Biology, not technology, will save the planet

”Regenerating Life” offers a different, challenging, yet hopeful message about the climate crisis.

”Regenerating Life” by director John Feldman is a can’t-miss film that offers a different, challenging, yet hopeful message about the climate crisis.

Consider this: what if the entire climate conversation about CO2 emissions and fossil fuels is a dangerous distraction from the real reason our planet is dying? What if rising CO2 levels and global warming trends are not causes, but symptoms of ecological loss?

We have lots of evidence every day about what’s gone wrong — the dying of ecosystems, plant and animal extinctions, fires, droughts and floods, melting glaciers, poisoned air. But “Regenerating Life” says we are missing the “why.” The story of excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is only one part of the picture.

The bigger view includes the countless relationships in nature that have been all but severed as a result of centuries of mismanagement of our natural resources because of human ignorance and greed.

Even as we seem to be standing on the brink of extinction, amazing revelations about the systems of the Earth are appearing: growing awareness of the symbiotic relationships between plankton and whales in the oceans, ruminants and grasslands, beaver and watersheds, trees and salmon in the Pacific Northwest, how the moisture content of soil and the transpiration of trees influences weather, how microbes are the workhorses of all life processes.

We’ve been stuck in a limited narrative, bowing to chemistry and technology, discounting biology and nature’s intricate wisdom.

“Regenerating Life” takes on this challenge in three parts. Part one is titled “Water Cools the Planet.” Even though water vapor is the biggest greenhouse gas of all, water is not mentioned at all in discussions about emissions. Yet its role in both the biology and the hydrology of the planet is the basis of all life, and there is no subject more important to grasp.

Much of our current global turmoil is a direct result of the disappearance of water in countries all over the globe, from the war that began in Syria because of unrelenting drought, to the turmoil along our southern border.

Part two is “Life Sustains the Planet.” Nature knows best how to heal and manage life on the planet — if we can just get out of the way. This part presents a biologically focused argument with inspiring examples of how this can be accomplished through ecological restoration — even on vast areas of land in as little as 20 years. The big takeaway is that protecting and nurturing good soil will help balance solar radiation in and out from the planet.

Part three, “Small Farms Feed the World,” presents a great reason for valuing our Vashon farmers. This section advocates for nurturing small, local farming communities (by which most global food is already grown, more productively than corporate farms). An examination of the failures of the Green Revolution in Africa, the corporate push for growing crop monocultures, and genetic ownership of seed varieties is eloquently discussed by environmental activist Vandana Shiva, who has led the farmer’s resistance movement in India.

“The Sorceror’s Apprentice” is a well-known poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Written in 1797, it’s about the chaos created when an old sorcerer leaves his workshop with his apprentice in charge.

The apprentice tries out some magic to enchant a broom to do his fetching-water work for him, but the shop is flooded when he realizes he does not know how to stop the spell. It’s a fitting example of the hubris exhibited by those searching for technological solutions to the climate crisis — from capturing carbon emissions and burying them underground, to sending solar shields into space, to creating fake food to feed the masses.

By contrast, John Feldman’s film is a compelling and powerful lesson that nature can help us solve our climate problems if we give her a chance.

“Regenerating Life,” sponsored by The Whole Vashon Project, will be shown at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16. Donations are welcome at the door.

Rondi Lightmark is the founder of The Whole Vashon Project. To find out more about the organization, and get involved, visit