Finding ‘Believers’ to Rebuild a Damaged World


Building a Life at the End of the World
by Lisa Wells

“Believers” is a young woman’s wanderlust book at a time when the human footprint on the world is more important than ever. Lisa Wells follows rebellious and colorful characters who believe their work on land and with each other is a healing force. Sometimes it is, sometimes it misses the target. Eccentrics, New Agers, ex-radicals struggle to get beyond what essayist Adam Phillips calls the “nostalgia” of “apocalyptic thinking.” And this is why Wells has both his false starts and his fulfilling journeys rambling: he never loses sight of the inspired purpose to restore and revitalize what he calls the “promised land.”

In Wells’ long introduction, he states that the “point of no return” is the background as well as the “central prophecy” of his book. For example, in order to solve the desertification problem, it may be better to first give up a romanticized, imagined past. Of course, it remains to be seen what a dizzying decline we’ve had when it comes to the world’s bounty – here we learn that prior to contact, California’s Sierra Miwok feasted on 48 different species of green. But Wells’s focus is on those who have accepted the reality of our changing planet and are trying to move forward—people like Tao Orion, a permaculturist who has set up “experimental gardens” to provide a suitable home for species plucked from their native climates, or Wells’ Portland, Ore. his friend who began to “rewild” him.

Wells sets off to an Oregon town literally called Sparta to meet and travel with the traveler Finisia Medrano, whose book “Growing Up in Occupied America” ​​sparked Wells’s curiosity. But nothing prepared him for Medrano’s tirades, his tales of his long-distance rides by horse-drawn carriage, and the festivities of sowing, walking, arguing, smoking, swearing, which obscured him fully. In a world ravaged by land theft and industrial agriculture, his passion for growing native plants is roaring across the country, digging, planting and collecting seeds, fighting the police and landowners. But despite Wells’ dedication to visiting these well-meaning eccentrics, he faces a lot of physical challenge and verbal scolding. When Wells falls ill at some point, Medrano calls out to him: “How healthy do you think you are? You probably look just as toxic as that sight around you. You’re probably just as devastated as the forests in Oregon. You’re probably as dirty as Fukushima.”

Wells visits a number of other “believers”: urban scouts, professional scouts, a group of environmental Christians practicing “landmark discipleship”, and a group of restoration radicals trying to reverse the desertification of the Middle East’s cradle of civilization. In California, he meets a North Fork Mono elder whose traditional ecological knowledge is wisely used to fight wildfire and drought. His Portland friend, Peter, works with performance artists to educate people about how we’re ruining the country and about people who, like all of his subjects, are trying to “go beyond cynicism and despair.”

The urgency of living sustainably stems from the succession of collapsing ecosystems, and Wells asks her readers to start thinking creatively. The causes of climate chaos include the degraded soil so that rainwater cannot penetrate the soil, as well as the disappearance of the snow and ice cover affecting albedo, the amount of solar heat radiated back into space and the factors affecting this situation. cooling of the earth. It is very important to come up with ambitious ideas such as separating carbon from the air. Something as simple as large-scale regeneration of perennial grasslands can reduce and even reverse climate change.

For three-quarters of his book, Wells abandons the gripping series of excursions with “believers” and steps back to capitalize on the thoughts and writings of others. We miss the terrifying raids, the wrong turns, and the messy paths his rootlessness has dragged him through. He loses his rope somewhere and can’t quite get through. Its “promised land” is always elsewhere.

British naturalist Richard Mabey reminds us that we are all native wherever we are, and that the wilderness is right here, “in the cry of the whirlwind over the cities and the worm under the plough.” Wells’ final request that we learn to work collaboratively and live in the loving embrace of true communities tells only part of the story. nature is is If Embrace and Wells digs deep enough where he stands, he will find nature’s long arms always swirling around him.


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