September 5, 2019

Kiss the Ground

We often consider the fight for global warming as simply the elimination of greenhouse gasses. We need more fuel efficient or electric cars, more solar, and more wind power... But that only slows the dive toward catastrophe. Regenerative agriculture actually sequesters carbon and restores the earth to balance. Finian Makepeace, founder of Kiss the Ground, works with farmers and businesses to show them how to replenish soil, but there's a role for us all to play — as consumers and advocates.


Jeff VO: Welcome to Commune, a global wellness community and online course platform featuring some of the world’s greatest teachers. We’re on a mission to inspire, heal, pass down wisdom, and bring the world closer together. This is the Commune podcast, where each week we explore the ideas and practices that help us live healthy, connected and purpose-filled lives. You can check out our courses, our community and everything we do at onecommune.com. Carbon in our atmosphere has now been measured at 415PPM - the highest in human history. The prevalence of carbon in the atmosphere is the #1 cause of global warming that is causing desertification, food insecurity, sea level rise, oversized storms and fires - in short, threatening the feasibility of human life (and the life of million other species) to live on the planet. But carbon, itself, is not the enemy. All sorts of living organisms are made of carbon - including you and me. In fact, the amount of carbon in the world has not changed. We have simply displaced it - 880 million gigatons of it. Through the mining and burning of fossil fuels and industrial farming practices, we have redistributed carbon from the ground into the air and the oceans. It is easy to be pessimistic about global warming. The problem is daunting. However, today’s guest on the show, Finian Makepeace, might just have the solution. No, I can’t tell you what it is yet but it’s hidden in plain site. Finian is the co-founder of Kiss the Ground whose mission is to inspire participation in global regeneration. He works closely with businesses and farmers & leads programs that train advocates to address the issue of global warming. You might also know him from his fraternal musical group The Makepeace Brothers. If you are passionate about global warming - and if you’re not, you probably should be - then check out Finian’s course on Commune, Soil is the Climate Solution. Oops, I gave it away. Just go to one commune.com for more information. I’m Jeff Krasno and this is Commune.

THEME

Finian M.: My name is Finian Makepeace, and I'm one of the co-founders of Kiss the Ground. And, currently, I am the Director of Advocacy for Kiss the Ground.
Jeff: Got it. And I'm going to ask you what Kiss the Ground is, but I also just have to ask you about your name. And I'm sure you get a little bored talking about it, but for listeners. It feels to me like that would be a lot of pressure to have a name like that. Do you have the license to be angry from time to time? We'll get into serious matters, but I just want to poke at you for a minute.

Finian M.: It's interesting, growing up with it felt right. I think for my brothers, I have three other brothers, so there's four of us all together, but we each had our own experience with it. But, I have definitely felt like a person who is thinking about that subject, and have since I was three, or since I can remember. Even when I was very, very young, and the five-year-olds were excluding the three-year-old, I'd be like, "Let me go hang out with the three-year-old and see how he's doing, and make sure he's feeling right."

Finian M.: So I felt, interestingly, totally comfortable with it, and very aligned with it. I can't say the same for my brothers. I don't know exactly the struggles they went through. I know some of them with it. But even in middle school people would, "Make peace," and be like, "Trying to break the bully up from doing this." Well, fortunately, I was tall enough to be able to stand to the bully and be like, "No, bro, you're not going to mess with people." So people could make fun of me, but it didn't really permeate because I just felt like I can do the right thing. I have that unique position and ability, so I will, and it feels okay. I didn't have that sense of embarrassment about it.

Jeff: Well, you had legitimacy baked-in. You're like, "I'm not a poser. This is my given name. I'm here to make peace, god dammit."

Finian M.: Yeah. And what I'm saying is I think I would have been played a similar role, no matter what. So there's irony in that, but I think I would've been doing those same things because it was pervasive throughout my life of looking out for people, trying to make sure something was was right.

Jeff: Give me a little description of Kiss the Ground and the mission and the work that you do.

Finian M.: Awesome. Kiss the Ground's mission is inspiring participation in global regeneration, starting with soil. And, really, what that's about is understanding that humanity has a role to play. And it's different than the role we thought we could play, that we can act as stewards to help the world heal. Instead of being a plague, instead of being just a species that is degrading and diminishing our land, we can actually help be a keystone species that helps regenerate the land. And, arguably, now that the land is so degraded, we're the only species that can actually do it because of our ingenuity, because of our ability to use tools and to help nature get back on its feet and to regenerate itself.

Finian M.: So the soil part, starting with the soil, comes from this, really, the birth and origin story of Kiss the Ground. Myself and one of the other co-founders, Ryland Engelhart, both having this big aha moment of, "Wait a minute, soil climate, carbon, wait, what?" I was an environmentalist, heavy activist person throughout my whole life. And I had the moment of hearing this message in a four-hour lecture and saying to myself, "If I didn't know, if I didn't know about the soil connection to carbon and soil connection to water, all these different things, I'm pretty sure 99 or 95% of the population also doesn't know."

Jeff: Sure.

Finian M.: Low and behold, seven years ago no one really knew. We make a joke, even Al Gore didn't know, Leonardo DiCaprio didn't know. This was an emerging idea in the human consciousness that soil played this big part of the climate equation. So that was the birth of Kiss the Ground, was realizing that we could act as contributors to helping get this message out, spreading awareness. We weren't farmers, we weren't scientists, but we could help spread the awareness to the world that soil and humans' ability to help rebuild the soil could play a role in sequestering carbon and balancing the climate.

Jeff: Yeah, can you spend a moment sort of framing the nature of the problem? Because I think before we can just talk about how we can sequester carbon, where are we now and how did we get there?

Finian M.: Big question. Simply, humanity, arguably, for the past 10,000 years has been in a relationship with our natural surrounding areas to produce our food, our fiber, and even our fuel. We've been causing the degradation to land. So even if you look at, let's say carbon, for example, just that equation, since the birth of agriculture 10,000 years ago or so, the world's soils have been depleting of their carbon stock. So even if we start accounting for all that, and then the industrial revolution hits, and all of a sudden a much greater amount of the soil's carbon stock is released. That means also the fertility of the soil.

Finian M.: So, first and foremost, when we're talking about climate change and carbon dioxide, almost all of the news we're hearing is centered around fossil fuels and their contribution to the increase of the greenhouse effect, that blanket of too much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Now, that is a majority of what humans have done to cause a climate blanket to impact our warming earth, but we are not considering often how much soil carbon and biomass has also been a contributing factor to the additional carbon in the atmosphere.

Finian M.: So inside of the climate equation humans have, for 10,000 years, been adding carbon dioxide into the atmosphere on a very large scale. If you think about, for example, the Fertile Crescent. It's called the Fertile Crescent, not as a joke, but it actually used to be fertile. That's because that was where agriculture started. But over time, by agricultural practices, we were diminishing the fertility of the soil. The fertility of the soil, which we'll talk about in a little bit, is the carbon in the soil. So, when we're talking about climate change, and in many estimates it's around a third of the excess carbon that we put into the atmosphere, has come from the depletion of soils. Most of our cultivated , at this point, having lost 50 to 70% of their carbon stock.

Finian M.: Obviously, like I said earlier, the industrial revolution made it happen much faster. But even old school, old school, old school farming that was "organic" back in the day, in Egypt or whatever, that was still taking carbon out of the soil, putting it into the atmosphere and adding to that legacy load of carbon we have now.

Jeff: Got it. And so if I understand it correctly, the overall sum of carbon globally has not really changed. It's essentially we've redistributed or displaced it on some level. Obviously, more in the last couple of hundred years, well, since the industrial revolution through the mining and then burning of fossil fuels, but even going back to the agricultural revolution 10 or 12,000 years ago through these farming practices that you talk about, essentially through excess tilling and a whole bunch of different things that we'll address, we're really just taking the carbon that is in the ground and putting it up into our atmosphere and, to some degree, also our oceans.

Jeff: And that is what is creating the problem in the oceans of acidification and the extinction of species in the oceans, but then what you referred to as the warming of the planet and the greenhouse effect, which then, by extension, is responsible for all of these other, let's call symptoms, sea level rise desertification, food insecurity, soil degradation. [crosstalk 00:10:07].

Finian M.: I'd love to talk about that as possibly separate, but I just wanted to add for listeners to get this point, we push this hard. There is not more carbon now than there's ever been. There is the same amount of carbon than there's ever been, it's just in places that are causing warming to go too much. Now, we need some sort of greenhouse effect. We don't want to be freezing. We don't want our planet to turn into an ice ball again. So we need a certain amount of carbon in the atmosphere to create a good human condition, or all the animals and plants that live on the earth now, we need that condition to stay. We've just put too much carbon into the atmosphere. And so when we talk about carbon pools, we have the atmosphere pool. We have the ocean pool, so there's a bunch of carbon in the ocean, we'll talk about that in a second. We have the biomass, which is all of the life and plants, and then we have the pedosphere, which is the soil pool, and then we have the fossil pool.

Finian M.: Now those are the ones that are currently in play right now. There's a bunch that are also in rock and cement and these different things, that's kind of a side note, even though it's a really big component. We talk about the first that I just mentioned as the carbon pools. So when we're talking about the pedosphere, the soil, as a carbon pool, that's one of the ones that's been left out. Most people you talk to understand that trees help sequester carbon, plan a tree, you sequester carbon. People understand there's carbon in the atmosphere. People understand that there's carbon in fossil carbon, which is coal and gas and oil. And now more and more people are understanding that the ocean is a big sink for carbon.

Finian M.: So the problem right now is there's too much carbon in the atmosphere. The ocean is being a big sponge and absorbing a lot of that excess carbon, creating carbonic acid, which is acidifying the ocean, which has has a whole myriad of problems attached to it. So we're saying, "Hey, everybody, we got the news, now we want to share it with you. Did you know that the soil actually still holds more carbon than the atmosphere and the biomass combined? And we can build it back faster than we ever thought possible."

Finian M.: That's the big news. That's why Kiss the Ground exists, was, "Oh my goodness, not only did the loss of soil carbon contribute to what we have right now in the atmosphere, but we can work in our farming to build back soil faster than we ever thought possible." That's the big news. It doesn't take a thousand years to build a centimeter of soil. We can do it three or four or five years.

Jeff: Really? That's [crosstalk 00:12:47].

Finian M.: If you just think of, and these are numbers that we wouldn't want listeners to just quote necessarily, but when we look at a soil profile, when you go from this much top soil, and then we're showing about an inch, and then over the course of 10 years you go down 14 inches, what you're doing is building organic matter down into the soil. So you can increase the top soil layer, what would be considered the O-horizon, by 14 inches, some people are doing in the course of 10 years.

Finian M.: That's not saying that we're building 14 inches of soil because people would think of that as adding on top of, but we're really building down 14 inches, which changes the whole playing field. That's more sponge for water holding capacity, that's more bio availability for nutrients. All these things we can talk about, which is like, "Oh my gosh, we can help nature build that back faster than we ever thought possible by light years." So it's really exciting.

Jeff: So just to get a sense of the numbers, because I read, I see numbers in the headlines and newspapers and whatever, the most recent number I saw was somewhere around 420 million parts per million.

Finian M.: We just went over 415 about a month ago, 415 parts per million-

Jeff: Got it.

Finian M.: ... of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Jeff: And what is a sustainable level?

Finian M.: Well, Bill McKibben and the folks at 350.org and a bunch of the scientists kind of agreed several years ago that 350 parts per million was the place that, if we stayed below it, we wouldn't deal with runaway climate change, so to speak, where things just started spiraling out of control. So 350, that's the threshold, we've already surpassed it by far amounts. If we look at it before the industrial revolution we were at like 280 parts per million.

Jeff: Let's talk more specifically about the solution about regenerative farming practices, about what role soil can play, how do you execute that, what's the plan.

Finian M.: Great.

Jeff: Hit me.

Finian M.: So first I like to start off by acknowledging where our thinking is at, and this is something that I worked on in Kiss the Ground, and several of our organizations that we work with are pretty confident about, is that most human thinking right now is inside of the what we call the sustainable mind, which is how do we do less harm? You and I are both looking at our lives and our communities' lives. How can we do less harm to the planet? We're on a sinking ship. How do we sink slower, basically? That's what's happened because over the years, as I mentioned earlier, as we started agriculture, almost every society was degrading their land's ecosystem carrying capacity. That's how much life could be carried on a parcel of land was diminishing as they were producing food because you're beating up the soil, you're producing your food. Your land gets worse, and that means the carrying capacity goes down.

Finian M.: So if you go to brittle environments like the Middle East where there are quickly, very rapidly, even with not big farm equipment, reducing their carrying capacity of their land. All the sudden you say, "Wait a minute, 10,000 years of this becomes a pretty entrenched frame or viewpoint of, 'This is just what we do. Humans, to create our needs, we degrade the land.'"

Finian M.: Aside from a few cultures and societies here and there that have not done this, most societies have kind of just seen, "Oh, to produce food we need to degrade the land." And so that agreement, unfortunately, has landed us in the solution being, "Uh-oh, with a big growing population how are we going to do it less-badly?" That's our solution, conserve, sustain.

Finian M.: But that's the mindset shift that we're hoping that, globally, humanity can really wrap its brain around is, "Wait a minute, our farming, the very thing that has been just so detrimental over the 10,000 years, can actually be the thing that is regenerating biodiversity, ecosystem carrying capacity, carbon into the soil, water holding capacity, replenishing water sources, springs, rivers, all these things. This is the phenomenon, we're saying, "Wait a minute."

Finian M.: So the first invite is helping each other shift our mindset so we can start thinking regeneratively. And that thinking makes us see and perceive humans' future, not as inevitably going to Mad Max, right?

Finian M.: We're saying we can actually perceive, and believe in, and have faith in this abundant world that many of us now think is, no, that's not really possible. That's a pipe dream. But no, we're saying, no, no, no, let me take you to a farm, Jeff. Let me take you there and show you what three years ago looked like, and then what it looks like today. That's what we're so hopeful about. That's what gets me up in the morning to say, "This is an idea whose time has come because you know there's been revolutions in human history. We all believe that this is a big one." When we shift from thinking how to do less harm to thinking, oh my goodness, we can help regenerate the world. Not just by planting trees, but working with the whole ecosystem to increase its carrying capacity.

Finian M.: What we're looking at first and foremost is this concept of, what did nature invent, so to speak, over these years and years and years is this amazing process. And to put it simply, plants, anything from a tree to grass to a little shade tree or whatever, they're all working in this phenomenal capacity. Where they're taking carbon from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through the power of the sun. The sun hits their leaf in the chloroplast. They are taking that energy and ripping apart carbon from carbon dioxide, connecting that carbon with hydrogen and water from H2O. Sorry, it's hydrogen and oxygen, pardon me, from H2O, and they're making carbohydrates. So using that energy, they're ripping things apart from the sun, they're and ripping things apart and then combining them back together. So that energy that is then harnessed inside of that bond is what all of life is fueled from. That's how when we rip apart those bonds, that's what fire is. That's also what gives us our ATP energy in our body, et cetera.

Finian M.: That's the fuel of life. What we didn't know, this is the big part. What we didn't know until 20, 30 years ago really, and in 1996 a big discovery on this happened, was how much of that liquid sugar, carbohydrates that the plant makes to build itself was being pumped out of the roots to feed soil organisms. That's the big news flash. Oh my goodness, 30 to 40, sometimes up to 80, depending on the time of the year, season or what have you. That's an abundance of carbohydrates. Liquid sugars are being leaked out of roots to feed soil organisms.

Finian M.: Say, well, why would they share that much sugar? Why would they give that much away? Well, because the organisms in the soil, the biology, the fungi, all these different nematodes, all the bacteria. They're consuming that or consuming each other, and in exchange, they're the ones putting out their enzymes that actually make the soil available, the minerals and the nutrients in the soil available for the plant to uptake.

Finian M.: So really what we're looking at is that's the big news is, oh my goodness, there's way more carbon being pumped into the ground every year whenever plants turned green than we ever knew. And that's why we know now we can build soil faster than we ever thought. Because we know that if we maximize photosynthetic capacity on land, if we're maximizing that to pump as much sugar into the ground to feed as much organisms into the ground, then we're building soil because those organisms, that they live and die, they create glues that glue the soil together, which make more airspace and water space.

Finian M.: It's also creating condition where more of the bacteria and things are eating themselves out of house and home, and they're putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So we can cover the ground to protect it. When we also have covered ground aggregates, which folks can learn more about online, those things are broken open and broken apart. So when it rains and you have bare soil, you actually break all these amazing structures apart. They turn into teeny particles, and they compact, and they make it so water runs off. They seal the ground. So that's a problem. So then you have animal integration, and why animal integration? Nature is a bio diverse animal thing. It always has been, if your farm can do that. And then you have biodiversity, obviously maximizing biodiversity.

Finian M.: We have living root, we have armor on the soil, we have biodiversity, we have animal integration, and we have least disturbance. So when we understand, as I say one more time, plants are pumping carbon into the soil. Organisms like fungi and bacteria are aggregating it together, making these sponges. When we till the ground, when we put a bunch of chemicals on the ground, when we roll major heavy tractors over the ground, all of these things are creating disturbance for those amazing structures in the soil. So least disturbance is that last principle.

Jeff: Yeah, I've seen these NASA images in the spring where first, there's a bunch of tilling in the early spring, and then you see kind of the-

Finian M.: Plumes, yeah.

Jeff: Plumes. And then actually plants start growing.

Finian M.: Well, Jeff's talking about the plumes that you can look up on YouTube. NASA, during the spring in the Northern hemisphere, you're dealing with plumes of CO2. And what we're getting to the audiences, look, that's CO2. Carbon dioxide that's being created because we are disrupting the carbon that's in the soil.

Jeff: Right.

Finian M.: Yeah. Go ahead, sorry.

Jeff: And then a month later, things start to grow and essentially, nature takes this massive inhale, and you see and you see the levels of carbon in the atmosphere start to decline.

Finian M.: Exactly. So the one more add on of that, that is so profound, as I just mentioned earlier. 30, 40% is the average of how much those sugars are being pumped into the ground. So now when you look at that NASA image on YouTube, when you see all of that CO2 being reduced in the atmosphere and you're like, "Oh yeah, plants are growing. They're made of carbon. Cool." I'd be like, "Remember, 30 to 40% of those are being shared out of the roots. And that's creating, in many cases, this humus, this longterm stored carbon into the ground. So if we can maximize that, that can change everything."

Finian M.: Nature invented a way to do this. We can help nature do it. And we can help nature do it in a way that can feed our whole population.

BREAK

Finian M.: Well currently, we have enough food for seven plus billion people. Well, what if we're increasing the carrying capacity per acre of land? Just one example, people put a lot of issues with beef production. But I was just at a farm last year, making a video, and the gentleman went from the landholding one, approximately ... to feed one cow, he would need 11 acres. He was on 5,000 acres of land. To feed one cow, 11 acres just for the cow to eat, in three years. Moving that down to one cow, being able to be fed off of two acres.

Finian M.: That's called increasing biomass, increasing soil's ability to function as it should to make a massive amount of perennial grasses come back. So if you increase the biomass production of a piece of land, without synthetic fertilizers, without any additives, you're increasing the holding capacity of that land. So there's more butterflies, there's more bees, there's more everything. And as you mentioned, the outcome is very highly nutritious food and a more abundance of it. So we can have our cake and eat it too. It's kind of too good to be true in some ways, but when you go to these farms and see what they've done, it's like a miracle.

Jeff: And so, it feels like that is the real challenge, is of a hundred million acre system, the United States, of agriculture. How do you propagate this switch over to regenerative farming practices? With farmers, I think whose average age now is in their mid-sixties, and who are used to doing things a certain way or getting some degree of government subsidies to create mono crops. How do you essentially help to create that change on the scale that is needed?

Finian M.: Great question. There's a lot of answers to that question, but first and foremost, everyone who's listening can help play a role in this. We've watched over the last seven years as we've been in this, that the understanding, the comprehension, and awareness of this has been blossoming in an amazing way and it leaves us all more hopeful each day. But let's just talk about corn growers, or soybean, or whatever. If you ask farmer trainers, regenerative farmer trainers, what it was like for them to try to go pitch a room on regenerative agriculture 10, or eight, or seven years ago, they would explain to you how much of a lack of listening there was.

Finian M.: Fast forward seven years and it has changed quite a bit, not only our farmers, particularly in the Midwest, certain areas where they're getting hit harder than ever with issues with climate. These big rains come, these floods happen. There's no soil sponge. Their diminished ground is having all these issues. But their input costs are going up every year, and so they're struggling to keep up with increased input cost to have the same yield outcome. So they're listening. And now that regenerative agriculture has started to become more of a common understanding, you're seeing more and more of these farmers. Everyday farmer guys who are going to be the ones, the heroes that we all need really, at the end of the day.

Finian M.: We're seeing them come out much more excitedly and passionately about saying, "How can I integrate cover crops this year? How can I start to potentially bring in cattle to take down these covers? how can I use roller crimpers? How can I start to reduce my input costs? And I have a quote page. I was working with Tim Ryan down on his campaign for talking points, and I put together one of them, and we have farmers who are saving $100,000 year one or year two on input cost reductions. That's huge. When you look at getting your system set up with the folks we work with, the Soil Health Academy, we work with sending farmers in scholarship programs through them.

Finian M.: So if people are listening, how can I help? Well, you can fund a farmer. We're dedicated, by 2025, to 5,000 farmers trained in transition to regenerative agriculture. And we work with the Soil Health Academy. We work with the Savory Institute. We work with [Forgrerians 00:00:37:41]. These are kind of premier league regenerative farmer training programs. So we help as a conduit for them to get access to scholarships for farmers who aren't able to take it on their own.

Finian M.: So we focus on a farmland program, getting farmers trained, and we're dedicated to about 50,000 by 2025, 50,000 soil advocates. People who've been trained on giving this message to, whether it's their city council person or whether their communities or it's them in farmland communities helping register farmers for farmer training. Whatever it is, we can have anyone find a way that they can help.

Finian M.: And then generally if anyone wants to really help this message, you can start spreading the word, go to kisstheground.com and you can find your path. We have a pathway tool where you can basically cater it to your own specific areas that you want to help in. And you can immediately start to spread this message and get it to people all over. So yes, people can be a huge help.

Jeff: Yeah, I mean I think that that's key because obviously I think there's a lot of, particularly millennials that are very concerned with this issue, but also are wanting to create a legacy of impact in their own life. But they're probably not going to start a farm. Or they may.

Finian M.: But we definitely need more young people coming into farming too, for sure.

Jeff: But there are other ways, potent ways to contribute if you're passionate about this.

Finian M.: Well, we kind of go under this theory of change, which is pretty general. Awareness leads to actions, leads to outcomes. And in the courses I teach, so advocate training, we have awareness circled in a big yellow circle, which is basically saying, "Look, we all have to collectively work together to bring the awareness up to critical mass. Otherwise the amount of actions and outcomes aren't going to suffice." So if we just let just the people who are listening here learn about this and then get involved, that's not big enough. We need the farmers. We need the new people to this. Many of the old people who've been in this for a long time. We need everyone helping as much as they can on the awareness bubble and that's happening luckily.

Jeff: I think one of the challenges for over time lasts 40 years for the environmental movement per se, and speaking very generally, because the science on global warming is not necessarily very new. People have been aware of the warming planet for 40 years, but it is very hard I think for people to become emotionally involved in this issue. And I've seen you be very emotional about this issue, and I think that that's always been for me one of the keys because I think it is easier for humans to become emotional around what they deem as human issues, immigration, images of kids being separated from their parents, civil rights in all of its permutations. How do you stoke that emotional connection to this issue?

Finian M.: That's a great question. A lot of the work in the coursework we're doing together, there is work on this. I believe everyone has a unique story behind why they're even listening to this podcast for example. But I implore people to find their own why, meaning diving in and trying to reach into their history. Whether it's 10 years ago, whether it's when they were a child, whether it's three months ago, to find the times that they went through a shift when they pivoted, when they took a step down a new path and recognizing that some of the leaders that they look up to or people did look up to a lot of us or the folks who I'm looking up to have found that. They found why they're called to this.

Finian M.: They've written it down, they've spoken it aloud. They've come to terms with why they're passionate about it. And just in that search, just in that pulling back the onion and finding that nugget in there of like, "here's why I care," that can give you passion, or at least access to your own passion. You don't have to try on someone else's passion. You don't have to take it. You can identify and agree with someone else's, what I call their why. You can be like, "Yeah Martin Luther King had a really strong why." And he was like, "Okay, I can get with this guy. I identify with that. That why is also my why. I'm here because he is giving me a context of what I believe too."

Finian M.: But you can find your own. And I think the passion for this, I think I get a little too excited often on the particularities, but really what we got and the thing that I have to stop myself from getting emotional about it is I was an environmentalist. I cared. I was involved. But I didn't actually believe that myself or humanity could get out of this. I didn't.

Finian M.: So recognizing that place as passionate as I once was, I was looking at it's only going to get worse. We're only going to deal with more refugees. We're only going to deal with more droughts. We're only going to deal with more flood. We're only going to deal with more immigrants and this and that because we are dealing with this big thing called climate change.

Finian M.: So when I got that we can do this, when it really registered, that for me personally was the basis of the passion was, "Okay, this is a reality. This is a possibility. Is it a long shot? Yeah, because where we're at currently." Don't want to go there at this moment, but we're close. We're close to the beginning of the big end, which is not what anyone's family or anyone wants to deal with. But we have this moment, we have this time right now where we can as humans be a cause of the earth regenerating.

Finian M.: So the big hope, the passion for me is, "Oh my gosh, acre per acre, a 5,000 acre farm in two years can completely transform what happens in that region." A bunch of farmers could get together. Indiana, all these states are huge pushes to cover crop and everything. That means we can allow more water to infiltrate.

Finian M.: We are treating these things as we have to come up with a bandaid for flooding, for drought, for this, for that. Be like, what if we step back and address the big problem? Our land is not functioning properly, period. Okay, now let's address where we're at with climate. What can we do about that? Simultaneously, obviously if we address that problem with the land functioning, we've also sequestered carbon. That's a benefit. But I just wanted to address that of that's real hope, Jeff. That means people can say we have an opportunity to not just have it get worse here year after.

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, I think what you are doing which is so important but it's beyond the climate, or another thing that you're doing is you're essentially providing people with the opportunity to have a greater sense of meaning in what they're doing. And I think to me that is the emotional key is that in everyone's life, that is actually what makes them fulfilled. Viktor Frankl would call that man's search for meaning, is essentially to have a full life, to have a happy and contented life you need to find that meaning. And what greater meaning could you devote yourself to whether you live in a city and you're an advocate or you're a farmer or whoever you are, then to address the issue of our time. And to me that's when it transcends as a cerebral issue and becomes sort of a passion of the soul.

Finian M.: And that's so perfectly said because it speaks to exactly what happened to me, which was I was passionate compared to my friends or what have you, activist guy. But I was still working in that hopelessness, defeatedness, apathetic nature because I didn't really believe it. I didn't really have evidence that we could turn the ship around. And like you're saying, whether you're in a city and you're working even with your city council on how are we dealing with storm water, how are we having one gallon of water help to regenerate this whole little area.

Finian M.: Every bit of nature is designed to help regenerate and rejuvenate itself. And now as humans that we know that we can actually be the stewards that are helping to have the land come back to function. In some ways, arguably in some areas better than it ever has because we know the dynamics that nature has provided and made available.

Finian M.: So that's what was that big shift for me of when you talk about being a contribution, when you talk about having that meaning in your life, I tell you what, it is tiring to be an environmental activist right now without the hope that I have. And I just want to pass this onto listeners, take a bit of this because, oh my gosh, talk about a different feeling when you're working towards, working with, helping things in a big massive way get better versus fighting against things getting a little less bad. Man, talk about what you need to get going.

Finian M.: It totally changes. I had a daughter recently and she's 18 months old and I don't know if we're going to get there. I don't know if we're going to turn the ship fast enough, but watching what's happened, watching the fact that this was on the Democratic debate stage, watching that this has been going on, that there are people talking about this, that thousands and thousands of acres are converting as we speak to people saying, "I'm going to make this decision. I'm going to leave a better land to my kids because I know I can. I'm not just going to keep down the struggling addicted path to all these pharmaceutical drugs for farms."

Finian M.: Seeing that that's happening and that everyone listening, you can play a part.

Jeff: I mean just going to Apricot Lane and standing on the high point of the land and looking out. You can see essentially their plot versus the Driscoll farm and the other things that are essentially around the perimeter just by the lushness and the greenest. The same land, same access to water, same deal, but just different practices.

Jeff: And it just fills you with that hope and that optimism that this is possible and that we can do it if we essentially apply our human innovation and ingenuity.

Finian M.: And it doesn't have to... Apricot Lane they started with this particular situation, they took some money to get that going. We have farmers all across this country who are saving money. Year one. Year one. Year two, they're saving, some of them, like I said, $100,000 or $200,000 a year. That's what we're talking about. And even further than that year three plus, you're increasing your carrying capacity. That means your yield's going up while your biodiversity is going up, while your soil is going up, while your water bills are going down, and you have zero input cost at year three or four or five if you came from conventional.

Finian M.: That's amazing. And it feels so awesome because it really is happening. This isn't just theoretical. We really have farms that are having one guy, this farmer has second best corn yields in the county, straight regenerative farming. And all these other people being like, "Oh, you're never going to... You're going to fail. You're going to fail. You're going to fail."

Finian M.: But that's what's so exciting is we're having success, success, success, success.

Jeff: So cool. So exciting. Thank you Finian Makepeace. Bless you for all the work you're doing.

Finian M.: It's a pleasure. And you too. Thanks for all the work that Commune and has put together, and we look forward to seeing people on the course.
Jeff: We're doing it. All right. Thanks, buddy.

MUSIC

Jeff VO: Thanks for listening to today’s show. I’ve said this before but no where is this call to action more apt and needed. It is easy to feel paralyzed by the enormity of this problem. But you are an active participant in the human condition. My hero, farmer - philosopher Joel Salatin said, “The human condition is simply the aggregate of billions of little decisions.” You can make a difference! For more information on this topic check out Finian’s course on Commune, Soil is the Climate Solution. Just go to onecommune.com. If you have comments or questions about today’s show shoot me an email at [email protected] Thanks again for listening to the Commune podcast. This is Jeff Krasno and I’ll see you next week.

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