Book Review “HEALING EARTH” By John Todd, North Atlantic Books, USA, 2018
Nov. 26, 2018 1:07 PM ET
Curling up on a quiet Sunday to read Healing Earth was deeply pleasurable. Author and pioneer biologist/ecologist Dr. John Todd has been one of my teachers over many years, along with Janine Benyus, who wrote the Foreword and is the inventor and author of “Biomimicry“ (1997).
We at Ethical Markets are proud to have both of them on our global Advisory Board, along with other innovative ecologists Wes Jackson of the famed Land Institute, Allan Savory, author of “Holistic Management“(1988) and Fritjof Capra, author of “The Systems View of Life” (2014).
Reading “Healing Earth“ also reminded me of the intellectual debts so many of us owe to meta-historian William Irwin Thompson, author of the much-awarded “At The Edge of History” (1972) and many other books, who shepherded our iconoclasms with his Lindisfarne Association. Through this fellowship since 1972, I learned from John Todd and Nancy Jack Todd, his life partner; Wes Jackson; chaos mathematician Ralph Abraham; poet Wendell Berry; biologists Lynn Margolis and James Lovelock, founders of the Gaia theory of planetary self-regulation; Stewart Brand, of Whole Earth Catalog fame; energy guru, Amory Lovins; ecologist Gregory Bateson, author of “Steps to an Ecology of Mind” (1985); anthropologist Catherine Bateson; ecologist David Orr; economist Brian Arthur, Santa Fe Institute; Michaela Walsh, founder of Women’s World Banking; Governor Jerry Brown of California in his “Moonbeam” phase; Hunter Lovins, lead author of “A Finer Future” (2018) and among other luminaries, Maurice Strong, UN Secretary-General of the Earth Summits in Stockholm,1972 and Rio de Janeiro, 1992, both of which I attended. In a memoir of the Lindisfarne Association “Thinking Together At The Edge of History”, (2016) William Irwin Thompson chronicles our times together from 1972 until 2012, replete with many picture of us all when we were younger and prettier.
John and Nancy Todd taught our Lindisfarne fellows so much with their amazing ecological designs at their famous New Alchemy Institute, founded in 1969 in Massachusetts “To Restore the Land, Protect the Seas and Inform the Earth’s Stewards“. We were enthralled to see their Living Machines, which took raw sewage, fed it through a maze of translucent tanks and pipes, carefully populated with various living organisms and ecosystems, until sparkling drinkable water gushed out of these marvelous artistic contraptions.
Since then, John Todd’s creativity has helped clean up lakes, rivers and polluted canals from Massachusetts and in the Caribbean to South Africa and China. The book is full of colored illustrations of all these innovative systems, as well as ships he has designed powered only with wind and solar panels, as well as of Appalachian fields of coal mine waste Todd has restored to greenery. Throughout his career, Todd has given his time and energy to projects pro bono when funds have been unavailable. I was happy, as a judge on the Buckminster Fuller Challenge to add my vote to John Todd’s winning designs.
Reading this book will let you in on all these proven methods for re-designing public infrastructure, parks, restoring lakes and rivers. All use Todd’s First, Second and Third Levels of Ecological Design: First the building blocks composed of intelligent living “parent“ species which undertake the basic tasks of generating fuels, growing food, treating and recycling wastes, detoxifying dangerous organic compounds and repairing damaged ecosystems. Second: how these building blocks provide frameworks for the Third: spans of time, economics (mostly based on cooperative enterprises), institutional and social structures. Way beyond the idiocies of left and right politics, this book is a basic real world roadmap for regenerating our damaged planetary ecosystems, fostering human ingenuity and motivation while helping stabilize the Earth’s climate.
I read this book in one sitting, absorbed and energized while remembering my many connections with John and Nancy Todd, as well as our shared discovery of the ground-breaking analysis of Howard T. Odum, author of Environment Power & Society (1972), with whom I had studied at the University of Florida.
I was also happy to see that John Todd also references the importance of carbon farming to sequester ambient CO2 safely in the soils, as well as the need to add salt-loving halophyte food plants, such as quinoa, to human diets. Todd describes the work of Dr. Carl Hodges and his partner Dr. Elizabeth Hodges, with whom we work closely and are proud to also have on our global Advisory Board. This creative approach to saltwater agriculture is based at the University of Arizona with many experiments worldwide. These other members of Earth’s plant kingdom have been ignored by our agro-chemical industrial complex and are now necessary additions to our global food systems as I point out in “Global Transition to Halophyte Agriculture May Be Inevitable”, Green Money Journal, March 2018 and in our Green Transition Scoreboard 2018: “Capturing CO2 While improving Human Nutrition & Health“ and our companion TV shows on this subject, “Investing In Desert Greening” (2014), “Investing in Saltwater Agriculture: The Next Big Thing” (2018).
With all the bad news from the IPCC on the urgency of shifting from fossil fuels to cleaner greener, knowledge-richer economies worldwide and the Congressional-mandated report on how climate change’s already damaging effects in the USA, now evident in recent fires, floods, hurricanes and droughts — reading Healing Earth will restore your spirits and help keep hope alive!