By Judith D. Schwartz
Some regions of the world bear wounds inflicted by disrespectful (agricultural) practices, often from times long gone. Cutting down forests to form pastures caused desertification, construction works along the seashore caused precipitation patterns to shift and monoculture sugar cane and fruit plantations destroyed entire landscapes. In “The Reindeer Chronicles”, writer and journalist Judith D. Schwartz visits such places around the world and looks at how, often in relatively simple ways, the mistakes of the past are being repaired. Among other things, she recounts how the Loess Plateau was transformed from a series of dry valleys and desert-like places back into a fertile region where people no longer have to live in poverty. She tells of similar stories for the rainforests of Hawaii, the deserted regions of the Middle East and New Mexico, the Arctic Circle in Norway and the vast grasslands of eastern Washington.
The interventions that brought these places back to life often come down to inserting carbon in the soil and trying to return the disturbed precipitation patterns to normal. These local interventions are also often intertwined with culture and heritage, which continues to exist only through lore and are no longer in practice. This loss of local traditions and reverence for nature in the face of colonisation and big money is a recurrent theme of the book, as well as the sense of urgency to reconnect with earth as a way to not only restore it but also to restore local populations.
In “The Reindeer Chronicles”, Judith D. Schwartz brings some real-life stories that anyone seeking opportunities to improve their own land can draw ideas from. Although the stories are often about large projects, each contains a basic idea that can also be applied on a small(er) scale. And the more small projects get inspired by this idea, the bigger the collective impact.
Although the subject matter of “The Reindeer Chronicles” fascinates me to no end, I sometimes had trouble really immersing myself in the book. Whether this is due to the author’s writing style or to myself and my (lack of) concentration I’m not entirely sure. I read the book in digital form on a tablet, and that could certainly have played a role as well since I usually read paper books. What I take away from the book is hope. Hope for a better future for places on earth that bear wounds, hope that those wounds will soon be healed by simple interventions on a large scale. To me, the stories put forward in this book prove that my hope is justified.
The Reindeer Chronicles
And Other Inspiring Stories of Working with Nature to Heal the Earth
By Judith D Schwartz
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback, audiobook & digital format, 256 pages
This article was published in Women in Ag Magazine 2022-004. Click here to read the magazine.