Freshwaters make up less than 3% of global surface water, with 1.5% available as freshwater from surface water (inc. rivers) and groundwater (inc. aquifers). Currently, 2/3rds of all freshwater rivers no longer flow freely. There are over 60,000 dams on freshwater river systems, with 3,700 planned or under construction proposed as ‘green' infrastructure projects, including hydroelectric power. Chemical and plastic pollution and poor management attest to rivers used by industry as drains. Understanding these projects' wider environmental and human impacts helps us listen for what is happening beneath the cover of ‘green' solutions.
All freshwater systems have obvious and essential reciprocal relationships with all trees and plants. Forests are recognised for providing watershed protection, filtration, medication, nutrients and rain for groundwater, springs and tributaries. 95% of the water a tree uptakes goes directly into the atmosphere creating rain, eight times more than is evaporated by the same area of ocean surface water. The water is purified by filtration through the tree's tiny capillary-like structures, medicated by the aerosols the tree emits alongside the oxygen they're famous for. This is essential to the global weather and water systems.
What are the rivers and waters teaching us?
A biosphere-based approach. In addressing any form of landscape and community, long-term care looks past human-constructed boundaries and sees the wider biosphere of landscapes. This summit exemplified this in listening to the entire communities of a biosphere in a way that crossed political, conceptual and species boundaries. Centring the needs of the dynamic living biosphere of wetlands, farms, communities, territories of original peoples, major cities, housing and industry, this feels like a powerful pathway forward.
Waters' wisdom of peace. Throughout the summit, there was a powerful understanding that the rivers had called for and crafted the Global Freshwater Summit through the communities that are part of the rivers' biosphere. This was demonstrated in the collaboration that gave rise to the templates communities have found effective. It feels like the loving intelligence in our Global Nature Intelligence System comes through the waters, and that waters are guiding humanity towards peace. It makes sense that those that will take care of life on the planet will have to unite around water and treat it as sacred. It also feels more tangible now as we are seeing this collaboration in action. It's a fluid working metaphor, a much-welcome message arising from Nature and an honour to witness through the Summit. Please see the appendix for examples of the templates.
Listening to the Animals
Animals' deeper roles and experiences help us to inform ecosystem care. The communication of non-human beings within the ecosystems and the human ability to listen and work collaboratively with these intelligence fascinates me.
I was asked to talk about the wisdom coming through tree consciousness. It was one of the most confirmatory opportunities to hear the themes and values coming through the animal and insect beings' pattern matches with what is coming through trees and waters. I also loved that the event was guided by the founder's cat, and when she was trying to find a title, the cat encouraged her to go big… hence the Conversations with Nature World Summit!
This was free at the time of airing and is now available at a cost. I have provided a list of the speakers and their links in the appendix so you can access them.
What are the animals of Nature teaching us?
All speakers shared practical experiences pointing to the intelligent sentience of animals and plants. These were direct experiential-based learning and displayed significant wisdom communicated by specific species. The speakers spoke to the same themes and practical ways of working that are coming through the trees and waters. For me, this was a profound confirmation and opportunity to witness how awake so many are to the consciousness and intelligence of the Earth.
Lionhearted love. Linda Tucker spoke of her journey rescuing the White Lions of South Africa from trophy hunting captivity. The white lions are living legends and communicate the power of love in stepping forwards on your path aligned to the Earth through your body.
Compassion and care. Hearing from Jill Robinson of AnimalsAsia experiences, recovery and behaviour of Bears who've been caged and had their bile drained in farms in China and Vietnam for up to 30 years. Jill has achieved huge changes in communities and legislation in government by highlighting care and compassion.
The Herd safe-guarding the group consciousness of the species. Pat McCabe talked about what it is to listen to Buffalo's herd consciousness. The whole's sense of community and well-being provides a different perspective on what death is in the continuity of life across generations.
Synthesis - What does this mean for consent?
If animals, trees, plants, and rivers are all conscious, intelligent and able to communicate, then what does that mean? It changes our understanding of our basic manners. We still need to eat, clothe ourselves and have warm shelter. What a paradox for the mind disassociated with Nature to explore! Finding the pathways to enter into loving, respectful, consensual relationships with beings of Nature through the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the landscapes and buildings of our homes. Find ways of listening through your body to respect, reverence and reciprocity in each relationship. Is this consent?
What happens if we don't get consent from Nature to do something we thought was a great idea? My experience is when you ask and get a no; you listen deeply to why and what you need to re-think about your approach. Maybe that's what we can be doing in our rethinking of human systems. There are huge needs for energy and water supplies that are answered by constructing dams. The Global Freshwater Summit was opened by Chief Caleen Sisk, who offered her dialogues with the Winnemem / McCloud River in California about dam construction. She relayed that the river expressed a desire to flow freely and would like to provide the rivers' fresh, healthy drinking water for populations downstream rather than them needing plastic bottled drinking water.
Within TreeSisters, we are exploring these values and their ramifications within our work and reviewing many of the human systems we have been operating in for their alignment with Nature's Principles. We are very interested to hear how exploring this Global Nature Intelligence System is showing up for you in your body, life and work. The real headline news is that the consciousness of Nature we can receive directly through the waters is amplifying. Each time we ask and listen, we take another step towards the diverse and personally unique choices that help us align with life's well-being. Each time we do that, it has a huge resonance across the system. What does it look like if we can do this collectively?
Examples of TreeSister-funded projects' relationship to freshwater river systems
Isha Foundation/Project Green Hands in Tamil Nadu, India
Provides a guide to a campaign to plant, preserve and restore the Cauvery River Basin
International Tree Foundation and Communities in Kenya
Mount Kenya's ‘Water Towers' feed Rivers Tana, Ewaso Ng'iro and 2 million people.
Eden Reforestation and Community Mangroves in Mozambique
Mangrove planting in estuaries of the Maputo River from the Drakensbergs in South Africa.
Eden Reforestation and Communities in Beony Region in Madagascar
Planting along banks and the coastal bay of Betsiboka River
Photo courtesy of the Global White Lion Protection Trust