Nature-Led Black Americans

February is Black History Month here in the United States, so I’m excited to introduce to you a handful of Black American who exemplify what it means to be “Nature-Led” and by doing so strengthen the communities in which they live.

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Alexis Nikole Nelson, the Black Forager

I first saw one of her TikTok videos on Facebook and immediately fell in love. Who is this? She has so much energy and she’s talking about foraging! Wow! Foraging is something no one talks about in modern American society—well, until now. I l learned a little foraging when I was younger but I never thought much about it. It wasn’t something we talked about. If you had asked, “What are you doing?” I would have said “picking berries” or “picking greens.” “Foraging” sounds like something herbivores do when talking about animals in a Science class.

Now here we are in the post-computer revolution and a young Black woman is excited about foraging and sharing her knowledge with others in a way they can relate too. It gives me hope for the future. We’re all going to need this knowledge if things continue as they are with our current trajectory towards climate change. Octavia Butler, Sci-Fi Author of Parable of the Sower & Parable of the Talents, would be proud of Alexis Nikole Nelson.

I encourage you to follow Alexis Nikole Nelson on TikTok, Facebook or whatever your preferred social media is. To learn more about her read this great interview found on NPR:

Meet Alexis Nikole Nelson, The Wildly Popular ‘Black Forager’ : Code Switch : NPR

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Ron Finley, aka Gangsta Gardener

I first heard about Ron Finley’s garden in South-Central Los Angles years ago as part of tv news segment. He started his garden revolution in 2010. Having stayed in the community he grew up in he fought and won the opportunity to garden in the parking strips throughout his neighborhood. A neighborhood that has for years been a food dessert/food prison for people of color. This is how it starts, this is how you change things for the better in your community. You can’t wait for City officials or someone else to do it, you have to be willing to step up and take action yourself. If something is important, you make time for it.

Ron Finley: A guerrilla gardener in South Central LA | TED Talk

The Ron Finley Project

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Aaron Shepard, Robotics Engineer, Scuba Diver, & NASA intern

I literally just discovered Aaron Shepard while watching a short Brut video on Facebook about how animal responses perceived as being “cute” are actually responses to stress and a terrifying ordeal for the animal. There’s nothing “cute” about terrorizing any living lifeform for amusement.

Aaron Shepard on Twitter: “Repeat after me people : “I will not touch ocean animals unnecessarily for social media clout” Thank you… https://t.co/wKsorJi983″ / Twitter


Portrait of John Washington Carver, Tuskegee Institiute

John Washington Carver, Agricultural Scientist

Finally, when it comes to historical contributions, the work of John Washington Carver (c 1864- Jan 5th, 1943) simply CANNOT be overlooked by a site such as this. He was born a slave, persevered through multiple hurdles to get himself college educated and became one of America’s most distinguished Scientists. He introduced us to the idea of crop rotations and compost to improve depleted soils. In tandem with helping the environment, he also worked to improve the lives of poor farmers by recommending highly nutritious rotation crops such as peanuts and sweet potatoes at times when the fields needed to rest from cotton production. He also provided recipes for his food recommendation through “Bulletins.”

History & Culture – George Washington Carver National Monument (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

Biography books on John Washington Carver are available at most U.S. libraries.


More to Explore:

Gardening while Black: How some are redefining relationship to land (usatoday.com)

7 Contributions of Black Farmers to Agriculture — Poughkeepsie Farm Project

In their own words. A booklist:

10 Outdoors Books by Black, Indigenous, POC Authors | Field Mag


My sincerest thanks goes out to any and all persons, living or dead, who endeavor to restore the health and well-being of their communities; be they human communities, animal communities, plant communities, soil communities or water communities. We are all part of a greater community, the sum of life itself on planet earth. We can choose to nurture that which is around us or we can destroy it with our indifference.

Happy Earth Day, 2021! May Hope persist like Dandelions

An artistic attempt with dandelions

Eleven years ago, I did one of the least earth-friendly things in the world. I had a baby. We debated it for a few years. Should we have a baby? Why would we bring a child into this kind of world? I’d already been studying climate change for nearly 15 years and an aficionado of disaster movies. So why then?

We thought about how much we love to learn. How much we love to explore and solve problems and how there were so many cool things we would never get to discover again for “the first time.” A first snow, the first Christmas, the first family pet, the first day of school and so on. A child gets these “firsts” but we could experience them again vicariously through them. We could be first-time parents too. I wasn’t even sure I could have children. It’s putting it mildly to say that me and my body have been through a lot over the years. I’m a survivor of many things and there are some things I wouldn’t want any child or person to experience and yet, I persist.

I see horror in the world, but I see beauty in it too. After a year, it seemed like parenthood was not going to be in our future. We remember it differently, but this is how I remember it: We went on a trip to Yellowstone. It was a great trip. I’ll never drive 14 hours straight anywhere again though! That part was not so great. I was so tired I was ready to curl up on the side of the road and go to sleep. Maybe keep some rattlesnakes warm for the night with my body heat. Somehow, between the two of us and our dog, we did make it to our rented cabin.

I started to get nausea a lot near the end of the trip. It must have been the sulfur from the mud pots and sulfur springs, I thought, but the nausea continued even after we got home and then I took a pregnancy test and sure enough, it had a “+ sign” and that’s the first thing my husband saw when he woke up one morning.

It was a high-risk pregnancy, there were lots of little scares. Having to suddenly leave work to go to the Doctor’s office to get this or that checked out. My Supervisor was amazingly supportive and is now a lifelong friend. I was induced late on April 20th. I went the first 14 hours without any pain medication until eventually it was, “Give me every drug you got!” In total 27 hours of labor. They need to get the baby to move. Nurses kept coming in each bigger than the last one making human origami out of me. I felt like they could have made one heck of a hockey team! Then our heartrates started dropping, we were both so exhausted. I have a rare condition where anesthesia takes a while kick in and then burns off quickly. It’s as terrible as its sounds. I’ve had anesthesia wear off in the middle of surgery before! When our last resort was an emergency C-section I grabbed the anesthesiologist by the lapels and made myself very clear that he was to give me the highest level dose possible. He did and joked that he’d given me enough to drop a full-size horse. One of the nurses chuckled that I’d be out for a very long time then, but after the doctor put the last stitch in me and showed me my baby, she nearly dropped the tray she was holding when she turned around and I was clear-eyed and asked, “What next?”

Our child is our hope for the future. Every generation needs its leaders, and we hope that he and his peers will continue the work that we have started. Having a child is a leap of faith that things can be better. We hope that humanity will get it’s shit together and figure out how to survive thrive in the coming years. We want future generations to resolve issue previous generations have both created and failed to solve by learning to work with nature and not by trying to dominate it. We tried that already, to some great successes that have actually become our own undoing as a species.

Picking Dandelions

Yesterday, I had the brilliant idea to try making dandelion wine. I went out and bought a few supplies. My son helped me pull a lot of dandelion heads. We had fun! I thought maybe we were actually getting too many. I started dreaming big, then.  I’m going to make wine, and tea and dandelion dye and it’ll be awesome! Maybe I can make a cottage industry out of this!

Four hours later, I’m exhausted from pulling the calyx (green parts/leaves) because its only now that I’ve realized the wine recipe wants just the leaves. In all that time, I was able to muster a quart worth of just the little leaves and the recipe calls for two quarts. Yeah, well at this point I’m just going to half the recipe. What will this yield me? One bottle of wine! I also won’t know if I’ve done everything right until it has fermented for two years!

I watched a couple of videos, checked a few other recipes but they all say/show, just the flower petals. So yeah, if you were thinking about making dandelion wine, consider setting yourself up where you can watch a couple of movies or something while you work! Maybe you’ll be faster than me, but you should still be forewarned that it’s still going to be a lot of work and patience if you want to try it.

Dandelion Leaves

Like most people, I wish dandelions weren’t quite so prolific at taking over my driveway, but they do. I’m still not going to come at it with poison though. I might not have been able to make them as valuable as I had hoped for myself, but they still provide value to the rest of the landscape and I can live with that. That’s part of what it means to me to be “nature-led”; recognizing that something has value even if it doesn’t have a lot of value to you specifically.

You see a lot of negative news everyday about climate change, politics, the pandemic, mass shootings, etcetera. I know, I get it too. Which is why I want you to know that every time I make a post, I make a conscious effort to offer a shard of light in the darkness. Hope takes shape in many forms and comes to us in unexpected ways. Hope like nature, belongs to us all. The worst we can do is give up. I’d argue that we owe it to future generations to keep trying to do better. Some things can’t be solved in one generation. Do what you can in a way that works for you. I know it’s rather blunt, but someone in high school told me, “Don’t bother complaining if you’re not going to offer any solutions.” I took that to heart. It’s true that whining isn’t going to help. I do what I can to try and offer solutions and maybe I don’t have the right solution myself, but maybe it inspires someone else to get it right. Shouldn’t we all be on team Planet Earth?