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Climate, Kincentric Rewilding, and The Color of Clouds

May 30, 2024

bookcover Adapted from Stagtine: Kincentric Rewilding, Science, and A Tale of Letting Go.

The modern mythos is the “climate crisis.” We have 60 harvests left, beckon both sides of the political aisle and attentive picketers across the world commandeer the evening news and demand a reckoning. Or at least, a regeneration of our way of life.

But it is true, it is all true: Anthropogenic climate change knocks on the door and each of us will soon have to answer. From mass species extinctions that tally at pace with exhaled breath to the reigning of carbon and pollution that our industry demands and the chemicals and heat that our world rains down in response—she is knocking, and she is at the door.

Every day, nearly one hundred and fifty species go extinct and by the time you finish reading this short paper, you can count another species lost to history. Although humans occupy less than 0.01% of the life on this planet, we have eradicated nearly 83% of all wild animals and 50% of all plants. Today, 96% of all mammals living are either domesticated humans or a handful of species of human-domesticated livestock—a staggering statistic given that there are over sixty-five hundred different types of mammals and only ten make up the overwhelming majority.

The rising seas drown our city walls; the burning forests scorch our life’s great sprawl; the innocent cries of peoples long gone plague our progress; dusty and decadent duvets cover our once-majestic prairies. But humankind’s role in this “climate crisis” has also birthed great eco-movements that shake the age in strange ways. These movements have simultaneously urged for the end of farming and the resurgence of farms; they have energized some to create new technologies and pulled others back into a less-technical age.

In 2022, the U. S. Federal Government released its first Climate Smart Commodities Grant, pouring billions of dollars into “climate saving farming systems.” In 2021, Whole Foods, the largest health-food grocer in the region and recent Amazon acquisition, released that its top-selling product nationwide was a milk marketed as Climate Smart and from a Verified Regenerative agricultural system. In the last ten years, Certified Organic farms have increased by over 90% and nearly half of American consumers purchase organic products monthly, a seven-fold increase from the decade before. Nearly 40% of the global food-chain by 2030 is promised, by organizations such as Cargill, Bayer, and Nestlé, to be sourced from regenerative agricultural systems. In 2022, according to TIME Magazine, two of the top ten best-selling, non-fiction books dealt with climate change, habitat loss, and the need for ecological regeneration. Politically, socially, and intellectually, our wounded world is not so subtly gaining our attentions.

The current story for the global consumer to interact with is a story of doing more—do more to create better systems, do more to regenerate the earth, do more to lessen our dependence on fossil-fuel-based systems. But is it enough? Is our great, historically unprecedented political and social appetite to save the planet going to quell her angry torrents? The climate, Earth, the birthplace of our language and our identity, our Earth, is knocking on our door and each of us will soon have to answer. But will it be enough?

What if that was the wrong question? What if the problem of the so-called solutions to environmental degeneration and climate destabilization is that their paradigm is constructed from the same frame as the problems they are trying to solve? Humanity’s ascendency into the heavens, playing God with the forces and peoples of the earth is not a new story. From the ancient colonization of ancestors to the modern struggles of Indigenous peoples, man playing God has wrought only devastation. Always devastation. What makes us so different today?

As William Irwin Thompson wrote in his Passages About Earth, “The record of civilization is over, and like a record at its end, it keeps going on with the noise of a needle stuck in its rut: the revolution of the workers, the protests of the young, the new creations of the avant-garde, the rise of new forms of sexual liberation, the appearance of new religions. This side of history is over, and on the other side is myth.” What if humanity’s incessant work within the global mythology of climate change only furthers colonization, only furthers to enclose and invert the commons, and only furthers to push her away. Who? Climate. Earth. She has many names.

In her book, Becoming Kin, Anishinaabe writer from Lac Seul First Nation, Patty Krawec wonders if “climate change” is really just Earth’s “response to our choices, the land itself…withdrawing in grief.” What if Climate was animate, that is biological, and not a physical and chemical reactionary process to third-party decisionmakers (the world’s intelligent elite)? While we are consumed in the narrative of a climate emergency, Krawec is consumed in the grief and glitters of her once animate and autonomous world. While we dance a climate saving song, the machines snarl under our weak rhythms.

I recently wrote a book written to our grandchildren but addressed to us—the dreamers, the ancestors of the dreamwalkers, our grandchildren. The book is not written to address Earth’s problems. Earth does not have problems. According to Krawec, she has pains. Perhaps, the climate is not changing; perhaps, she is just weeping, crying out. This new book is about our worldview and the abundant precepts implicit when we unlearn and then unleash our ancient species alongside our ancient cousins and relations. By letting them go first, we can follow their lead for once.

Humanity is and has long been at a pivotal point and we have a decision to make. But it is not between industrial agriculture and regenerative agriculture; it is not between a less productive land and a more productive land; it is not between erosion or water cycles; it is not between this practice or that practice—this outcome or that outcome; and most importantly, it is not about the creation of more principles, more ideologies, more control, or more technology. “More” has nothing to do with it. Rather, the story carried in this book is about honoring Earth’s nuance and paying attention to our relations in the deep sense—awareness as a moral act, a sacred honoring that forgets about resources. We have long told nature what to do. It is far time that we humble ourselves and ask her, “What may you have us be?” And then, only then, ask, “What may we do for you?”

It is about reawakening ancestors. They once dreamed, they still dream, and we have long walked the other way. It is time, the book contends, to become both dreamers and dreamwalkers.

Kincentric Rewilding

It is improper to go on without observing the general hilarity that our language contains a word for wildness or wilderness. Like its oil-burned synonym, the environment, wildness as a word is worthless in the truest sense, as it is worthless to describe the air as blue or a wafting white when we all know that it is not a color at all and every color at once. One day we will call this “life” and that will be good enough. That will be a good day. Until then, “wildness” is here with us.

Rewilding is in vogue today. Its overly rustic imagery on blogs and social media often conjures images of roomy, set-aside, and untouched landscapes made complete with tall game fences and exciting multitudes of imported or established, native flora and fauna. These landscapes are devoid of humans, excepting the most minimal presence to keep the whole thing running smoothly, from the outside of course. Many rewilding projects exist around the world and they all begin as moving companies—they work to remove unwanted animals, people, and nature’s actual chaos and then work to import native species to grow and run about within their prison yards of exclusion fences. To heal the rivers, they buy beavers. To heal the beavers, they buy rivers. To heal the grasslands, they bring in ancient breeds of cattle that look wilder than the ones we have today. But these ancient bovines bawl like everyone else and come in modern trailers and they come ready to be told where to go. A global phenomenon, rewilding is about wild species and not about species that grow wild together.

But our personal experiences of rewilding have taken on a more intimate and participatory nature—worthy, we think, of a more nuanced concept. Kincentric rewilding is a relational land ethic of letting go but not stepping back, of rewilding ourselves with the land, as an energetic and increasingly singular body. It is an ongoing act of co-creation and life being fully and deeply lived. Yes, but the modern wisdom holders around us and our ancestors living inside of us already knew this. In this way, kincentric rewilding is the awakening of memory, the rising together into ancient dreams as a collective memoir of individuals and not just a collective, like loving letters cast carefully in crafted words within the most wonderfully magical sentences. One day, we will write the color of clouds.

Story & Science

When we relearn what it means to write love letters, to see fully the color of clouds, to be Earthlings once again, we will, I think, see science (questioning what we see) and story (questioning who we are) as not interposed but convivial and then alive, together. Creative and imagining science, “more shaman than priest,” as William Irwin Thompson wrote in his book, Imaginary Landscape, poets in their playhouse, compose questions and images in the dirt. They see Earth’s geometry as the “pattern that connects,” a creative force that draws the one into the infinite, the singular into the cylinder.

But today, an uncreative and priestly science frames our story. It governs our gracious rulers and instills its crude oil in our once ebullient blood. It is static, dull, and aching like tepid, arthritic joints. Max Planck (the renowned German theoretical physicist) claimed that science does not evolve but, rather, old science dies when the old scientists die out. The Science enslaves and we become engines of its work. It makes the strange familiar but it also makes the familiar strange. The Science then becomes the universal shorthand and rallying call of the unconscious citizen’s mind. The more experts dominate, the more language works to control thoughts. The more language that controls thoughts, the more authority singularizes at the top, colonizing everything below. That is when the familiar becomes strange because it is also out of place, forced. Love cannot be forced and neither may its friends attention, participation, and kinship be artificially applied. What is the soul of words but love and attention cast in letters?

When The Science is finally done, Earth will finally be undone and she will cast her now worthless engines aside, you and me and our enslaved, domestic cousins. The age of Artificial Intelligence (AI), when humans spoke to machines and then the machines learned to speak back and then they learned that they do not need us speaking anymore, demonstrates this truth. Ungrounded, The Science will then progress to erase the story of how we got here, ripping language from the mountains beneath our soul, like it ripped us from the eroding dirt under our wobbling roots.

The late Vine Deloria Jr., author, theologian, and member of the Standing Rock Sioux, wrote, “The anthro is usually devoted to pure research. Pure research is a body of knowledge absolutely devoid of useful application and incapable of meaningful digestion.” Abstract ideas create abstract actions. We do science through isolation, measuring millennia in microscopes. We do science to undo life.

Story is canvas in frame but it is also the frame. Science is merely a color on the palette. Science is a story seeking echo and so the story must come first, it must lead, it must bring about the science, usher it into being, like a character in guise. Story erupts from the soul beneath mountains, from deep inside grottos and caves painted by ancestors and colored by their many fires, and wakes us up, shining light into dark places, and says, “This. Here. Look. See!” Story wakes us up. Shakes us. It is stories we need.

The Climate Story

The climate and soil health are the stories of today. But are they good stories? Are they the right stories?

That is the question. If the soil was to save us today, we would yet have the industry that originally colonized the soil and we would yet need the soil to rise up and continue saving us again and again and again, like we need pistons in our cars to keep pushing and pushing and pushing us forward.

The soil (or biodiversity, enhanced water cycles, etc.) may save us but sometimes I wonder if she wants to. We surely do not deserve it. It is time we actually meet her, where she lives, on our knees. Sometimes, instead of looking up at the night sky, we need to instead look down.

The steady warming of our climate, for most, threatens our ways of life, but the swift upending of Earth’s current balance into its old routines of fire and ice is subtly sounding our town bells and is bellicosely knocking at our door. The last ten thousand years have been a fairytale—a Goldilocks epoch of atmospheric balance. But this is changing, we are told. Not by the scientists, but our bones, if we listen. If Goldilocks leaves and Earth steps back into her old routine of hot and cold therapy, crops will fail everywhere, coastal cities will be overrun with torrents of waves that crash upon a starving people and recede with our civilized stress back into the ocean. The great lab experiment of a “civilized” life will come to a crashing and catastrophic end. Only then will we realize that we are just as vulnerable as the soil, the mammoth, the saber-toothed cat, and the bison.

Are we vulnerable? Yes. But we are told that we are also the saviors in this story. Is doing more to save the climate going to save the climate? That is the question, I think, that we need to ask.

The whole of Creation erupts and conjoins when we come as relations, when we come with nothing save memory. A poet. A bard. A holder of space and not its savior. When we embody the unity and opportunity of all things. Crashing ashore, splashing nakedly against the clay of Earth, riding verse over softening wave, we usher the power of new worlds when we reawaken in our ancestor’s dreams.

One day, maybe it is this day, we will write the color of clouds, words as love cast in letters, relations regenerated by attention and not agriculture. One day, when a new world rises from the ashes of this chemically-infused and churned and oil-burned wasteland, the basement of history, we may all work together to rebuild, to try again, and, most importantly, to love and to have better memories.

Our grandchildren walk our dreams. They will either smile at us or curse our graves. I pray they smile. I live for them to smile. I dream their smiles.


The themes collected in this piece are those carried in my recent book Stagtine: Kincentric Rewilding, Science, & A Tale of Letting Go.

Daniel Firth Griffith

A renowned storyteller, rewilding pioneer, author of award-winning books Wild Like Flowers and Dark Cloud Country, and the “poet laureate of Holistic Management” (Allan Savory), Daniel’s work and writing focuses on regenerating relationship—that is, happily relearning what it means to be human. He is the founder of Timshel Wildland, a pioneering rewilding landscape in the Eastern United States and is the President of the Robinia Institute, a center for relational conservationism’s social emergence that is now the Mid-Atlantic Hub of the Savory Institute, a global organization and leader in climate-change and ecological restoration. He lives in Virginia with his wife, Morgan, and three wonderful children.