The Climate According to Life w/ Rob Lewis

The Climate According to Life w/ Rob Lewis

Posted by Daniel Griffith on

Summary

In this conversation, I and Rob Lewis of the The Climate According to Life discuss the climate crisis from a holistic and poetic perspective. We explore the role of poetry in understanding the modern machine and the need for a shift in language and perspective. Rob also examines the influence of capitalism on climate science and solutions, as well as the importance of taking the time to address the crisis.


The conversation highlights the complexity and unifying nature of the modern crisis and emphasizes the need to talk to Earth on her terms—not as a “the” but as a living being. Rob also discusses the importance of language in our perception of the environment (or nature?) and how it can shape our relationship with nature, explaining how the term 'environment' was created to distance ourselves from nature and how Indigenous people have a more holistic way of talking about the earth. 

The conversation concludes with a poem by Lewis titled 'The Making,' which reflects on the joy of good work and the importance of staying connected to Earth.

 

Takeaways

  • Poetry can provide a unique perspective on the climate crisis, allowing us to see the beauty and interconnectedness of the natural world, regardless of what George Monbiot thinks!

  • The influence of capitalism on climate science and solutions can hinder holistic and sustainable approaches. Well, destroys holistic approaches is more true.

  • Taking the time to understand and address the modern crisis is crucial, as rushing and prioritizing technological solutions may lead to unintended consequences, like even more technology, industry, and their machines eroding our soils and communities.

  • Language plays a significant role in shaping our understanding of the climate crisis, and it is important to use language that respects and acknowledges Earth as a living being. Language plays a significant role in shaping our perception of the environment. The term 'environment' was created to distance ourselves from nature, while Indigenous people have a more holistic way of talking about the earth.

  • Water is essential for life and plays a central role in our climate. The relationship between water and life is interconnected, with water creating the infrastructure for life and life creating the conditions for water.

  • Plants have a crucial role in climate regulation through the process of transpiration. They release moisture to cool off and absorb heat from the atmosphere, helping to regulate temperature and remove heat from the environment.

  • The complexity of life and Earth cannot be fully understood or captured in a single moment. It requires ongoing exploration and reflection to find meaning and appreciate its beauty.

Rob is a kind, thinking friend and it was a true blessing to share the space with him.

 

Transcript

Daniel Griffith (00:06.456)
Hello, welcome to another episode of Denusion We're taking a break from our regular stream of episodes with Rupert Dunn to bring you a very interesting conversation with a new friend of mine, Rob Lewis. I have long followed Rob on Substack. He writes under the Climate According to Life, all about the climate crisis. If we can just say that topically for now, we'll get into it so much more in depth here in a little bit, to the water cycle and the science and the biology.

all of the really interesting things that surround a lot of the work that we find ourselves enmeshed within, but also from a really, really thought provoking angle. Rob is a poet, which I really want to talk to him about today, and we'll dive into that on this in this episode. But Rob, I've introduced you enough. Thank you for being with us. It's a privilege and a blessing to know you.

Rob Lewis (01:01.118)
Likewise, Daniel, and thanks for having me on your show. I've been really looking forward to this. I've looked at some of your podcasts and I just get more interested in what you're doing every time I learn more. Like you, I'm a nature lover have been since very young. And, you know, that led me to environmentalism and eventually to the climate movement.

And I participated in an effort here on the Northwest coast of Washington, what we call the Salish Sea, in deference to indigenous language about this body of water we all share. We call it the Salish Sea. Shell was docking many of their Arctic drilling vessels on our ports on the way to the Chukchi Sea for exploratory drilling.

And a movement just spontaneously arose to try to keep them at dock because they had a short window in which to do their drilling before the winter freeze. And what's so dangerous about that is if they did have a blowout, they wouldn't be able to cap it in the time they had. So you could end up with a blowout going all winter until the following spring in this incredibly pristine and important ecosystem. So people really rose to the occasion.

And that was a turning point for me of becoming much more involved in direct action and experiencing the joy and agency and being able to at least get in front of things physically rather than just intellectually. But over time I began to realize that the solution framework we were being given of green energy was its own ecological nightmare. And

I noticed in the leadership of the movement a complete unwillingness to acknowledge that. And then, so I drifted away. And that's when I began to learn about what I've come to call the living climate, which is that the climate is not some reaction to physical circumstances. It's a function of living processes and organisms. So every place has its own climate.

Rob Lewis (03:22.382)
The feel, the moisture, the patterns, the experience of that climate has a lot to do with what's living there. And then I discovered that science understood this too. It had its own language for it. What we would call habitat destruction, they call land change. And the reason they use the term land change is because whenever you change the surface of the land, you change the relationship between the land and atmosphere. You're also changing the relationship between

below ground, the aquifer. So the land is like a membrane between water in the sky and water under Earth. And it's always working to keep things healthy and, I guess, climatically favorable for the organisms that live there. So this was another thing. OK, so the green energy movement is ignoring the effects of their.

solution, they're also ignoring the science that shows their solution is going to do as much not as much. I don't know, you know, I hate to get quantitative about this, but it's going to do climate damage in its own right. So what I began to see was a climate analysis according to physics. And if you look at the covers of the IP or the titles of the IPCC

climate assessments. And you're familiar with the IPCC? Yeah. So I imagine most of your listeners are, too. It's the International Body for Climate Science. It declares on the title of its covers a physical science basis. So for 2021, global climate change 2021, the physical science basis. And that really stuck out at me.

Daniel Griffith (04:54.154)
Yes, yep, for sure.

Rob Lewis (05:19.51)
If we're talking about a living system, why are we taking a basis according to physics? And the reason for that is because...

early in the climate debate, it was computer modeling that emerged as the ocular for seeing this thing we call climate. And that's a mathematical process. And they've been able to do amazing things by, you know, breaking down the atmosphere in terms of mathematics, they can model all kinds of things, but they can't show what a plant is doing very well, or a forest or what your land is doing well.

Rob Lewis (05:59.714)
would just disappear in a global climate model. They have grid sizes that I believe are 10 kilometer by 100 kilometer. So they would hardly see you. So what can they say about what you're doing on your land? So that's when the notion of, well, we need to tell the story according to life. So that's what the climate according to life is all about. And I'll probably spend many years on this because it's just it's a topic that just keeps getting deeper and deeper.

the more I explore it. And it's fascinating and it's hopeful and it's nourishing, you know, just takes you away from technology and puts you back on the ground again.

Daniel Griffith (06:43.94)
Yeah, yes, most definitely. It's, no, the climate crisis, if you will, or climate change as a modern crisis to modern civilization, however you want to phrase that, it's so interesting. It's so unifying to some degree. I was talking to one of our neighbors, he's a retired diesel mechanic, and he said, what did he say, only white, sissy town boys don't believe in climate because they work inside all day or something like this.

Rob Lewis (06:59.619)
Mm-hmm.

Rob Lewis (07:03.456)
Um.

Daniel Griffith (07:12.984)
Well, his point was it's 110 degree heat index. He's outside in his tractor, you know, just there's it's unifying and also disunifying simultaneously. But even this morning I saw a Pew research report that said that 23% of American conservative politicians believe in a climate emergency. It was ill-defined what that means. So let's just accept terminology for now. And 81% of Democrats.

Rob Lewis (07:13.197)
Mmm, interesting.

Daniel Griffith (07:41.868)
believe in a climate emergency. So from a local neighbor perspective, you have one thing at the political national level, you know, that same both unity and division simultaneously exists. And so, no, I think the complexity of all of this is going to take generations to unpack. And I think what you're doing, I mean, it's so interesting. I want to start.

Rob Lewis (07:43.809)
Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (08:10.352)
that this is much of a start, but I've been, you know, in preparation for this conversation, I dove into some things that I could find that you've said online just to learn more about your thought process. So maybe here we could develop it even deeper, you know, for our listeners. And one of the episodes that I listened to, I can't even remember exactly where it was, some website, you were talking about poetry. And I understand, so you've written a book. Remind us of the title again, the title is lacking.

Rob Lewis (08:39.628)
of the silence of vanishing things.

Daniel Griffith (08:40.438)
in memory.

That's right. The silence of vanishing things. And you yourself, I mean, you think poetically, you write very poetically. You, you write poetry as I understand it. And I want to do a couple of things here. I want to talk about poetry. Um, cause I think, um, Masanobu Fukuoka who wrote the one straw revolution, um, Japanese farmer, um, he has a whole part in his, in his book. I'm sure you've, you've read it or know about it.

Rob Lewis (08:57.678)
Great.

Rob Lewis (09:02.102)
Yeah. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (09:09.22)
where he says the problem of modern agriculture, and he's writing in the 1940s and 50s. And so modern agriculture is still not even modern enough for this conversation. And he wrote that the problem of modern agriculture is not machines and fossil fuels and mechanization and technology and separation, although those things might be true. And they are as we understand it. But he says the real problem of this agricultural paradigm that flows out of this capitalistic and...

conventional models is there's no time for a farmer to write a poem. And I've always loved that quote because it's not a lack of poetry as much as it is a lack of time to write a poem. So now the question that Fukuoka is really asking is what does it mean to write a poem? Which I don't know, I want to extend that to you because you're a poet. You think poetically, you've come at this from a poetic perspective. Fukuoka says not enough time to write a poem. What does it, what does it really mean to write a poem?

Rob Lewis (09:41.611)
Oh, yeah.

Rob Lewis (09:49.229)
Yes.

Daniel Griffith (10:06.592)
And how does this have anything to do with the climate crisis?

Rob Lewis (10:09.766)
Oh, that's a great question. And, you know, in your in your interview with Hilda, I don't have her last name. You talk about you and your wife sharpening axes, getting ready to fell or just to cut some wood. And that really just gave me chills because that's the heart of it, really. You know, I mean, you weren't writing a poem, but you were kind of composing one.

Daniel Griffith (10:17.102)
Mm.

Rob Lewis (10:39.446)
by your action. You were living poetically. You're approaching your work from a poetic standpoint. And I think of poetry as like a stance. You know, it's not just something people do to try to, I don't know, write pretty words. It's a stance towards reality, in my opinion. And I think what Fukuoka was saying is that if you don't have time to write a poem about your work,

Daniel Griffith (10:41.707)
Mm.

Rob Lewis (11:07.302)
you don't have time to really understand it or engage in it. You're not fully experiencing it. You know, making sure your tools are well cared for is part of the joy. I'm also a house painter by trade. So I've worked in the trades for 30 years. And this is one of the things I've seen is that people aren't given time to do good work anymore.

In fact, I began to notice, particularly during the Trump years, but even before, when you see another subcontractor on a job site, a drywall or electrician or whatever, the first question is always keep him busy. And, um, I started answering, no, I'm trying not to. I'm trying to keep this sane. Or I would say about how I like to be, you know, but every, you know, there's this.

business of people just running past each other to keep busy to make more money. Uh, and they're all missing, uh, well, so many people are missing the, the deeper experience with their trade and craft though, you know, there are, I think it's coming back. There's also a lot of people during breaks, standing around bitching about the fact that nobody has time to do good work anymore. So.

You know, I think poetry and good work, yeah.

Daniel Griffith (12:33.77)
Yeah. Yeah, the time component, it's, it's substantial.

Rob Lewis (12:39.998)
Yeah. So, you know, and that's kind of, you know, I started, I became, kind of made my, or began my relationship with poetry about the same time I started painting houses. And to me, that was a perfect blend because I had the space and freedom to think and to not be punching a clock. And I was outside.

a lot of the time, I began to learn about color and surfaces. What really, one of the things that really struck me was just how amazing, the amazing artistry of nature in creating surface beauty, you know, I'm sure you've seen that in, just if you really examine a leaf for any length of time, both sides of the leaf, different seasons of the leaf, they're all tableaus that,

no artist can fully equal.

So we're immersed in beauty all the time. And I think being able to tend to that aspect of what we're doing, the beauty and the spiritual connection is part of it.

Now how that relates to climate.

Rob Lewis (14:06.646)
Well, one thing that I began to realize is I began to learn more about what I call the living climate is how much poetry there was in it. The fact that, well, that land moves water from below the surface to above the surface. I mean, there's a poem in that. And I also learned that plants not only emit moisture that creates clouds, they also emit what I call

rain seeds, they're cloud condensation nuclei. They're the little grains that the water vapor freezes around to become future raindrops. And plants send that material up as microbes, as certain types of aerosols. So the plant is not only feeding the cloud, it's helping to create the cloud in a way that causes it to rain faster.

to bring the rain back down quicker. So, I mean, what's creating what at a certain point in this cycle? And of course, the plant is not only creating rain for itself because usually the cloud moves down the land farther and rains somewhere else. So by helping its neighbor, it's helping itself and being part of this larger cycle.

Rob Lewis (15:29.386)
So yeah, from the standpoint of poetry, there's just, once you start learning about biology and nature and climate, I'm sure you know, there's just no end to the instruction and story that you receive.

Daniel Griffith (15:46.748)
Yeah, yeah, for sure. No, it's a really interesting thought poetry that is Um because I it's interesting. Um, I don't know your opinion of the fella. Um, george manbio who wrote regenesis I have some opinions and probably what you think. Um, but i've been digging into the book recently. I've been writing my own book and I've been writing a pretty substantial book recently over the last couple of months and

Rob Lewis (16:02.462)
Yeah, yeah, it'll probably stem around that.

Daniel Griffith (16:15.328)
I don't know, I just gravitated towards his book and I have it here. I don't know, I just, I know a lot of, I have my opinions about his work and his thoughts and the realities of them and you know, they're not positive in the slightest and I wanted to dive into his words to see what he truly thought because I've never really done that. You know, it's always just been, you know, 10 minutes snippet here that I formed opinions on and other things. Well, it's interesting. You know, I have this marked and you were talking about poetry and...

Rob Lewis (16:34.509)
Not now.

Right. Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (16:45.06)
To me, if I could summarize what you just said eloquently and beautifully, it's that poetry is a stance and that stance is really a moment to see beauty. It's the ocular that we can see the beauty and witness it from a biological perspective, from an aesthetic perspective, from a time perspective. There's so much infinite depth there. But that's also, to me, very hopeful. When I hear that we are taking our time to consider next steps for the future of the world and the future of humanity.

Rob Lewis (17:04.759)
Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (17:14.424)
which is really to say the future of the world, to me, patience, slowness, deep thought.

you know, oculars into beauty. I mean, all these things seem positive, but it's interesting. And I got a book right here and I want to read you this. And I don't know, I want to ask your opinion. So this is chapter eight, page 212, if anybody has George Mambeo's Regenesis. And I'll just read you a couple of sentences. And then I'll ask the question. He says, what stops us from seeing that something needs to change? Why do we ignore or tolerate or even justify?

levels of environmental destruction and social exclusion that if they were inflicted by any other industry we would furiously oppose. And then he asks his question, or really he asserts his central point. He says, one of the greatest threats to life on earth is poetry.

one of the greatest threats to life on earth is poetry. I read this just the other day. And right, it's, well, that's interesting. Well, he's contrasting what you just made similar. So right, so you're saying that poetry allows us to see to some degree. That's not really what you said, but it kind of is. And what he's asking is, or what he's asserting is, we don't see because of poetry.

Rob Lewis (18:15.138)
What?

Rob Lewis (18:23.378)
the

Daniel Griffith (18:42.784)
Right. And so there's this, this dichotomy, there's a conflict between, I think what the question is, what is site?

Rob Lewis (18:50.434)
We don't see because of poetry. Is he saying we're not seeing the hard realities, that we're not seeing the data properly? Because it sounds like he's gotten really into data. Data analysis. Or once you go down that road, you're kind of lost. Well, I appreciate that you've read his book, because I think your point that it's easy to make an opinion about something based on things you've heard is a good one.

Daniel Griffith (18:56.108)
I think so.

Daniel Griffith (19:02.608)
Yeah

Daniel Griffith (19:07.968)
Yeah. Yes.

Rob Lewis (19:20.47)
We all are in that situation of being busy and not being able to truly understand other people. You know, George Mambio, for all his faults, I saw him give a presentation to some high alutin audience about the language of science when it comes to nature. And he was, I think, talking specifically about the

International Program for Biological and Ecosystem Services, the IPBES report that came out, I think, in 21. And that I've tried to read and is almost, it's just these scientific reports are so poorly written. But anyways, the news is bad, right? And his point is that the language was so scientific and so detached that it was almost pointless.

So, you know, there's a heart and soul in that man. And he saw it there. And unfortunately, he didn't get anywhere with that talk. But it was brilliant. I mean, he spoke for 90 minutes ad lib on this topic. But, and he's now, are you familiar with the book, Say No to a Farm-Free Future by Chris Smage?

Daniel Griffith (20:29.424)
Wow.

Daniel Griffith (20:41.109)
Yeah, by Chris. Yep.

Rob Lewis (20:42.482)
Yeah, so he's challenged the thinking of Mambio on getting rid of farms and doing protein with factories and industry. So I have had a chance to learn a bit more about him. And yeah, I think he's trying to save us from what he sees as a misty view of the world for, quote, the hard facts.

even though to assume that we're going to all live in modern gleaming cities with factories producing our food for us is kind of misty, if you ask me.

Daniel Griffith (21:21.965)
Well, if I can jump in, to me, because I agree with you perfectly, I think Mambio, like I was reading the book and the first half of the book I was looking at my wife and I said, Morgan, this is really bad. I agree with everything he's saying. I mean, his view over a lot of these subjects are really good. Like the first, I mean, his understanding of the problem to some degree is quite interesting and some of it you can really agree with.

Rob Lewis (21:38.748)
Right. Yes.

Daniel Griffith (21:50.04)
But it's the conclusion that, you know, farms are bad because in some sense humanity, we have an agricultural problem and now we just need to turn into a technological solution. Whereas technology and agriculture relating to humankind to me aren't that different, right? Humans have ruined the world through agriculture, but we're not really changing the premise. We're just replacing agriculture with technology and our humans are going to feed humanity not through agriculture, which is a mechanistic thing and to some degree.

but with a new version of technology, which just happens to be entirely scientifically based. And so it's not really replacing a bad apple with a good apple. It's just they're all rotten apples, according to his own rhetoric, which has always been quite interesting.

Rob Lewis (22:25.814)
Thank you.

Rob Lewis (22:34.774)
Well, and you also have to say what kind of agriculture, like, and where. You know, there's places that are ruined, that have been ruined, and that actually probably do need some human help to fix the damage we've done. If the water cycle's broken and the land can't renew it itself, then humans are needed to build ditches and little check dams to hold water when it rains so that the land can rehydrate. Once you hold the water,

Daniel Griffith (22:41.443)
Exactly.

Daniel Griffith (23:00.816)
Great.

Rob Lewis (23:04.662)
Are you familiar with Michael Krafchik, the new water paradigm?

Daniel Griffith (23:10.88)
Yeah, yeah the new water, yep.

Rob Lewis (23:11.786)
Yeah, so, and that's his point is that you don't need to plant trees and you don't really need to design or engineer landscapes. You just need to help them hold water and the land will take care of it from there. I want to follow up a little on this time issue you brought up because I think it's a very good one. We don't have time to do things right.

That's a big problem in my mind. And we don't have time to think about what we're doing. And yet when you look at the Green Energy Project, one of their central pillars is that it's an emergency, and we need to hurry, build this technology, create this new industry. And through that narrative, they've been able to dilute environmental permitting laws

throughout the US in the federal government, and quite a lot so in the European Union. And now they're pushing it on, quote, the third world. So it's not only a philosophical matter. It's a functional reality of our time that we are in this escalation that now the people who are supposed to be speaking for the land, quote, environmentalists, are pushing for even a more rapid.

acceleration.

Daniel Griffith (24:43.373)
Yeah.

Rob Lewis (24:44.162)
quite distressing.

Daniel Griffith (24:46.12)
Yeah, this is not my thought, but I was in a conversation with Charles Eisenstein a couple months back, and this is fully his thought, but he made the comment that there's a difference between haste and urgency, and it stuck with me. It feels like a lot of what we're trying to do is within the idea of haste. Whereas when you're urgent, which he's using that in a very particular way, it's not an emergency but you're...

Rob Lewis (25:01.227)
Move them.

Rob Lewis (25:05.261)
Yes.

Daniel Griffith (25:13.228)
You care about it and you're almost urgent with your patience and urgent with the action and urgent with the thought all of these things work together.

Rob Lewis (25:23.338)
Yeah. And, um.

haste and urgency.

Rob Lewis (25:33.898)
What McKibbin and the Green Energy seems to be doing is defining for us what we should be urgent about. Like I feel very urgent about the loss of species. Once a species is gone, it's gone. There's no getting it back. We're told we have to put all that off for 20 years while we build this new infrastructure, which will definitely put a lot more species over the edge. So I think they have their urgency backward. My...

The prime urgency is protecting what's left of biotic integrity. That should be our first priority. If we had a true understanding of how we depend on this biosphere, that would be our immediate goal is to protect what's left because it's all that we have to keep this climate running. If it weren't for life, Earth would be a lot like Mars. It would be an ice ball.

Rob Lewis (26:33.763)
So this idea that we can destroy life and save the climate, it's not even scientifically based. Or it's scientifically biased, I'd say. It's biased in favor of physical understanding versus biological understanding. Or human understanding, poetic understanding.

Daniel Griffith (26:57.009)
Why do you think the rise of medicine, which views life, and I for the last 12 years, as some of our listeners know, I've dealt with some very serious health issues and I've had my fair share of big surgeries, lost the ability to walk and stuff. A lot of my life is depending upon the truly Western medical complex.

Rob Lewis (27:16.158)
Mmm, wow.

Daniel Griffith (27:22.496)
I'm very thankful for it. But I do have a particular opinion of modern medicine. I need this to be double-checked factually, but this is 99% accurate. The first leading cause of death in the developed world is cardiovascular disease, entirely preventable. The second one is diabetes, as I understand it, entirely preventable. The third of which is medical malpractice, which is entirely preventable.

Rob Lewis (27:47.099)
Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (27:52.288)
and the fourth of which is alcohol, alcohol and alcoholism. So the four top leading causes of death, according to the developed world, it might be a US statistic, those are. Either way, the quasi-developed world, I mean the four leading causes of death are unbelievably preventable, especially the last two, the third and the fourth, medical malpractice and alcoholism to some degree.

Rob Lewis (27:54.757)
Uh... Hmm...

Daniel Griffith (28:16.888)
Um, completely understandable given the lives that we leave and the decadence and, you know, our ungroundedness and lack of community that leads to, I mean, like, there's a lot of things that we can talk about, but my point is why, why do you think that the medical complex today is so large and regardless of its failures, it still sees life in the human body is entirely connected. And what I mean by that is, you know, no cancer doctor or researcher.

Rob Lewis (28:24.802)
Right. Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (28:41.592)
would ever see cancer in the x part of your body and say, but if it spreads, it's fine. If we can just take care of it here, it's okay. Or like no cardiovascular doctor, whatever that would be, or pulmonary doctor, lungs and such, would look at you and say, yeah, you're perfectly healthy, but your lungs are garbage. They don't work at all. And so in this Western medical complex, which is modern science, we still have views of holism. Not fully. And there's a lot of us and there's plenty of people.

Rob Lewis (28:47.022)
She's just here, she's just here.

Rob Lewis (29:00.558)
Mm-hmm.

Daniel Griffith (29:12.348)
like, you know, Dr. Joseph McCullough and Dr. Mark Hyman and plenty of other ones that are more or less in a very social way leading a charge to viewing modern medicine from a more holistic perspective. But it's still more holistic in comparison to the other thing, which is what you're talking about, climate science, let's call it, where we see the physical world as one thing, the biological world as another thing, and they really don't ever interrelate. Why do you think that is? Like, why do you think the climate science is so disjoined?

Whereas a lot of the other sciences, although they're not as good as they should be or could be, they are more joined than the climate side. Why do you think that is?

Rob Lewis (29:50.474)
Yeah, that's a great question. Well, what's interesting about climate science is at one time it was more joined. Like if you look at the report of the World Meteorological Organization, their first climate summit in 1979 treats the climate as pretty much a biological phenomenon. It lists land damage as when it has, in the introduction,

Rob Lewis (30:22.69)
And I'm not going to be perfectly exact. You know, my memory always loses the precise details. So I don't know if it was, I believe it was the introduction where in talking about the leading causes of human caused climate change, they list land degradation, the plowing of the steps, the cutting of forests. And what happened with climate science is

as CO2 was increasingly recognized as an important part of it, it was a thing that was amenable to technological manipulation in terms of modeling and things like that. And then, so the scientific community actually, before creating the IPCC, created an organization called the International Geosphere Biosphere Program.

And this looked at the planet as an interrelated whole. Gaia theory, or what's now called more planetary systems, global systems, it was only later that the CO2 narrative was kind of pulled forward as the main thing. And then once journalism got a hold of that, it had a simplistic single thing that it could focus on. And.

It has something it could focus on mathematically. And then once capitalism entered the picture and you saw that this could be something that could create jobs and make people rich and fuel the economy, then that took over. So I mean, the short answer to that question is capitalism. I would say that everything becomes a marketable product. The human body becomes a marketable product. The climate becomes a marketable product.

Daniel Griffith (32:09.68)
So interesting.

Rob Lewis (32:15.418)
And these disciplines like medicine and climate science, they do have holism because they're stuck in the hole. You know, you can't look at the body and not have holism. You can't look at the climate and not have holism yet. That kind of gets sub-graded. It gets somewhat demoted. Yeah.

Uh, you know, and.

Daniel Griffith (32:43.406)
Yeah.

Rob Lewis (32:44.422)
It may be the time thing too, that doctors don't have enough time to sit around and write poems about medicine and let the subject itself speak more for itself.

Daniel Griffith (32:58.088)
Yeah, yeah, that's interesting. You bring up capitalism. I couldn't agree more. I'm in complete agreement with you. It is interesting, you know, a lot of our work over the last couple of years, my wife and I, a lot of our work has been around the This is not an English word, but like the communitization or whatever you want to call it of the local food environment. So a lot of what Chris is talking about and is saying no to a farm free future.

has been what we've been working on, both positively and negatively. We learned a lot. We still have so much to learn. I think we're generations away from actually healing our local food system in any sort of way, in any sort of substantive way. We have a long way to go. But the one thing we found that was really interesting in regard to this conversation

Rob Lewis (33:32.531)
I'm sure I can only imagine.

Daniel Griffith (33:51.18)
was as long, you know, so long story short, we built this network of verified regenerative local human scale type farms that all kind of started to co-own this thing called a collaborative network. And then anyways, they aggregated their products together for the local community so that, you know, one of the benefits of the grocery system is that when you need an avocado or you need an apple, they're there. And if they're not there, there's another version of the thing that you could, you know, still feed your family with. But so many local food systems, especially here in the East Coast, United States.

You know, we were, you know, farmers markets, whatever it is. Um, you know, you say, okay, I want to stop going to the grocery store as a consumer, I'm going to start going to the farmer's market. You go to the farmer's market and you bring in a third, a quarter, an eighth, a 16, sometimes of the actual volume of food that you need for the week. You know, let's say you went and you said, I need some bread or wheat. You know, I need some vegetables and fruit and I need some proteins, whatever that might be all the way from plant-based proteins of local nuts and other things, you know, from black walnuts and acorn trees, whatever it is, or, you know,

proteins, meats, eggs, dairy, etc. And so it's really hard to really foment a consumer type revolution into local food systems when every time that the consumer participates, they're let down because they still have to go to the grocery store as well. And so the system, we were trying to combat that and solve it by co-ownership and collaboration and community and such. But it was interesting. I'm rambling a bit to get to the point. But the point is this. Let me say it very simply and succinctly.

the system failed to a large degree because the consumer still was allowed to be a consumer. Meaning that it's nearly impossible to fit a collaborative, living co-ownership based co-op with a consumer. That is to say with capitalism still a viable entity or master over the lives of the people that we were working with or trying to work with. And so capitalism seemed to be the limiting force. And what you're saying here too,

Rob Lewis (35:44.258)
Yeah. Goodbye.

Daniel Griffith (35:49.74)
From what I understand is that when it comes down to climate science, but also the human response to the climate as a living being reaching out saying, wait a second, this is not good. That capitalism also may be a limit.

Rob Lewis (36:04.394)
Yeah, yeah, I mean, I can't speak for what the scientists were thinking when, back in the like around 1986 and 87 and 88 when these large international organizations were being created. But it seemed to fall prey to repeating the same pattern over and over again. You know, we're doing with, I see kind of the green energy movement as a kind of

allegory to the green agriculture movement, you know, when they came and said, Oh, we've got this crisis, people are going to starve if we don't bring technology in to change how we grow food. And we now know that was pretty much an ecological disaster that many places are now suffering from climatologically because their soils were ruined.

Rob Lewis (37:01.118)
And then another thing I've come across, and I want to do more research on this, but a lot of land legislation was passed in the 50s during the rise of the US and our meddling in the affairs of other governments, like in North Africa, where land that had been managed through systems that had developed for centuries with nomads.

and agriculturalists and then people who were kind of in between, they all kind of understanding is they would all gather once a year to kind of talk about how they would do the following year. You know, where should we give rest to the land and where should we meet to exchange goods? And even though North Africa is a dry place and susceptible to damage and has been damaged over thousands of years of agriculture, it was still holding up. It was still.

still had forests and still had steps. And then the land was split up and privatized under US pressure. And that's when a lot of the, and then the green revolution and the corporatizing of agriculture and national land, a lot of land started to die. And what do you know? Suddenly they had extreme drought and it's continued ever since. And you will listen to, you know.

officials within the climate movement blaming all that on CO2. I've heard John Kerry say that. So he probably has no idea what land change even means. So, yeah, these things fall prey to these patterns. And the pattern seems to me a pattern of capitalism that is so ingrained in us, we don't even see it. Like you were saying with the trying to run a local food system within a capitalist

somewhat impossible and counterproductive.

Rob Lewis (39:03.09)
And, you know, maybe one of the things that will help turn this is time, that people are just going to get sick of rushing around to just make things worse. And pulling back, you know, withholding ourselves from that system is something I've been thinking a lot about. Is the solution, or is the best reaction to capitalism withdrawal from it?

as much as possible and buy as many as possible? Could we actually reduce their power that way?

Daniel Griffith (39:35.376)
Great.

Rob Lewis (39:39.658)
I don't know, it's on the edge. You know, most people wouldn't think that way. What we have now for climate are these giant international meetings that seem to accomplish nothing other than burning perhaps lots of fossil fuels.

Daniel Griffith (39:56.38)
Right. I love that piece you wrote. Maybe it was early December, mid-December on your substack, The Climate According to Life. If I think I have the title correct, it was like a conference for not all the parties. And then the subtitle was like, what would Mother Earth had said if she was there or something like this? But it's such a good article. I encourage all of you, one, to be very clear, I encourage all of our listeners, go follow Rob's substack.

Rob Lewis (40:10.194)
Not all the parties. Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (40:27.093)
It's totally worth your time. But in this piece, if I can highlight one of the concepts of it, it's a good piece, it's sizable, it's well written, it's unbelievably comprehensive in the way that you can quickly and simply get to a subject, handle it, and get out. It's really a good piece. But to me, as I read it, it's all around this idea like this was a conference about Mother Earth.

or Gaia or land or however you wanted to view that. But like she was never asked to come. Like she was the queen of the ball that was never invited. Which when you phrase it like that, which I thought was just absolutely brilliant, like all of a sudden the stupidity, the complicated, over scientifically infused, I don't know, it just, it totally withered away. They can like.

Rob Lewis (41:01.015)
Alright.

Daniel Griffith (41:22.384)
That's just the way I saw it. I was really happy when I read it. I guess is what I want to really say.

Rob Lewis (41:28.53)
Oh, good. I enjoyed writing it. We all want to get our two cents in. Right. And I felt I was able to do that there. But yeah, I don't follow cop much. But that was my main impression is that people did not spend a lot of time talking. In fact, I don't think I ever heard anybody really talk much about the earth, though. It's complicated because the chairman of the conference

I don't recall his name, but he's an oil mogul, which is Nishinau itself, but he has a project which involves buying a whole lot of land in Africa to preserve it. It's called Blue Carbon. And so you could say, well, Earth was there because they're going to be preserving this large amount of land. But when you...

dig under the surface, you see that it's part of a carbon trading scheme, which actually financializes the land, turns it into yet another product of capitalism. And from what I hear, these schemes are never good for the indigenous people there because they're recognized as kind of an evasive species or something. So even when we do try to recognize the earth, we're not speaking to the earth on her terms.

I don't think that's what she would say is like, oh yeah, go ahead, do your big, huge industrial project, but you know, save a little bit of me here and there. And by the way, kick out those people who I know and have loved for centuries, you know, uh, the indigenous people who actually talked to me and asked me questions. So yeah, we're, we're so far from sanity on climate. It's, it's a little overwhelming sometimes.

Daniel Griffith (43:16.289)
Right. Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (43:24.884)
Yeah, well, I think what you said was just brilliant right there. It's talking to Earth on her terms. I said this recently on a podcast we released last week, but I want to say it again. It's really important. A friend of mine is an indigenous gentleman of the Lakota here in the Northern Hemisphere, Central Plains. I write a lot of nature, not poetry, nature writings, let's call them, similar to you.

Rob Lewis (43:30.476)
Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (43:51.968)
And he said, Daniel, whenever you write, you put the word the in front of Earth, the mother Earth, our mother Earth, the Earth. And I made the comment last episode, I said, he challenged me, he said, anytime you say that we are stewards of the Earth, that we should become uncomfortable with that. And rather say we are stewards of Earth, because I would never say welcome to the podcast, the Rob Lewis, you know, I never say this is my the wife. But I would say this is the Earth. Right. And so we're

Rob Lewis (43:56.426)
Hmm. Okay.

Rob Lewis (44:20.359)
Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (44:22.068)
our own language, which I think is a very capitalistic way. Like this is the earth in the sense that this is the product, right? This is the resource we can exploit. This is the resource we can save. Right. It's that language still places us as over right. Masters or controllers, you know, dare you say colonizers over the operations in the life that is earth, just earth, right? Not the earth. And, and when you start to remove that, you know, from your language, the

Rob Lewis (44:23.608)
Yes.

Rob Lewis (44:28.839)
Uh, hey.

Rob Lewis (44:33.485)
Right.

Rob Lewis (44:43.469)
Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (44:48.78)
And he's entirely right about this. It's a challenge. It's, it's uncomfortable. You know, this, this book I'm writing, I, you know, I'm working with the publisher on it and it's an editor, if you will. And, and that's the main thing that we're going through is just like Daniel. It reads clunky. Like you can't say earth. You got to say the earth or creator. You can't say the, I'm sorry. You got to say the creator, not creator or divine or the divine, not divine. And, and it's like, no, no. Like we have to be uncomfortable with this. We.

Rob Lewis (45:16.919)
Yes.

Daniel Griffith (45:17.644)
have to as a modern species, especially a modern ungrounded species. You know, my ancestors came from the ancient Celtic homelands and the Northeast Slavic homelands, and now I live in Eastern Virginia and, you know, we're totally ungrounded. I was recently asked if I could name as far back in my paternal or my maternal ancestral lineage as possible. And I got to my great grandfather and I looked stumped, right? But.

Rob Lewis (45:28.29)
Hmm.

Rob Lewis (45:44.939)
Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (45:45.208)
The other people who were of a Ukrainian descent went back generations. I mean, they got tired of it. They were saying that this was born to this, which was born to this. They have memory, ancestral memory. Right. And, and we live in the very ungrounded times of, you know, climate change, where we try to find grounding by simply, you know, recycling or, you know, you know, driving less or something as if driving at all should be, you know, anyways, my point is, um, all the way from poetry.

Rob Lewis (45:50.24)
Right.

Rob Lewis (45:54.254)
Wow.

Rob Lewis (46:04.426)
Right, right.

Daniel Griffith (46:14.34)
to what you're saying, addressing Mother Earth and her language as she wants to be addressed and questioned. I think that's a huge step forward that is uncomfortable for me and I think for many of our listeners, denizens of the Earth. But I think it's needed. It's language. This whole conversation boils down to language, surprisingly.

Rob Lewis (46:20.685)
Yes.

Rob Lewis (46:33.148)
I totally agree.

Rob Lewis (46:37.298)
And I agree with what you said that if it makes the reader feel a little kind of awkward or uncomfortable reading that way of talking, that's fine because we've been trained to objectify nature. So it is going to be a little uncomfortable as we change our language to make nature subject again. One thing I want to say about that is I did some research on the word the environment, the phrase, because that seems to me a distancing phrase.

And it came about like in the 19, it's a fairly modern world and it became popularized, I believe in the 1930s by science, you know, and the rise of science and the teaching of science. And my sense was the nature was a word that had, still had dirt clung to its roots. It still had metaphorical meaning for people, poetic association.

And that made the scientists uncomfortable. And they needed something a little sharper, a little crisper, a little more like a, you know, stainless steel box that you can do what you want with. And, and that's kind of where the environment, the term came about. And now even that term has been replaced by ecosystem services, which is just, uh, terrifying that we've reduced the earth to this thing that's here to give us services.

So yeah, language is a, I think it's like one of those acupuncture points, you know, that you can have an effect on an entire system at a single point. And then the other thing I'd like to mention, I'm really glad you brought up this Lakota individual because Indigenous people have such a remarkable way of talking about the earth that just rings so true and reflects what we're just discussing here. But when I was at Standing Rock,

I heard the term miniwichoni and that means water is life. And it's a Lakota term. And when I started learning about climate, I began seeing miniwichoni everywhere. It is like the operating principle of climate that water and life go together. Where there's life, there's water. And we tend to think where there's water, there's going to be life. But it's also the other way around. Where there's life, there's water.

Rob Lewis (48:59.378)
A life creates the infrastructure to bring water from ocean onto land. And that cycling between life and water has so much to do with our climate. In fact, I would say it's central to our climate. CO2 matters, you know, it's there and it's in the atmosphere. But one of the things that hasn't been told to us is the fact that when this is going to get a little scientific.

But transpiration, when plants release moisture to the environment, they're doing that to cool off because they're absorbing solar radiation. They're dark, usually green and dark green. So they have to cool off. So they kind of sweat. They release moisture from pores under their leaves or needles. And that absorbs heat from the atmosphere to turn that solid water that they're kind of seeping out of them into.

vapor. And that heat that's absorbed into the vapor then becomes a chemical potential. It's not like the vapor becomes warmer, it's just that the heat was used to turn water to vapor. So now the heat's in the vapor. The vapor rises to cloud level and then it pours rain and then as it recondenses to water, actually ice first, then water, but as it recondenses to rain, it releases the heat.

So it's not only removed heat from your environment, but while it was doing that, it was escorting that heat above the main greenhouse absorbers. CO2 has weight, so it's concentrated near the surface of the and water vapor, which is much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, also concentrates. And so this is a brilliant thing that the plant is doing. And as far as I can tell,

is not recognized as such by mainstream science. So yeah.

Daniel Griffith (51:06.628)
Wow.

Wow, it's interesting when life is alive. There's so much life there. You know, but when life is a process... Yeah.

Rob Lewis (51:15.882)
Yeah, and so more than you can possibly understand and take apart and see it all at once. It's too much and it's beautifully so.

Daniel Griffith (51:28.204)
Yeah, like a good poem. If I can say like a very good poem, it's instantaneously palatable and then a year, two years, a whole lifetime away, you're still thinking about it and still finding meaning.

Rob Lewis (51:29.995)
Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (51:48.928)
I, uh, Rob, I appreciate it. I feel, um, you know, I have all these notes sitting here in front of me and, and looking at the time and I'm thinking, do you want to go into 10 more conversations an hour long a piece or just cap it off and do it again? So I think we're going to do the latter. Um, we're going to have to have you on again. I got so many more questions. Uh, I've so enjoyed our time together. I have, um, I I've mentioned, I've mentioned where people can find you. Oh, sorry. You're right behind. What did you say?

Rob Lewis (52:03.278)
That's all, thank you.

Rob Lewis (52:09.354)
Like missions for you too, I haven't asked.

Okay.

Oh, and I have questions I would love to ask you too. So.

Daniel Griffith (52:21.444)
Let's do it. We'll have a, yeah, we'll do another conversation and you can ask the questions this time. And that would be unbelievable and amazing. So I've mentioned your Substack a number of times. Again, The Climate According to Life, Rob Lewis on Substack. Go give him a follow. How else can people find your work, support your work, contact you, etc.?

Rob Lewis (52:47.974)
Subsect site, that would be the way to go. I also have a website for my book called the silence of vanishing things.com. So you can learn about my book there. And if it's okay, I'd like to read a poem as we close, whenever that seems appropriate.

Rob Lewis (53:14.942)
I think I might be blanking out. Did you get that?

Daniel Griffith (53:18.808)
Wait a second, now you're back. Go ahead and ask your question again.

Rob Lewis (53:20.63)
Yeah. Yeah, I've got a weak signal. I was just saying, if it's okay, I have a poem I'd like to read when we close.

Daniel Griffith (53:32.024)
Please, let's do it. Let's close with your poem. I'd love it.

Rob Lewis (53:35.212)
Okay, okay. So I thought of this poem when you mentioned you and your wife sharpening axes.

Rob Lewis (53:46.026)
And it's called The Making and it's about...

You know, the joy of good work. So the making. When we took the spirit out of matter, we lost the maker. When we took the body out of the making of things, the things themselves fell silent and time could no longer find us. Now we are split, our clay abandoned, our hands alien.

The destination crumbles, yet our roads increase. We've seen the man who follows only the designs of his own mind, head tilted fever forward, as though hunting a crown. His feet no longer feel the ground holding up his intentions and there are no birds on his shoulders because he has forgotten how to sing.

Daniel Griffith (54:56.176)
That's awesome. Thank you, Rob, if you can hear me. Yeah. No, that's, uh, you wrote that? Good. I want to make sure that's known. That was beautiful.

Rob Lewis (54:58.318)
Thank you.

Rob Lewis (55:04.074)
Yeah, it's my book. Thank you.

Daniel Griffith (55:09.576)
Yeah, no, that's absolutely beautiful. So that's in your book. Okay, so you heard that, guys. Everybody, go buy his book. That's a wonderful poem. I love that, tilting fever forward.

Rob Lewis (55:24.65)
Not you. You've managed to avoid that fate. Yeah.

Daniel Griffith (55:25.8)
No. Somehow. No, somehow. Well, thank you, Rob. I so appreciate your time. Thank you for being with us. We're going to have to do this many more times.

Rob Lewis (55:33.026)
Thank you, Daniel. You've been great. Absolutely. Thanks a lot, Daniel.

 

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