Episode #167  Saving Chocolate! and finding solutions to the meta crisis with Nicola Peel 

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We are in a global meta-crisis and need global solutions – but how do we find them in a world where everyone exists in political, economic or business silos? Nicola Peel is a ‘Solutionist’, dedicated to finding answers to exactly these questions – and then creating change in the world.

Accidental Gods podcast exists to open doors and break down barriers, to bring forward the ideas and the actions of and give voice to the gloriously creative people who give their lives to the idea and realisation of a regenerative future. In this wide-ranging conversation with Solutionist environmentalist and film-maker, Nicola Peel, we explored the horrors of oil spills in the Amazon and the ways fungi could clear them if only the oil companies would let the work begin. We explored the nature of regenerative farming in the global north and – particularly – in Ecuador where agro-forestry is rebuilding soil on land that had previously been devastated by beef farming – and how the polycultures might save the cacao industry. We contemplated death and burial, whether carbon offsetting can be useful, the concept of air as a global commons and how to integrate localism into the map of a flourishing future. At the end – as often happens – I stopped recording but we carried on speaking and it seemed that Nicola was saying things that definitely should have been in the podcast. So I hit record again. Twice. We’ve stitched those bits on at the end for you.

Nicola Peel is a Solutionist, environmentalist, film maker and host of the Solutions podcast. For over 20 years her work has been focussed on environmental solutions. As a filmmaker, she has made documentaries to raise awareness, built rainwater systems for those drinking contaminated water and brought together scientists to use fungi to clean up oil spills. She has built buildings made of thousands of plastic bottles filled with rubbish and taught agroforestry to regenerate the soil and prevent further deforestation of the Amazon.

She believes that around the world, people are waking up to the climate and ecological breakdown we are facing. For many they think it is up to governments or big business or someone else to fix the problems and feel disempowered to be a part of the change themselves. Believing, too, that every one of us have different strengths and different areas of expertise, Nicola’s focus is to identify the issues we face and see what opportunities and solutions there are to address these issues.

In Conversation

Manda: I am delighted to introduce you this week to a woman who works in so many fields in the regenerative space that it’s hard to know where to start. Nicola Peel, as you will hear, is a solutionist. But she’s also an environmentalist, a filmmaker, an inspirational speaker, and someone who teaches all over the world. For over 20 years, her work has been focussed on environmental solutions to the meta crisis. As a filmmaker, she made documentaries to raise awareness. Then she built rainwater systems for those drinking contaminated water. And then she brought together scientists to use fungi to clean up oil spills. She’s created buildings made of thousands of plastic bottles filled with rubbish and taught agroforestry to regenerate the soil and prevent further deforestation of the Amazon.

Manda: We touched on most of these things in the conversation that follows. Not the bottles filled with rubbish, but most of the rest. And at the end, as so often happens, I stopped recording and then we carried on speaking. And it seemed to me then, that Nicola was saying things that definitely should have been in the podcast. So I hit record again and then again. So we’ll stitch those two extra bits on at the end for you, because I think each of them had something really useful to say, particularly in terms of what we as ordinary people can be doing to join together and to make a difference. So a slightly longer podcast than usual, but only by a little bit. People of the podcast, please welcome Nicola Peel.

Manda: So Nicola, welcome to the Accidental Gods podcast. Thank you for fitting in what feels like really quite a busy schedule in your life. Very grateful. So given all that you do and there seems to be an incredibly wide spread to it, what is most alive for you in your work and your life right now?

Nicola: Well, it’s great to be here with you, and that’s a very good opening question. What is alive? What’s alive in me, is helping other people feel alive, too; and finding that inspiration in us all. About what’s our little piece of the jigsaw? You know, who are we in this amazing tapestry of life? And people at this time are so overwhelmed. And this feeling of overwhelm, which then can lead to apathy or eco anxiety or a feeling of I’m just one person and I can’t really do anything. I can show by example of like, well, this is just one little person, this is me and this is what I have done. But then it’s also about, Well, hey, who are you? And what have you done? And the information that I gather, how I can pass that on to the people that I’m speaking with.

Manda: Brilliant. And you may be just one person, but you seem to me to have done many, many lifetimes worth of things as that one person. And you’re described as a solutionist. And and my first question with that is – there are two questions, but we’ll ask them together. First is, are you the only one in the world? Because I’ve never met solutionist as a job title before. And second, if you’re going to help people find solutions, who defines what you’re finding solutions to?

Nicola: Well, that’s funny because originally I called myself a solutionologist, which was, you know, funny, a bit tongue in cheek. And that was because I was working in the Amazon and I was coordinating biologists, geologists, mycologists, and everybody else was an ologist apart from me. And it was like, Well, what do I do? I want to be an ologist! And it’s like, well, my focus here is bringing in the solutions, bringing you all together. So therefore I must be a solutionologist. You know, it was kind of funny. And then I actually got an email, cease and desist, from a woman in America who claimed to have patented the word solutionologist and told me I was not able to use it. So part of me was like, I hope this is a joke. We need as many solutions focussed people as possible. And a friend’s son was actually working in patents and trademarks and he looked into it and he found out that actually I was the first person in Europe. She’d only registered it in North America and that I was the first person using the title solutionologist. So really, she wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on. But then I was speaking at a church one day and I turned up and outside was the sign: Nicola Peel solutionologist. And I had this moment of ‘that sounds like Scientologist’. And in that moment I shortened it. And was like, Actually, it’s much easier to be a solutionist.

Manda: Well done. Yes. Because you’d think that someone who decided to send a cease and desist is not actually at heart trying to find solutions for people, because you don’t trademark the stuff that’s actually going to change the world, if you actually want to change the world. But yes, I can see Scientologist/Solutionologist they’re kind of in the same. I have synaesthesia and they do turn out remarkably similar colours. So yes. Okay. So still, are you the only solutionist in the world, do we think?

Nicola: I hope not.

Manda: But possibly the only one who has it actually on their website and their business cards and everything else?

Nicola: Maybe, maybe. I do now have people asking me, how do you become a solutionist?

Manda: Yes, quite. Where’s the university course?

Nicola: My answer is: you need to do seven really good solutions and then you can call yourself a solutionist.That’s it.

Manda: This is brilliant. Okay. But so in our preamble, you were saying you’ve just been talking to the NHS about finding solutions. You could be talking to Putin about how to find solutions to win the war in Ukraine. I’m guessing you’re not that latter one. So who defines what the questions are to which you are finding the solutions?

Nicola: I don’t think people do define the questions to me. I think actually the solutions that come to me are when I have stumbled across a problem that has come in my path. And whatever that may be. I mean, an example when I was working down in the Amazon at the time, I had no idea that it was where the largest oil spills on the planet were. And I look at the spills left behind by Texaco and there are over 900 pits about the size of an Olympic sized swimming pool, each one, left in the Amazon. All overflowing into the streams and rivers. Now, you kind of get overwhelmed when you see a huge toxic waste pit that is just left there, because it’s a massive problem. And people just walk away from it and don’t want to look at it. And I was asked many years ago, to film at a permaculture course in the States, where a woman stood up with Paul Stamet’s book How can mushrooms save the world? And she started to talk about how myco remediation, the use of fungi, to break down oil spills was a real possibility. So I went up to her at the end and said, Well, hey, you come with me to the Amazon. I’ll show you some oil spills and you tell me whether we can clean these up using myco remediation. And so that’s how I founded the Amazon Myco Renewal Project. And then brought down this team to look at these massive oil spills and what we could do about it.

Nicola: So there’s an example of here is a huge problem; do we just turn a blind eye? Or do we look at it and say, okay, what can we do? Yes, we’ve been able to show, on a small scale, that there is huge potential using myco remediation to clean this mess up. Sadly, it is still part of a lawsuit which actually Chevron Texaco have lost, versus 30,000 indigenous people. They’ve done a very good job of making sure no one knows about it. And Chevron have just refused to pay and have appealed and appealed and appealed. That’s the the issue there. So on one hand, it was like, okay, let’s show that we can clean this up. That nature can do the job. That’s what a mushroom does; it breaks down carbon, oil as a hydrocarbon.

Manda: So just to get my head around the Texaco thing. You’ve demonstrated that it is cleanable, but the funds were needed to get in and do it on the scale that was required, and they’re refusing, that their profits were not quite big enough in this last year for them to actually want to do it? Are they afraid of creating a precedent where they might actually be required to clear up everything that they’ve made?

Nicola: Absolutely. They don’t want to admit. Which is why they have kept appealing, because as far as they’re concerned, they paid off the government and they’re out of there.

Manda: Aha. All right. But now there’s a new government. Haha! Doesn’t work like that, guys. And there are still pits in the Amazon. Oh, this is the very definition of evil, you know. I know we shouldn’t be thinking in good and evil, but actually people who are deliberately kicking the can down the road, knowing that there is a solution but they don’t want to implement it. Anyway, let’s step away from that because I might just blow all my fuses and that would be sad. So that was the beginning. That sounds an incredibly proactive thing to do. A lot of us would listen to somebody going, Hey, mushrooms can solve stuff and go, Oh yeah, that’s really interesting and not necessarily organised getting them down to the Amazon to prove it. So were you always highly proactive? Is this part of who you are?

Nicola: I think it is. I’ve always just been a doer, you know. It’s been like, okay, if I want to do something, I’ll do it. It’s like that idea, before the gap year idea, of let’s go travelling before going to university. Well, it wasn’t known as a gap year, but I just decided that actually I’m just going to work my way around the world. And that’s what I did. I left the UK when I was 20 with an idea of I’m just going to work and travel and I didn’t come back for three years. And that was my education. That was the University of Life. In the end I did not go to university, which is quite interesting because I now lecture at universities and I never went. And I’m always asked by students, What did you read? And I say my bookshelf! So I think I’ve always been someone that just had an idea and said, Right, let’s just do it. And when I found out about these oil spills, then it was like, well, okay, you know, what can I do about it? I need to raise awareness. Which is why I then travelled all the way down the Amazon from the headwaters in Ecuador to Brazil, by the river and made a documentary. So it was like, okay, there’s one side I can make a film, Blood of the Amazon, about my story, a woman travelling all the way down the Amazon to show and to cover. Which sadly, even though I made it ten years ago, the story is exactly the same now.

Manda: Right. And what is the core of that story? If you were to give the edited highlight of the same story, other than huge multinationals just abandoning stuff, toxic mess, because they can. Because the externalities don’t matter to them. What’s the rest of the story that we ought to know as global citizens?

Nicola: What’s it all being used for? I think a lot of people, when you think of the Amazon, you certainly don’t think about oil. You think about deforestation, you can be really against what’s happening in the Amazon, but then pull up at the local Texaco garage and fill your car up, without actually seeing, you know, how everything is connected. So what’s happening down there and how we are a part of that.

Manda: Okay. So that takes us to the heart of the things that I am most embroiled in at the moment. Which is revolving around the fact that we exist in a system that we’re trying to change. I heard a Spanish philosopher recently and I can’t remember his name, I will look it up. Who said something to the effect of: if you look at your lifestyle as it is and the way you would like it to be, if there are fewer than four inconsistencies, you’re a fanatic. And if there are more than ten, you’re a hypocrite. And between those two, you’re probably doing okay. And leaving aside that the numbers don’t really matter, have you in your solutions space, thought forward to how we step out of the system in which we swim, in ways that do not leave everybody in it destitute. Because we need not to be filling up with Texaco. But last time I listened to Simon Michaud, he pointed out that if every car in Europe became an electric vehicle, it would take 16,000 years to mine all the lithium. And the materials flow isn’t there. It’s not about switching off the Texaco and switching on this amazing new renewable stuff that we’re going to get. That’s just not going to happen. Have you thought ways through and can you highlight the bits that we need to know?

Nicola: Absolutely. I totally agree. It is not about changing from fossil fuel cars to electric cars and everybody, you know, rushing around in their own private car. There’s only a tiny, tiny percentage of this planet that will ever own their own car. What we need is an integrated public transport system that is electric and so that the lithium is used in a way that it can be most of use. Not to just move one person around. So, yes, there needs to be a total shift in the way that people are moved, and that is through car sharing and that is through public transport.

Manda: We could end up down a rabbit hole. I’ve recently been investigating the whole mining industry and the difference between commercial mines and artisan mines, and basically mining is horrible. Whatever scale you do it at, it’s a really deeply unpleasant thing and it would be really good if it didn’t happen. But then if it didn’t happen, our entire culture would fall over pretty much overnight. I’m really interested in how we get from where we are, to a place where we’re not mining huge amounts of of anything, really. It doesn’t matter. It could be graphite. Sand! I listened to a podcast last week pointing out that there are entire sand beaches in I think it was Hawaii, that are vanishing overnight because sand is actually quite scarce. And our entire culture also, you know, all of the cement, everything that we’re doing, people want sand. We’re running out of stuff. And you seem, from what I understand of you, to be working in the what I would call regenerative solution space. You’re looking at agro ecology in countries where everything is collapsing. And another data point that I heard on somebody else’s podcast this week was someone in the fertiliser industry who reckoned that we have eight harvests left. The rest of us were working on maybe half a century, but he said in parts of the world, eight. So we need a meta solution that changes everything that we do and brings it to a scale where it’s workable. Is that a field that you’re contemplating?

Nicola: Yes, and it’s very simple. It’s make it local. Buy less stuff. And when we look at indigenous traditions around the world and how they have survived for so long without overharvesting, that where they live. And I think this is the lesson for us in the minority world. The few of us that are living this Western lifestyle where it’s really based around consumerism, consumption, just buying more and more stuff. And so really, for me, the answer is we’ve all just got to bring it back, we’ve got to localise. We’ve got to know our farmers, we’ve got to know where our food comes from, our clothes, our houses. Where does it all come from? Because we can jump onto one idea, you know, for example, the plant based diet and feel then that this is where we need to be going. We need to be saving the Amazon from all these cattle and soya. And little do people realise it, that right now, I’m just doing a little bit of whistleblowing at the moment. I have just heard of some massive new deforestation in the Amazon. Just two weeks ago a friend sent me the photographs. Huge deforestation. Guys out there with no hazmat gear on, spraying chemicals right next to a stream. A video of a huge, shiny new processing plant. And when I asked what was it for? They told me it was Taro. And I said, Taro? But why is there suddenly such interest in taro? They told me it’s all being imported by Europe and the US. Well, I don’t know anyone in Europe or the US that eats taro. So I actually put it out on Twitter asking, Does anybody know why we are importing vast amounts of taro? I was sent a research paper. It’s the vegan plant based diet.

Manda: Wow. Yeah. We talked last week to Chris Smadje and a couple of weeks ago to Rob Percival, who wrote The Meat Paradox. And so definitely this podcast is wholeheartedly in support of local regenerative agriculture, for sure. One of the things that we touched on with Chris, but I would like to go more deeply with someone whose job is solutions. Indigenous populations have lower populations. Over 50% of the world is urban. I am about to read a book that Chris recommended, which is called How Not to Feed the World, but actually it’s looking at how we could feed the world, obviously. And I haven’t got there yet, but how are we going to feed cities? How are we going to solve the materials flows for cities? Because I could conceive of living in the middle of rural Shropshire. Even around here, there aren’t enough trees to build a house, if you want there to be trees to be part of the biosphere. So I can see rural people feeding themselves. They’re going to get very, very bored of beetroot by about this time of year. But, you know, that’s fine, we’ll just get over that. We are trying to live off the beans that we grew last summer, and I’m getting quite tired of beans, but I think we’ll get through. But I would struggle to clothe us and to construct houses, and we would definitely struggle to power anything like the lifestyle that we have at the moment. So how do you see that working in a way that that isn’t leaving cities to starve?

Nicola: A wise man once said, There’s enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. We have so much waste. We have so much food waste right now. So the way that we’re looking at it, it’s a total paradigm shift, as as we move forward. We’re not going to carry on eating the same kind of food, especially this overprocessed food. So part of it’s going to be us simplifying our diet. And textiles; you know, the UK used to have a country full of mills for wool. Now there’s not. We have sheep all over our landscape and we are not using wool.

Manda: And picking up one of the other threads in my notes. More specifically, it does seem to me that as we move towards an agro ecological base in the UK, is it not the case that we need to reduce the sheep flock while probably maintaining the regenerative pasture fed beef numbers at about the same? And clearly we’re all agreed, I would hope, on this podcast, that industrial agriculture has to stop. I read a beautiful blog post the other day saying we just need to hospice, industrial agriculture. Quietly kind of put it to bed. Let it die. Bury it very nicely. Never go back to it. In the regenerative sphere, are you seeing sheep as an integral part of our fibre requirements as we go forward?

Nicola: Yes, I think we definitely need animals in the landscape and we definitely need to become more efficient with our own wool. So yes, I think we definitely need to have sheep, but we need to limit where they are. And one place which would be really good would be to keep them away from our rivers, so that we can allow the banks of the rivers to regenerate. We need to limit also the areas that they have access to. So animals are an integral part to the land, but we have to look at how much land is being used for animals and change that percentage of land, and protect areas like riverbanks away from them.

Manda: Right. And that’s all animals. Because round here certainly it’s the cattle that are destroying the riverbanks. So we just basically need to create protected zones around the rivers. But then around here also, that means somehow removing the chicken auschwitzs that just creates massive amounts of chicken. But Rob Percival, I asked him at the end, have you got one big thing you’d like to say to everyone? He said, Stop eating chicken. Just stop. Because Cargill’s are not going to start building massive, massive chicken horror houses, unless we all stop eating chicken. What I discovered quite quickly, because I long ago made a commitment never to touch fish again because we’re overfishing. By the time you stop fish, stop chicken and associated things, I’m having real trouble finding something I can feed the cats. But that’s because we’re in the system. I have started telling them to go out and catch things, but that has its own issues. So just having fewer cats is probably long term going to be one of the things that we have to do.

Nicola: Can I just add in a solution there? Because I’m sure your local fishmonger and your local butcher will have a lot of waste products that would be great for that, to be repurposed towards animal food.

Manda: Yes, the local butcher is amazing and they’re a game butcher and I do get minced rabbit from them actually. And that’s somebody local who is paid by the farmer to take the rabbits off the land. They take them to the butcher, they minced them up and the dog loved it. And when we had the dog, the cats would all eat minced rabbit. Now there is no dog competing for the minced rabbit, the cats are looking at me like I’m trying to poison them. We don’t eat this! Honestly, You’re kidding. So I’m sure I can find something. But it’s interesting. I just found it as a  – everything in the world is going to have to change – everything. All the things we take for granted, we have to stop taking for granted. And it’s a mindset as much as anything else. And stop dreaming forward to what are the next cats going to look like. Because there probably won’t be any next cats. Or if there are, they’ll be the ones that really are keeping the rat population down. I’ve never met a cat that actually ate a rat, I had to say. But they’re quite good at keeping the numbers down.

Nicola: Before we just move on from pets. I did just want to add something in which I was quite shocked to read recently about the impact of dogs. We know that there’s an issue with the food, but also what’s been found now is there’s an issue with the rivers. Because people put the flea and the tick stuff on them and then they go swimming in the rivers. And now dragonflies are disappearing. And the chemicals which are these insecticides that are being put on dogs, you know. So we really have got to be aware of the impact of our pets on the landscape as well.

Manda: Yes, our local vet stopped selling the drop ons for exactly that reason. We’re not going to be part of that. I don’t know how common that is, but it does seem to be… There is a veterinary awareness, a bit. So, we’re more or less on top of regenerative agriculture in the UK on the podcast. What we haven’t explored at any level is how this is being applied in the countries that frankly the Global North has trashed and then walked away from. And presumably the agribusiness companies are still trying to mine for every available dollar. And you seem to be bringing your solutionist ideas to a lot of the areas that are otherwise being ignored. The great big pools of oil. Which just still upsets me so much. The fact that they exist and that Texaco is stopping things happening, honestly. You see, Shell reckons it’s a really nice oil company. They could go in and do it for Texaco. Be fine. Anyway, leaving that aside, what are you seeing and doing in countries where regenerative agriculture isn’t the latest cool thing to hit Farmers Weekly?

Nicola: Well, in 2016 I was contacted by a small charity called Rainforest Saver, and they had been working in Honduras and Cameroon with a form of agroforestry called Inga Alley Cropping. And we’re using one plant tree called Inga Edulis, or the local people know it as Guama. So this form of agroforestry is: we put in alleys which are four metres wide, a metre between trees, and the whole idea is how we can regenerate soil and prevent further deforestation. So in places like the Amazon and tropics, there’s such a thin layer of soil and you cut the trees down, you burn it. Along comes the rain, which then washes it all into the rivers. And the land then becomes so impoverished that they can grow for two or three years, they run cattle on it, which compacts the land. Then they can never grow anything. So then they’re driven to cut down more forest. And this is the cycle of slash and burn around the tropical world. So that’s how I kind of saw this as one of the solutions. If we can help prevent tropical deforestation by regenerating soil, which was why I started the first regenerative project in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Working with this form of agroforestry. So it’s been very exciting and now we are just having absolutely amazing results. And yeah, all of a sudden I have a huge amount of interest and lots of PhDs and lots of students and lots of people going down to cover what we’re doing.

Manda: So tell us a little bit more about how this works. The plant, Inga. What is it about it that makes it the thing that you’re doing? Is that what’s in the alleys? Or is that what’s forming the alleys? Give us a kind of word picture of what this actually looks like, if we were to walk into one of these areas.

Nicola: Yeah. Well, to start with, you think monoculture. It is all Inga Edulis.The alleys are made from these trees. And why we use these trees is because they are such a miracle at doing their job. They’re nitrogen fixers, they grow really fast, they natively grow and they have large leaves. So when we grow the alley, after about a year and a half, we pollard back all the wood. And the wood is taken away and turned into biochar and all the leaf matter is left between the alleys to rot down. In six weeks you can plant straight into it. We’ve got four metres wide in between the alleys and so in between we are growing everything from corn and beans and yuca and staple foods, through to cacao and coffee. So we’ve got over 20 plants we’re now growing between the alleys.

Manda: And then the Inga grows up again after you’ve pollarded it. Presumably it just comes straight back in the way that Hazel would do in this country.

Nicola: Exactly.

Manda: How long does it take? What’s your cropping rotation on the pollarding?

Nicola: It very much depends on the soil where where we’re working. But once, pretty much every year, or year and a half maximum, that we pollard. And so there’s a huge amount of leaf matter that is left between. The entire ground gets covered. And the first step is actually allowing the alley to close its canopy, which kills that awful grass. So in the Amazon, you get this hard core cattle grass, which means you just can’t grow anything. So the first thing we want to do is darken it and then that just kills the grass. Then we lay down all the leaf matter on the top. That then breaks down and so we then turn this hard, compacted soil into this crumbly soil, which has just been amazing and remarkable in the results of the yield that we’ve been now getting.

Manda: So let’s unpick this further. This is sparking so many bits of my brain. My understanding of most of the agroforestry that we do in the UK is that there’s a real emphasis on poly culture, not monocultures. They want alder because they fix nitrogen, they want willow, hazel hawthorn apples, walnuts, whatever. Because the underground biome needs multiples of root systems in order to create the below ground biodiversity that then creates the above ground biodiversity. And you’re turning that on its head and say, no, we’re just going to go for Inga monoculture. Because it grows so fast? A year to a year and a half between pollarding, I was thinking you’d say a decade. That’s incredibly fast. I’m amazed the trees survive being pollarded that often. But presumably they do. So a number of questions. First of all, how long has this been running? Second, has anybody started looking at the biome, the subsoil biome, to see the bacterial fungal mix? And this is a bit geeky, I apologise to the listeners who are not into geekdom, but what are the organic matters when you start and what are you getting?

Nicola: So there is a huge amount of research, which is why I’ve got six PhD students lining up to go down there and do this research. So it’s only now, seven years in, that we’re getting all these results and we are able to really start doing the testing on this. What I’m really interested in is different forms of Inga. Now, Mike Hans is the guy that did the most research into what plants in tropical locations are best for this. And there are many, many kinds that we can use in agroforestry. But the reason that this particular Inga Edulis is, yes, it resists pollarding, especially when we work with the moon. So we’ve done our studies and yeah the jury’s in. And it definitely makes a difference when we pollard with the moon.

Manda: Which bit of the moon? Full moon. New moon.

Nicola: Around full moon, yes. So Inga has really big leaves as well. So the bigger the leaf size, the more biomass that we’ve got. So there’s a lot of other nitrogen fixers that have tiny leaves. We need leaf mass. We need it to be resistant to pollarding. So there’s a number of things that we’re looking for in a plant that can do what we’re looking for.

Manda: When you say resistant to pollarding, you mean it can survive being pollarded every year without actually just dying?

Nicola: Exactly.

Manda: So we have various species of willow on the land and they’re tiny leaves, but there is an awful lot of them. And there tends to be actually more coverage from the small leaves than the large leaves, partly because the larger gets blown around more. But the work that Mike Hans has done says big leaves better?

Nicola: Yes. And also, I mean, the jury’s still out, but we’re getting our first results. Inga is also able to bring up phosphorous, which is massive news. So we have from our soil tests shown this, but we need a lot more to really verify our findings.

Manda: And you said you pollarded with the moon. Do we know why that makes the difference that it makes? I mean, clearly you’ve got that it does. What difference does it make? And and do we have an idea of the mechanism?

Nicola: Well, I think it’s to do with there’s more moisture in the plant, which means that it’s more open to fungal attack. So it will rot.

Manda: When the moon is low, there’s more moisture or when the moon is high, there’s more moisture?

Nicola: When the moon is full. One of the anecdotes I heard many years ago is Don’t go camping under a tree on full moon, because that is when they’re most likely to drop their branches, because they are full of water. So they are heavier. So if they have any weakness. So. Oh, okay! So, you know, remembering that and bringing that to now, working in very wet conditions. So these trees are gonna be very full of water. So we don’t know. Nobody really knows. But Jose, who’s the guy that I work with in the Amazon, I was like, okay, Jose, I just need you to really look into this to see if we’re noticing a difference. And he’s convinced absolutely it makes a difference. He doesn’t need to know why. He’s just seen it with his own eyes. And so we’re just following on pollarding with the moon.

Manda: Brilliant. And so one of the arguments that happens in some of the niche spaces that I inhabit about regenerative agriculture, are people saying, this is amazing, it sequesters carbon, it helps water retention in the soil, it increases the biome and therefore biodiversity. And the naysayers are saying, yeah, but there’s a limit to how much soil you can grow. You know, there’s a finite amount. And I am remembering back to many years ago reading a description, where a tall warrior could put his arm into the earth in Africa, and just go down through soft topsoil and never hit the subsoil. And nowadays you can’t even put all your fingers in before you hit the subsoil. And my feeling is there is no height limit to how much soil we could build. So my first question is, why is the soil layer so thin? Is this because it’s been deforested and the cattle have been put on? And then how how much soil depth do you think you can get?

Nicola: Well, in tropical locations, the roots are quite shallow and it’s all really kind of held in the structure of the trees there. As far as growing soil, what we are seeing is that after every pollarding, the the compost matter, not the soil, the compost matter is increasing and it’s getting deeper. And it correlates with the deeper that our mulch is getting, the higher is the yield. So we are definitely noticing that as time goes by, there’s more nutrients. And part of this being that also the kind of the mycorhizzal network, which is really good with the Inga tree as well. So not only is it fixing the nitrogen, but whatever is growing in between the alleys, is not only increasing yield, but one of our really, really exciting findings is, and I might go down in history for this, it could be a big one; about saving chocolate. I kid you not.

Manda: Oh, really? Okay. I think I have someone at home who’d be really keen on that. Tell me why is chocolate under threat? And then how are you saving it?

Nicola: So. Cacao came from the Amazon and it grew amongst the forest. And we’ve taken it out. We’ve turned it into a massive monoculture, and it doesn’t like it. And it’s got very weak. And it is really under fungal attack. There’s fungal pod rot, which basically after the flower starts to form, these tiny little pods then rot and fall off. They go black, they can’t be harvested. All the people can do is to spray fungicide, which is why you want to eat organic chocolate. So they get highly sprayed with fungicide until the people can’t afford to buy the fungicide anymore. Then they abandon their plantations and then they go and cut down more forest and plant more cacao, which then gets fungal pod rot and in the end they abandon it. Many, many farmers are just abandoning growing cacao. And it’s like, Well, hang on, if the world knew about this! That we are seriously at a place where if this fungus keeps on attacking cacao, there ain’t no more chocolate.

Manda: No more chocolate. Catastrophe. Yeah, they might actually start taking Texaco to court.

Nicola: So it was an accidental finding. That Jose called me up one day and he said, I’ve just been at one of our farmers’, that has an old cacao plantation right next to one of our Inga alleys. And all of the cacao next to our alley is free from pod rot. So I was like, okay, let’s not be excited about this. This might be a total coincidence. Jose, you need to go out and find another farmer that also has cacao next to our alleys and call me straight away. And he was like, yeah, it’s the same thing.

Manda: Whoa. Okay.

Nicola: So we could be on to something here. Because this form of agroforestry, all it needs is a machete and a seed. There’s no agrochemicals needed, there’s no inputs that’s needed. And for, you know, a way to help people get out of the use of agrochemicals and also show how the cacao industry can be transformed. So we contacted Reading University, who have the largest cacao department. And of course they are super excited. They sent down a master’s student to have a look at our soil. And so now hence why we have an awful lot of interest in our project and a lot of people coming down to study what we’re doing. And also how we’re bringing biochar back to the Amazon and turning our pollarded wood, and how that also can affect the system.

Manda: Brilliant. I want to know a little bit more about the biochar in a second, but before we do that, what’s the acreage or hectare or whatever? What’s the surface area that’s in your system at the moment? And how big is it realistically likely to get?

Nicola: Well, at the moment we have 80 farmers. And let’s say most of them are around a hectare. Each of their land that they’ve got their first alleys in. We must have at least 100 hectares under alleys at the moment. And we are also working with seven agricultural colleges. So at each of the colleges, I also have alleys behind their colleges as demonstration plots.

Manda: Brilliant.

Nicola: So it’s got huge potential. As the neighbours are all starting to see it and now they can see with their very own eyes the difference, we are expecting now, because it’s taken until now that we’ve really got the results in, and we’ve got enough that we can show. So yeah, obviously we’re at a place now, we just want it to expand. But we also need more money, for more Joses to be able to teach more people.

Manda: Yes. Obviously there’s just recently been a change of government in Brazil, and I’m guessing that the incoming government is more interested in this than the outgoing government. Are you getting governmental interest in the countries where you’re on the ground?

Nicola: Sadly, not yet. This is obviously what we’re hoping for. So this is in the Ecuadorian Amazon as well, where we’re working. Ultimately what I want to be able to do is to design myself out of this. And so for us to be able to go to places where there there isn’t Inga at the moment. So, yes, that’s where we’re heading for. We need the scientific data to be able to present to the government to say, look, here we go, we’ve been doing this. You can speak to any of our farmers and they’ll tell you it works. We also have the science to back this up. So then it becomes part of agricultural policy. Once we’ve done that, we can then move on.

Manda: Right. Definitely. And I’m wondering to what extent this harks back to the way that the Amazon has been managed for many hundreds of generations. Because there seems to be emerging work that the Amazon was always an anthropogenic area, in that the tribes who were there were managing it to create the dark soil that they could grow in. It’s just they were doing it on a scale that maintained the biodiversity instead of destroying it. Is that something that you’ve come across and is this producing similar styles of soil.

Nicola: Well, yeah. It was known as terra preta in Brazil, you know, what we call biochar right now. Which is quite fascinating how the story came about, really, because it was from satellite that they noticed a grid in the Amazon and they wondered what it was. And there’s always been the discussion about the lost city of El Dorado. Did it really exist or didn’t it? And they believed that it couldn’t, because you could never have a city in the Amazon that could support that many people. Because they were nomadic, they were smaller tribes, they moved. So they never believed that there could be a city in the Amazon. It must have been, you know, an illusion or a delusion. But from the satellite imagery, when they discovered this huge grid, when the archaeologists went down, they were able to show that, yes, there was once a massive city in the middle of the Amazon. And that’s when the archaeologist explored and found this black earth, which was super fertile, and that how they were able to keep their soil fertile was through this use of charcoal. So then it kind of all got forgotten about, the use of this form of small areas which were grown. They were then cut, they were burnt. The charcoal was left in the soil.

Nicola: So what we’ve been doing now, using this pollarded wood, one side of it is it prevents people going into the forest and cutting wood for firewood. So on one side we’re stopping that deforestation for cooking wood, but also we’re improving the soil fertility through using biochar. But also what was very exciting, some recent photos I got sent from one of our farmers who’s doing his own trials; he has covered the top of the surface with biochar. And there are lots of insects that will suck the plant’s life force out, and none of his beans had any holes in them. And he believes that they won’t cross the biochar.

Manda: Oh, interesting.

Nicola: So this is our first study of this kind. So, yeah, we’re at a point now where this is why we need people really going down and studying what we’re doing.

Manda: Yeah, but it sounds like you’ve got a bunch of PhDs interested. And the great thing about PhDs is that every good PhD spawns at least a dozen others. So you’ve got an exponential rise in PhD students as long as we can still get them there and and keep them keep them in food while they’re there. Excellent. On the same page on your website as all the work we’ve just been talking about, you have the pay to breathe carbon offsetting taken to the next level. And I exist in a space where carbon offsetting is greenwashing and shouldn’t be touched. And just basically don’t do the stuff that you think you might have to Carbon offsett, is much better than than doing carbon offsetting that doesn’t matter. And partly that’s because I became aware of areas in the north of the county where I live, where we had people buying up perfectly good farmland, ploughing it up in order to plant serried rows of Sitka spruce. They release more CO2 in the ploughing than those trees will ever sequester. But then they can tell themselves that they’ve planted lots of trees, that this is really cool. And give themselves carbon credits and carry on doing what they were doing anyway. And it makes all my fuses explode and I just get very cross. So you’re a person of supreme integrity. I’m guessing whatever you’re doing is not that kind of carbon offsetting. Tell us about pay to breathe and how it works and why it’s different.

Nicola: I absolutely agree the whole subject of carbon offsetting is a nightmare. It’s whether we call it guilt tax or, you know, let the rich carry on as they are and just pay their little dues. But also, I’m at a state right now where I am an environmentalist that speaks out against tree planting. Because as we’re having this conversation, somewhere in the world, a million little trees are being planted. And right now the equivalent amount of ancient trees in a forest are being cut down. So we are not valuing standing carbon. We’re not valuing the forests that are there. Instead, we have this obsession that we’re going to tree plant our way out of this. And the reason that I discovered, why are we not paying to keep the forests standing? And it all comes back to growth. We live in a world that only wants to talk about growth. A little sapling will grow and they can calculate how much carbon will be captured. A forest is a stable carbon stock. It doesn’t grow. So there’s not the value in it.

Manda: Oh my gosh.

Nicola: So there’s this madness that we’re in this world of carbon offsetting. And I kind of came up with this controversial idea, pay to breathe. And I thought, well, hey, we pay for our food and we pay for our water, but we take the air that we breathe for granted. And where does it come from? And what about if we were to actually pay the people that live in those forests to be the guardians of the forests? Or the ocean. Let’s not forget that a lot of our oxygen also comes from there.

Nicola: But the people that are living in these primary forests, these key biodiversity areas, which are really the priority. They are driven by what we would call poverty. Not only do they want food and medicine, they want to send their kids to school. So that is what drives them to cut the forest down. Well, what about if we actually paid them so that they had a living wage? So they could send their children to school, they had food and medicine, and their job was to be the guardians of the forest. The seed savers, those that had tree nurseries, which we could then plant next to primary diverse forests. There doesn’t seem to be any joined up thinking about where to tree plant. We know we’re planting in the wrong places. If we prioritise where we tree plant, to the tiny little key biodiversity areas, the KBAs on our planet; we need to expand them, so we tree plant next to them. Because then biodiversity has space to expand. We can plant a million trees but it will never become biodiverse unless it is backed on to an already ancient forest. So this was really my concept with Pay to Breathe. That we have to find a mechanism to pay people that live in primary forest to keep the trees standing.

Manda: Brilliant. Right. Because Schmachtenberger is often saying while a dead tree is worth more than a live tree, or a dead whale is worth more than a life whale, we will continue to kill the trees and the whales. And this makes a living tree hopefully worth more than a dead tree. I’m remembering something else I read recently. I can’t reference all of these, sorry listeners. But it was to the effect there are only two laws in life. One is that we’re going to die and the other is the law of unintended consequences. And I’m looking at the existing capitalist system and thinking the moment we decide that we’re paying people for forests, those people get evicted and Goldman Sachs buys that bit of forest. How do we stop that? Because we need a meta solution, which basically… Capitalism is not compatible with the continued survival of our planet. But what you’re trying to do is work ways within capitalism that will keep us going until we can get rid of the capitalism. How do you bridge the ‘So now this bit of forest actually has value where before it was only valuable for cutting the trees down’ how do we stop the giant vampire squid from evicting the people who actually live there?

Nicola: Well, I mean, it could also not just be the Giants, it can be the very well thinking/doing conservation groups. Our paradigm of saving forest at the moment, is to create reserves. So we raise money and then we buy up land. I mean, at the moment, probably the most biodiverse place on the planet, which is actually cloud forest rather than rainforest, is being sold for $500 per hectare. This is the most biodiverse place on the planet. $500 per hectare. Now, do we just slip into the old paradigm and say, okay, let’s buy it? It’s really, really cheap, let’s just buy it or take it off of the people and create a reserve. Which is what we’ve always done. And you know us good, well-doing white people come along.

Manda: But then we get rid of all the people on the reserve because people are not supposed to be there. Ansel Adams, I gather, did that.

Nicola: And this to me seems like an old paradigm. A patriotic way in a kind of like taking it away from them, us coming and saving the land. And so instead of creating reserves, this is the shift I want to see; that we pay the people that have always lived there to just manage the land, rather than taking it away from them. But I have had, I probably am not exaggerating when I say hundreds of meetings,with different conservation groups; and I am still amazed to not find groups that are doing this. Paying the people to manage their own land rather than creating reserves.

Manda: And why, other than patriarchy and colonial mindsets, are they afraid that you pay family A and they are then targeted by, I don’t know, the local guerrilla organisation that comes in and somehow then just takes all their money? You just create an extortion vehicle. Is that what they’re worried about? Or is there something more insidious?

Nicola: Well, some people will say, Oh, well, how can you be sure that it’s still standing? They might take the money and cut it down anyway? Well, you know, thanks to all these wonderful satellites that are travelling around our planet….

Manda: Yes. That one we can check up.

Nicola: We can see down to the last tree. And once they realise that, you know, you cut the trees down, you don’t get your payments anymore. We can see, Big Brother can watch you from satellite and we know if you’re cutting the trees down. So you know that argument of they could take the money and then cut it down, that’s not really founded. My real concern is that, like you mentioned earlier, what’s going to happen is that people are going to start buying this land off of them. I mean, if I was thinking like this, I would go and buy this for $500 a hectare, knowing that in ten years I’m going to make a lot of money through the carbon offset market.

Manda: Yes, exactly.

Nicola: So we know that there is a huge potential with this market. Absolutely. That in fact, countries like Ecuador are not even open to the carbon market.

Manda: Because of this.

Nicola: Because they want to find a way of making sure that the government keeps the money and it doesn’t go to the people.

Manda: Oh, right. Not protecting the people from extortion, but just providing their own version of the extortion.Oh God!

Nicola: So I think that we just have to, really for me anyway, I see both sides of the carbon market. I don’t like it on one side, but right now I see there’s a lot of money in this market that needs to be transferred to where it can do most good. And you know, that is highly controversial within itself. But it feels like we have to just work right now with the system. We can carry on talking about the best way to do it, for another ten years. I hear the sound of chainsaws in my mind. I am so aware of the forest that is cut. We have to find a way, sooner rather than later, to protect this forest before it’s all too late. So if, using the capitalist market, which is there as a way to save forest, well, maybe we do have to look at this.

Manda: Okay. And then we’re basically defining air as a global commons, which would be a really interesting thing to do. Because the seas used to be a global common. We could have defined oil and coal as a global commons and use them sensibly, but instead we decided it was fun to let the rich people get richer with them. And if air were a global commons, then that would set a very interesting precedent. And while you were talking about chainsaws, I was thinking about, I think, the Drax Power Station in the UK, which is touted as being fully regenerative because all it burns is wood. But what it’s burning is old growth wood from the US and Canada, which is insane on every possible level. So it’s all around the world we need to be saving the forests and the living biodiversity. So creating a precedent where an old growth forest has more value than serried rows of sitka spruce that you just planted, or anything that you just planted, seems really good. Is there anywhere that is taking this up?

Nicola: Well, I have met recently a woman that’s singing from the same song sheet as me in Costa Rica. And she has managed to get money through this carbon market to support 3000 farmers in Costa Rica. So, yes. And she has actually recently just gone to Ecuador for me to this area I’m talking about, to talk about setting up a pilot project there as well. But I mean, we’re talking about individual women that are doing this. Where are the big large conservation groups in this?

Manda: You need to get Christiana Figueres onto it because she’s in Costa Rica and also lots of global reach. And another really switched on woman that would be kind of interesting. And Joe Brewer is in Costa Rica doing his bi regionalism. Costa Rica seems to be one of those very unique places where stuff can happen that isn’t going to happen in other areas, but then potentially it could spread. This sounds very exciting. Nicola I’m very aware that we’re heading towards the end of our time. Is there anything that you would like to say that we haven’t said yet? That you think people could here should hear, would usefully hear, that they could take away that would give them a sense of agency in the world that we’re in at the moment? What can we do right now that would make a difference?

Nicola: I think we have to firstly admit that we are all a part of the problem and that we can all be a part of the solution. We’ve got to stop waiting for somebody else to fix it. And find out what each of our strengths are. Now, one person’s strengths might be going out and picking some litter up. Well, hey, that is fantastic. Another person might be able to get a stand for being a councillor or an MP. We’ve got to look at systemic change, whether that be politically, legally, economically, socially or individually. And knowing what your bit is, what you’re capable of doing, rather than this ‘I can’t do anything. Somebody else is going to fix it’. Yes, we need to all take individual action. But, you know, recycling, changing our light bulbs is absolutely not going to cop it. So we have to not allow ourselves to think, oh, I do my bit, because whatever it is that we’re doing, we all need to do more.

Manda: Right.

Nicola: And so part is finding what are your strengths. Who are you and how can you best help the planet at this time? For us to really look at that pound in our pocket and who we choose to give it to. Are we still with the old paradigm? Do we still have our money in the high street banks? Are our houses still powered by EON and EDF? You know, what are the choices that we’re making? And I think that then kind of brings it back into our own sovereignty, of the actions that we take. And knowing that when we all work together, so much more can be achieved.

Manda: Yay! Perfect. That’s an extremely good, thoughtful and useful note to end on.

Nicola: Thank you.

Manda: Nicola Peel, Solutionist. Thank you so much for coming on to the Accidental Gods podcast.

Nicola: So four years ago, I called together 12 local organisations that are working on the climate and ecological breakdown. Any little group that are solutions based. This is in Sussex. And along came these 12 groups and I said, Right, we really need to create an alliance. We’re stronger, the more of us that stand together. We now have over 130 organisations and we are the Southeast Climate Alliance. So that’s Sussex, Surrey, Kent and Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. And anyone that’s in a social, environmental or faith based organisation working on climate and ecological solutions can be a part of our alliance. And what is quite fascinating is that we don’t have any political parties, but we do have groups like XR next to Eco Cops and Eco Churches and the Wildlife Trusts and the Friends of the Earth groups and the Cpre. So some really large organisations, some really small, all the transition groups. So any organisation can become a part of our alliance. And so that way we can all share good practice and actually look at what’s working together. And so what I’m moving into next, is as an ambassador for One Planet. And we’re using their technology to do a mapping of organisations and how departments can have joined up thinking and move away from this siloed thinking, into seeing how does food relate to waste? How does transport relate to health? And we create this incredible mapping thanks to the One Planet Technology, which is an offshoot from Bio Regional. So that’s also what I’m working on here.

Manda: Is that with Pooran Desai?

Nicola: Yeah

Manda: All right! I’m talking to him in the next podcast, so we will find out all about that in the next podcast. That was solid gold. I’m really glad I hit the record button as you started talking because we’re going to slide that in, guys. This was after the end of the podcast, but it’s well worth having got. So people in the south east. So what we need to do then is create a south west and a north west and north eastern and east midlands and a west midlands variants of these and then bring them all together.

Nicola: Yeah. And so that’s what Nikki Scott came up with, Julie’s partner. That was Nikki Scott, I think that told you about me.

Manda: Yes, it was.

Nicola: So Nikki came up when he heard about the Southeast Climate Alliance and he was like Yeah, we need to have a South West alliance, do what you’re doing. But Nikki is just too busy. It couldn’t happen. I also was asked in Wales, I went and spoke in Wales, I spoke a CAT for Zero Carbon Britain, on that whole idea of we need to have local bio regions coming together and creating alliances together. So yeah, I’ve been spinning that plate too.

Manda: So if anybody in any of the local regions is listening and wants to start that up. Because it seems to me we need an umbrella of the umbrellas, also. Lots of people are in their silos and we’re not all talking together, but we all have limited time and we don’t have endless time for yet another layer of Zoom calls. But at some level we need to be bringing all the people who are thinking of the solutions, into a space where we can break out of our silos and think more deeply. Is that happening that you’re aware of?

Nicola: Well, I think this is really helping, with the alliance and with one planet, is showing that interconnectivity. Rather than reinventing the wheel, that actually, you know, if a new group is setting up a climate hub on a high street, for instance, how they can all share good practice, right? So we’ve seen that, with some of our organisations. One of the repair cafes through the network has helped 12 other repair cafes get started. So that way of us, you know, being the mycelium; actually sharing resources, sharing nutrients, has been I think, a really great way. But I also feel there is so much potential that is not happening still. Because they say if you want to get something done, ask a busy person and all the people in the alliance that are representing their organisations, are all busy people. So we need to find some of those people out there that have time on their hands to get involved, because there is so much great work to be done and we’re just waiting for more hands on deck to help out.

Manda: Yeah, because I think a lot of the busy people I know have reached capacity. I know that I get to the point if I blink, my email inbox gets to the point of overload where it’s actually quite frightening to begin to look down at the bottom. And it’s not that I don’t want to be doing all these things. It’s just that there are only a finite number of hours in the day, and I only have a certain amount of bandwidth and I’ve discovered my bandwidth limit. And I don’t think I’m the only one. So we need somehow to bring in more people. It does seem to me that there are a lot more people who want to do stuff and don’t know what to do. So somehow this and everything else that we’re doing, if we can seed out the avenues by which they can find ways usefully to use their time, then that would be useful. We might just set up an entire podcast just for that. So thank you. I recorded that last bit. We’re going to probably slot it in at the end.

Nicola: So also looking at education, how could I best, you know, use my skills as an educator? And I thought, right, we’ve got to make it quirky. So working with an organisation called Sussex Green Living, we upcycled a milk float into the Inspiration eco station. And we’ve covered the milk float with all this fun information. And we created something called the Bright New Futures Roadshow. And we’re asked to go to schools and colleges and to events and to all sorts of places, because the float is the education itself. People stop and look at it. They come over, they start to engage. We’re all solutions based when we’re talking about what can be done. And the big question is, well, what does a thriving community look like? We’ve got a checklist. Does your community have this, this, this, this, this, this, this. Oh, right.

Manda: So tell us, what sort of things are on your checklist?

Nicola: Do you have a repair cafe? Do you have a sharing? Do you do tool sharing? Do you have food share? Do you have a community orchard? Do you have community gardens? Do you have a local community hub? You know, how much are you sharing? Are you carpooling? Do you have a car share? All of the good stuff that we want to see village by village having. So we’re empowering parish councils to have this checklist and local community groups to know, what does a thriving future look like. So that’s another one of the ways that we can use education.

Manda: And if you had that list, I could put it in the show notes and then people could take it out and print it and start in their local community. I also heard recently of somewhere over in your area. I won’t say exactly where because I don’t think it’s set up yet, but the idea is that the parish council moves on to a flat pack democracy model. So nobody’s in a party, you just elect people. But they are then the executive who is there to implement the decisions made by citizen’s assembly. The parish council isn’t going to be making the decisions of what to do. The citizens Assembly is going to make the decisions and the parish council works out how to do it and if necessary, they bring people in. Which strikes me, I think that’s what governance is for and that we should be doing that at every level of governance. And I have an entire structure worked out of how to make that happen. It’s in an article I just wrote for Permaculture magazine. It’ll be out sometime soon. So that kind of thing. The Southeast seems to be really becoming a hub of innovative, exciting, different applicable now concepts. Because it’s very easy to have the ideas of how things should look when we got it all right, but if we don’t start making the transition now, it won’t ever get to being all right. So really exciting. Fantastic.

Manda: Okay, for the third time, I’m going to stop recording. This time that definitely is it. No more extra bits for Nicola. But wasn’t that grand? So many different things. So much that one person can do to make a difference. And what she said near the end, near the first time that we stopped, that there is a duality now between thinking we’ve done our bit and we can relax and basically coast along with business as usual. Or, thinking that there’s too much to do in one person can’t do it and it’s better not even to try because it’s going to be too distressing to knock our heads against the system. And somewhere in the middle is the way where each of us takes action and then we join with other people taking action. And yes, definitely find out what you’re good at. Find out what really inspires you and leaves you wanting to go back and go back and go back. But also the small things. If you’re still banking with one of the big banks, then please don’t. Change. Go to Triodos in the UK or Starling or Mondeo or one of the ones that isn’t an investment bank.

Manda: Or go to a credit union. Go to something where your money is not exerting power that’s supporting the existing system. And particularly where you’re not putting your money into a bank that is funding the fossil fuel industry. Really, we need to stop that. And then, as we said so often, what are we eating? What media are we consuming? I think now if we’re still paying for newspapers and still watching television, just stop. There are so many good podcasts out there, you don’t have to watch TV. You can listen to podcasts. You don’t have to read newspapers, you could read blogs. Read things that are not an integral part of maintaining the status quo. Get your ideas there, move around, have new ideas, talk to people, do things that move us steadily outside the comfort zone into a place where we can begin to build the world together. And we will keep putting on podcasts with people that we think are already doing this. It does feel as if this year is changing. Things are shifting. Nobody that I’ve spoken to recently thinks the existing system is working anymore. I’m sure there are people out there who do, but there are fewer of them and that has to be a start towards making change.

Manda: So there we go. That is it for this week. We’ll be back next week with another conversation as ever. And in the meantime, huge thanks to Caro C, for taking the sound and making it as easy on your ears as we can. And also for the music at the head and foot. Huge thanks to Faith, for the website and the conversations and for recently firing up the Instagram again, Instagram @accidentalgods might be an underscore in there, but I don’t think so @accidentalgods I think is it, is all her work and it’s amazing. Thanks to Anne Thomas for wrestling with the transcripts and all of the names that are not immediately obvious when you first hear them. And as always, enormous thanks to all of you for listening. It really means a lot when you write to us on social media. Five stars in a review are good for our egos, but also good for the algorithm. And just sharing it with friends. Always, we say this at the end and it’s true: word of mouth is how we spread. Find people who want to see a different world. Share the link. See where it gets to. Thank you. And that is it for now. See you next week. Thank you and goodbye.

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