John’s posts

Tamera Community in Portugal to host 3rd International Water Symposium

I'm very glad to say that I'll be returning to the Tamera Community in Portugal as they host the 3rd International Water Symposium from June 6th - 9th 2013 in Tamera. Replenishing water cycles, healing landscapes, learning from water: retention landscapes as a pathway towards regional sovereignty. Read the rest of this entry »

New book “Spiritual Ecology”

Dear Friends: If you’re visiting this site you will be interested the new book “Spiritual Ecology”. Highly recommended for everyone interested in the future of humanity and the future of the Earth.

A Collection of Essays: Available Summer 2013
Edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

The Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh was asked
what we need to do to save our world.
“What we most need to do,” he replied,
“is to hear within us the sound of the earth crying.”

Our present ecological crisis is the greatest man-made disaster this planet has ever faced—its accelerating climate change, species depletion, pollution and acidification of the oceans. A central but rarely addressed aspect of this crisis is our forgetfulness of the sacred nature of creation, and how this affects our relationship to the environment. There is a pressing need to articulate a spiritual response to this ecological crisis. This is vital and necessary if we are to help bring the world as a living whole back into balance.

Contributors include: Chief Oren Lyons, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sandra Ingerman, Joanna Macy, Sister Miriam MacGillis, Satish Kumar, Vandana Shiva, Fr. Richard Rohr, Bill Plotkin, Jules Cashford, Wendell Berry, Winona LaDuke, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Brian Swimme, and others.

You can read my review of “Spiritual Ecology” here:

Published by The Golden Sufi Center, July 1, 2013
280 pages hardcover: ISBN 978-1-890350-46-8, $24.95
paperback: ISBN 978-1-890350-45-1, $15.95
PDF and other e-book formats will also be available.
Press contact: Seana Quinn, seana@spiritualecology.org, 415-633-0100

Earth Day Broadcast of “Hope in a Changing Climate”

“Hope in a Changing Climate” is being broadcast on Earth Day (April 22nd) on Earth Focus on Link TV / KCET. We are very proud that we can contribute to public awareness in this way.

This comes together with the continued success of “Green Gold”, co-produced, broadcast and distributed by VPRO and the delivery of 24 episodes to the “What if We Change?” television series broadcast on Citizen TV in East Africa. (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe). In addition the EEMP has ongoing broadcasting with Central Chinese Television (CCTV) (60 Programs in the last year) in cooperation with TVE International, and further programming with Tianjin TV.

Haiti – Courage and Grace

I’m just working on a piece from Haiti that describes the work of Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL).

This is important at the DOHA COP 18 is ongoing and while experience says otherwise perhaps something will come of the COP. One thing I have noticed is that there is a lot of so called “Climate” funding going to academics for measuring and computer modeling. With continuous monitoring you can get endless numbers. This can be important for monitoring and evaluation. But we should never forget, the carbon is not in the numbers it is in the SOIL.

We should consider if funds aren’t more necessary to provide jobs, sanitation, dignity, equality and actual carbon sequestration in places like Haiti.

We don’t have theoretical climate changes. We have physical disruptions to Earth Systems. Mitigation and adaptation to climate change requires physically restoring organic matter in soil, biomass in vegetation cover and protecting biodiversity.

Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is acting with courage, grace and dignity by empowering the local people of Haiti with knowledge and opportunity to solve their own problems. What the good people working with SOIL in Haiti are illustrating is that there is a huge workforce ready to mitigate and adapt to climate change and that doing this is the same work needed to end the poverty and misery they currently endure.

I’ve always wondered why Haiti was so poor. On this trip I began to understand what has happened. In 1804 Haiti won its independence when the people rejected slavery, rebelled against the French and took over in a revolution. Then the French demanded that the Haitians pay reparations for their “Lost Property”. This was 10′s of millions of dollars then and would be the equivalent of more than 20 billion dollars today. It took over 100 years but the Haitians actually paid for their freedom.

The colonial powers feared that following the Haitian example all over the world colonies and slaves would demand their freedom and independence. This is exactly what happened. But by then the world had come to understand that you can’t own human beings and no other former colony was expected to pay their oppressors. Seen from this perspective the trouble Haiti has seen seems much more understandable and the work of SOIL and the people of HAITI is magnificent.

Perhaps we need to focus our view away from the big international conferences and more on the work of ordinary people who are really the ones required to mitigate and adapt to climate change. What the negotiators need to do is to support them with funding so that they can do the job.

Thoughts on Vocational Training Centers for Ecological Restoration

I’m often asked “What can I do to help?” to restore the Earth. Over the years I’ve struggled with the answer.

Sometimes I feel like it is unfair to ask me what someone else should do because even if I told them what I thought they probably wouldn’t do it. I think that each person should look inside their heart and decide what they will do.

However, gradually I’ve come to see Ecological Restoration as the “GREAT WORK” of our time. The one most important thing that all the people who are alive today need to understand and do together. I’ve come to realize that to do restoration at scale requires some very specific skills and also requires a type of lifestyle change. It also requires a change in the way we perceive work and the economy. One of the highlights of my year was meeting and beginning to work with Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Research Institutes. We met in Jordan and then again recently in California and it has been eye opening to see the work that Geoff and other permaculturalists have been doing. Merging their work with large-scale ecosystem restoration can serve both local communities and the wider global goals of mitigating and adapting to climate change and achieving sustainable development.

Geoff and I publicly discussed these issues in “Green Gold” co-produced by VPRO and the EEMP and broadcast on VPRO in April. You can see the English version at the following link.

Gradually I’ve come to consider what we need to ensure that we have the skills necessary to restore the degraded parts of the Earth and have the type of collaboration and dedication needed to do this effectively together. The conclusion I have come to is that we need to build Vocational Training Centers for Ecological Restoration in every continent to serve as the vanguard for the Earth’s restoration.

In looking at what is the correct structure for such centers I have considered “Community Land Trusts” which essentially means that the members of the community own the center. This means that communities that voluntarily chose to dedicate themselves to long term large scale ecological restoration would replace the type of 3 to 5 years projects that the development “industry” has been promoting. These have shown some excellent methodologies but have often been too small and too short to bring about the type transformational change that is needed. Making vocational training centers for ecological restoration the purpose of community land trusts would mean that these centers would be permanent. While projects might come and go the overall center would absorb each project and grow stronger rather than end at the end of the funding period.

The types of facilities needed are seed saving and propagation, soil creation, water retention technologies, nursery systems and of course all the other requirements of successful communities such as culture, recreation, education, health care and permanent agriculture.

Geoff Lawton’s research farm in Australia shows many of the things that must be done and can be seen at the link below:

The ideal situation would be communities that provides full employment for everyone in all the various aspects of restoration, the study of restoration, the training needed for restoration and that they “Live Well” in the sense that they have clean air, water, healthy food and strong families and communities and that they have substituted a more profound purposeful life for the materialism of the current global economic model.

This type of structure could be supported by management, technical support, human resources and capital arranged by the new Natural Resilience Initiative being led by Willem Ferwerda.

This could help merge the needs and aspirations of communities with global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate changes, to restore ecological function to broad areas of the planet where they have been degraded by human beings over historical time.

Can we learn to live and work together for a common goal? Can we trade selfishness for collective security and sustainability. Can we work to ensure that the air, water, soils are clean and pollution free?

This is the way that I would like to live the rest of my life in helping to restore degraded landscapes and I believe that there must be millions more who would also like to do this.

I like to hear your thoughts on this.

Best regards, John D. Liu

Thoughts on Vocational Training Centers for Ecological Restoration

One of the things that people ask me a lot is: "What can I do?" to help. I think it is crucial that each individual answers this for themselves. I know for me that having made the decision to devote my life to understanding, documenting, communicating about and restoring degraded Earth's systems has provided an endless stream of fascination and purpose. I certainly believe it is critical and in many ways the "GREAT WORK" of our time to find ways to restore ecological function on a planetary scale. I recommend that each person get in touch with their own thoughts and determine what they can and want to do. Read the rest of this entry »

Seeking Volunteers

Making Environmental Education Videos is not easy but it is very useful and satisfying. The Environmental Education Media Project (EEMP) is looking for people of all ages who are called to do this work.

The Environmental Education Media Project (EEMP) has produced dozens of films about various ecosystems, and distributed hundreds more. Over the course of nearly 20 years we have also captured thousands of hours of broadcast footage on functional and dysfunctional ecosystem from around the world.

This has become an interesting way of life and has proven to be useful to help many to learn about Earth systems and to inform policy and action at high levels worldwide.

We are working with the various parts of the United Nations, IUCN, Wetlands International, Wildlife Trust of India, Fundacion Natura Bolivia, The Global Issues Network, The Natural Resilience Initiative, The Television Trust for the Environment, and many other partners.

We are seeking self motivated, dedicated and capable people of all ages who would like to work with us.

We have much to do with our new Television Series <What if We Change?" (download 10 episodes here for your reference)

https://www.yousendit.com/download/TEhYZGVmcGtTRTQwTWRVag

and the interactive website we work on with IUCN Netherlands called

We are excited and glad the series is going out on Citizen Television in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Namibia. But we are keen to translate all the films into Arabic, French and Spanish.

Another idea is to make affiliated but autonomous chapters of the EEMP in many places around the world.

If you are looking to join the “Great Work” of restoring the Earth, are competent and compassionate, and enjoy working very hard at something that is very fulfilling then please contact me at .

Tell your friends!

Documenting in Haiti

Greetings from Haiti. I’m here documenting the efforts of SOIL. This stands for “Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods” and the heroic staff and participants are tackling one of the most serious problems I have ever seen.

In Haiti only a tiny minority of the population are served by sanitation facilities. It is not surprising then that Haiti has one of the highest prevalence of Cholera in the world. SOIL is working to provide a replicable model of composting toilets that not only improves sanitation but increases soil fertility and vegetative cover to the island increasing the resilience of the natural systems.

This is the “Great Work” of our time and the people at SOIL are truly heroic. I’ll be posting video on this soon.

IUCN World Conservation Congress

I’m leaving the World Conservation Congress in Jeju with thousands of like minded colleagues. It has been 10 days of intense learning and collaborating on the election of IUCN officers and regional councilors and on resolutions for the IUCN secretariat to implement.

We made some significant progress at the congress. We were asked to document the restoration of 1 million hectares in El Salvador which essentially means that half of El Salvador will be rehabilitated. This is exciting because it may create a new example to inspire many other countries in the region that suffer from loss of vegetation, flooding, mudslides and other indicators of degradation. I was astounded when the country delegate from El Salvador sought me out especially to tell me they wanted EEMP to do for them what we have been doing in China and Rwanda.

Since 1948, the IUCN has been working and many members who had contributed to IUCN’s mission for many years were honored. The awards were one of the most moving parts of the Forum and Assembly for me. We also contributed to the awards by making a short video to highlight the accomplishments of the inaugural winner of the Luc Hoffmann award, Germano Woehl Jr.

You can see this contribution by downloading the link below.https://www.yousendit.com/download/TEhXb2VQYWIwMEZvZE1UQw

In a surprise, Dr. Zhang Xinsheng from China was elected the new President of IUCN. The election was too close to call and was finally decided not by the total votes but by a mathematical equation that weighted government votes slightly higher than NGO votes. Apparently a significant number of the government delegates hope that Dr. Zhang will be able to bring some new Chinese financial support to the UNION. This could help the 4 million Swiss franc loss in traditional unrestricted core funding.

Kosima and I were able to stay about half the time with a Korean family that lived on “Lonely Mountain Pass Road” which didn’t endear us to taxi drivers but saved us hours each day in commuting across the island. I’m writing this at the Jeju Island airport and will try to add some pictures when I get back to Beijing. The Bonzai trees being created by our host were really interesting as was the experimental forest we visited nearby.

It will be 4 years until the next congress. It is a trying time and hopefully the Union can continue to play and important role in conservation worldwide and specifically take the lead in ecosystem restoration.

We are boarding now so I’ll stop. let us know if you find these posts useful.

John D. Liu

Answering Frank Putman

Dear John,

With interest I saw your documentary yesterday on Dutch national television.

I’m working in a totally different field, namely financial markets. I have one question for you, if money from this sector would be put to work what return would they be able to make over say 10 years? I would like to see if this could compete with other investments they do. In order to be able to take this to the next level this would be the kind of money that would be needed.

If this could work I will see if I can get this off the ground.

Kind regards

Frank Putman

Dear Frank:

This is a complicated question and one that is being explored in several places.

Personally I believe that in real terms investment in restoration has the highest possible return because it is sustainable and aligns with natural evolutionary trends that create living matter from sunlight, water and minerals. While this is of incredible value and the basis of air, water, food and energy, the existing economic system does not actually include this because it is not built on logic or science but on historical precedent. Sadly the precedents include feudalism, slavery, imperialism and colonization. This legacy is the one we need to change so that future generations don’t inherit this error even further compounded.

If it were simply a scientific issue about hydrological dysfunction, loss of fertility and loss of biodiversity that could be solved through investment then it would be much simpler. I could just estimate that an investment of approximately 5000 Euros per hectare would be needed to ensure infiltration and retention of rainfall. Then logically we must divide ecological and economic land so that biodiversity survives into future generations in the ecological land and we can raise food, fiber and fuel in sustainable optimized ways in the economic land. Then you could multiply 5000 by 2 Billion hectares of degraded land and get a rough estimate of what global restoration would cost.

However, it is not that easy. The problem is that the majority of people on the Earth are acting in what they believe is their individual interest even when this erodes the global commons. There are 7 billion people on the Earth. Some of them have huge amounts of money. Think Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, or others in that league and also other people with lots of money but not quite that much. Then there is a middle class with many aspiring people hoping to join the rich. Finally there are billions of others with virtually nothing. Where has this money come from? Why are there some rich people, some middle class / working class people and billions of poor people?

What my research suggests is that the current degradation of the environment and the current disparity between the wealthy and the poor are caused by the current global economic system. By valuing products and services and now financial speculation above natural ecological function, human society has built into the economy a perverse incentive to degrade the natural environment. Human society also created an economic system that has been imposed on billions of indigenous people around the world without their consent, leaving them trying to survive in degraded landscapes. These vast degraded areas have been degraded in the enriching of others on the other side of the world. The system also requires infinite growth to provide jobs and consumables for the ever more people clawing their way up the social and economic ladder. This is impossible. This analysis suggests that the current global human economy is illogical, immoral and impossible.

I believe that the existing economy will change in one of two ways. Either it will fail because of its inherent problems or it will change because we consciously build a fair and sustainable system.

The biophysical aspects can be fixed if we understand them and act rationally to align with natural systems. The moral and historical problems are the true causes for the degradation and the poverty and they require that we change the intention of society away from selfishness toward collaboration.

So rather quickly we need to stimulate enlightenment on a planetary scale so that everyone understands that it is not in our own interest to impoverish anyone and that ecological function is vastly more valuable than production and consumption of goods and services.

I hope that this helps to answer your question. My email is if you would like to discuss this further with me.

John