This site uses cookies. See our Terms of Service and Privacy.

Kaweah Oaks workshops, Jan 17-19 2019

Posted by Peter Donovan 4 years, 8 months ago in policy and framing /

Tulare County, California: 4th module of Sequoia Riverlands Trust Earth Academy with students from Monache, Lindsay, Wood Lake, Mission Oak, Eleanor Roosevelt

Workshops: Didi Pershouse and I, with Sam Weiser, Bud Darwin, and Dana Everhart from Sequoia Riverlands Trust coached the students (along with some adults) with some basic hands-on demos of soil health and watershed function, such as a flour vs bread demo, slake test, water infiltration, and a tabletop rainfall simulator. For a closing, we asked what new questions the participants had -- and we did not attempt to answer them. The following is a transcription of what I heard, rearranged a bit.


Why do things work the way they do? What are the natural driving forces, or the enabling conditions? What is earth doing to itself? What does nature do about soil degradation? Why isn't all soil healthy? How can we improve soils? If there's a way to transform soil, how is it possible, how long would it take, what's the time frame? What are the harshest conditions that crops could be grown in? Why can a few simple things have such a big effect?

How can we make soil like this everywhere, so water would go into it, and to prevent fires? What are some different things we could do to make better quality soil? How can we create porous soil? How can we implement this? How do I make this happen at home, on public lands, on the ag land, in my yard? What can I do at home to help my community, on my 1.5 acres, in my own yard? How can I be a small part of the movement to think differently in Tulare County? How can I be a part of this movement in an everyday way? What can I do to help convince friends?

How can we bring up soil health? How can we make Tulare County soil better aggregated? How can we get the world to be as healthy as it can be? How effective would it be if it was efficient through the whole world--air quality, water quality, economy? How can we, as individuals, work toward healthier soil throughout California? What more could we do here? What would we do if we all knew what we're learning here?

I'm interested in learning more about grasses. Would it be beneficial to move to perennials in California? Why was the hole we dug amongst the perennial grasses cooler? What are the equivalent principles for ocean management?

How can we all benefit? How can we get more people involved in what we're doing? How to get the younger generation more interested in the Central Valley? How can we spread the word? How can we stay out of the way? How do we get people to care? What can I personally do to begin this movement?

Saturday, January 19 at a public event at Sequoia Riverlands Trust's Kaweah Oaks Preserve (about 6 miles east of Visalia, California), students led the hands-on demos for over 50 people, and summarized their policy discussions of how growing the soil sponge could help address the major problems that the students identified for their region: drought, fire, falling water tables, heat waves, air and water quality, despair and violence, poverty and homelessness, and malnutrition. At the closing we asked the question:

How might you enable the soil sponge, what can you commit to doing, to work together with these students, to rehydrate California?

To grow the soil sponge, people need to know that it's possible, that it's practical and cost-effective, and that it's important to me. So much of this is hidden from people. Help it get known. It's possible and needed.

Listen to what our students have to say. Passionate students who are creative. Pay attention to these amazing young people who know soil, how soil can affect all things. Get other students involved. Inspire kids like me. My senior project -- if people listened and took us seriously, think what could happen. Help my friends be more engaged, for example with field trips. If we start going out, others will be inspired. Change the soil -- change the world.

Education. Get out in the community, educate people on soil quality, on maintaining it. Educate people about these issues, the better soil sponge. Get education about soil sponge into the curriculum. Take it back to Earth Science class at College of the Sequoias. Education frees the mind. Educate little kids about this, every elementary student in Visalia. Spread of information. Educate everyone around us.

Supporting and attending events like this. Better opportunities to share, reflect, and take action together. Outreach, hands-on demos. Attending events like these, encouraging events. Improving outreach for events like this. Funding these events. Identify people who won't come to an event like this. Finding opportunities to get in front of people. Getting out there on the land with people.

Large-scale demos needed, big demo projects. Growers will listen to economic advantage. Make restoration of the soil sponge economically feasible. Don't let environmental protection and production remain opposed. Cultivating community value sets, inclusivity. Planned holistic grazing. Have local models.

Support academic research. Take this information to policy makers who can make change. Tulare Basin Watershed Partnership. City of Visalia could implement this in parks. Tremendous opportunity in urban landscapes too. Being an example in my own back yard. Start converting front yard into perennials. Convert yard into perennials.

Spreading hope, that can drive action. Inspire people with hope: by changing soil you can change everything. Trust the land. Develop lasting interest. Let people know this is very real. Get your hands dirty, get passionate about beautiful life. Sharing what you are passionate about. Start with loving people and caring about them. Make you all curious. Create a simple and compelling public narrative.

ADDENDUM: In participating with Sequoia Riverlands Trust's EPA-funded Earth Academy, we learned that:
  1. high school students are very capable of connecting the complex phenomena of carbon and water cycling to the condition of the soil surface, and to connect these in turn with social and economic issues that they identified in their area such as drought, fires, food deserts, human health, despair, and poverty;
  2. students learned these connections through questions, hands-on experiments, and demonstrations that allowed them to construct their own mental models of complex and interrelated phenomena, and understand why many policies only address symptoms of drought, flooding, and other problems;
  3. students were able to extend their learning by sharing the demonstrations and hands-on experiments in public presentations, and facilitating a similar process of questioning with adults who were oriented more toward "right answers" than good questions;
  4. there was excellent cooperation and support for this learning style from Sequoia Riverlands Trust staff, and we plan to continue this relationship, as well as extend it to other areas. 
Working with the Earth Academy project in 2019 confirmed for us that complex phenomena and issues that intersect in soil can be readily understood by all, and perhaps especially youth, given learning styles and environment that are conducive to participatory learning and questioning.  
Peter Donovan
Soil Carbon Coalition
Tags: atlas