Deep roots. This is my meditation on my life work after arriving back from Kalinga province to launch our first workshop for Witnessing Trees a pilot project for Green Releaf, an organization I'm co founding to support communities in transition from disasters and conflict.
I started dreaming of the Witnessing Trees project back at the COP21 under a tree inside the space where the world's decision makers hold their meetings as they finalize the Paris Agreement - the agreement to end the fossil fuel era. What this meant to me was the future of the survivors of deadly typhoons in my country who I worked with in their recovery. The tree was bearing witness to history in the making and the term Witnessing Trees came in synchronicity.
Trees were how some people in Cagayan de Oro survived Typhoon Washi/Sendong when the flash floods happened. I remember clearly the story of how people holding on to dear life up on the branches, pulled up a baby inside a floating luggage as the water rushed through. An uprooted tree after the deadly Super typhoon Haiyan became a source of food and firewood as help couldn't reach a village in Leyte after many days. Apart from being a life raft, trees are a source of food, shelter, livelihood, ecosystem security, and even a contribution to capture carbon- trees represent hope in a changing climate.
Deep roots is about how this took almost two years to implement... savings, sweat, and tears. But with a dedicated team to dream and work with and seed funding from a climate conscious organization, this became possible. The time and the learnings in the process formed our deep roots, our foundation to develop solutions for resilience.
In the last two days, I journeyed with an indigenous community in Balawag whose children go to the national high school which will be our demonstration site for Ecovillage and Permaculture solutions as they adapt to climate change after Typhoon Haima / Lawin destroyed their crops and property in 2016.
It was truly inspiring to listen to the wisdom of indigenous peoples in their community building and earth care practices. We explored their sacred tree stories with intention to document and cultivate more through our food forests and ecosystem restoration phase.
Witnessing Trees started with the call of the indigenous peoples at the COP21- my friend Emilie and I listened with tears flowing from our eyes as they expressed their challenges- the people with the lowest carbon footprint, yet one of those highly vulnerable to change. The idea was to create the space for remembering the sacred at the COP21 and friends from the faith based and indigenous organizations encouraged me to draw up a concept note for this gathering. I immediately thought of the tree in the middle of the conference space and sat under it to guide me before I could write.
We didn't get to do the gathering because of security restrictions for mass actions after the Paris bombing. Looking back, it feels like a small way this project manifested with this initiative in the Philippines. After all, it's really what happens after this agreement is signed that makes real impact that can truly define its legacy to the next generations.
May it be a contribution to the global efforts in restoring the sacred, in mitigating and adapting to climate change, and ultimately - a remembrance of our deep connection to the earth that we have lost. The indigenous peoples still hold that wisdom, although disappearing in the present generations. This is why we are hosting this in a school. Through an intergenerational design process we hope to root back to the wisdom of the past and the innovation of the present to co-create a resilient future for this community.
When we asked climate experts how to grow food and trees as we face more and more typhoons, one of the solutions they offered that I continue to hold is that these trees must be able to develop deep roots. In so many ways -the approach to root back to indigenous earth wisdom and developing resilience as a change maker in preparation for a project to launch no matter how many challenges, share a similar prescription.
Witnessing Trees by Green Releaf is in partnership with the Department of Education in Tabuk City and the Global Ecovillage Network, and is supported by the Sustainable Lush Fund.
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