic security, and heal frayed social fabrics, they also increase rainfall, groundwater, and both carbon sequestration and water storage capacities in the landscape. This is like restoring “Gardens of Eden” in degraded regions throughout the world!

The Reindeer Chronicles take us from the Loess Plateau Watershed Rehabilitation Project in China with John Liu, to the indigenous Sami people in the Arctic reaches of Norway and the Al Baydha Project, south of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia; and from Ecosystem Restoration Camps in Spain to reclaimed plantations in the Hawaiian Islands.

Documenting and celebrating Permaculture at multiple scales, attitudes of abundance, curiosity, hope, and community mobilization, the Reindeer Chronicles point the way to a healed world and happier culture.

Judith D. Schwartz is an author who tells stories to illuminate scientific concepts and nature-based solutions. A widely published journalist, she is the author of “Cows Save the Planet” and “Water In Plain Sight.” Her latest book, “The Reindeer Chronicles”, is a global tour of ecological restoration. Judith lives on the side of a mountain in southwestern Vermont.”

CODE: YOE10 (10% savings) – https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/the-reindeer-chronicles/

Website: https://www.judithdschwartz.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judith.d.schwartz
Twitter: https://twitter.com/judithdschwartz










(Automatically generated transcript for search engine optimization and reference purposes - grammatical and spelling errors may exist.)

Hi friends, I'm so excited to share this episode with you.

Our conversation is with Judith Schwartz.

This is about her new book, Rain Deer Chronicles, which is an amazing, really important read

about regeneration projects at scale worldwide, including locations like China, Saudi Arabia,

Norway, even New Mexico.

And just so excited to share this with you and I hope you'll get the book, Rain Deer Chronicles,

and wanted to let you know we've got a partnership with Chelsea Green, one of the leading sustainability

publishers, so that if you use the code, Y-O-E-10, that's Y-O-E-10, you'll get a 10% discount

on Judith's book, Rain Deer Chronicles, and any other of the Chelsea Green books you might

want to get for your library.

So I hope you enjoy, take care.

Welcome to the YonEarth Community Podcast, I'm your host, Aaron Perry, and today we're

visiting with author Judith Schwartz.

Hey Judith.


How are you today?

I'm good, but to be here.


Well, I'm so excited that we get to talk with you again.

You've actually been on our podcast once before talking about another one of your wonderful


I think cows saved the planet, was our focus then, and we also talked some about water

and plain sight, another one of your books.

But today we're speaking about your latest, the Rain Deer Chronicles, and I'm so excited

to have this opportunity to visit with you and share a number of these amazing ecological

restoration projects that you're documenting all around the planet.

Thank you.

Judith Schwartz is an author who tells stories to illuminate scientific concepts and nature-based


A widely published journalist, she is the author of cows saved the planet, and water and

plain sight.

Her latest book, The Rain Deer Chronicles, is a global tour of ecological restoration.

Judith lives on the side of a mountain in southwestern Vermont.

It's so great connecting with you again, and has been such a pleasure for me reading this

book of yours over the last few weeks, and I'll just show the camera the cover so that

folks who are looking at video can see this beautiful thing.

What's interesting is the title, The Rain Deer Chronicles, doesn't necessarily immediately

convey the scope, the breadth of what you're covering in terms of both geographic context

and cultural context, and so I was hoping maybe for our audience you might summarize what's

in this thing, and also what compelled you to pull this sweeping project together.

Oh, wow, so yeah, so the book is really a global tour of Earth Repair, and so I look at

all different efforts on a variety of scales and different geographical ecosystems and

also social ecosystems, so in this book I was more drawn than previously to the human challenges

of how do we do this, how do we do what we know needs to be done, which is restoring the

function of the world's landscapes and seascapes, so yeah, and how did it come, how did this

come to be?

Well, okay, now you're talking about the inner life of a writer, so I spent many years,

I guess it's about two and a half, three years, avoiding writing another book, because

you know, they're kind of hard, and once you start it, you're in it, and you know, there's

only one way through, and then I realized that I really did want to bring up the importance

of whole landscapes, so often when we're looking at ecological questions, we look at a piece

of something, but I just felt that, well certainly in terms of climate change, we have neglected

the role of functioning ecosystems in climate regulation, and I just felt that wanted

to be a part of our discussion, that that gives us so many opportunities to really make

positive change, whereas if we're just looking at the pieces and we're, you know, we find

ourselves up against political forces and economic forces and all of that, but just let's

get the whole landscape, and the other motivating factor is that I had been collecting stories

of ways that people are making tremendous, tremendous positive changes, and there's really

no way that there was no kind of channel, you know, those stories were circulating among

people in various communities, in the permaculture community, or in the holistic management community,

but they weren't getting out, so that's why I wrote the book.

Yeah, it's really a, I'm going to say this is a must read, I would argue, for many of

our friends and colleagues working in the regenerative arenas and working on some of these

seemingly intractable challenges that we're facing, and I say it's a must read, not only

because it's so filled with hope, and examples, real world examples, real people having real

successes despite extraordinary challenges, but you also in your sort of subtle and understated

perhaps New England way of writing are challenging a handful of mainstream assumptions and ways of

thinking about ourselves and our world that I think is really important for us, and that

includes things like media and journalism, and I pulled out a few quotes I want to get to

a little later, but before doing that, the other thing that really struck me, you've already

mentioned the word permaculture, is that it's like this is a book that documents how permaculture

has really gone mainstream in our world, thank goodness, and I know as I was studying permaculture

and taking the permaculture design course about 20 years ago, there was a sense that this

is a really powerful but fringe thing that's happening, and golly it would be amazing if

this were to become very mainstream, and here we are, it looks like that's exactly what's

happening, and I was struck to see that you had written so much about permaculture in here,

and I'm wondering in your journey as a writer, how has it been for you to come into something

like permaculture and to be able to talk about it in such a sweeping way across so many

different contexts?

Well, I'm smiling as you say this, as you're saying this, because I actually am now in the middle

of a permaculture design course, I mean I could reach over and show my engineers ruler and my

tape measure and all that, and so I'll give a little shout out, the course is with sewing solutions

and shelver and falls, Massachusetts, and K is doing a, K, I don't know if I can

pronounce her last name, is Kate Capasso, I think that's it, she is doing a great job in managing

the, to balance the in-person instruction, and then a lot on Zoom, normally it would be three

intense weekends, but we just go for one day, and then we have a lot to follow up on.

Yeah, so it, so you know, permaculture was intriguing to me for what it kind of

accomplish, so I guess we can define permaculture, it's kind of a design system to support human

and natural health stability and resilience, I mean I know there are a zillion different

permaculture definitions, but yeah, the focus is on design and holistic thinking and a series

of principles, such as in a system there should be no waste in nature, because in nature there

is no waste, I mean there are many, many principles, but that's the one that just popped into my head, so

yeah, I was intrigued by, well the kind of can-do approach, you know, the can-do attitude, like

this is a challenge, okay, we can design our way through this, so that, that intrigued me,

but also a lot of the attitudinal stuff, the, um, the notion of focusing on abundance rather than

scarcity, which is actually quite radical in this culture, where everything is driven by scarcity,

our economic system is designed around scarcity, you know, even as I say the word scarcity,

I can even feel like, you know, my heart beating faster, you know, our, our, you know, economy

are political economy, everything is right, our media economy, we're now kind of a design

around adrenaline, um, yeah, and permaculture kind of eases that.

Yeah, there's a classic image in one of the older videos of, I think it's Bill Mollison who,

uh, as I understand it coined the term permaculture and really got it popularized with,

especially his main, uh, tone, uh, the permaculture design handbook, and I think I recall seeing a video

of him relaxing in his mature food forest, and there's a sense that permaculture designers and

implementers certainly put a lot of work into these systems initially, but the idea is to work with

the intelligence and the patterns of nature so that they ultimately take over and do what they're

really good at doing, um, which is building soil and growing plants and, uh, holding water in the

ecosystem and so on, which you speak about in the book, and that we as the designers ultimately

get to kick back a little and enjoy that over time. And so I, I was struck too in, in the book,

the reindeer chronicles, how you hit on the psychology and the cultural aspects and even the neuro biochemistry

of not only, um, some of the opportunities and solutions, but also some of what we're up against,

and you mentioned adrenaline, right? And in one of the chapters, you talk about the adrenalizing

that, uh, I think it was Jeff Global who, who you, uh, speak with in that, uh, chapter about the

conflict and consensus in New Mexico, about how so much in our market economy is, is a based on

triggering the adrenaline response, and that so much of what we experience in conflict and, uh,

the things that are causing us anxiety and so on are often coupled with that exact neuro biochemical

response. And so I'm just curious, in your adventures and travels put in this book together,

were you noticing times and places when your own neuro biochemistry, chemistry was kind of dropping

in and calming down and the adrenaline levels were dropping? Yeah, um, gosh, that's, that's hard to say.

I think, I think I've become so aware of, of that kind of equation that I do, I do resist that.

And it's interesting you're saying this, okay, so I've been a journalist for many, many decades,

and I think I've understood this for a really, really long time. I remember when I used to write

about women's health, I used to write for women's magazine, and for some reason I connected with

someone and I used to give a lecture on women, communications and women's health for a nursing

program. And I explained that there was a kind of a rhythm to women's magazine articles, okay,

that the point is to raise your anxiety so that you, the writer, through talking to the experts,

can then lower the anxiety. I think there's a lot, yeah, there's a lot of this going on. I've been,

I'm very, I'm very aware of headlines and in the media and how, just how that triggers anxiety.

And, you know, I'm saying this after having been through this experience in New Mexico with Jeff

Goble through, I spent a weekend with a community in absolute crisis where people were, they were

fighting over access to the pump house, it's a rural community, a ranching community, and people

were shooting at each other and there were sabotage and people were afraid to bring their children

up to the land that they had always enjoyed because they were afraid of danger. Anyway, it was a big,

big, big mess and the Bureau of Land Management, which managed that land, finally invited Jeff Goble

to, to, as a last ditch effort. And so we had this weekend workshop where we were looking at,

I guess we were kind of playing with that anxiety, looking at fears, looking at hopes,

looking at what is possible and what happens is that because of our fears, we often don't see

what's possible because all of our energy is used up to kind of tamp down those fears.

And understanding the extent to which those, when those fears are kind of driving us and the,

you know, we're in that adrenaline mode of reacting to fear all the time, then that reifies what

we're afraid of. So, you know, we kind of focus on worst possible outcomes and then wonder why we

get them, as opposed to taking, let's look at what the best possible outcomes might be, how might

we get there and working with that and in that weekend, the outcome was far better than what people

even envisioned for their best possible outcomes. This is so neat in that chapter too.

Sort of follow along with you and your experience and the chapters called Beyond the Impossible

and to see how Jeff walks this community through some simple questions and ultimately gets them

to bump up against what they think might be impossible to achieve. And then he sort of flips that

on his head, right, and says, well, let's assume that it's impossible, but if we were to achieve it,

what steps would we take to get there? And so suddenly it has this miraculous way it seems of

really de-escalating the fear response and up leveling the creative and solution oriented

in relationship opening responses that that community experienced.

Yeah, it's amazing to see. It's just breaking that barrier, taking the pressure off.

It's interesting about taking the pressure off because I can now just do another reference for

another discipline, the holistic management community, using looking at livestock as a vehicle

for large scale land restoration that a lot of it is about when you're setting the grazing plan,

assuming you're wrong. And then that takes the pressure off because if you assume you're wrong,

then you give it a try and oh, that didn't work, that's fine or oh, it did work. That's great. We'll

carry on that path. So yeah, it is interesting how we can work with our own tendencies to bring out

the better outcome. Yeah, absolutely. And I was struck that in your introduction that you say that

fear can be self-fulfilling. And here we are at 2020, obviously an extraordinary year for a variety

of reasons, not least of which is setting aside this global pandemic, the fires and the erratic

weather conditions that we've been seeing. And you and I were speaking before, we started

recording about this and I wonder to what extent each of us might be able to sort of de-adrenalize

and de-fear our day-to-day experiences, notwithstanding some of these tremendous challenges

and disruptions that we're facing. And I'm wondering after writing and publishing this,

are some of the insights that you share in the book popping up for you in your day-to-day and your

quote-unquote regular life up there in Vermont? Absolutely. I have learned so much from everyone I

spend time with. And as you were saying this and you were talking about how people are in a fear

response, and I think that's just really suffusing the air we breathe all the time right now,

the word that came into my head isn't what I would have expected, but the word is curiosity.

And you can't be curious when you're, you know, adrenalized. But I think that curiosity

is something that would be such a gift, we can give that gift to ourselves because about the

fires, for example, you know, I mean, obviously when you're in the, you know, when we're in the middle

of them, there's nothing we can do except try to, you know, get out of the situation, but in terms

of planning, and this requires a lot of planning, better planning than we collectively have done,

but to be curious, what is the role of fire in our ecosystems? What, like so as an example, what,

you know, what does fire do? Fire is a way of breaking down plant material, you know, then you could

say, well, what else breaks down plant material? Well, fungi and animals, animals that eat the brush,

so you can kind of, okay, how might we create the conditions that this plant matter is broken

down by fungi or by animals biologically as opposed to biochemically through fire? And curiosity

about how has the landscape been in the past? Because as I'm reading about this now,

in throughout California, much more land burned every year, then is even burning in a devastating

year like this year. So kind of, yeah, curiosity, I think, is really powerful and to really

to ask some of these questions. So potent, it reminds me of this notion of forensic ecology,

I'm glancing through my notes to try to find which chapter that was in. And let me see here.

I think that's the first chapter with... Yep, sure is. Yeah. John Lue, is that how you pronounce

this name? Yeah, John Lue, yep. Yeah, the Indiana Jones of landscape restoration, he's called. So,

yeah, this chapter, the great work of our time, is subtitle lessons from the Los Plateau.

And correct me if I'm not pronouncing that correctly, but yeah, what a fabulous story and so

hopeful how he and that community were able to absolutely transform that landscape.

Yeah, and that, that's a story that I've known now for several years and have been

completely stunned that that had never become kind of a, you know, contemporary fable for,

you know, a story for everyone to know about in which an area of land, the size of Belgium,

was returned to ecological function and a couple of million people taken out of poverty.

Yeah, so he talks about ecological forensics to understand in the past what had gone wrong,

what actions upon the landscape had people taken that led to long-term decline in ecological

function, that kind of thing. Yeah, no, he's quite the guy. And he has, he has so many

pithy nuggets of wisdom, right? And you say how he, in there, says, we have a choice

in terms of how we're impacting these landscapes. And it's just tremendous that not only is he a

practitioner of ecological regeneration on the ground, so to speak, but I mean, he's a,

he's a philosopher, really, for our times. And boy, my hope is that through your work, your book,

what we're doing with the Wieners community, we can help many more people become aware of what

has happened on the lowest plateau, because it truly is an amazing story.

Yeah, and I started with that story because I wanted to just put right up front,

this is the scale at which this can be done. Now, of course, this was China, where it was a top-down

effort, and villagers were paid to be part of this, but it happened, and that, and that in itself

is really meaningful. And then, of course, I go to very small-scale efforts that can be very

deeply meaningful in other ways. Yeah, I love how Mr. Lu says that, once we have the knowledge

that we can restore these landscapes, then the responsibility follows that we shall restore

these landscapes, and that really struck me as one of the most potent expressions in the book

and in what you're documenting. Yeah, and he really comes down, for him, it comes down to

intention. If our intention is to restore the earth, we will restore the earth. If our intention

is to create more shiny objects to be sold at profit, well, then that's what we will do.

Well, it seems, too, that in many respects, the choice that we have at this stage in our species

story on this planet is one between being the desert-making species or the desert-healing species,

and in the second chapter, life begets life replenishing Middle Eastern deserts.

You talk about this amazing al-Baita project in Saudi Arabia south of Mecca,

with Niels Fakman and others, and I love how you dropped in there that desertification,

the disruption of ecosystems into dry, brittle landscapes is wicked, easy, right? That's such a

northeast way of putting it, I think. But you mentioned how a scholar, Elizabeth Taurus,

says that biologically, we humans are a desert-making species, and there's plenty of evidence for that,

especially in the Middle East, North Africa region. However, with what is being documented here,

and with efforts of thousands and millions of people around the world, we are also

reversing and greening deserts, so it's as if we're facing this massive challenge and choice

as a species, and we're poised at a great fork in the road, if you will, and I'm just curious

with all that you've seen and understood here, what do you think is necessary for us to choose

the path of greening and restoration at scale across many, many more geographic regions and

communities and many more millions of people? Yeah, well one huge thing is for people to know that

it's possible, and because these stories really haven't been circulating to a wider public,

we don't really know what's possible, we're kind of trained to think that, you know, the environment

is static unless it goes wrong, so that's one thing, and I think that's a function of our

disconnection to the land, but what will it take? I was thinking about this earlier,

and just knowing that I have friends that are evacuating their homes, or they've got their

suitcases ready in Oregon and California, and this doesn't feel good collectively, you know,

I guess just like a little tiny bit, like when will we realize that it feels rather than

holding on to a notion of some kind of system and stability that we believed we had, but maybe

we never really had, and just, you know, rather than really trying to hold on to it,

just acknowledging that we can move forward to heal our environment and ourselves, just how much

better that would feel, just all the tension around trying to cling to some notion of, you know,

globally, or, you know, we talk about America, you know, like we hold on to,

what is the story of this country, and we're holding on to it like our, you know,

getting this image like our knuckles are getting whiter and whiter as we're grasping that. I

don't know, but just to accept the unknown, just to embrace that there is this other possibility,

I just feel like that will unleash tremendous creativity and energy.

But when that will happen, I don't know.

I think in many ways it's already happening, right, which is you're documenting it,

we know other folks who aren't in your book who are doing this kind of work.

Right. And it is happening.

They're so busy doing it that they're not talking about it, and that's why, you know,

I'm useful. Yes. Yeah, exactly right. It's not only you, you, and what you write about,

and how you write about what you write about. But I think also, you know, these efforts were doing,

for example, through the Rwai Honors community, and I was mentioning to you that I recently moved to

Elk Run Farm where we're doing some beautiful collaboration with their drylands agro-ecology research

organization and beautiful permaculture, wonderful setting. And even this morning I was waking up

because we had this strange early September snow thinking, gosh, you know, should I be out there

helping with whatever plants need to be tended to because of the heavy snow.

Or is this work of sharing your story with lots of other folks who may not otherwise hear about it,

another way to be in service? And I think it's really a both end. We have more and more people

on the ground in the soil working with the specific physical aspects of ecological restoration

and regeneration, and very important is also the storytelling of what's happening, the successes,

the winds, et cetera. And it's, I think, a lot of fun to be able to do a little bit of both,

and I know you also live on a farm property in Vermont that allows you, I imagine, to get out and

connect with the soil some yourself. And I got to ask as a writer, when you're writing, and I know

that that can mean many, many, many hours in front of the computer and so on, what is connecting with

the land and the soil for you as part of your process as a writer?

Wow. Well, a lot of my writing takes place in non-gardening months when I'm more likely to take

a chapter in my head up to another mountain where I'd cross-country ski. But oh, absolutely, it's

just, I don't know, I don't have the language for it. Yeah, just to be in the soil, to be, to watch

the plants grow, the seedlings, the stages, thinking we're never going to see any real tomatoes

coming from this plant, it's taking forever, and then you blink and they're there. And we've

expanded our growing area this year, so more perennials, asparagus, and berries, berries very much like

this land. You know, I find that out the hard way every time I take a step in, you know, I'm

in a blackberry bush and the thorns, but so growing a lot of berries and flowers and more pollinators,

so it's just joy. So it's so lucky I get to have that balance of the writing and the doing,

and it is a contemplative kind of doing, which is a very special thing that we often in our culture

don't get the chance to do because everything's fast and, you know, electronic and everything,

but it's wonderful. And for an experiment, I had sheep on our land, and hopefully we can do that

again. And that was wonderful, though I didn't end up including that in this book, but just, you know,

these other life forms of personalities and tendencies and silliness and incredible appetite.

Yeah, it's, it's beautiful to be able to experience that balance, and one of the things that

has struck me with what has occurred in the last six months with COVID is that friends and

colleagues who weren't otherwise all that engaged in things like sustainability or stewardship or

regeneration are gardening more. And it seems one of the hidden secrets, if you will, to

having that direct opportunity of engagement is that it absolutely enhances our quality of life

in this beautiful, subtle, simple way. And thinking back to conversations I had with my grandparents

and thinking back in time through some of the history of this country and other places all

around the world, it seems that as humans, we are wired to have that direct relationship with

the soil literally, physically and with the plants. And that it's only quite recently that many of us

have gotten away from that and almost forgotten in a strange amnesia how important that is. And I

wonder too, how a book like yours might help many thousands and millions of more people create that

direct relationship themselves in their own lives whether it's in a big city or some suburban yard

because that's an opportunity right at our fingertips that truly as that scales can help

also tip the balance toward the healing of the planet.

Right. And then I think about children who are many of whom are growing up with less nature than

someone of my generation might have had, you know, more crowded cities. But just the notion that

they understand that nature is everywhere. I have a friend who teaches permaculture to children

in New York City. And she talks about how even the little plot where the soil surrounding

an urban tree, you can mulch that and you can create biodiversity in life there. And the children

who watch this process find joy and excitement and mastery in that too.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, and it's lovely to see more community gardens popping up in New York City

as is happening in many of the urban centers all around the world. And especially lovely to see that

more and more educators are incorporating things like school gardens into the curricula so that

thousands and millions of students have opportunities for those direct points of contact.

So you're speaking a bit about your own experience. And I was really struck in this

chapter called Busting the Myth why women belong in this saddle. And you share something that was,

I thought a bit vulnerable as a writer at least revealing when you say that you can't,

you say as the writer, I can't tell you how many women I meet who say they have always felt

an elemental connection to soil and how it grounds them. And in a couple of the sentences

previous, you share that you sort of came to this through your research and your writing, but that

you've encountered a lot of women who have this elemental connection and grounding connection.

And I'm wondering if you might unpack that a little for us and expand on that. What does that mean?

And how has that been articulated by some of these women that you've had these conversations with?

Yeah, so just a lot of people talk about it evokes memories of childhood and maybe visiting,

maybe there was a relative, a grandparent that had a farm that they always visited every summer.

And that loomed very large in their sense of identity and only connect with that when their

hands are in the soil. I think a real groundedness, a connectedness to the earth.

One woman I interviewed had a really serious illness and truly believes that it was

that she really made a step in the right direction toward health when she began to volunteer

at a farm and could feel the soil in her hands. And I guess what was revealing

personally is that I'm more of a in my head kind of person. And so I kind of went from,

oh, soil, all that stuff in my head. And then I got there, as opposed to having always had that

connection. So, you know, we all get places. It's just a different route for many of us.

So instead of saying all roads lead to Rome, we can say all roads lead to humus or something

like that, huh? Yes, we could. So, you know, I got to say that I'm not sure I have yet

expressed how powerful I think your book is in sharing with us as an audience.

So many examples of successful ecological restoration in our world that have already occurred.

And you're covering all kinds of places from Saudi Arabia to New Mexico to the northern parts

of Norway to Hawaii, etc. And my gosh, I just I want to my heart is singing. I want to I want to

make sure everybody knows about this and take some time to actually read what you've written.

And maybe I'll use that as an opportunity just to drop your website, which is due to

D Schwartz.com, so that folks can find your book and find out more about you and what you've

been writing about. And of course, you're also on Facebook at judith.d. Schwartz and on Twitter,

Judith D Schwartz without any punctuation. And we'll put all this in the show notes. But yeah,

this is this is one of those books where it's so packed full of really practical knowledge.

There's a lot of actual how to in here. Then there's also the human and psychological and

cultural, which is really, really important. And it's all in this one book. And so, you know,

Judy, I'm just like thinking to myself, how do what else can we do to help get the word out

about this? Because this is really important. I'm wondering what ideas you might have.

Yeah, well, I'll be thinking about it. And yeah, just I guess keep the conversation. I mean,

there we have so many distractions right now. You know, as we mentioned earlier, so much anxiety,

they kind of adrenalizes us and pulls us. But we are connected to this earth. This, you know,

what happens to our landscapes where we are. And the landscapes that we are connected to. And

we're all connected. If this, if COVID has told us nothing else, is that we are all connected.

And there is no elsewhere. So yeah, to make sure, yeah, so that we have a way to get the focus

on to the health of our landscapes. Absolutely. Well, let me just take a quick moment to give

a few shout outs to some of our social ecosystem and some of the organizations who are helping

to make this podcast series a reality. And just a reminder, this is the YonEarth Community

podcast. And I'm your host, Aaron Perry. And today we're visiting with Judith Schwartz, the author

of the reindeer chronicles. We will get to rangers before we conclude the episode, by the way.

And just want to give a big shout out to several organizations who support all of this work.

That includes Earth Coast productions, the LIDGE Family Foundation, Alpine Botanicals,

Purium, Vera Herbels, Growing Spaces, Soil Works, Earth Water Press, Earth Hero, 1% for the planet,

Dr. Bronners, and Waylay Waters. If you go to yonearth.org and go to the sponsors and supporters page,

you'll find all of these organizations listed. And with many of them, you can either click through

or use the code YonEarth to get discounts on their products and services. So it's a great

win-win regenerative economy example there. And of course, a special thanks to everybody who has

joined our monthly giving program and our monthly member program. And we have folks giving each

month at every level you might think of. And at certain levels, you can get shipments to your home

of the waylay waters, hemp infused aroma therapy, soaking salts, and so for those of you who

enjoy that kind of self-care, that's a wonderful win-win as well. And so, you know, speaking

of soaking salts, and I know a lot of folks who tend to do their hot bathing in the cold months,

you were way up in the northern parts of Norway and visiting with all kinds of activists and

folks doing good regenerative and holistic management work up that way. But also, you came across a

really compelling story of some of what was happening with the indigenous folks

way up in those northern reaches and was hoping you might tell us a bit about that. And maybe you

might even share how you ended up choosing the reindeer chronicles as the title of the book.

Yeah, so I found myself in Norway in Trondheim at a symposium on Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous,

yes, Indigenous knowledge. And it was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian

government at the time and the Sami people. There was a treaty signed. So, while I was there,

there was a case going on that had really captured the public imagination. The government had

insisted that there were too many reindeer up in Finnmark, the northern province, and that's where

the Sami lived. And so, they were mandating that reindeer herders called their herds

down to a certain percentage. There was a young reindeer herder, 23 years old, who said, no,

I am not going to call my herd. If I do that, I won't be able to, you know, just starting out,

I'm working on a very thin margin right now, I won't be able to continue. And it's not only

about me because I'm a young herder and if my peers, if other young herders, aren't able to

continue this tradition, then the tradition will die. So, he won a couple of cases, you know,

a couple of rounds. And then the government kept challenging. And at the end of 2017,

the government prevailed. Now, what happened, because I've been in touch with his sister,

who is an internationally known conceptual artist, whose work documented this whole narrative,

no, she does very, very striking work. Her name is Marad Amsara, and the herder is Joffsett

Antisara. And so, apparently, rather than kill the reindeer, he, well, he has appealed to the UN

human rights and indigenous rights entity, but there has been no development there. But rather than

kill the reindeer, they gave the reindeer to family members. So, you know, the reindeer are still

there, but he doesn't get to manage them now. And so, that's really tragic. And what's really

important to note, a couple of things, one is that the Norwegian government wants that land.

They want it for hydro. They want it for mining. They wanted for access to the coast and coastal

waters where there may be energy implications and opportunities. And that their claim that the

reindeer, there were too many reindeer in the reindeer were harming this fragile ecosystem.

That was based on a clear misunderstanding of the science of how these animals interact

with the landscape. Because, in fact, as the Sami managed the reindeer, it actually

maintains the permafrost and the tundra, kind of, the tundra grassland ecosystem. Because in the

summer, the reindeer are nibbling, the, they're browsing, so they're keeping the brush down,

and the brush has darker leaves, which absorb heat. Whereas the, the heat has a higher

reflectivity or, or albedo, it reflects the heat. And in the wintertime, they are pressing down

the snow, which means that, that the, it ruins the insulating effect of the snow, which means that

the soil stays frozen. So they, the government was conveniently misunderstanding. And I say this

in what Marat Ann says is that this is one of the kindest governments in the world. So to understand

that that's going on there, often in the name of environmental green energy. So people are talking

about green colonialism. And I think it's a really important story to, to keep visible.

Yeah, green colonialism is not a term I've previously heard that I'm recalling and I'm writing

it down because I'm going to keep an eye out for that, that does occur and is important. I love

one of the things that you do throughout the book is talk about a variety of animals and their

effects on ecosystems in some in ways that maybe even a bit surprising. So you talk about donkeys

and, of course, talk about reindeer and you got a little, a little piece there for the beavers

and how important they are for hydrology and landscapes. And so I want to encourage our audience,

if you like animals, to check the book out for that reason too, because it presents a lot of

different ways in which the animals, the larger animals or megafauna impact landscape and water

and climate and just a lot of fun to experience. You've woven so much together in this book, Judy.

Thank you. And I made some notes. You also in there talk about a handful of

organizations that are all doing really good work. And this includes ecosystem restoration

camp, global eco village network, regeneration international, theory you, transition towns,

savory institute. It was a lot of fun to see some familiar names and then some that I wasn't

familiar with. And there are a few I'll be digging into more deeply to better understand their work

and who knows maybe we'll even reach out to a couple of them and invite them to be on the podcast

at some point. But I think echoing the importance of our role as storytellers and the importance of

telling the stories of what's possible and what's working and amplifying those stories.

Judy, it seems to be one of the keys in these times. And I love how at the end of the book you

conclude by saying, let's get inspired. And that's how I feel after reading your book.

And I've already been talking about it with several friends and colleagues. So I just want to thank

you for writing this and sharing this with the world. And before we sign off for today's

episode, is there anything else you'd like to share about the book, about your work and or just

in general to our audience and the YonEarth community? Yeah, I guess it's it's something that I

noted in the very beginning of the book that earth repair is a participatory sport that sometimes

were trained to defer to the experts, you know, like, you know, like big problems require the experts.

Well, as we've been seeing, that doesn't always play out so well, you know, people empower and

people with, you know, supposed expertise are fallible just like all of us. But there is much that

we can do and we have much more agency than then we imagine that we do. And that that starts

right where you are, you know, right on the land, the soil, you know, we can create biodiversity and

you know, enhance the cycling of water wherever we are. Yeah, absolutely beautiful. And I just I

want to mention just I know we're wrapping up, but there's one thing that popped in that I want to

be sure we include in our discussion. And that is in some of these very arid and brittle landscapes

that just yours that people have done in making soils and planting certain plants and building soil.

Have triggered these positive feedback loops that literally enhance precipitation and create this

outward growing greening in desert landscapes. And it's such a powerful image and possibility of

or example or symbol of what's possible in landscapes all over. So I just wanted to be sure to

mention that Judy. And I don't know if there's anything else you want to say on that particular thread

because it was so potent reading about that. Yeah, no, just I guess the only thing is that as one

permaculture teacher Andrew Millison says is that the fact that some of the most successful projects

are in some of the most difficult and extreme environments shows us just what is possible that

that can give us hope because if it can be done in those places, well, then, you know, a lot of

then it's much easier in so many other environments. Absolutely. Well, Judy, thanks so much. It's

a pleasure as always to visit with you today. Really appreciate it. Okay. Well, thank you. You too.

Take care. Okay. Take care. Bye. Bye. The YonEarth Community Stewardship and Sustainability

Podcast series is hosted by Aaron William Perry, author, thought leader and executive consultant.

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Y On Earth - Podcast Cover
Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 84 - Judith Schwartz, "The Reindeer Chronicles" - Scaling Regeneration Globally

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