Episode #108 Parenting in the Climate Emergency: Building a future we’d be proud to leave to our children – with Eva Bishop
How can we be the best possible stewards of the future for our children? How can we meet their eco-anxiety and teach them resilience, adaptation and give them the skills of systemic thinking that will help them navigate the uncertainties to come?
Our guest today is Eva Bishop. She is the mother of two young children as well as being a long-term a climate activist and current communications director for the Beaver Trust. She is dedicated to finding ways that we can all create emotional and practical resilience in the face of the climate emergency – but in particular, how parents and care-givers can help young people develop the skills they will need to navigate a world that is undergoing total transformation – while at the same time, helping to be part of the change we need to see.
In this broad-ranging, deep, challenging conversation, we explore the ways we can all be part of the solution, touching on: emotional resilience strategies; growing food and exploring the whole food system; education: what it is for, how it functions, and what it needs to become. Eva shares her Collective Human strategies and MyActionMatters. If anyone feels moved to help with these, there is room for a team, to bring funding together to expand them.
Manda: My guest for this first episode of the New Year is a friend of the podcast. Eva Bishop was with us back in episode 88 in her role as communications director of the Beaver Trust, showing us how beavers are part of a systemic answer to a systemic problem. In that context she’s also co-host of their wonderful lodge cast. I’ll put a link in the show notes; do check it out. But after we finished recording that, in our conversations as we waited for it to download, we were reflecting on the fact that we all have different identities. Eva’s a communications director, she’s an activist, she’s worked for many NGOs. But primarily she identifies as a mother of two young children of primary school age, who really cares about the climate emergency, who wants to communicate that to her children but doesn’t want to terrify them. And how do we do that? And it seemed to us that this was a really important conversation and that we should be having it as part of the podcast and particularly now in this, our third year when I want to bring us people who are deeply exploring possible answers. Because all of us, parents or not, need to be able to communicate with the younger generations in ways that will help them prepare for a future that is going to be entirely different to the one that we imagined when we were their age. So people of the podcast, for the second time, please do welcome Eva Bishop, activist Lodgecaster and mother…
Manda: So Eva Bishop of the Beaver Trust and parent and climate activist. Welcome to the new season of Accidental Gods, where we are really going full out now to find answers. I think we’ve done enough of critiquing the present and why it’s not working. We kind of got that. So welcome back. Thank you so much for taking time out on this slightly dreary morning. And before we head into the main topic of parenting in the climate emergency, tell us a little bit about the Beavers because I’ve been watching your Twitter threads and streams and seeing that beavers in Scotland have been rescued and relocated, which yay! Go beavers! How are the Beavers doing around the country?
Eva: Yeah, they’re doing really well. There’s lots of progress being made. We’re still fighting hard for quicker and swifter action. But the example at Argaty up in Scotland is really exciting. So it’s a story of perseverance and, you know, individual belief. The family at this red kite centre fought hard to get the beavers licenced for their land, and how really trailblazing, actually; we managed to take a family with three kits over to that site. And it’s a wild release, so they could leave if they wanted to, but so far they’re sticking around. Yeah, and everyone’s just so thrilled about it, and it’s kickstarting, hopefully a new movement of more licences being applied for. They’ll always need licencing, but hopefully it’ll be a bit of a launch pad for more beavers across Scotland and something that we can follow then in England as well.
Manda: So are the English beavers that came from England transported to Scotland because that’s far enough away that they won’t try and home back to their home territory? Or where did they come from?
Eva: They came from within Scotland, so translocated within range, which is the first for that sort of thing. So quite often either the option is to lethally control them if they are under licence or to translocate them. But a lot of them have to be translocated to England because there aren’t receiver sites in Scotland. So that’s what we need more of and we need more of them across Britain. We just we need the licencing process to speed up so we can save more beavers and and help their population growth and stabilisation.
Manda: Brilliant. So people listening, if you know of any land that might be beaver positive, then do let us know. What is beaver positive Land? What are the criteria apart from the fact that we own it and we are happy to have beavers?
Eva: That is the big question. And actually the first step is to get a feasibility study done.
Manda: Ok by the Beaver Trust.
Eva: Yes, get in touch and we’ll come and check it out. But it’s worth checking out most places with streams and rivers. You know it’s particularly higher up in headwaters in streams where they can bring their most benefit.
Manda: And the local water company not tipping raw sewage into the river at the place where you want to put beavers in, would presumably also be good.
Eva: Generally helps. Yeah, beavers will come and help if they’ve done that already!
Manda: Yeah, OK. So. Beavers are cool, but we didn’t come to talk about beavers today. We came because you listened to the Louis Weinstock podcast and got in touch and said, I really want as a parent to talk more deeply about parenting in the climate emergency. And now you’ve got a really cool mind map that I’m looking at, of a potential book. And we thought, because we are looking at solutions and so many people are either parents or relatives of young children, and the world that we create today is the world they grow up in. And it’s not going to be the safe world that you and I thought we were growing up in. So kick off for me if I were an editor at a publishing house and you were pitching this book; give me your pitch.
Eva: I’ve been thinking about this and thinking about it, thinking about it, and I think it’s something that I need to really hone. But the basis of my thinking is that there is this giant activism void, which is parents. There are billions of us, literally, on the planet and I see the strength of the youth response to the climate emergency, and I see this. I feel utter confusion that the parents aren’t reacting. Similarly. We are in the fight of our lives for us and our children and the people I talk to are not changing, they’re not doing enough. And I’m trying to work out why. And there’s lots of science about why actually, you know, the response to major threat: it’s not imminent enough, all that kind of stuff. But I’m a bit of a systems thinker and I see all the little bits of my life and I just think parents are one of the central hubs that connects much of what we do, and we have a huge weight of responsibility, but also of power to drive change. So there’s bits of individual action required because that cumulatively can have a huge impact. But also, think of the number of parents sitting in parliament. Think of the number of parents sitting on the boards of major corporations. If they cared and knew that their children’s future was at risk, they have the power to do something about it. So I feel like if we mobilise the power of parents and for me, particularly mothers, and I’ll come onto that later, we could have – it could be – it should be – part of how we drive hope through action.
Eva: And there’s this other part of it for me personally, but I think for a lot of other people; which is that we need to give permission for people to be involved and be part of the change. And I feel like this… The groups against: scientists for climate action and Teachers for Climate Action is missing something, because I don’t fit into a label, so I don’t feel empowered to join in any of those conversations, but I’ve got plenty to give. But the one thing I do have, do fit, is that I’m a mum. And again, there are two billion or so parents in the world. Let’s involve all of those. That’s a big proportion of the population. It should be sufficient to be a human on the planet and have a voice, and people with a stake in it (their children) you know, they need to do more. My idea is that I just want to share more ideas and bring together sort of collective community based action. I had lots and lots of triggering moments of this idea of wanting to share more. But one of them recently was that I had dinner with a really good friend of mine and we were sitting there and I sort of explained what I’m doing with work because it’s, you know, beaver work is for me, climate activism and nature activism.
Eva: And we talked about flying and all all the various angles. And she said she said Eva, you know so much, what should I do? Should I not go on holiday? Should I do this? Should I do that? She’s a really intelligent woman, but she’s sitting there knowing climate change is happening, but carrying on with her ordinary life or life, as was; certainly not an ordinary life. You know what I mean? And I just thought, more people need to know this. Part of it is inviting people into the conversation, isn’t it? And Bella Lack recently said apathy, greed and selfishness are the biggest threats to the climate emergency right now. And tackling it with ourselves and with our children, you know, we start to improve two generations at once. And you can overthink it, but you can also look at it in every angle of your life. And I think that’s what I’ve started to do, because I’m living that, that’s what I kind of want to communicate to other people. And, you know, the school and education piece of it and the mental health and economic anxiety and the food security issues. You can break it down to the real basics and then see what you can do. And the wonderful thing is, there is a lot of joy and fun and, you know, wholesomeness to be taken from a lot of climate action.
Manda: So, so let’s unpick some of that, because I really resonate with the apathy, greed and selfishness being part of the problem. And I was reading Roman…I don’t know how to pronounce his surname (Roman Krznaric) He’s Kate Raworth’s husband, and he’s written a book called How to Be a Good Ancestor, OK, which is brilliant and again is looking down the generations. How can we do this? And early on, he says, he quotes somebody else who I can’t remember, saying that if aliens from another planet wanted to come and destroy humanity, they wouldn’t send down spaceships or little green men. They’d create something like climate change, which as you said, doesn’t trigger any of our Palaeolithic fight and fright, freeze, fiddle about; any of those responses; because it’s not immediate enough. So we have a government that’s getting into conniptions about the European Court of Human Rights and Wokery. What whatever is that? You know, we’re losing a dozen species a day in the sixth mass extinction and we haven’t got the time scale. Again, Roman had a brilliant metaphor, which I am sharing with everybody now, which is if you imagine the whole of time in the way that a yard used to be measured in ancient England, which was from the tip of the king’s nose to the end of his outstretched hand.
Manda: And that’s the whole of time from the beginning of the Earth to now. And he said one swipe of a nail file over the extended finger middle finger of the king’s hand removes all of human history in that time scale, and that just blows my mind in terms of, gosh, we are such an ephemeral thing. And yet we are in the process not only of eradicating ourselves, but everything else. But listening to some of the people I know who are not in the climate bubble, the shift from denial to despair seems to be going on rather fast at the moment. I’ve stopped having the alt right members of the family saying climate change isn’t happening and instead they’re going well there’s nothing we can do because China.
Eva: Exactly, yeah.
Manda: Which seems to be what the right wing think tanks are throwing out now. They’ve stopped trying to tell us it’s not happening. They’re just telling us there’s no point in us trying to do anything because the Chinese still have coal fired power stations. And the Chinese actually are moving very fast and are doing stuff that we’re not even thinking about.
Eva: But also there’s that cliff analogy, isn’t there? It’s not that we’re walking to the edge of a cliff and we’re going to fall off it. It’s a slope and we’re already on it. And so any day, any day you start to join in, is going to improve the outcome.
Manda: Yes. And any day you can wrestle the wheel away from the guys who are staring at the cliff edge and still have their foot on the gas is a good thing. So in your book, let’s plan your book. Let’s assume that the kind of people reading it are the people like your friend.
Eva: That’s exactly it. It’s people who, they know climate’s happening, but they’re not quite despairing yet, they’re just simply not engaging with it because it’s too big to contemplate.
Manda: And they haven’t been given a roadmap. They have no vision of where they can go and how to get there and just don’t fly isn’t enough, although that would be good. We have an extended member of the family who… One of her school friends married a footballer. You know money, no object. And recently the kid, the three year old wanted to eat ice cream by the sea. So they took the private jet from London to Cornwall for the afternoon to have ice cream by the sea and be home in time for the dinner party. Yes. And so now I’m watching Eva putting her hands over her face. How can people? I just listen to that and think, No, really? Do you so not get it? But they don’t. It’s not that they’re being deliberately evil, it’s just not in their awareness. And until we can get it to the point where, you know, Coronation Street or whatever, I don’t even know what the soaps are these days, but the people on the soaps are discussing this, then it won’t be. So how do we also… We need to reach the people who care but have no idea what to do and are in that kind of whiteout fog of, well, I may as well carry on as I have done because I at least know how to do that. And let’s assume someone else will sort it all.
Eva: So here’s another analogy for you in that regard. So as parents, if we don’t do anything ourselves, we’re basically giving our children to a babysitter who chain smokes, is a drug dealing alcoholic gangster. Is that really OK with you, parents? It’s not OK with me. We need to take back power.
Manda: Yeah, OK. So how so? That was my.. That’s where I’m moving to; how do we reach the people who fly to Cornwall for the ice cream? But also, how do we reach your friend, who does get that as an issue but has no idea what to do about it? And I think those are two separate groups of people. And maybe it’s not your job to reach the ice cream in Cornwall. Maybe it’s your job just to give a roadmap to the people who do get it. So what would the roadmap look like? How would you structure this book? Would you start off with ‘I’m a mom and hear are the reasons why I care’ to give people a kind of moral and ethical basis for action?
Eva: I think you have to start with the extremity of how bad this is. You have to state it yet again because I don’t think people understand, are willing to listen to, or, you know are engaging with how bad this is and how rapid things will go extremely wrong. Then I think again, another aspect of being a parent is how much people care for their children. So with a few minor exceptions, most people will do anything for their children. And as Jeremy Lent said on one of your podcasts, change has to come from people returning to the heart. So it is an untapped resource to sort of say, OK, parents, what would you do? How much is it worth to help your children have a liveable planet? And then I think that there’s something in bringing people along on individual action as well as forming a community around it. So a lot of people are now looking at the fact that local and community is the solution to this, because central and systemic government stuff isn’t happening quickly enough. That, for example, two years ago, I started a project called My Action Matters, and I had a website and I sent out a weekly action to a group of parents in school. And then we all did it together, and I would do the little intro and a video of why this is important. And then I’d give us the action and I’d give a bit of the science and a bit of the ‘if two billion of us do this, this is the impact of the carbon savings’
Eva: It was really awesome. I only didn’t keep it going because I couldn’t. I wasn’t paid to do it and it took too much time. You can’t do these things on your own and it may be something I need to kick start again. But there was a lovely example from that, where on Water Efficiency Week and I gave like three actions that you could do. One of them was not to have a bath every week for your kids – every night, sorry, that week. And a friend of mine at school said, This is amazing. Like, we save the carbon. We saved the water. We saved money. And my kids turns out they didn’t like having a bath every night. You know, it’s as simple as that. And there was there was joy, fun and time gained from climate action, and it was simply leading people through it. And again, that was a community built around school. You know, there’s a potential for loads of parents get involved around the school hub. And that was a roadmap essentially of what I was offering. There was a roadmap to change. Some of those things have stayed in place, but a lot of them will have slipped back into old habits. But the more people you build around that, you can talk about it at the school gate, you can talk about it with your friends, the kids can start talking about it and then you get real change, you know, real excitement around it.
Manda: Brilliant. You get conversations then, and that seems to me, you’re right. Localism is the thing. And the more that can ripple out, because if you can ripple out a little bit, then you begin to affect things like people’s voting habits or at least the letters they send to their MP. We did this, and why are you not supporting this? And look, this extra could happen. And, you know, I don’t know, change the agricultural laws because we want to be able to eat food grown locally. And at the moment, it’s all being shipped out to South Africa because Brexit. Why are you not changing it? So, yeah, brilliant.
Eva: There’s that 3.5 percent thing, isn’t there? About how many people we need? Three and a half percent of the population or something like that. How, how true that is, I’m not sure, but but you only need one person in each community to have the guts to stand up for what they believe in and tell people, actually, it does matter. So sitting at like a parent thing, organising Christmas, once, someone said, Oh we must have all the glittery stuff and all the plastic crap (they called it plastic tat) for the Christmas fair, because otherwise it’s got to be really cheap. Otherwise, this, unnamed, let’s call her Sandra, Sandra will get really worried about it and get cross about the money. And so everyone laughed, there was big laughter about the environmental thing. And I was like, Actually, it does matter! You know it’s such a slow shift, that we just need more people to raise their voices about it. And again, if you have a community who has signed up, of parents who are signed up to stick up for each other and do more and challenge each other and talk about it on a weekly or monthly basis, you’ll start to get the kind of changes that we need. And yeah.
Manda: Yeah, and people devising Christmas decorations that aren’t plastic tat. And I had occasion to go through the village here last night. We’re recording this before Christmas, and I obviously haven’t done that after Dark at around Christmas. Everywhere is lit up with fancy lights in trees and on the hedges. And why are you doing this? Why? What are you doing? And they say “Oh well, we have to keep ourselves cheerful because COVID”. Surely is there not another way that doesn’t involve burning power? Really? So I’m guessing that again, if you get enough people engaged enough, they will work out the ways to create Christmas that doesn’t involve lots of plastic. I was at a farm walk here and our local farm family are now homeschooling their kids because COVID brought them home when they realised how much happier they were. And they’re doing climate science at home. They’ve just written to Prince William to say, could he organise a ban on party poppers because they all have little bits of plastic that then scatter around the countryside? And he’s written back to say thank you for your letter and nothing else, but they did it! This is now a family of kids that gets that, and they can tell all their friends and they’ll generate other ways of having fun that doesn’t involve scattering microplastics.
Eva: Don’t get me started on party bags.
Manda: I don’t know what a party bag is?
Eva: So kids parties that I’ve experienced involve an hour and a half in like a warehouse with sensory overload, lots of like just full on energy experience for the kids. Loads of sweet food, loads and loads of expensive presents. And then every child has to go home with a plastic bag full of little bits and pieces of plastic, like as a party bag, a takeaway. And I was thinking, when are we going to wake up and realise that that’s not necessary? It’s like a horror show
Manda: Oh and there’s peer pressure; once somebody does it, everybody.. So so there’s a new book as a whole separate book, which is the climate friendly children’s party book. Lots of pictures. Lots of things. Lots. Your kids can make this stuff.
Eva: And there are loads of ideas floating around already, but again, it’s about making a stand and doing it. So I was fortunate that for my nine year old’s birthday at the weekend, she asked for a walk in the woods with her friends, which I was just thrilled about and so on.
Manda: Oh switched on kid! yay!
Eva: But it’s because I talk about it all the time. So I’m yeah, I’m very lucky. But at the same time, I still have to sort of say we’re not doing party bags because we’re not. Because we don’t need them. The party, the time with you is what the children are having. That’s what they get. You know, they don’t need to take home a thing.
Manda: How did the other parents respond to a walk in the woods rather than full on sugar overload in a warehouse with plastic after.
Eva: They loved it, they loved it, but it took a lot more energy and organisation from me than paying somebody to run your kid’s party, because that’s what the alternative is,
Manda: But you could pay someone to run your kids walk in the woods.
Eva: You could. You could potentially. We need more people to be offering that.
Manda: Yeah, I think a lot of the forest schools would actually be really happy to do that. And they definitely
Eva: I suspect they probably do. I didn’t look into it. I just sort of thought a walk is enough and it’s lovely, so we’ll do that. This leads into one of the big things about parenting in a climate emergency. Is about sacrificing other things because you need more time to do it well. And you need, you know, food is such an example. Going to the supermarket is an absolute minefield. You cannot choose right. Because either it’s covered in plastic or it’s non-organic or, you know, it’s not local, you can’t get it right. And so you have to sort of choose what your battle is going to be that day. And you know, I’ve chosen organic and I’ll buy organic and pay more for it, even if it’s the version that’s covered in plastic. But in order to do that better, you need time to go to your farmer’s market. And most parents don’t have time because they also have a job. They have to look after the kids. They’ve planned three meals out of seven this week, but not the other four. So, you know, oh god, I’ll just get some sausages and mash again, you know, which is not not a vegetarian meal, and it’s not, you know, it takes so much time to try and make the shift. And I think that’s where again, we can help each other by sharing examples of what we already do and what works.
Manda: And presumably helping with local community supported agriculture so that you can have a food box delivered, so you don’t have to go to the supermarket?
Eva: Totally. Yeah.
Manda: It seems to me that food is a huge thing in everything that we do. The whole food systems of how it’s grown; is it grown regeneratively or is it grown in monocultures? Does it have sprays? Does it not? And then the transport and the packaging and the delivery. And supermarkets? I was thinking about this the other day. They didn’t, I’m sure, set out to be the hub of all evil. They just thought, this is, you know, let’s be convenient and have everything in a single place that somebody can go because it’s a good thing. And yes, we will make a bit of profit. And capitalism being what it is they then turned into megaliths that can crush farming and force feed millions of people on food that has no nutritional value. So in your book, because this is the problem with parenting, is it’s very labour intensive. We don’t live in villages anymore with the grandparents or where the whole village raises the child. You’re doing it as a one or two person unit with one or more kids. And frankly, I think, as a not parent, I don’t understand how the human race has got this far. Because I couldn’t do it. But what would you do? How are we going to solve the food system crisis at a family level?
Eva: That’s a fantastic question. My experience and what we are doing is we are trying to grow more of our own food. And I think there’s a huge amount you can do to educate yourself and therefore your children. And tackle things like, you know, eating too much. You know, overconsumption and waste are two big issues actually with our food system that are often overlooked. And we’re sort of thinking about where does it come from and what types are we eating. But if you only bought or grew what you actually need, that cuts out a whole pile already. Something like 30 or 40 percent, actually, I think is wasted, isn’t it?
Manda: Yeah. And there’s an app, isn’t there, where you can connect with other people in your area and say, I’ve got this, that I’m about to throw out and I’m not using, does anybody want it? I think that works best in cities.
Eva: Yes. Yeah, totally. And conversely, you know, veg growing is harder in cities, potentially. Although there was a lovely article out this morning about the benefits of potential produce of allotments in urban areas, which is fantastic,
Manda: Yes, and a lovely conversation on Farmarama, with some people in Glasgow who are running an urban farm. Around the time of COP, they went and talked to people who were doing things that cop should have been talking to, but weren’t. And so I think urban farming, actually, if anybody’s listening as a parent, if there’s one thing that could make a huge difference; finding a plot of land. This was, they had 26 families getting food boxes, from what had been a tennis court. And they’ve done it all by Charles Dowding, no dig, you know, just building up raised beds. So you don’t need green Land. You need space and then you can grow
Eva: Space and again, community, you know, you don’t need to be doing it on your own. And this is where education system ties in because schools can do a lot of this learning and Satish Kumar’s, you know, we need to get our hands in the soil more. It all links up. It’s all so systemic and about slowing down and having more time for grass roots stuff and actual roots. And yeah, there’s just so much. Kids love growing things. It’s a module at school that they’ll come home with a sunflower seed and grow it at home, you know, in primary school. And they all get huge joy from it. And there’s determination and patience and real understanding of the roots of life in all of that stuff. And you can do that at home. You can do that even without a garden, actually. You can grow, grow peas in a tub in a kitchen windowsill and eat the pea shoots, and it all leads to a healthier diet and more exercise outside when you’re gardening and all that kind of stuff. But it requires a cultural shift or a cultural renaissance, really, isn’t it? About meaning and purpose in life, and I think that the climate emergency is going to force that on us, if we don’t choose to do it first, anyway. In terms of food security and and community. And we saw that a little bit with COVID. So in lockdowns, people started to grow more. Suddenly, you couldn’t buy any seeds because the whole world wanted to grow stuff at home and share the vegetables that they grew. So there was natural bartering of staff in your community, and we can choose to do that.
Manda: And shift our economic system. That would be good. And Able Pearson found, when we talked to him in COVID, over in West Wales with his community farm, that he had so many volunteers who came during COVID because they wanted to be doing something outside and productive. And so many of them, when COVID was relaxed, really did not want to go back to the office, because they had found what it was to be part of something that felt real. And I think that’s a huge lesson also. So what people can do then is identify the Land, perhaps just go and talk to a farmer because it’s far more cost effective for a farmer to have a dozen people in the village paying him to run allotments on the Land than that three acre field being having sheep on it, say. It’s a much more cost effective way. And then you get community around the land and you produce food for the whole village. And I think I haven’t finished that Guardian article, but I think part of it was how much more productive small areas of land farmed for food by large numbers of people are, than industrial farming.
Manda: As you said, kids love it. It’s an amazing thing. As a child, I remember just planting carrot seeds and, you know, six months later, you were harvesting carrots. It’s like magic and it’s wonderful. And it’s like loving fire.
Eva: They pull them out of the ground and eat it with the Earth on it. They eat the dirt, they don’t go and wash it. And that’s really good
Manda: Brilliant for your biome. Yeah, and then you light a fire. I do remember a project in London where they were lighting fires at the foot of multi-storey blocks and inviting people to come and share their food and cook. And they were getting this huge, multiracial, multigenerational thing, because again, fire is so deep inside us. That wanting to sit around a fire and just put the marshmallow on the stick and hold it in the fire, you know, something… Doesn’t have to be full of sugar! And share. And then again, if you’ve got people from lots of different countries, everybody has cooked around a fire at some point somewhere in their ancestry. And it can be a huge bonding experience. So let’s have a chapter on cooking around the fire in this book.
Eva: Yeah, completely. And there’s another aspect of growing veg that I’ve discovered which is that I have another project that I’d like to do, which is called companion planters. So me and two friends do Thursday gardening on rotation at each other’s houses. And we have a couple of hours of veg action with a cup of coffee and a natter. And it is the absolute highlight of my week. It’s a mental health boost. It’s a physical health boost. We’re growing our own veg and we can share seeds, plant seedlings and the crops. And it’s an absolute highlight. And I just think if we get more people doing that kind of thing, growing together, you’re sharing space, you’re doing all the things we just discussed. But again, it needs time. So what if the government chose to do a four day working week and mandate that, you’ve got an extra day to start this transition. People, parents, particularly, I think, need to be given time. Because otherwise you are on the go from sometimes six in the morning till nine o’clock at night. When you’ve got a big list in your head of all the things that you want to do and you’re just absolutely knackered. So we need to give people time, and I think that the four day working week has been proposed by several people, I think and it’s, you know, it’s such a no brainer.
Manda: It was proposed by Corbyn at the last election and the entire media went berserk. But then, of course, when someone else said it after the election, they’re going, Oh yes, that would be a jolly good idea. Yes, a four day working week. I think the key with a four day working week is it’s a four day working week, but you get paid the same. And the guy who did this, I think New Zealand, there was a really quite hardcore neoliberal free marketeer who did it in his company. And he said if you can do the same work in four days, you can have Fridays off. And guess what? Absolutely it happened, because people would like, you know, four days at work and three days at homefeels a lot better. You don’t get that terrible Sunday night blues feeling of, Oh God, I have to go back to work as much. I think the key to your companion planting is the companion. You’re not doing it on your own. Because when I run the poly tunnel, it can be a bit isolating. But doing it with people is crucial, isn’t it?
Eva: Absolutely. It’s really crucial, really crucial. And I think that, you know, yeah, it’s fun and I want more people to do it. I want more people to experience that, that boost and the joy of it.
Manda: And the intergenerationalness. Because certainly when I grew up, the older generation had all lived through the war and they’d had to feed themselves. And so they knew. They had these beautiful ways of doing the canes so that the beans could grow up. And, you know, everybody’s allotments were a work of art. Yeah. And again, if you can bring… That older generation is largely gone now, but still, bring generations together. Then I think also you get the children talking to their grandparents about why it matters, that they become politically active in favour of climate change and stop worrying about, I don’t know, the foreigners arriving or whatever the Daily Mail is telling them. Because we know politically that if the government was structured by the votes of the people under 40, we’d have had the biggest Labour and majority of the world has ever seen. And if it was the over 50s, the Tories would never leave. And at some point we have to start our politics being geared towards the generations that are coming, not the ones that have been. And the only way to do that is to get those conversations going.
Eva: Completely, completely. And I think that we really mustn’t underestimate the fact that there will be increasing crop shortage and whatever we can grow here is actually genuinely valuable. You can laugh off a complete wipe-out of your sprouts through some sort of infestation at the moment. But not far down the line, we won’t be able to laugh that off. That will just mean no, no broccoli, no, whatever it is.
Manda: Yes. And Jem Bendell says this, that we’re going to go through longer and longer periods where we either have no rain or too much rain. And in our growing, so part of our companion planting and bringing people together, we need somehow to build in the resilience of let’s collect water when it’s absolutely bucketing so that we can use it for the long periods of drought when it doesn’t feel like drought out there at the moment because it’s grey and dark and dank. But it’s not actually rained for quite a long time. Our pond that usually is full all winter and empty in the summer, it hasn’t filled up yet.
Eva: And again, as a veg grower, you notice that stuff, so you’re much more in tune with the Land and what’s going on and with nature. And that can only benefit your overall interaction with the world and your understanding of water scarcity and things like that. That we haven’t experienced yet, but will do.
Manda: And how building soil turns into something that will absorb much more water. What I call my sacrifice area with the ponies that I’ve been building up just for the last two years, I put out the litter from the stables and they walk over it, coming in and out of the field. And now everywhere else on the land, the water either runs off or stands, and that bit is a sponge. In two years it changed the nature of its capacity to absorb water. And that kind of experiment is again, something that I think kids would find inspiring. And you can talk about the whole regenerative cycle and the soil biome and look at the nutrient density of the food
Eva: Then you get into the gut biome. And it’s just, yes, yeah, amazing. It’s such powerful stuff. And I think that another big thing I think the education system misses is how alive to information our children are. Even at a young age, you should not underestimate how much they can absorb of this stuff. They understand it, you know, even where we we don’t. We almost overthink it to the point where we don’t engage with something. Actually, kids get it and we need to give them a chance to understand it more and develop their own views on this stuff, because then they will use their innate creativity to help us solve some of these challenges.
Manda: So we’re looking really at a radical change to the education system as well, so that we stop sitting kids in school and telling them that they need to learn Latin or whatever it is that Michael Gove was wanting. And give them the tools then to be more systemic thinkers and to plan their own resilience
Eva: Completely, completely.
Manda: How would we do that?
Eva: I don’t know, but it needs to happen! Yeah, no, there’s a lot going on already. So there’s things like Teach the Future and various people offering open source climate change curriculum additions. And there’s there are, you know, there’s a big teaching movement that you can find across social media and things that are engaging with Department for Education and trying to get the curriculum changed. But fundamentally, the problem is, as ever, capitalism and our whole system and the fact that it was brilliantly put by Ken Robinson in his TED talk on education from quite a while ago. Absolutely amazing. So he says something along the lines of education is a steady erosion of the natural creativity in children and the end goal of which is for every single person, if you think about it, to become a university lecturer. Which is you know, it’s so important that we have individuals in our society. So I’ve only got as far as primary schools so far in my understanding of curriculum because that’s where my kids are at. And there are a lot of schools and particularly a lot of individual teachers trying their hardest to do that, but at the end of the day they have to teach the curriculum because that’s what the tests are about.
Eva: And that’s what the end goal is. I think it’s about changing the end goal, because then what you’re teaching inherently has to change. And I experienced that in lockdown where, the very first one where everyone was really overexcited about staying at home and finding new creative things. And it was in Easter holidays and I had three weeks of absolute heaven and we did nature journaling and we got outside and explored the world. And then ‘term time’ inverted commas kicked in and I had to teach the curriculum, and it was hell by comparison. You know, so that was a real eye opener for me. And it’s not that things like maths and writing a language which are the basics at primary aren’t important. They’re really important and they’re applicable across loads of things. But it’s the emphasis on which we put that. So, you know, I often find myself feeling anxious about grades and how my children are benchmarking against their class. And then I remember to myself, Oh yeah, but university is not going to be there when they’re that old because the world will be in such chaos. And so I have to step back, and I’m like, OK, so what’s important? And that’s what I need to lead on.
Eva: And I think that things like school gardens are helping to transform that and find other creative outlets where kids that aren’t naturally academic and wanting to do literature and maths, can find other, you know, can find their place. Whether that’s music or veg growing or sport or, you know, and that’s really hard to do given the resources available to schools and the time that they have to squeeze this curriculum into again. It’s huge, but really important, I think. And once again, it’s that handing over to the government babysitter, you need to take back that power. I think more parents need to realise the impact that they can have, the influence they can have, to change that thinking. I was the only one in our school who took my daughter to the climate strike in Bristol, where she heard Greta speak. We did a little poster and it felt like, you know, it was a big decision. I was like, Shall I? No one else is doing it, you know, I’m a climate activist, I’m like quite ‘come on, let’s do this!’ and I felt nervous about taking her out. Ridiculous. But you know, that experience has stuck with her. And it was an opportunity to talk about the importance of all this stuff. And you know, it’s growing in her as a thing, as a belief and a responsibility, actually. And if it’s not going to come from school, it has to come from the home, it has to come from parents.
Manda: And how is that going down with her peer group? Do they think she’s weird or are they envious that she got to go? Are they listening?
Eva: That’s a really interesting question. The first thought that comes to my mind was that she was given a tree by one of her friends for her birthday.
Manda: Ok, so they’re taking notice at least.
Eva: Taking notice. Yeah, I don’t think she’s treated as a freak at all. So hopefully that’s, you know, it’s sort of water off a duck’s back.
Manda: And presumably the parents actually bought the tree. So not only has the friend noticed, but the friend’s parents noticed. This is good.
Eva: Yeah, yeah, this is progress. So you know, it’s yeah, they do notice. They do notice. And she got some really beautiful birthday presents and thoughtful, you know, recycled stuff and a poster of trees that was ethically sourced paper and all this kind of stuff. So they know, yeah, and that’s really cool. They aren’t changing, though, and I think that’s again where parents and I need to do more to connect with those people and create a space where we can talk about this kind of stuff. And I think that anyone that understands the gravity of the situation we’re in, has a duty to talk more about it. And that leads on to the whole chapter of mental health and eco anxiety. And actually, we are facing, you know, we are on a cliff edge here of a mental health crisis. We’re in it. Actually, we’re getting to it, aren’t we nationally.
Manda: Youth mental health crisis or a general mental?
Eva: Both, both have been scientifically sort of stated recently in the news. And there is going to be a vital role for parents, I think, in emotional resilience and having the safe space for their children to talk about this. Particularly as we talk about it in the curriculum more. They’re going to come home. I mean, I’ve heard of friends children’s coming home…in fact, a friend of mine who is an administrator at a local school had a parent phone them up really, really angry that they’ve been talking about climate change and telling and frightening their child.
Manda: Right, right. That seems to be the media thing is, ‘Oh my God, we’re terrifying our children. This is bad’. Not ‘Oh my God, climate change is really bad. We need to do something about it’. So there’s a kind of universal gaslighting that’s happening. Whoever tells the kid about climate change. And the children are… Louis has an amazing story in his book that is coming out in April, and I will hopefully get him back on. Of a young person who’s brought to him as a psychologist. And they’re, I think, 13 years old and had been top of the class, top of everything doing really well, thoroughly engaged in school. And they just stopped and eventually were thrown out of school because they didn’t do any homework, didn’t do anything. And this youngster comes to Louis. And as the progress of the therapy says, I’ve looked into it, we are finished and everyone at school is behaving as if I’ve got a future where, exactly as you said, I’m basically heading to being a university lecturer or an investment banker, and there is no point. And how can I sit in class and pretend to be interested in Shakespeare, when the world is falling apart? And Louis started off going, Yes, but you know, there’s XR and there’s hope and and he realised he was gaslighting also.
Manda: And what he had to do was join this young person in their reality and sit in the despair of that with them. And how do we change? Because we’re back to the people who are shifting from denial to despair and the whole yes, but China concept. I don’t know that they have the emotional resilience or we haven’t offered them a future that has enough tangibility and enough accessibility for them to go, OK, yes, there is a problem. And what we need to do is this. All we’ve done is say fly less, eat differently, don’t drive your big car. And we know behaviourally that telling people not to do stuff doesn’t work. You have to reinforce the good stuff, you can’t keep punishing the bad stuff, it just isn’t emotionally and psychologically valid. So how do we get past the gaslighting instinct?
Eva: Hmm. The instinct, I don’t know how we get past that. But I think that there’s the whole world of storytelling and creating new power in new hero stories. So rather than the individual hero is coming to save the day, maybe there’s a collective hero’s thing. And parents can be that, and they can really enjoy doing that together. And that sort of feels, you know, that’s what we’re doing with the companion Planters thing, and that’s what you could do with a parent climate group at schools. I think there will always be gaslighting, and it’s about it’s more about our response to it. And this is about knowledge and empowerment I think, for parents to say it is that bad, your children should be afraid. That is a very natural response. And here are some of the things that we can do about it to help give them hope through actions. So taking action ourselves and again accepting when they’re afraid of it, that’s a good thing. That’s a really healthy reaction. And then sort of understanding the basis of emotional resilience to catastrophe and hardship. It actually goes straight back to the sort of neurobiology of child development, and I would encourage everyone to watch a video by Joe MacAndrews on climate change and children. It’s all over YouTube, and she is from the Climate Psychology Alliance. Yeah, brilliant. She talks about the amygdala response to alarm and but if you can learn to shut the lid when you’ve flipped your lid, and you know it needs a professional to explain that, but you then have the capacity to care for others, the emotional flexibility to deal with challenges, the choice about how you behave.
Eva: And she talks about that as, because of the effort and determination and repetition that learning this stuff takes, she thinks that is climate change activism. And I love that concept. And, you know, if parents start to think, OK, we need to help our children respond to this in a healthy way, not panic and shut down and despair and all that kind of stuff. Learn how to be useful people in the world for and with our children. Then that’s probably the best you can get as a mental health eco anxiety response. And she gives three brilliant tools as well to help your children.
Manda: I need to talk to this person don’t I?
Eva: Yeah, you do. Yeah. So grounding and feeling it in your gut and gratitude practise and all that lovely stuff. And I do some of this with my children and it’s fascinating to watch. Yeah. And then that again leads full circle back to our connexion with nature and understanding our place. And it’s yeah, I don’t know. There’s just there are so many webs of connexion when you look at children, climate, food security, you know, all of that stuff and nature.
Manda: All right. I’d like to move on to Nature Connection in a minute. But just before we go, it seems to me that what we are discussing is creating an entire generational shift of emotional resilience and emotional intelligence, so that we have a whole generation who are capable exactly as you said, of seeing when they hit that amygdala trigger and responding to it. And that that then would also help with another of my big fears, which is we’re in the era of social media and limbic hijack. That’s what it’s for, is to trigger people. Because the more triggered you are, the more you’ll engage. The more you engage, the more they have your attention. The more they have your attention the more they can sell you stuff. And we need to be able to spot the trigger, feel it in our own body, feel that physical impact of that dopamine twitch and know what to do about it. And so if we’re giving them that skill, we may also be addressing the systemic issue of tribalising on the internet and everybody becoming more polarised. And also then the side issue of how do we make sense of a world that is coming to us, fed through our screens, when we have no way to assess whether what’s coming is real or not? That fake is as, looks as real as, the real. And what is truth anyway? So. It seems to me that any response to climate has to be a systemic response, and therefore it has to take that on board as well. How are your kids or the kids that, you know, handling the world of social media?
Eva: So it’s an area that frightens me half to death. Because it’s so integrated in our system and it’s so hard to not control but influence as a parent. And I, there’s something for me about webs of connexion here and finding like minded folk that you can hold up as examples. So I have, my kids cousins have a really wonderful, healthy outdoors lifestyle and don’t watch much telly. And the eldest one is just starting secondary school where all his friends have a WhatsApp group and they all have phones. He simply doesn’t have a phone yet because my sister doesn’t want him to have a phone. I’m like, Yes, this is amazing! And that’s borne out to be..they were proven right recently when something hideous went round on the WhatsApp group, and my nephew didn’t get to see it. Hurray. Brilliant. But he conversely experienced, you know, the homework being set on your phone. And he sort of put his hand up and said I don’t have a phone. ‘Well, don’t do your homework, then’. What? You know we got..
Manda: The teacher says this?
Eva: The teacher said, don’t worry about your homework. So disadvantaging a child, but standing up for…
Manda: Oh I don’t know!
Eva: Well yeah, it’s interesting isn’t it! But I often have to refer to, the strength of the bond between the cousins in our families is really great. So I have to often refer to this child and say, well, look at your cousin, you know, he’s really happy. He doesn’t have a phone, he doesn’t have screen time and it tends to settle the ‘all my friends have a phone!’ Or, you know, ‘why can’t we have screens?’ It’s something I’m constantly battling. And I was thinking the other day similarly to sort of saying earlier, I think we underestimate how much young children can understand and take on board. I think it’s about empowering your children. So I have every intention of starting and have started to talk to my children about the dangers of social media. And what the whys and the science behind it and the sort of credible line, so that they have the knowledge to make the choice themselves and trust that they might in due course, make that choice. Because again, that’s not just saying, no, you can’t have a phone, it’s saying why I’m worried about you having a phone and that’s really different coming from your parent, I think
Manda: And having the model of the cousin.
Eva: Yeah, and having having a model that they respect and they think, OK, maybe there’s an alternative. And I think part of the parenting community response to climate needs to be connecting and spending more time with those people that think like you and starting to grow that network and starting to invite other people into it, so that you start to have an influence, you know, locally.
Manda: So I have a question on that. I was listening, as I always do to Tristan Harris’ Your Undivided Attention podcast. And he was speaking to two Chinese people who interact between China and the West. And in China, no kid can play computer games, except between eight and nine p.m. Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The Chinese equivalent of Tik Tok, They’re limited to 40 minutes a day, after which it just shuts down. And after, I think, five minutes of scrolling, there’s an automatic five minute gap between the videos that’s programmed in, so that they can’t just keep on scrolling down. And most of the parents in China want this to happen. It’s not that the Chinese government is imposing it, it’s that the people expect the government to protect their children from themselves. And when asked, the Chinese government’s biggest fear of their biggest competition is not America. It’s the tech companies. Which is why they have begun to instigate these problems. And the Chinese parents biggest worry is of myopia, which is measurable in their kids. And so the Chinese government has now installed or instigated a reduction plan, and we want the incidence of childhood myopia to be reduced by, I don’t know, 10 percent in two years. I just made those numbers up, but a percentage within an amount of time. And I thought it was really interesting that in the West, we have got this tyranny of capitalism, that says you have to let the social media companies make as much money as possible. You can’t possibly stop them, and their route to making it is destroying our democracy and our kids, but that has to be the price we pay for them to make as much money as they want and for us to feel as if we have the freedom to be limbicly abused all the time, because we like it. And what they’re doing is setting up a system where they have created an addiction and then go oh we’re only giving people what they want. Which is the equivalent of standing on a street corner, selling coke, cocaine and then going, ‘well, everybody wants to snort cocaine. What’s wrong with that? We’re only feeding, you know, they want it. Why would you stop?’ And the government’s going, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s fine. Ok, no worries.’ And I thought, you know, I’m not suggesting we all move to China for, you know, but there is a balance to be had and actually keeping it so that it’s technically impossible for children to play games except for those hours, doesn’t strike me as a bad thing. Because it’s universal. It’s not like my friends are playing games at different times.
Eva: Yes, yeah exactly.
Manda: That’s when you play games and everybody does, and that’s fine. And after that time, you don’t. And we don’t even know what the incidence of childhood myopia is, I don’t think, relative to their screen time. So I wonder, am I being rosy lensed or does that sound like something that if the government were to bring it in, do you think there would just be a revolution more than there is at the moment?
Eva: I think that quite often parents would be quite grateful for that kind of intervention. Because I think one of the challenges, one of the problems we have, is that they’re not willing to stand up for their own beliefs in the face of their children. There’s this, and I’m absolutely guilty of this, you know, your children, you have to fight hard when they throw everything at you about how you’re such a mean mummy, you know, but you know, I just want to watch more. And you know, all hell breaks loose because they want something. It’s very hard to stand up against that. So I think a lot of parents would be very grateful if that was brought in
Manda: Because it’s like trying to stand up against the alcoholic in the family, when there’s an array of, you know, bottles all around and you go, No, no, no, you can’t have it, and they’re just going to walk past and take it. Whereas if the bottles weren’t there and the addiction hadn’t been fed in the first place, it would be a lot easier.
Eva: Yeah, exactly. But again, I think actually I experienced, I witnessed an amazing thing the other day. So whenever my kids do watch telly or something, we often watch things on YouTube and adverts pop up and I’ll stick my hand over the screen and go, “Oh, it’s a naughty advert” and make a joke about it. My daughter did that the other day. An advert came on and she put her hand over it so she couldn’t see it. I was like, Whoa. So it was a learnt behaviour because I was showing that. And you know, the fact that I called it a naughty advert probably needs explaining now, because she’s a bit older. But when they were younger, I made a joke about it. And so now they choose not to see the adverts… Because they’re… Goodness, they’re powerful for kids, you know, that kind of influence. And then the ‘I wants’ follow and then you got yourself another battle. So I think, you know, systemic and government led actions absolutely fundamental. But so are parent support groups and talking about it with others and sort of thinking, you know, convincing, helping support yourself in your emotional resilience so that you can be there for your children. Because that’s part of the challenge, isn’t it? I’m not a bad mother because I’m standing up for it, you know.
Manda: Peer groups and peer groups for the parent support and also peer groups again, like, you’ve got the cousin as an example. But supposing there were, I don’t know, 30 kids in the school who were all on the same kind of regime, who then had evidence of being decent human beings to their peers. Then you can begin to grow the cycle. You might get others choosing to join that group because they can see that you got better chilled, more relaxed, happier people that don’t need to have the stuff.
Eva: Exactly. And I think you know that this comes full circle back to where, in which I didn’t actually go into too much at the beginning. But we’re in emergency mode. But well, we should be in emergency mode now. This is an emergency. People need to understand that. Parents need to understand the threat to their children, and they need to make these decisions and these actions with that knowledge and with that strength of reasoning. And then it changes a little bit. It’s harder to connect through to the screen time, but for things like, you know, palm oil and biscuits in supermarkets, we just it’s an outright no. You know, because we cannot afford any more rainforest to be chopped down. And I think. Yeah. Oh yeah,
Manda: Go on, say what you were going to say. That was obviously going somewhere.
Eva: Well, I mean, it’s just… I think there are a lot of things where it’s much easier to just say, “Oh, it’s OK this once” or “it’s just one packet of biscuits”, or there’s so much in that. And I think if you apply the climate emergency lens to a lot of what you’re saying and again, take your children with you on that, not in a scary way, but it’s something I’m standing out for because I believe in it because this is really important. Because we care about our planet. And then you get back to Nature Connexion. You know, and they then want to help. Want to join in and want to be part of it and feel good about the decision rather than it being a negative.
Manda: But if we are in emergency mode all the time, we will burn out.
Manda: And so we need somehow to find the resilience to respond resiliently rather than constantly feeling like we’re fighting a rearguard action. And I think just because we will burn out and we will fall into despair and we will end up doing less than if we were able to be resilient. And I’m looking back at your My Action Matters and thinking, we need to crowdfund that. Because it seemed that what you were doing with that was… Because you could go from ‘Ok no more biscuits’ to a friend that now no longer buys any of the traditional toothpastes because they too have palm oil in them. So we could we could spend a month as a collective part of the school, maybe, finding out everything that has palm oil and identifying the alternatives and making sure they’re available in our local whole food store, say. And then we’re shopping more there, rather than at the supermarket. And beginning to build in that sense of systemic analysis. For everybody, not just the children, but the teachers and the parents as well, so that we can see how everything has so many repercussions and the second and third order effects. Of OK, so I didn’t buy the biscuits, they didn’t need to be imported from wherever, so we saved that much on the fuel. And maybe we could look at whatever companies are using fuel for anaerobic digesters on their trucks instead of fossil fuels. And then we could begin to look at that and then we could create an anaerobic digester in the school. And then we could, you know, there’s all kinds of ways that we could do that, but we just need for lots of people like you to be funded. So we need to set up the My Action Matters group again really don’t we? And get crowd funding going
Manda: Or government funding, in our fantasy world of proper government,
Eva: Yeah, exactly. That would be amazing.
Manda: So we’re heading down, time wise. In terms of I’m looking at your amazing mind map. We talked a bit about mental health. I think probably eco anxiety and not gaslighting is really crucial. We’ve talked about growing your own stuff. We’ve talked about education. We’ve talked a little bit about connecting with nature. Let’s talk a little bit more about that and then see what else is big for you. How do you find your kids respond to what I would call reconnecting with the web of life?
Eva: They, my kids, are fairly well integrated with nature. What we broadly term nature, you know, going out and understanding loving trees and looking at flowers and playing in the dirt and that kind of stuff. My my six year old will… In fact, when he was five, he cried when the farmers scalped the hedges and said, “Can we can we write to him, please? Can we write to the farmer?” I was like, “Yeah”, thinking, Yeah we can, won’t make any difference. But I said to him, “Yes, of course we can”. And, you know, so he took a little bit of action there and he can’t really write so I wrote the writing. And then didn’t really send it anywhere because the guy doesn’t live nearby here. But again, the lockdown period was amazing because they would take time to just lie in the grass and look really closely at the little beetle crawling on their hand. And yeah, they respond really well to it. They understand the importance and their place, I think. I talk a lot about if we do this, what are the consequences down the food chain? And so they understand, you know, I can got to the point where I can sort of say “We need to do this to help tackle climate change” or “we need to do this to help planet Earth”. And they will choose to do that whatever that action was. But I think fundamentally we need more and more children to respect nature, to give it space, to know their place within the ecosystem, to know that we are nature. There’s that brilliant, I heard that brilliant traffic jam analogy the other day. Someone on social media sort of saying, ‘Oh, I’m stuck in another traffic jam’ and someone else said, ‘You are the traffic jam. If you’re in it, you’re part of it’. It’s the othering of what’s going on.
Manda: So yes, it’s not my traffic jam. I just happened to be.
Eva: I’m stuck in other people’s cars. Yeah. And it’s not going to happen for every child, you know, nature, connectedness. I worked on a big project in Swansea once, and the survey sort of said that 50 percent of children who lived in the bay there had never been to the sea. They’re on this most beautiful beach, and they’d never been. So. You know, they’re not going to have a high connection with nature.
Manda: You know, it seems to me every little child is born as a, you know, we are Palaeolithic at birth. And that’s in there. I think like fires at multi stories, you can’t go to the sea and not be touched by it. It needs opportunity, doesn’t it? And being given the space and the time to go and run there. I think crucially, I think that sense of being part of, not seeing it, not othering. We have to somehow foster that. I don’t know how we do it, though, in kids who’ve never seen the sea.
Eva: Exactly. And I think that’s where parents and businesses and schools and, you know, all various programmes springing up can help support that and offer opportunity. So that’s a lovely example of something we’re doing with Beaver Trust, is trying to get children down to beaver wetlands, where they’ll experience the hope and joy that is a beaver wetland, particularly if they’re feeling climate anxiety. You know, that’s an amazing antidote. But you don’t need much. You just need a one off or a, you know, basic experience of nature, and it can completely ignite a love of it and an understanding of it. And you can get that through a walk in a city as well as a walk in the countryside. You know, there’s just as much to see on a pavement, actually in most cities, as long as they’re not heavily sprayed.
Eva: Yeah, and you can get it just watching your social media. Your little the videos that the Beaver Trust makes. So those Infra-Red cameras, particularly like the one of the kind of father and son beaver building a dam together. And there are only a couple of minutes long, but it’s there. And you know, there were no beavers before and now there are! And it feels miraculous and looks glorious and is really moving. So, you know, the more you can feed out of those, the better. I’m also staring, I’ve just called it up: The Restoring Shropshire Verges Project RSPB, should you happen to want your your five year old to do something. There are projects around the country and here they went to the council and said, “OK, tell us who cuts the verges?” And it turns out the council is taking our council tax or whatever and paying contractors on the other side of the country because they happen to have offered slightly cheaper, who then come back and get people from out of county to come and cut our verges. So One, the verges don’t need to be cut; two we just had a chain four people long, that doesn’t involve anyone who’s actually here! And that’s insane. You don’t need to be Marxists and Preston model to know that that’s not a useful way to do things. But by actually writing to the council, by getting together a group of people who cared enough to show the councillors that actually this is something that people are noticing. Getting things in the parish newspapers and getting people to write in and go “that verge was just cut and its July. And that’s, you know, that’s actually illegal”, then they’ve managed really to change things. So again, one really dedicated person has basically made this happen. So if your five year old gets really keen…
Eva: He already wants to work for Beaver Trust. So that’s OK!
Manda: All right. I think we’re probably heading out of time. Is there anything else that we haven’t talked about, that you feel is going to go into this book that we are busy planning, that will really help parents and grandparents or teachers to engage and make a difference? Or is there a final chapter that’s going to round everything up?
Eva: There’s probably a summary chapter that looks again about inviting people in and to create a community around it. The All We Can Save anthology is a really good example of where my head’s at with all this, you know. They, particularly in the mother’s section, you know, they looked at, you need some sort of trigger to make you see how important this is. That we don’t sit in denial and do nothing about it. And for me for parents, that’s their children. And then it will matter that you do this. It does matter that you, you know that you speak to your friends about it. You decide to only fly once next year..
Manda: Or not at all.
Eva: Yeah, but but I think, you know, realistically, some of the parents that I see fly many times a year and even getting that, yeah, getting them to cut down to once, for one good reason. You know, a better reason, is going to be better than sort of saying, you mustn’t fly, because I think that turns people off.
Manda: Yes, psychologically, you’re right.
Eva: Maybe, maybe there’s a final chapter on authenticity. And I think that at their hearts, a lot of parents believe that this is real and they’d like to be doing more. And I want to encourage them to stand up for that, and have the strength and power to trust that it’s important and that they’ll be heard and that it matters.
Manda: Yeah. And my last thing that I’ve still got on my notes is I don’t know to what extent there are young adult and children’s books that are what Rupert would call ‘thrutopian’. That aren’t dystopias or utopias, but are ‘here’s where we need to get here, and here’s how we did it. And here’s the heroic actions that we took in doing so’. Do they exist, or is that something that when we do the thrutopia masterclass, we maybe need to get some children authors in and really focus on that?
Eva: I would say they definitely need that and it needs to happen. Yeah, from what I’ve seen. And forgive me, authors, if I’ve missed a really important book somewhere.
Manda: Or, they’ll tell us. If anybody knows of books that actually are doing this. Because I remember reading The Carbon Diaries about 10 years ago, which was really clever and beautifully written. But it was a ‘here’s how we’re responding to the government having instigated carbon rationing’, not ‘here’s a future that we all want to get to’ that, you know, here’s why it’s so much better not to have to fly because look, we did this and it was wonderful. And look, this is what it feels like to live in a resilient, emotionally literate, politically joined up culture. And yes, it’s not easy. And yes, there’s still going to be difficulty and a hero’s journey to be taken. But feel this, it feels different. And I haven’t found that yet. In adult terms, the ministry for the Future is the closest we get, but it’s still completely predicated in the current system. And I think we need visions of systemic change and how it looks and how it feels. So if you come across anybody or if anybody out there knows any, please let us know. Eva Bishop, thank you so much for this book that hopefully you will write and bring out, and all of the amazing things that you’re doing. I really want to honour the way that you’re living and the stories that you are telling and the things that you’re doing because it has to be making a difference. And if everybody did what you were doing, the world would already be a different place.
Eva: That’s very kind. Thank you.
Manda: So, so thank you hugely.
Eva: Thank you, Manda.
Manda: And that’s it for another week. Enormous thanks to Eva for everything that she’s doing. I said at the end, but I want to say it again. I am genuinely in awe of her capacity to see things systemically and then to apply it in her life. If we all did everything that she’s doing, the world would be a different place. And as she says, what matters is that we find the actions that work for us and then share them. And we need the stories. We are definitely heading down towards the Thrutopia masterclass and at the end of a podcast soon, probably next week, I will tell you in detail more about it. But it does seem to me that if we don’t offer people the visions of how the future could feel and work,that they want to get to and the route map to get there, then we’re not going to make it. And that a lot of the problem that we have now is because we haven’t got those visions. So coming soon, a better explanation of that. In the meantime, we will be back next week with another conversation.
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