Put Hope Into Action – A letter from our CEO, Misha Teasdale
23
AUGUST, 2023
Misha Teasdale
 

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Our mission at Greenpop is to get active and not anxious about the state of the planet. This leaning into getting active is for a good reason. By being part of a movement, and taking on the daily grind of creating a place of bright green mindset, you’re able to get yourself into a place of feeling connected with community, seeing what’s possible with collective action and experiencing the many landscape-based projects that have seen huge success. 

Now in Greenpop’s 13th year, I have a lot to be hopeful for. I don’t use the word hope lightly. In April, my wife Lauren brought our second child into this world, Xavier Moon Teasdale. Although he came in a thunderstorm of challenges, he himself is as cool as a cucumber and has brought infinite joy (despite being a poor sleeper). I grappled for years with the idea of bringing another child into the world. Partly for personal reasons, but mostly as I wasn’t sure it was responsible, given everything happening on the planet, and then there was the pressure that every life has on nature’s finite resources. It had been an internal process for a good few years – unpacking all the reasons why not to have a child. 

Then about a year ago, I had a catch-up with one of my mentors and friends, John Liu. His take on having a child is simple: what world would you want to actively create for your child? Being absolutely intentional about the child you are wanting to bring into the world, but also about the life you plan to live and what world you want to create because you are bringing this child into that world.

This was the catalyst that shifted my perspective. The idea of creating a reason to have hope; to deliver on the work and maintain the headspace to see that we (Lauren and myself) have a lifetime of beautiful work to do. This is both in raising our boys to be nature-loving, intentional and wholesome people, but also in giving them a reason to feel hopeful through experiencing our daily actions. 

This is a long-term commitment. It’s a reconfiguration of our responsibility, knowing that with it comes personal sacrifice. It’s digging deep in finding our compassion to weather the myriad of cynicism, obstacles, and reasons to rather be complacent about the way things are. 

Reflecting on this new journey, I’ve appreciated the parallels between raising children, in a deeply intentional way, and working to restore ecosystems. After having done this Greenpop thing now for 13 years, I can wholeheartedly say it is hugely rewarding. 

Being on the deep end of this now, I’m finding more links between raising children intentionally and restoring ecosystems. Both need hard work but are incredibly rewarding. If done correctly, both have a net positive for the planet. When you are sufficiently engaged, and get your hands soiled (if you’ll excuse the phrase). And that messiness involved in true compassion, and the desire to build rather than be a bystander, create resounding hope of a more beautiful and abundant tomorrow.

It’s Arbor Month, the month we were born as a movement. All those years ago we started off planting trees across the low-income schools and communities within the wind-swept Cape Flats. The mission was to create some small gains in equality when it comes to urban green spaces. Bringing a sense of pride, beauty and biodiversity to these areas which oftentimes had very little by way of hope. Here we met many young people, who lacked shade and clean air.  From the energy we brought and the trees we collectively planted, we saw a new hope in their eyes. This was the beginning of my experience of the hope that happens at the intersection of humans and nature in community. 

This year it’s been fairly unstable at Greenpop. Our systems and programs have been ratcheting up, two staff have been on maternity leave, and the opportunities coming in thick and fast. It has been sometimes beyond what our small team could manage. That said, in all this beautiful chaos, I’ve felt a deep sense of purpose in what we are trying to achieve. I have been hugely reflective of my own self-worth. It has at times felt hard as a director, having to be the ultimate generalist, doing micro-solves on our teams’ cul-de-sacs, to work out the easiest routes to get back on track. As soon as you think you have it made, the system needs another upgrade. 

And yet, despite this, on a personal level, I’ve had a year of feeling incredibly stable in my work and the gift I’m able to give the world. I have a renewed and deep-rooted capacity to hope, and confidence in the future and what we are able to achieve as the Greenpop family, as well as a family unit at home.

I have reflected upon how 2023 started, with a journey to Malawi, and what I saw there. We’ve been on a rampage with nature for some 10 thousand years – can we change that cycle? Can we, as a common Humanity, shift from being so extractive to learning from nature, understanding her intricate cycles, and reimagining the way we approach our world? 

I am fortunate, every year, to have these experiences of visiting wild and wonderful places, of dreaming up new possibilities all, centred around restoring landscapes and building resilience against rampant destruction.

In this same vein, we’ve been fortunate to partner with dedicated implementation teams to rejuvenate vital biodiversity landscapes. It’s been incredible to see some of the highlights coming from the field. Just recently we had camera trap footage, from the Platbos Forest Reserve, which captured one of the elusive and majestic Cape Leopards, within the forest we are working to restore and protect. Again, underscoring the need for preserving and restoring wild spaces.

The Heartland Forest Restoration Project, a visual marvel in the Garden Route, flourishes with a nearly closed canopy just 5 years after initial planting. Pioneer Keurboom trees, now 8-10 meters tall, support young Yellowwoods, White Stinkwoods, and Forest Elders. This rapid growth, even among slower climax species, showcases a self-sustaining forest with abundant life from fungi to insects, embodying nature’s resilience. A space that is breathtaking to see, and extremely difficult to leave once you become immersed in this restored space.

The Mulanje Landscape Restoration Project has thrived on community engagement. Malawi’s challenges strain both livelihoods and ecosystems. Through dedicated community-driven interventions, this project has seen large areas of historic forest and woodland returned through natural regeneration, and through promoting non-timber forest product production and utilisation. Activities like beekeeping provide income, safeguarding regenerated woodlands. Local nurseries persist even after direct external support from NGOs was redirected, empowering communities as ecosystem stewards. The partnership with Mulanje Mission Hospital bridges health and ecosystem restoration, highlighting their interdependence – healthy ecosystems foster personal health: “A healthy environment allows healthy people”.

I’ve had so many blissful experiences where the stress and challenges of running an organisation becomes all so worth it. Marching up to a planting site with a thousand volunteers to put several thousand trees in the ground, with drums and flags, a sense of collaboration beyond words. Standing in an orchard of 5000 citrus trees, in Southern Zambia, planted by our efforts, and producing fruits, providing revenue and a more balanced and diverse diet to people in the surroundings. Walking through forested areas that, just 4 years back, were flattened by the Knysna fires, and now the land is moist and abundant with layers of biodiversity, a tree canopy and successive species thriving. 

Greenpop is now in a place of resilience. The last 13 years have given us all the necessary growing pains and tools in the toolkit to continue to grow in reach and impact. Our programs have become ever more focused on achieving the goals we have carved out to achieve. Our team rounded up programs including Fynbos for the Future into endline reports and Project Spotlights of the Khoinania Forest Restoration Project, Uilenkraal Valley Restoration Project and the Misbelt Habitat Restoration Project,  through which we were able to reflect deeply into the milestones and mountains we’ve climbed. 

Today, momentum builds. Globally, including here in Southern Africa, the restoration agenda is a hot topic, as a clear target for mitigating the major challenges related to climate change. But more than this, all the many additional benefits that come with functional ecosystems – from reduced poverty to improved farming, and even levelling out gender equality – the world has woken up to how crucial landscapes are in terms of our joint human existence. 

Natural capital underpins all other capital. In an unbalanced system business and society are not able to thrive. This logic now seems to prevail. We are experiencing new-found momentum on many levels. Interest from companies, government and individuals has turned up in a significant rate illustrating that there is a want for more understanding and investment into this space. And while finances are slow to reach landscape restoration projects at any significant scale here in the South, that looks to be changing, both through domestic interest and abroad.  This inspires great hope in our shared future.

I’m dreaming of a bright green future. One where the levels of equality between all humans and other living beings are realised. Where harmony is achieved through deep intentional work on a community-by-community front, where the many appropriate technologies and nature-based solutions are rapidly and equally shared to meet the needs of the many communities around our beautiful planet. A planet that needs our support. I see nature as our greatest ally – in learning through her incredible efficiencies, turning waste to resources, using only the energy it needs – its infinite interconnectedness from micro-cellular systems to macro systems like climate. Her strength is diversity. And we’re on this path. We’re rapidly learning an approach to building better and more resilient systems and cities. We have so much of what we need to make the leap. The dream of a more beautiful and biodiverse world is possible. 

So, as September and Arbor month are fast approaching, and with that our 13th year in existence as a movement in South African, we’re asking our community, collaborators, and corporate South Africa to walk with us this month. Let’s make our country a more biodiverse place, believing in tomorrow, finding hope, but more than that, being intentional about the future we want here on the tip of Africa. 

There is so much work to be done, and with that, opportunities to change the way things are by stepping outside of our inaction and actively participating in changing our country. I believe that the health of our landscapes is the very backbone of this. In restoring the endless hills, mountains, coastlines, and forests, we are able to restore our relationships with each other, bringing dignified work to people, and building the resilience of this beautiful part of Africa once again.

Restoring landscapes is fundamentally about people as much as it is about trees. It starts with connection, shared love and appreciation, and a decision to bravely start something new, often small. But through nurture, directed growth, intentional cultivation, compassion, and dedication, it can flourish into something profound and impactful. Both for our planet and future generations, we foster hope, whatever may come.

Yours sincerely,

Misha Teasdale, Greenpop CEO

“Live Life Well” From the Inside Out

“Live Life Well” From the Inside Out

“Live Life Well.” What images does this phrase bring up in your head? Greenpop and Wellness Warehouse revamped Reforest Fest’s Food Village with a focus on sustainable, ethical, local, and seasonal produce.

Greenpop Foundation NPC is a registered non-profit organisation. Registration Number (NPO): 151-411 NPO.