Dear Friends of BioEarth:
We are so appreciative of your generous donations to our GoFundMe campaign. Together we have raised nearly $4,000.00 in the latter part of 2021 for BioEarth and were selected for an Environment Grant by GoFundMe! This is a solid step toward our larger ongoing goal and these funds helped cover vital operational costs and got a number of important projects off the ground. You are truly lifting us up us at a vital stage of our organizational development and our hearts are filled with appreciation for your support!
Who is bold enough to start a new venture like BioEarth during a pandemic, you might ask? In 2021 we grew our team of three to ten dedicated members of the Leadership Team working pro bono to build the projects listed here. We know that despite our personal and societal challenges, an even bigger one is coming our way, and that is what has motivated us to keep working to spread stories and strategies of hope and practical preparation. It is our honor to update you on our progress:
Root.ED Conversations and Blog: These educational platforms introduced our thought leadership on a variety of topics related to promoting societal and ecological resiliency. Ten episodes have registered over 1,000 viewers through YouTube sign ins alone. However, this is
only a fraction of the total viewership, as the BioEarth website drew over 3,000 views a week for months on end in 2021.
For 2022, we are planning many more Episodes and Blog posts that highlight inspiring stories of adaptation, including interviews with a family that has created a wildlife sanctuary on a suburban street and an environmental artist who scuba dives, collects scientific data on coral, and paints passionately about toxins and sealife. We remain convinced that these stories of resiliency and insight are key to our collective fashioning of a 21 st century civilization that must adapt to the changes coming our way.
BioVillages: With your help, we took concrete steps toward creating our first BioVillage in the Shenandoah Valley and attaining 501c3 status. A BioVillage is an ecovillage that takes seriously the human cultural components needed for thriving together in a way that restores and improves the ecosystems in the community. We chose the Shenandoah Valley as our first site because its unique topography forms a relatively protected island from the rising temperatures that will engulf the states around it in the next few decades. For this reason, we understand the importance of conserving and restoring the ecosystems in the Shenandoah Valley, both as a carbon sink that helps stem climate change and as the home of the creatures that live there! As we take steps toward our own BioVillage, we are carefully crafting a plan that is replicable and adaptable to different regions, so that others can learn from our experiences.
Using criteria that we identified as essential to a thriving human and non-human community, in 2021 we scouted several areas, identified a suitable location for purchase, and found a property owner who shares our vision and is willing to sell to us. After drawing plans for the stages of the BioVillage, we have had early conversations about zoning with local officials, who seem positive about our project. We have other solid steps to take in 2022, including ongoing talks with officials, applying for grants, seeking project partners and residents, and seeking donors. We are also currently stepping up our local networking and capacity building, so if you live locally in Rockingham County or Harrisonburg, or would like to, and if you are interested in joining this effort please contact Frances at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rodrigue at email@example.com.
BioCongo: As you know, we at BioEarth have a deep dedication to Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is part of the “lungs of the Earth,” with the second largest rainforest in the world and the largest wetland. We have always felt that it was vital that Africans play the lead role in crafting the BioCongo vision, educational curricula that promote environmental education along with practical steps to build resiliency – ecological, societal, and personal. That’s why we are supporting Vijana Africa (501c3), a US incorporated non-profit with activities in DRC and Malawi in various projects that align with our goals. Specifically, we are working to support the building of a school in DRC that will, upon completion, educate over 550 students (including girls who would never have received this education). The school will feature the BioCongo educational curricula, co-developed between our team and local Congolese leaders. To date, 10% of our GoFundMe dollars raised is going directly to the building of this school and we have plans to support this even more directly. We are proud to work with and support Vijana Africa! Find out more about Vijana Africa's work at www.vijanafrica.org
One Billion for Peace Pledge: In 2021 we introduced the One Billion for Peace Pledge, an
evidence-based articulation of what is needed for sustainable peace in a simple and compelling format. We began introducing this intention setting tool in late 2021 and the response was so positive that the momentum has been difficult to keep up with. In several settings, its positive reception led to enlightening and transformative discussions and actions. We are therefore very happy to have brought on Madiha Patel as a Program Director for the One Billion for Peace Pledge and we anticipate much more activity on this front in 2022!
Art and Design: We are fortunate ones indeed to have the involvement of our Creative Consultant, Danielle Evans, who created our striking new logo and GoFundMe campaign. Her designs continue to inspire us and will improve our other projects in 2022!
What has motivated this team to continue to stay engaged despite all the challenges of 2021? Truly, 2021 was a year of vivid reminders of the realities that are motivating our efforts. No matter what progress countries make on climate change (and sadly, we are way behind the changes that need to be made to avoid catastrophic rises in CO 2 ), the changes that we are already seeing are transforming the planet globally and regionally. All of us on the BioEarth Team were impacted by climate change this year. Some impacts were dramatic: Liz’s family was forced to evacuate repeatedly from wildfires in the Pacific NW this summer and fall. Other team members faced cycles of drought followed by flooding in California or remarkable temperatures of 70 degrees in a Virginia winter that confused animals and plants.
Moreover, this may well be remembered as the year that the whole world saw impacts from climate change, since many scientists believe the pandemic started with changes in animal species stressed by shrinking habitats and resources. (Note that even if this doesn’t prove to be the cause of covid-19, other novel viruses are starting this way, and greater incidence of disease is a direct result of climate change, as more mosquito borne disease and novel viruses develop and the melting of the Artic permafrost releases long dormant diseases).
We also had another stark reminder that the wise distribution of resources and planning for
environmental disruption is essential for promoting resiliency. On May 22, the volcano called
Mount Nyiragongo, near the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo erupted this
summer. Rodrigue’s family outran flowing lava (literally during the filming of our GoFundMe
Video – along with the family of our videographer, David Nyiringabo!!), but their safety and
relocation was made even more difficult by poor civic planning, especially in terms of modes of transportation, communication, and inequitable access to resources, as tens of thousands had to flee within hours. Although volcanos are obviously not a consequence of climate change, this is yet another example of how we must engage in longer term planning that considers environmental disruption as part of the normal cycle of regions. For instance, nearby Lake Kivu remains a lethal threat due to rising methane gas related to the volcanic activity, leaving nearly two million residents in Goma at risk of death. Goma is thus an intense microcosm of the situation we all face: life cannot go on as normal once we understand the data for a changing normal.
Last but not least, as part of our unofficial duties the members of the BioEarth team planted a number of native plants and butterfly gardens and saved numerous critters, including some
horses, a dog, a woodpecker, and several other birds. We’ve started to realize this is also part of our walk!
While the challenges are great, so is our passion, and together we know we can make a
difference. Our BioVillage project in the Shenandoah Valley, our development of the BioCongo curriculum, and our support of Vijana Africa’s building of a school in DRC make meaningful differences in those communities and serve as replicable models for others. Through our Root.ED educational platforms and Peace Pledge, we are also planting conceptual, spiritual, and intellectual seeds that will grow into actions. And the members of our interdisciplinary team are each dedicated to continuing our work in our own locations, since Local + Local + Local = Global, in a wide variety of projects that promote community and ecological resiliency.
Wishing you peace, hope, wisdom, and resiliency for 2022!
With love, joy and gratitude,
The BioEarth Team – with Frances, Rodrigue, and Liz
Addenda: Founders’ Activites Update and In Memoriam
Founders’ Activities Update
In addition to their work on every project listed above, the trio of Founders of BioEarth are
active locally as well as in the realm of thought leadership. Here are some highlights from 2021:
Liz Blackman, Frances Flannery, and Rodrigue Makelele co-presented on our BioCongo project in a presentation entitled “Teaching environmental resiliency in the Democratic Republic of Congo: an adaptive, faith based-public-non-profit partnership” at the African, African-American, and Diaspora Studies Conference, Harrisonburg, Virginia (web, Feb 16, 2021).
Liz established a Forest Kindergarten program at her local school, working with the administrative and teaching teams to adapt Montessori curriculum and place-based learning to an outdoor environment. The first few months have been a great success, with families and staff reporting improved learning outcomes and social-emotional development in her students. She is truly building resiliency for the future by educating the next generation in peacebuilding and ecological learning and wonderment!
In addition to being active in a number of anti-racism and peacebuilding
activities, these local projects as well as the phenomenal community response during wildfire season, community-based work on Resilient Methow and other local social service efforts, have all affirmed deeply for Liz that the Methow Valley in Washington is a model of community activism, resiliency, planning, and cooperation to be replicated for the future.
Rodrigue helped pass several bills for immigrants and refugees in Virginia as a Refugee Community Organizer and lobbyist for Church World Service and has attended several immigration conferences. He was the primary organizer for World Refugee Day Celebration in Harrisonburg, which featured civic officials and various organizations working for immigrant rights and peacebuilding (June 20, 2021). A true highlight was his invitation to the United Nations General Assembly Civil Society Consultation, where he represented BioEarth and Vijana Africa. Rodrigue met the President of the UN General Assembly and he was awarded the privilege to ask a direct question to the President (Feb 2021).
In addition to the school building project in DRC, Rodrigue has been active in building other
Vijana Africa projects, including the Vijana Citizen Academy for Peace and Leadership and
storytelling and farming projects in Malawi. Stay tuned for big news about Rodrigue and his
efforts in January!
Frances represented BioEarth remotely in a wide variety of spaces where she lectured on peacebuilding and the transformation of violent extremism, including at: The University of
Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, (Feb 9, 2021); Interfaith Scholars Colloquy, web (February 9, 2021); Roanoke College, Roanoke, Virginia (March 2, 2021); Cherry Hill Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina (April 15, 2021); the University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal (April 27, 2021). She
also presented the Peace Pledge to Rotary Club International (web, August 17, 2021) and participated in an invited Religion and Foreign Policy Workshop hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations (May 18-19, 2021) and the Women of Color in the Academy conference (May 21, 2021). She presented remotely at the American Academy of Religion / Society of Biblical Literature in November, and she renewed her term as a member of the national Educational Resources and Review Committee, which supervises the creation of public school curricula related to religion and biblical studies.
Frances continues to work in the realm of Religion and Ecology in her scholarship. She also
published a co-edited volume with Nicolae Roddy, Biblical Wisdom: Then and Now (New York: Routledge Press, 2021), for which she contributed a chapter related to her eco-theological readings of the Hebrew Bible: “Wisdom for Those in the Image of God: An Eco-Theological Reading of Human and Serpentine Knowledge in Genesis 1-3.” She also co-wrote with Nicolae Roddy “Wisdom for Challenging Times: Ecclesiastes, Job, and a Vote for Compassionate Theology” in that volume. For a scholarly audience, she continued her work on ecology and biblical studies by publishing “Dreams and Visions of Eschatological Trees in The Book of the Watchers, The Book of Giants, and the Hodayot” in Eschatology in Antiquity. (Eds. Hilary Marlow, Karla Pollmann and Helen Van Noorden; London: Routledge, 2021): 184-91.
In 2022 Frances will continue work on her book project, Climate Apocalypse or Climate
Covenant, and – fingers crossed in light of covid – she should spend a few months in Ireland as a Trinity College Longroom Hub Fellow for that book project. She is dedicated to helping others reread the Bible through an ecological lens and reminds us that by 2060 over two-thirds of the world’s population will be either Christian or Muslim, all of whom hold the Bible to be sacred and authoritative to some degree. Thus, reclaiming biblical texts from the anti-environmental colonial interpretations of the past is essential to motivating collective environmental action.
A word from Frances: I lost my dear mother, Susan Flannery, this fall. She transitioned from this life to whatever else there is peacefully on September 13, 2021. Your words of support and kindness during this difficult time were precious to me and my family, and I am eternally
grateful. Near the end of her life, my mom was excited about the plans for the BioVillage,
watched every Root.ED episode, and she educated her friends about Congo and climate
change! I miss her dearly and her passion, ferocity, and vision continue to inspire me.
Sadly, our friend and the videographer of our GoFundMe, David Nyiringabo, also lost his
beloved mother this year.
May their memories be for a blessing and may they live on in us and our work.