"What is it that keeps oil in the ground?" Leila Salazar-Lopez of AmazonWatch asked at a gathering of Women's Earth Climate Action Network (WECAN) at the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Climate Change Convention - also known as COP 23 - in Bonn. Her question was rhetorical, and she was reflecting on her work with indigenous peoples from throughout the Amazon who have successfully kept the oil in the ground.
Her response to her own question: "Resistance. Solidarity and Spiritual Grounding." I expected "resistance" - 23 years after the first COP, where fossil fuels were clearly understood to be a primary cause of climate change and the fossil fuel industry as being a primary industry that keeps on doing business as usual. "Solidarity", in its many forms, is unquestionably critical to find ways to create new sustainable cultures - both as resistance and as a way of creating something new.
I was particularly pleased to hear her highlight "spiritual grounding" and perhaps even more impressed with the ways that this interwove itself throughout the day. WECAN intertwined songs, prayers and poems from the women present - activists who were also poets and policy advocates. One of the steady themes was the importance of all women being able to bring their full selves - including their emotions and their spirituality - to the global conversation. From Africa to India to the United States, women interwove their spiritual-cultural selves with everything else that they are doing (from taking care of children and parents to farming to building sustainable technological solutions). The sessions included beautiful poetry by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and Monica Atkins.
Spiritual grounding is closely connected to the land and forests themselves. There is no question of the need to prioritize living soil/healthy soil. "This is not easy," said a lady who has been working with regenerative agriculture, "because science has brought us to a reductionist perspective but we need a holistic approach." The stories I hear include stories of transformation, by which I mean, of coming back to life. Stories of communities moving from being on perpetual food aid to growing their own food, of rivers coming back to life and nutritious food being cooked in the kitchen - once again.
"Don't wait," a Ugandan farmer said. "plant what you can. Plant trees. We bring back children that are dying in the streets and we say to them, plant. Plant kitchen gardens. We don't have time to wait."
Helpfully, WECAN has created a new story archive, including of agricultural and soil stories, case studies and solutions from around the world. These stories also incorporate stories about divesting from fossil fuels to reforesting.