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After the Fires – The Trees are Still Standing

This is a photograph of Paradise, California, from the L.A. Times, after the worst wildfire in California history.  As I cope with the heartbreak of the suffering the image represents, I am struck by the complete disappearance of every human built structure, while the trees remain.  Yes, they are scorched, and yet they are intact. William McDonough, the architect, has a goal of making buildings like trees – buildings that support many life forms, purify water, give off oxygen and, I see now, withstand fire.

Once again, trees are my model and mentor for resilience and peace-building. They support each other by giving nutrients and messages through their roots systems, connected with mycelium. They have different time frames, different points of view and are part of an ecological system where every organism has a vital role to play in the homeostasis of a community. These are tools for peace building: Knowing that people operate in different time frameworks, with different worldviews and that each person has unique gifts that are needed for a community to thrive.  The 1000 year-old redwood to the left  has been burned from within, yet is still growing.  Yes, trees are models of resilience, connection and generosity.

Below is the Singing Tree of Pathways Forward, the theme of this year’s the inspiring Bioneers Conference.   Mother Turtle moves in the orbit around the sun as she carries the earth on her back.  The California oak tree rises up while Baby Turtle is held by the sun. Attendees at the conference added their vision of a pathway forward to the mural. The 73rd Singing Tree mural was designed and painted by an intergenerational team in Novato, California, including my Goddaughters Janet and Ailinn who are with me in the tree.

One of the most heartening presentations at the Bioneers Conference was by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation about the One Earth Climate Model.  It is an outgrowth of a $20 million grant round announced in 2017 to accelerate innovative solutions to the climate crisis, ocean and land conservation initiatives, and indigenous rights.”  There are three goals to keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius:

1. 100% Renewable energy by 2050

2. 50% of the world’s ecosystems preserved, intact and connected.

3. 0% carbon emission from agriculture by 2050

I don’t want to believe that we have only 12 years left to unite all earthlings to prevent total collapse, like the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported.

Already as the world heats up, children and their families are  facing major losses:  Homes, pets, friends, schools, food sources, livelihoods, escalating conflicts and whole communities being destroyed. Through the many disasters, it becomes clear that making peace within ourselves and peace with others is an essential skill to navigate through climate chaos.  This ability may turn out to be all we have.

Let’s envision how we can implement the changes needed for survival and take action. Would your community benefit from a Singing Tree project to help in this process? You will create a shared vision of a positive future, create more connections, learn peace-building skills and become more resilient, like the trees who are still standing after the fire.  If adding to the international network of 73 murals made by over 16,000 people from 50 countries would strengthen your community, please reach out and contact us so we can talk.  You can find us at SingingTreeProject@gmail.com or 415-612-0401. Please also check out the new Singing Tree Project website that is in progress.  Feedback is welcome.

Psychologist Francis Weller said that “Maturity is holding grief in one hand and gratitude in the other.” On this Thanksgiving, I hold the grief wrought by fire, flood, famine and violence in one hand, and gratitude for trees, truth, treaties and grandchildren in the other.

Blessings to you,


Oliver Stanley Slack Soto
Copyright Nov. 20, 2018 All rights reserved.

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