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Regenerators Rule #2: Link Up with People’s Primary Concerns and Connect the Dots

In addition to highlighting positive solutions, it is important to keep in mind that people’s situations and perspectives are different. We all have different passions or priorities. One size or one approach does not fit all. Therefore, we need to integrate our green justice and Regeneration messages with the specific issues and concerns that are most important to grassroots constituencies, and then lay out, in everyday language, a strategy that makes people understand that we can actually solve the problems they care about the most, while also solving a host of other pressing problems at the same time. Only by starting from where people are at, and then connecting the dots, can we capture the attention and imagination of a critical mass of the global grassroots and get them to start thinking about how they can participate in our new Movement and new economy.

Objective and subjective conditions for change are different in every country in the world, and to some extent differ as well in the sub-regions and local communities of these 195 countries. Everyday people everywhere, including the most impoverished and vulnerable communities, have their burning issues as well as their secondary issues, and an inherent desire to alleviate and, if possible, solve the problems that are pressing down on them, in many cases threatening their very survival. In the activist community, major focus areas, in most cases reflecting the concerns of everyday people, include inflation and the high cost of living, freedom of choice and Constitutional liberties, climate change, environmental pollution, health, social justice, jobs and economic justice, peace, and democracy. Unfortunately, campaigners, both on the local and national/international levels, often work in isolation from other sectors, each in their own separate silos. This perpetuates tunnel vision in the body politic, parochial or sectarian attitudes, political polarization, and an overall weakness in global civil society.

Because conditions are often so different in different communities and nations, Regenerators need to think, plan, and act strategically and holistically. If a particular community’s primary concern is poverty, unemployment, racial discrimination, health issues, sub-standard public schools, school lunch programs, and school curriculum--issues that are very important in frontline or impoverished urban areas such as Detroit, Michigan or Washington, DC for example, then we must strive to integrate our climate and Regeneration activism with people’s everyday concerns. This is why we must rally behind comprehensive, indeed system-changing, political and economic programs such as the multi-issue, multi-constituency-oriented Green New Deal and not be afraid to be called “radical.” To gain majority support we must offer up a systematic solution to multiple crises, combining economic justice and jobs creation with rebuilding urban neighborhoods and rural communities, upgrading housing, providing needed social services, and moving to renewable energy. In the context of our current Climate Emergency and everyday economic crisis, a Regeneration organizer must be able to talk about how regenerative food, farming, and urban/rural ecosystem restoration not only can sequester carbon and help re-stabilize the climate, but can address pressing community health, nutrition, and economic issues at the same time.

If people are passionate about the air and water pollution caused by a pipeline, factory, mine, industrial factory farm, or network of factory farms, then Regenerators must get involved, not only by trying to stop or close down the particular pipeline, factory farm or industry, but also by projecting positive solutions, such as renewable energy, and scaling up the organic and regenerative food, farming, and land-use alternatives that already exist.

Human health and children’s health concerns are a burning issue for hundreds of millions of people. One of our primary arguments as advocates for regenerative food and farming should be to talk, not just about the beneficial climate and ecological impacts of regenerative agriculture, but also to emphasize the tremendously beneficial impacts of organic and regenerative crop production and grazing on improving food quality and nutritional density. Healthy soils and landscapes, managed in a regenerative manner by farmers, ranchers, and gardeners, give rise to healthy vegetables, fruits, grains, and animals, which in turn engender healthy food and healthy people. People need to stop eating factory-farmed meat, dairy, and poultry, not just because it’s cruel to animals and bad for the climate and the environment, but also because these products are bad for your health and the health of your children. One hundred percent grass-fed meat and dairy for example, and regeneratively-produced meat, dairy, and eggs are filled with healthy Omega-3 fats, vitamins, trace minerals, and other nutrients; whereas factory-farmed meats, dairy, and eggs are filled with bad fats, animal drug and pesticide residues, and lower levels of essential nutrients.

The Global Immigration (“Forced Migration”) Crisis

One of the most polarizing and politically charged debates today, especially in North America and Europe, is the so-called “immigration crisis.” There are approximately 250 million (3 percent of the world’s 7.6 billion people) international migrants in the world today. Another 750 million people, especially small farmers, have been forced by poverty to move from rural areas in their country to densely packed urban slums or shantytowns. About 20 percent of all international migrants, 47 million people, live in the U.S. Another 35 million live in Europe. The bottom line for many, if not most of these migrants, is rural poverty (and the violence that this poverty engenders). They are migrants, in other words, not by choice, but out of necessity.

From this perspective, a major part of the solution to forced mass migration is to stop the government, military, and international corporations and development banks from propping up corrupt regimes that favor the rich and keep the majority in poverty. We are morally obligated to provide concrete solidarity and support to the grassroots forces all over the world who are seeking to overthrow the tyrants and economic elites that are oppressing them. But we and our elected government representatives, as part of the global community, must also help regenerate prosperity, jobs, soils, and the environment in the impoverished rural communities of the globe, especially the rural communities and urban slums of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the home communities of most of the world’s immigrants. We must act in global solidarity and put an end the foreign and domestic policies that engender violence and poverty, such as the failed “War on Drugs” and “regime change” strategies that have only made the situation in nations such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and others worse. And most important of all we must reverse global warming and restore the world’s soils and ecosystems, before worsening conditions turn billions into forced migrants.

In one area of the world where I have traveled and worked, Guatemala, leaders of the newly formed alliance, Regeneration Guatemala, are spreading the message that the restoration of soil carbon and fertility, water conservation, rainfall catchment, and the utilization of organic and “beyond organic” grain production, agro-forestry and regenerative livestock (especially poultry) practices, could make Guatemala an agricultural leader in the region. By regenerating Guatemala’s agricultural system, the country can supply its 16 million people with affordable, high-quality, nutrient-dense food, and also provide employment and much-needed economic development in the countryside and adjoining urban areas, where poverty and crime are the major drivers of forced migration.

We need to get people to understand that most of their (and our) problems and stresses are symptoms of a degenerate system that needs to be replaced, and that can be replaced, starting with small changes in our everyday lives and local communities that are strategically carried out as part of a larger campaign such as the Green New Deal. This strategic “connect the dots approach” is key to consciousness raising, coalition building, marketplace pressure, and grassroots mobilization and fundraising.  This is the only way that our new Regeneration Movement will be able to bring about “the development of new convictions, attitudes, and forms of life,” as Pope Francis puts it in his Encyclical on Climate, that are necessary for our survival.