Grassroots: What a Way to Make a Difference

Over the last year or so, the world has seen the emergence of a wide range of environmentally-focused grassroots organizations.

Here in the Kansas City area we can now boast that we too have such uplifting communities, including Extinction Rebellion, two Drawdown groups – the KC Drawdown Society and Drawdown of the Heartland, Sunrise Movement KC, Conscious Capitalism Kansas City, Deep Roots, Metro KC Climate Action Coalition, and the Climate Council of Greater Kansas City. And that’s just the short list!

Grassroots movements are the hallmarks of a robust and motivated society. But it can be a scary, worrisome time as visionaries and organizers ponder and plan on how to gather their community of supporters. So I thought I’d share how The Resilient Activist organization began in the hopes that our forest-aligned model may be of help to others.

How Did The Resilient Activist Begin?

When I finally realized I was ready to actually start an organization (read my backstory if you’d like) there was an overwhelming sense that I couldn’t – and shouldn’t – do it alone. I needed a group of people who were committed to our mission and who would help me to see a broader perspective than just my own.

Mother Tree at the Bioneers’ Conference – Image credit: Sami Aaron

In October 2017, I was attending a Bioneers conference and meandered out to take a break under this old tree at my hotel.

I had just come from a session led by Suzanne Simard, professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, on how trees talk to each other. She explained the role of “mother trees” in a healthy forest ecosystem.

I fell into an all-encompassing reverie about what the new resilient activist organization could look like and what my role would be.

Okay, I admit it. Settled into this sweet hammock, I had an out-loud conversation about my ideas with this gnarly old tree!

As I was talking, my eyes were scanning the tree and it hit me, with an unchecked guffaw, that the tree looked just like me!  It was short and fat, with big bulges that looked like droopy boobs, a bit of a gut, and not much backside!

Wow – I look just like a mother tree!

And then, more seriously, my thoughts focused on the concepts of the mother tree and I began to wonder if I really could be one. (And not just the droopy boobs and big belly parts!)

And if I could be a mother tree, then was there some broader metaphoric method of creating a new organization following the biomimicry principles of learning from nature?

Yes, there was. And I’m delighted to share my reverie with you.

Who Do I Know?

The first thing I did was go through all my contact lists – personal and professional. I asked myself three questions as I read each name:

  1. Does this person have a deep connection to and appreciation for nature?
  2. Do they have an understanding of and support a holistic, healthy lifestyle?
  3. Do I enjoy being with them and would I respect their opinions and trust their integrity?

Unbelievably, I ended up with a list of 60 people who met these three requirements! 

Without realizing it, I had been gathering this community of like-minded folks over many years.

I made a personal phone call to each of these 60 people and invited them to participate in a brainstorming meeting to share ideas and my vision for the organization. I wanted to know two things:

  • did they feel the idea was important to bring into the world, and
  • would they be interested in joining me to make it happen?

The result of this brainstorming meeting was the start of a truly uplifting journey. It has brought together a deeply supportive community of some of my favorite people who have been instrumental in bringing The Resilient Activist to life. 

The Forest Metaphor

This forest metaphor arose as I was visualizing who might be part of the organization and what their role might be. Seeing the individual components of a lush forest helped me accept people just where they are in their lives. Where are they personally and professionally? Who could help the organization grow through open and intentional collaboration?

If I had had the wherewithal at the time, here is the invitation I would have sent out to those 60 people in my contact list. 

We Are Creating a Forest

The time is now, the weather is perfect, and the ground is fertile. 

Let’s build that nature-inspired community that’s been ready to emerge through so many of us for years!

This is your invitation to join us at The Resilient Activist and connect with others, for your own nurturing and support, as we all learn together how to be in a healthier relationship with Earth.

Can you picture yourself somewhere in this metaphoric forest?

Image credit: Linda Garrett

Are You a Mother Tree?

Whether male or female, our core team is comprised of metaphoric Mother Trees. They are gateways and connectors to the communities in which we surround ourselves.

Mother Trees often have already settled into their purposeful mission in life. They may be business owners, entrepreneurs, or community builders in a field that relates in some way to our organization or vision.  They are the support for our core team, offering networking, resources, and a lived experience. These are the people we reach out to when we need more knowledge, experience, and guidance as we grow and develop our organization.

They join us to share the deep roots of our broad and varied backgrounds, our love of nature, our decades of business acumen, education and expertise, and our myriad volunteer hours. Together we can birth a gentle and sustained hope for the future health of this glorious planet and all its living beings.

Image credit: Linda Garrett

Mother Trees’ Seeds Give Birth to Saplings.

The Resilient Activist’s Saplings are called by their own deep desire to be more connected to the natural world. They long for ways to make easy shifts so they can live in right relationship with the world around them. They want to reap all the benefits of nature, and they understand how to nurture and give back to the planet.

With nurturing and support through our EnviroTips as well as inspiring articles and resilience-building programs, our Saplings will become the next generation of Mother Trees.  Some may become active behind-the-scenes members of our organization and others may create their own unique programs.

Saplings Live in The Understory

The Understory is the layer of shrubs that inhabit the open spaces within the forest.  The Resilient Activist’s Understory communities are those who gather together, support each other, and share their own nature-connected ways of living. They explore and develop coping skills they rely on when the emotional impact of climate change begins to weigh in. As in any forest, these are the many and varied communities we will meet through our programs and events; we humans are more resilient within the wealth of our own diversity.  

Image credit: Sami Aaron

Wildflowers Thrive Within the Understory   

Intoxicating wildflowers offer a lush carpet of ground-covers, the heady aromas of medicinal plants, and the delights of spring ephemerals. These give a quick boost of color, pollen, and nectar to the newly emerging bees and the early bird and butterfly migrators.

Their blossoms may be fleeting, some lasting only a day, but their impact is essential to the stability of the Forest Floor.

These Wildflowers are our teachers, neighbors, and strangers who make a brief, yet meaningful appearance or valuable comment that changes our perspective on something of importance.  As a Resilient Activist, it may be your comment or the inspiration of your simple acts of nature-connectedness that will inspire others to join in this deeper way of living.

You may be the spring ephemeral!

The Forest Floor ….ahhhh…

The Forest Floor is always cool to the touch. Imagine how it would feel to settle in for a deep rest in the dappled shade there, under the leaves and lowest branches, cool even in midsummer’s heat. Imagine your head nestled just under and among the Wildflowers, where you could find respite from the heat and smolder of urban existence?

The Forest Floor is teeming with life! Scampering over and under the fallen leaves and fruits, winding their way around the dead and decaying branches are insects, amphibians, and reptiles of all sizes with crazy colors and patterns (just like us!). They each follow their own inclinations to live their life’s desires to eat, reproduce, raise young, build comfortable homes, and feel safe. And as they live their lives and then die, they replenish the Soil.

The forest floor reflects the enthusiastic group of people who come into our organization to provide everyday support. Committed staff and volunteers who are busy doing all the jobs that just need to get done. These are the community of people who thrive on checking items off their detailed task lists and who keep the organizational flow and mission viable.

Image credit: Linda Garrett

The Soil Has Super Power

The Soil is the underbelly, the support, the key to a healthy forest. It is loaded with insects, bacteria, and mycorrhizal fungi that break down the decaying life of the Forest Floor and create the perfect environment for all new life to begin.  

Seeds germinate in the Soil. Connections are made through the meandering fungi just beneath the surface to carry nutrients to plants throughout the forest.

These are people who have laid the groundwork for us. They live their lives building up the foundation of our cultures and maintaining our health.  They are people who create nurturing environments so others can thrive. These are the healers, the community builders, the coaches and team-builders who bring us together for shared dreams and successful ventures (and adventures!)  

Visualize the Roots

Each type of plant has its own unique style of Roots.

They’re a lot like people!

  • Some are fat and fleshy.  
  • Some are web-like, fine, and airy.
  • Others have a thick, deep taproot that reaches far down into the earth.  
  • Some spread out just beneath the surface of the soil.

It’s as if each type of plant knows what its own needs are and develops the necessary type of roots to reach out in its own way for its own support and grounding.

Each of us humans is as unique and individual as are each plant, tree, insect, and critter in the forest.  

Roots represent the core of how we connect with our future staff, board members, volunteers, and core team. What kind of roots are they each ready to offer to our organization? How will we all fit together in the soil and environment of this group? What time and energy commitments feel healthiest and supportive for them in their own lives?

Oak tree at Olathe Community Center – Image credit: Sami Aaron

This Is the Forest.

Not just a bunch of trees and annoying insects and scary critters.  

It’s all life itself.

We invite you to join us, you fellow Mother Trees, Saplings, Wildflowers, Soil, and Roots as we grow the thriving, metaphorical Forest we call The Resilient Activist.

Sami Aaron

Sami Aaron is the founder of the nonprofit, The Resilient Activist, a nonprofit resource to build resilience, optimism, and hope in response to the impact of the climate crisis through community-building and deep nature connection. Contact Sami.