From Hopelessness to Hope: Finding Our Way Out Of Ecocide - Bitter Threads

From Hopelessness to Hope: Finding Our Way Out Of Ecocide


I just finished "Climate, A New Story" by Charles Eisenstein, on the heels of "The Sum of Us" by Heather McGhee and had my mind blown.

These books don't just tell us inconvenient truths; they present them so clearly and compellingly that they become undeniable. Instead of making you feel burdened or resistant, they provide the gift of actionable insights, inspiring you to eagerly engage and take action. At least that's how these books made me feel.

We all sense that our relationship with Earth is deteriorating. Many of us have wondered if the planet might be better off without the human infestation.

But it wasn’t until I delved into these books, which repeatedly emphasized the same truth, that I began to see a path forward—towards something new, or rather, something profoundly old. Perhaps all is not lost. Their repeated refrain highlighted our interconnectedness with everything. We are not isolated; we are not destined for loneliness. We exist within a vast web of life, so deeply intertwined with everything around us that we will never be alone if we only choose to listen.

Personal Journey In Sustainable Fashion

I've been selling apparel for over two decades and I try to be mindful of my materials. In 2008 I launched a line called Light & Gravity focusing on cradle-to-cradle clothing that could decompose in your garden. Fast forward to 2018, and I dropped nearly $3k on a class called Launch My Conscious Line, hoping for connections to suppliers and production partners for sustainability. I walked away with no new suppliers, no vendors, just a sinking feeling that sustainability was elusive unless you had loads of cash to throw at it.

The frustration with making sustainable clothing can be seen in the organic cotton tote bag versus a disposable paper one. When you dig into all the costs, they often end up about the same unless you use that tote bag 150+ times. The organic cotton tote? It guzzles water to grow the cotton, might still involve pesticides, and the manufacturing eats up energy. The disposable paper bag? It involves deforestation, chemicals in the pulping process, and tons of energy and water. Every choice has a hidden cost, making it tough to figure out which is truly more sustainable.

If you manage to find fabric that's milled locally from organically grown plants, dyed without chemical runoff, buttons sourced from sustainably harvested trees, printed with water-based inks, and sewn by workers paid a living wage, the clothes end up so expensive that hardly anyone can afford them.

It seems like every choice has a hidden cost.

The Illusion of Sustainability

Feeling jaded about the sustainability movement has me questioning all our so-called sustainable practices. Recycling was a marketing tactic to encourage the adoption of plastic and less than 10% of it actually ever gets recycled. Most of it ends up in other 3rd world countries polluting their land and water. Switching our cars to an electric grid? It just continues the cycle of extracting materials and consuming resources. We’re trading one form of environmental degradation for another. It's the same with massive windmill factories or solar panel deserts. Plug one hole, and two more cracks appear.

Then there's my own hypocrisy. I'm aware, yet I order from Amazon, drive to work instead of biking, buy food wrapped in plastic. I know these actions contribute to the problems I’m fighting against, yet I keep doing them.

I walk past the homeless, the degraded RV's covered in tarps or tents that dot the side of the freeway under a bridge. It feels deeply wrong, but I still do it. I pretend not to see them. We live in a system that dehumanizes and isolates us, making it easier to ignore those who suffer around us. This perpetuates a cycle of disconnection from both the environment and each other. It’s not until you realize that the whole system is flawed that things can change.

Traditional and Innovative Practices

Recently, I came across inspiring stories of humans working with nature. Communities in Meghalaya, India, build bridges by training tree roots to grow over water. Unlike conventional bridges that degrade, these living root bridges grow stronger with time. The roots' continuous growth makes the bridges resilient, enduring extreme weather. This practice, requiring multiple generations, embodies patience, respect, and long-term thinking. Or the stories of desert land in Africa and Mexico springing to life with grasses and streams. Or a sheep herder who rents her Quessant sheep to properties looking for grazing to help regenerate their land. These stories are everywhere.

Climate: A New Story" by Charles Eisenstein challenges our fundamental frameworks. I always thought our environmental issues came from not having a column for our natural resources in our General Ledger, the love of money, and our addiction to consumption and throwaway. But Eisenstein argues the real problem is our flawed interaction with nature. We look at nature as resources. We don't treat the Earth as a living being to be respected and nurtured. This flawed interaction extends to how we treat animals, plants, marginalized groups, and each other. Our systems are fundamentally broken because they lack respect for life.

Before the arrival of white settlers, the land that is now the United States was teeming with life. From Steve Nicholl's Paradise Found: Atlantic salmon runs so abundant no one is able to sleep for their noise. Islands "as full of birds as a meadow is full of grass." Whales so numerous they were a hazard to shipping, their spouts filling the entire ocean with foam. Oysters more than a foot wide. Swans so plentiful the shores appear to be dressed in white drapery. An island covered by so many egrets that the bushes appeared pure white. White pines 200 feet high. Spruce trees twenty feet in circumference. Black load thirty feet in girth. Hollowed-out sycamores able to shelter thirty men in a storm. Forests stretched endlessly, rich with diverse flora and fauna, creating a complex and vibrant ecosystem. Cod weighing two hundred pounds. Plains roamed by vast herds of buffalo, numbering in the millions.

Now these images seem impossible to believe.

Indigenous people had a profound relationship with the land and nature. They saw themselves as stewards, living in harmony with their environment. Their hunting, fishing, and agricultural practices were sustainable and deeply respectful. But with European settlers came devastation. Approximately 90% of the indigenous population was wiped out through war and disease, along with their knowledge and traditions of land stewardship.

Settlers imposed a mindset of domination and exploitation. Forests were clear-cut, rivers dammed, wildlife hunted to near extinction. The land was seen as a resource to be used and conquered, rather than a living entity to be cared for. This fundamental shift led to the environmental degradation we face today. By constantly asking, "What's in it for me?" we perpetuate this separation, this loneliness, this darkness.

It's In Our Language

Our language has moved away from image and spoken word. Has this put a distance by removing us from our environment? Instead of telling our stories aloud surrounded by life, we read words in our head.

According to Robin Wall Kimmerer in "Braiding Sweetgrass," the Potawatomi language, which is similar to Ojibwe, consists of about 70% verbs compared to English, which is around 30% verbs. This stark contrast reflects the linguistic focus and worldview inherent in these languages.

Indigenous languages like Potawatomi often emphasize actions and processes, thereby infusing the language with a sense of animacy and connection to the environment. In contrast, English tends to be more noun-heavy, which can lead to a more static and objectified view of the world

Recognizing this relationship as wrong is crucial for moving forward.

To love all beings for who they are, not for what they can offer you. In this new relationship, whenever we take from the earth, we strive to do so in a way that enriches and sustains the earth.

Finding Hope in a Hopeless Fight

It all feels so hopeless. It seems like a losing battle. Many countries are struggling to meet their CO2 reduction pledges, falling short of the commitments needed to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. You hear it's already too late, that even a drastic pivot of world economies wouldn't be enough. We've already gone off the cliff and we are now in free fall.

You look around you and see everything is still wrapped in single-use plastic. You come across warning signs of toxicity in that the places you used to swim. Your favorite swimming spots are closed due to algae blooms, or the water is undrinkable even when filtered because of cattle runoff poisoning it. The population of monarch butterflies has plummeted by 90%. The biomass of fish in our oceans has more than halved, and coral reefs have suffered a 50% decline. In Asia, mangrove forests have decreased by 80%. The Borneo rainforest is on the brink of disappearing, and globally, rainforests now cover less than half of their original area. You notice your favorite forest fauna covered in a fungal or insect infestation. You see the relentless and now commonplace forest fires, the monthly climate disasters—floods, landslides, tornadoes, hurricanes—hit some part of the world. Rainforests and old-growth forests are still being cut down, land is still drilled for oil, and minerals are excavated from the earth. Massive rivers are being drained, aquifers going dry, and it’s still business as usual.

This sense of hopelessness around our ecocide permeates every part of my life but I try to ignore it just as I ignore my fellow human beings, sleeping it off on the sidewalk huddled beneath a filthy blanket.

This all started to shift for me when I really began my listening.

A New Perspective

Reading "Climate: A New Story" was a revelation for me. Eisenstein argues that the conventional approach to solving environmental problems—primarily through reducing carbon emissions—is not the right approach.

Even if we clean up our carbon problem, unless we recognize the importance of the ecosystems and species we've often overlooked, we will end up in the same place again.

In a complex system, all variables are interconnected, and causal relationships are nonlinear. A minor change in one element can significantly impact the entire system. It is impossible to understand any part in isolation. Focusing solely on carbon emissions oversimplifies the issue, neglecting the myriad interactions within the system.

Carbon accounting fosters the belief that we can sustain a healthy biosphere by evaluating the carbon contributions of individual components, potentially sacrificing those with minimal impact and enhancing those with significant contributions. This approach overlooks the broader effects, such as the influence of whales, forests, or wetlands on CO2 levels and the impact of chemicals on water quality. But, more importantly, we are once again quantifying that which should not be. Basically, we humans are mucking about in a complex living system we can never understand as there are millions and millions of variables that all interact with one another to form our environment.

He advocates for a deeper understanding of humanity's relationship with nature, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all life forms. We are part of nature, not separate from it. Our well-being is tied to the planet's health.

Some things are beyond measure and price. If a forest is sacred to you, how much would I have to pay you to cut it down? How hard would you fight for the old growth forest in Atlanta, the Amazon Rain Forest, the Great Barrier Reefs, the sacred lands & water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe if you truly understood that these living things weren't just some trees that you can replant somewhere else?

Eisenstein then shares with us win-win systems where resources are infinite because they are regenerative. He shares with us examples of places that have been regenerated by breeding large amounts of sheep or cattle. He talks about traditional small farms that switch to regenerative farming and not only increase their profits, they nurse the soil back to health and life returns.

He is telling us that by being respectful of nature, by working with nature instead of trying to control it, we no longer debase ourselves.

This realization turned my hopelessness into purpose. I began to believe again that every small action I take for regeneration and sustainability contributes to a larger healing movement.

All Current Revolutions

All current revolutions are the same: to love everything for its own sake reflects the core theme in Eisenstein's book. This theme is deeply rooted in his argument that the ecological crisis cannot be separated from social and economic injustices, and that true healing requires addressing all these issues simultaneously.

I've been told countless times by my mom (who is a saint) that humans inherit a sinful nature and only by turning to God can we be good. Watching the world deteriorate, I've begun to think nature would be better off without us. But another part of me wants to believe we haven't reached our potential yet.

We live in a system that quantifies and exploits everything, assigning value to determine its place in our reality. Many things are valued at zero and treated accordingly. To say that humans plunder and harm each other due to 'human nature' is to ignore the sick system we live in. We've created a zero-sum game where everything is quantified and given a value, resources are defined as finite and unfairly distributed, and when people steal, kill, or do drugs, we blame it on human nature.

But I don't think we've seen what human nature can truly be, because our system dehumanizes and exploits. It demands we treat others as mere tools for utility. Corporations are just a natural adaptation to these rules. Eisenstein's chapter on Money & Debt made it clear: if you have 1,000 people and only 980 chairs, those without chairs end up desperate. This isn’t human nature; it's a result of a flawed system.

By bringing the excluded, devalued, and marginalized in, we are doing our part. I thought Eisenstein's idea for an EcoCorpse was spot on. He suggests forming an EcoCorpse dedicated to restoration of nature for at risk youth, prisoners, prisoners and people suffering from addiction. From my brief stint at Blanchet House I know that working in nature and tending to animals helps people with addiction. It also helps with grief as you can see from the Selah Carefarm. Check out this study on how Gardening is Beneficial To Health.

Whether it’s fighting plastic pollution, human trafficking, incarceration, inequality, poverty, homelessness, racism, or advocating for access to medical care, ending wars, and famine, we help our planet survive. The climate crisis isn't just about greenhouse gases but the system separating us from each other and everything else.

Practical Steps to Support Sustainable Practices

Feeling empowered by these new insights, I realized there are pretty simple steps we can all take to support regenerative and sustainable practices in our daily lives:

  1. Support Regenerative Farms: Purchase meat, dairy, and produce from farms practicing regenerative agriculture. Look for local farms or farmers' markets where you can ask about their practices.
  2. Grow Your Own Food: Even a small vegetable garden can reduce your carbon footprint and reconnect you with the land. Herbs, tomatoes, and greens are easy to grow and provide fresh, sustainable produce.
  3. Choose Sustainable Products: Look for clothing and other products made from regenerative or recycled materials. Support brands that prioritize environmental stewardship and transparency in their supply chains.
  4. Reduce Plastic Use: Aim to minimize single-use plastics in your daily life. Bring reusable bags, bottles, and containers when shopping. Take photos of plastic packaging you find unnecessary and post it to their social asking them to change.
  5. Advocate for Change: Get involved in local environmental initiatives. Support policies and organizations that promote regenerative practices and sustainable living.


I have heard countless times about how we are all connected but reading these books started me on a path to really understanding our interconnectedness with the natural world and each other. This understanding is essential for addressing the profound environmental and social challenges we face. Books like "Climate, A New Story" by Charles Eisenstein and "The Sum of Us" by Heather McGhee highlight the urgent need to rethink our relationship with the Earth and each other.

Reading Eisenstein’s work shifted my perspective from hopelessness to purposeful. It taught me that addressing climate change is not just about reducing carbon emissions but also about healing our broken relationship with nature and each other. Every small action towards regeneration and sustainability contributes to a larger movement of healing and restoration. So don't feel overwhelmed or ever give up trying!

As Eisenstein emphasizes, all current revolutions share the same goal: to love everything for its own sake. This approach challenges the zero-sum game mentality and encourages us to see the inherent value in all beings. By bringing in the excluded and marginalized, we create a more just and sustainable world.

I leave you with William Shatner's quote on his trip to space and "the strongest feelings of grief" he'd ever felt. "It was the death that I saw in space and the lifeforce that I saw coming from the planet — the blue, the beige and the white," he said. "And I realized one was death and the other was life."

Winning The War Against Nature T-shirt Design

I riffed off of Cole Gerst's Winning The War Against Trees design. It has stuck with me for years. His image of a bulldozer in a forest of stumps with the words Winning The War Against Trees.

The bulldozer in my design is being driven by a guy in a gas mask who is pushing our vibrant nature over into an abyss of darkness, of death.

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