From January 27 to February 7, 2020, Camp Altiplano welcomed 10 diverse, enthusiastic people from six countries for a two-week ecosystem restoration experience at La Junquera farm in Murcia, Spain. The course was organised by Silvia Quarta, the new Altiplano camp coordinator, in partnership with La Junquera, Regeneration Academy, and Alvelal, a local regenerative farmers cooperative, offering a variety of inspirational workshops and classes with local regeneration experts.
From the start, when the farm owner Alfonso picked some of us up from the bus station, two things were crystal clear: I was in excellent company with like-minded people caring about the earth, and the heavily degraded landscape we were driving through was crying out to be restored. In the region of Murcia and many rural areas of Spain, the level of ecological and social degradation is painful to see and a great motivation for action. What a wonderful, much-needed opportunity for people to gather with a shared purpose at Camp Altiplano to learn about ecosystem health, join hands-on restoration efforts, and make a positive ecological, social, and personal impact.
The practical ecological work was focused on restoring a half-hectare natural zone on a hillside of La Junquera farm. Over the course of the two weeks we planted almost 1,000 native, locally adapted trees and bushes like holm oak, aleppo pine, terebinth, black hawthorn, rosemary, and saltbush with the goal to revive and diversify the natural Mediterranean forest. We planted in foggy coolness, in blowing winds, and in hot sunshine— and always in good spirits. We worked in silence, with music, in conversation, and with laughter, both individually and in teams.
With time and practice we all got more skilled and effective at planting, so the final session was our most productive, with an impressive 190 trees planted. A catchy motto that one camper initiated was: “dig, plant, repeat”. I felt both a sense of meaningful contribution from the visible results of my actions as well as deep respect for the time and effort it takes for plants to grow and ecosystems to heal in this climate. We also learned about the functions of healthy living soil, applied a visual soil assessment tool, learned to reproduce microorganisms, and studied water cycles and rainwater harvesting techniques.
The farm La Junquera, which used to be a little agricultural village, is a prime example of how ecological degradation goes hand in hand with the erosion of social fabric and healthy communities. Thus our regeneration efforts needed to address both land and people. During the restoration experience I had the joy of learning, working, and living with a diverse, caring, and enthusiastic group of people. We shared engaging conversations, nourishing group meals, stories around the fireplace, laughter, live guitar music, inspiration, walks around the farm, knowledge, and a sense of community.
Another highlight for me was the diversity and quality of workshops by wonderful local experts about regenerative practices, from agroforestry systems to water harvesting, plant propagation, holistic management, soil building, business planning, beekeeping, seed saving, keyline design, cooking and preserving, and tree pruning. I felt touched by the peoples’ rootedness in this region, their passionate dedication, and their generosity in sharing knowledge and making a contribution. We also visited another farm transitioning to regenerative agriculture in the area, and it was great to see the collaboration and support generated by the farmers association Alvelal to restore this whole region.
In these critical, uncertain times, experiencing the mycelium-like network of people and local communities around the world taking action towards ecological and social regeneration, like the campers and farmers here, nourishes the hope in my heart. Moreover, it gives me a sense of purpose to take action and embody my values knowing that the work is part of the large-scale restoration of degraded ecosystems. Regeneration is an active process, not just an outcome, and I feel encouraged to continue my learning and career pathway in this field. Joining the Ecosystem Restoration Camp movement I am part of a grass-roots movement of earth restorers contributing to a thriving planet.
I want to warmly invite you all to join hands, heads, and hearts with amazing people to learn and practically work to restore degraded land and bring back thriving ecosystems at Camp Altiplano or other camps around the world. Healing land and healing people works together. We are part of nature and can become a life-giving force instead of a destructive one. Planet Earth does not need to be saved, it needs our compassionate, creative, and wise collaboration. It is calling us to become mature members of the community of life. Ecosystem Restoration Camps are one practical response to the current ecological and climate crisis. This is the responsibility of our generation. Are you ready to put your love for life into action?
Let’s show up to restore land!