Commentary

Making A Living By Giving Back To The Earth

Today marks the official publication date of And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road, by the former editorial director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Margaret Roach.

I write "official" because there were already nine reader comments posted on Amazon.com yesterday -- eight effusive and one brutal. I imagine a blizzard of reader's copies went out to people even tangentially connected to Roach when she was a force to be lunched with on the New York publishing scene. It makes no sense to have a launch of anything nowadays without a lot of social media buzz preceding it.

In a promotional video, Roach sits on a tractor among the lush greenery and Zen garden of what was once her country retreat and is now her homestead and speaks to the flower child within us all: "Didn't you just want to get up from your desk one day and get away from it all? And I don't mean to get a latte; I mean to walk away and not come back."

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That is exactly what Roach did, giving up her "so-called successful career" to garden, write a blog ("horticultural how-to and woo-woo") about it, and, a couple of years or so into the experience, pen a "dropout memoir."

Yes, Roach was afraid of losing a steady paycheck and health benefits but she was even more afraid that she'd "just dry up and blow away if I stayed in my old life." There's a strong self- empowerment message, too, as Roach tells us that she realized that she was the only one standing between herself and her dream of finding peace in quiet and solitude.

As I followed Roach's tracks on the Web, I was reminded of a publicist's pitch for the paperback edition of another book, Fit Soul & Fit Body, I received a few weeks ago.

"According to shaman-healer Brant Secunda and triathlete Mark Allen, the emerging field known as eco-therapy offers new solutions for people suffering from wintertime blues, or depression and anxiety caused by workplace or personal stressors," Cathy S. Lewis wrote. "Secunda spent 12 years living among the exceptionally healthy and happy Huichol people of Mexico, apprenticing with their legendary shaman. From them, he learned what scientists are just now confirming: that disconnection with our outer environment can make us sick -- and connection with nature can heal us."

As it turns out, "reconnect with the natural world" is only one of nine keys to a "happier & healthier you" that the authors discuss (although "invite your inner cave man to the table" might be considered to be along similar lines). But the pitch was perfect for these bleak February days in the Northeast. Who among us doesn't yearn to commune once more with the crocuses poised to push through the frozen soil?

That desire to reconnect is, in fact, what another business I've come across -- Common Circle Education -- speaks to in its advocacy for the "anything but airy-fairy" permaculture movement. Common Circle offer programs such as a week-long bicycle tour that not only teaches you how to fix a flat but also puts you to work at a family organic farm.

"Our transformational permaculture program is an incredible opportunity to have fun, build community and get your hands dirty learning how to design sustainable communities and systems through permaculture -- a sustainable design system inherently rooted in nature, applicable virtually everywhere: gardens, homes, businesses, communities, and relationships," the website says.

"Okay," I can hear you saying. "This is all well and good but 'back to nature' is nothing new. I've read Coleridge and Thoreau; I've even got a copy of the Whole Earth Catalog somewhere. But I've also got a mortgage and car payments and a Starbucks habit to sustain. Show me the money!"

Right. So here's a video of Storm Cunningham, author of The Restoration Economy, delivering the closing keynote talk at the TEDx MidAtlantic conference last November. He takes 20 minutes to elaborate on four messages:

  • Sustainable development is at least 200 years too late;
  • We -- and future generations -- can make our world healthier, wealthier and more beautiful ... for a living;
  • The process of restoring our planet and revitalizing our communities is finally becoming a rigorous discipline with the proper education and tools;
  • Restoring our world can help restore peace.

Okay, so world peace may seem a little airy-fairy this morning. But here's the bottom line: Cunningham says that hundreds of thousands of businesses and other entities are already engaged in what he calls restoration -- whether it's turning an old mine into a garden that's a major tourist attraction in Vancouver or cleaning up watersheds so that fish and wildlife return. This is happening under myriad names, "such as 'redevelopers,' 'remediators,' or 'restorers' of ecosystems, heritage, watersheds, fisheries, disasters, wars, infrastructure."

Throw in books, blogs and educational programs that make us aware of what we've been detaching ourselves from since even before the Industrial Revolution, and you have what Cunningham claims is a fragmented industry that collectively generates about $1.5 to $2 trillion a year worldwide.

Anything but airy-fairy, indeed.

2 comments about "Making A Living By Giving Back To The Earth ".
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  1. P Caffray from get milkshake, February 23, 2011 at 8:18 a.m.

    The book is written by Margaret Roach! I know, I worked with her at Martha Stewart years ago and can see why she cashed in as she was the only type A gardener I have ever come across.

  2. Thom Forbes from T.H. Forbes Co., February 23, 2011 at 2:19 p.m.

    Now where did I get "Martha" from? Hmmm. Thanks. Dumb mistake.

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