Embers of Hope
Embracing Life in an Age of Ecological Destruction and Climate Chaos - theHumm June 2020

Embers of Hope
Embracing Life in an Age of Ecological Destruction and Climate Chaos - theHumm June 2020

By Kris Riendeau

Bonita Ford is a co-founder of Permaculture Eastern Ontario and author of the new book Embers of Hope: Embracing Life in an Age of Ecological Destruction and Climate Chaos. We contacted her to find out how this book came to be, and how she hopes it can help us all to “nurture the small forces that may radically transform our world”.

theHumm: You had me from the title, because hope seems to be one of the most precious “commodities” — albeit one that isn’t for sale in the capitalist world. Why do you think it is important for people to remain hopeful even (or perhaps especially) in the face of unprecedented challenges?

I allow myself to feel both hope and despair, because they are healthy feelings and they help me get in touch with what is really important to me. Grief can open our hearts and remind us how deeply we care. However, if we dwell only in grief, we may be inclined to give up. If we all gave up and stopped trying to make the world a healthier and kinder place, we would be complicit in our collective undoing.

On the other hand, hope can fuel us. I need it in order to continue imagining and creating; it enables me to work towards what is possible. For me, hope isn’t simply a passive emotion or a state of mind. It’s accompanied by action.

When I first read about the healthcare system in Italy in near collapse due to the COVID-19 crisis, I feared for our communities here and I wondered how our local hospitals would cope. Shortly thereafter, I read about — and then started looking for — stories of everyday people sewing and donating masks to hospitals and offering free meals to frontline workers.

I am not hopeful about institutions ensuring our wellbeing in the long-term. Rather, I am hopeful about our communities. Last month, when my partner and I were a bit sick and in isolation, our neighbours brought us cookies and maple syrup, a friend went grocery shopping for us, and several people messaged to ask us if we needed anything.

Hope is about cultivating relationships with the people around us now, so that when we need it, these relationships will be strong enough to support us later.

Over the past 18 years you have given courses around the world on permaculture, reiki, and compassionate communication. How have these pursuits informed the writing of this book?

All of these holistic practices have shaped the way I relate to the world, and as such, they contribute to my perspective and my writing. They have taught me that I am part of Something Greater than myself and that I am connected to everything, so my choices and actions impact the life around me.

Teaching and facilitation have shown me that we are all teachers and that we are all students. I understand that I will probably be learning and growing for the rest of my life.

When I was writing Embers of Hope I wanted people to be able to relate — to what I’ve learned and also to what I’ve struggled with — and hopefully (re)discover that they too can enrich life through their everyday choices.

I can only imagine how much time and effort goes into producing a book like this one. Most authors aren’t in it for the big bucks, so this is both a creative and a generous act. What compelled you to write and publish Embers of Hope, and what do you hope people will garner from reading it?

I felt called to write it. It’s been over 6½ years since I started working on Embers, and although I struggled at many points in the process, I am so grateful that I stuck with it.

The writing gave me a sense of purpose. As I read about climate breakdown, I would feel the intense feelings, consider what I could do, and then write about it. I hoped that my challenges and reflections would encourage others too.

I think that death and the possibilities of ecological collapse and human extinction are incredibly daunting to many people. My relationship with death has evolved a lot throughout my life, and the death of two loved ones gave me a different way to look at our climate crisis. We don’t have to choose one or the other: resign ourselves to painful realities and give up, OR believe that we can change the outcome and keep trying. I discovered that I can grieve while also working towards what I hope to be possible.

In writing the book, I wanted to help people relate to death as something natural and approachable. I wanted to give people some tools to face ecological destruction and climate chaos and to feel their despair, fear and anger in a supportive way. Confronting what we have to lose can put us in touch with what matters deeply to us. Ultimately, I hope that Embers can inspire people to live more meaningful lives while taking better care of the life around them.

The subtitle of the book is Embracing Life in an Age of Ecological Destruction and Climate Chaos. Do you feel that the current COVID situation is eclipsing the climate crisis, or is it helping people to realize that our existence is more tenuous and interconnected than many of us were willing to admit?

Yes and yes. We are seeing governments put vast sums of money towards the COVID pandemic and make changes in a few days that seemed impossible just a few months ago. We have yet to see these kinds of resources or this fast of a response towards the climate crisis, despite an increasing number of governments declaring “climate emergencies” last year.

I think many people are beginning to see how interconnected we are and how easily disruptable our healthcare, transportation, and economic systems can be. At the same time, cities and nations in lockdown have given the rest of the living world a bit of a break from our industrial civilisation. During the crisis in China, one-third less coal was used at power plants and the nitrogen dioxide in the air was significantly lower.

What if we could clean up air pollution — and even slow climate breakdown — just by having most people in industrialised nations stay home for an extended period of time? To say that sounds naïve and even impossible. Yet, in 2019, how many of us thought it possible to have nations and economies come to a halt for months due to a virus?

I’m not trying to oversimplify the world’s problems. However, I am suggesting that sometimes we believe that certain solutions are impossible because we are collectively stuck in a certain mindset — and not because those choices and actions are actually impossible.

What are you personally most concerned about at this time?

I think the COVID pandemic and the response have been truly unprecedented. I think all of this has been a serious wake-up call. Perhaps it is waking different people up to different things, and I hope it is making many of us question the status quo and the way we live in our civilisation.

I am concerned that once the lockdowns are over, people will go back to their “normal lives” and forget about all of this: forget what terrified them, forget about how resilient they were, and forget about what good they might have found, including being less busy, having the time to cook at home, checking on friends, or appreciating being in nature.

I don’t want us to go back to being consumers and workers, rather than being thoughtful neighbours and concerned citizens.

What are you optimistic about in terms of what happens to our Ottawa Valley community during and after the pandemic?

I’m optimistic about the people. Even though I’ve heard stories about people yelling at grocery cashiers, I have continued to look for and find stories about care and generosity and kindness. I appreciate my neighbours and I know several frontline workers who are working hard and are still in good spirits.

I am hopeful — not because there isn’t selfishness or corruption in the world — but because I choose to look for what is good. And this allows me to continue doing my part.

To read an excerpt or pre-order a book with free gifts, please visit embersofhopebook.com .


Where to Find the June Humm - theHumm June 2020

We’re heading out to deliver the June issue of theHumm! Because things have changed a wee bit since the last time we did our distribution, here’s a list of the places we will be trying to deliver to. Hours and more information can be found at the links. Happy Humm hunting!


Dandelion Foods dandelionfoods.ca

Don’s Meat Market donsmeatmarke......


Jeff Wallace — Wallflower Turned Art Auctioneer! - theHumm June 2020

By Sally Hansen

Art… and Soul

A new artist is blossoming in our midst. Rising to the COVID-19 challenge, Burnstown artist and businessman Jeff Wallace is discarding his anonymity and charging into the fray, determined to make a positive contribution. But first, introducing:

Jeff Wallace — Artist

Wallace has only recently arrived in a place in his life where his first love, art, is able to play a bigger role. As Forrest Gump’s mama always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You......


COVID, Kids, & All the Feelings - theHumm June 2020

By Nicki Gallo

There’s this exercise that I like do when I work with kids. It helps us to explore how our feelings are something that we experience in our bodies as well as our minds. First, I give the child a piece of paper with the outline of a person. I ask them to colour the location on the body where they feel certain emotions and match it with a colour. For example, they may feel red/anger in their hands: “I’m so mad I could punch someone!” Or feel yellow/nervousness in their bellies: “I have b......


Supporting Local Artists: In Person and Online! - theHumm June 2020

By Miss Cellaneous

The good news for area art lovers is that many local galleries have been able to re-open — most with reduced hours and all with extra safety precautions in place. We highly recommend a visit to Almonte’s General Fine Craft generalfinecraft.com and Sivarulrasa Gallery sivarulrasa.com , Riverguild Fine Crafts in Perth ...more

PRIDE of Place
An interview with Michael Rikley-Lancaster
- theHumm June 2020

Michael Rikley-Lancaster is the Curator of the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum and a member of the group that was planning to launch the first-ever Mississippi Mills PRIDE Week this June. We contacted him to find out how both the Museum and MM Pride are faring.

theHumm: Since becoming Curator, you (with the assistance of your staff, board and numerous volunteers) have made many improvements to the Museum and have hosted incredible exhibitions by artists from......


Talking Transformation
An interview with Noé Charron
- theHumm June 2020

Noé Charron is a 22-year-old non-binary trans woman (who uses both she/her and they/them pronouns) who started her transition while growing up in Almonte and working at Baker Bob’s. We contacted her to find out how her transitioning was perceived and received by the community, and what advice she has for people who want to try and foster a more welcoming and compassionate atmosphere.

theHumm: As an employee at Baker Bob’s, you were one of my only examples of someone who......


Embers of Hope
Embracing Life in an Age of Ecological Destruction and Climate Chaos
- theHumm June 2020

By Kris Riendeau

Bonita Ford is a co-founder of Permaculture Eastern Ontario and author of the new book Embers of Hope: Embracing Life in an Age of Ecological Destruction and Climate Chaos. We contacted her to find out how this book came to be, and how she hopes it can help us all to “nurture the small forces that may radically transform our world”.

theHumm: You had me from the title, because hope seems to be one of the most precious “commodities” — albeit one that isn’t for sale ......


Ice Cream Contest!Play “Passport to Brain Freeze” - theHumm June 2020

By Sarah Kerr

Hello again friends! I hope you and your littles are ready for a 3-month summer “vacation”. But one from the ’50s without camps, daycares or programmed sports… and for many, juggling working from home. Sounds idyllic, right? Okay, this doesn’t exactly sound like vacation, but if there’s any advice that I can offer it’s that the summer of quarantine begins now!

Yes, you may be wondering if I’m the minister of education to declare something like that, and to be clear… no I am not. But as the d......


Almonte, Spirit of Place
A New Book from Photographer John McQuarrie
- theHumm June 2020

John McQuarrie is a photographer and publisher of the recently released book Almonte, Spirit of Place. We contacted him to find out how his most recent book came to be, and how the current lockdown is affecting its reception in the community.

theHumm: Your photos are stunning — can you tell us a bit about your training and background?

John McQuarrie: Like many working photographers, I simply consumed print and online tutorials along with each advance in imaging......


A Time of Transformation - theHumm June 2020

By Kris & Rob Riendeau

Welcome back to the print version of theHumm! We are thrilled to return to this format, and we sincerely hope that this issue finds you well. As you might imagine, it is a bit different from our ......


Faces & Fabric
of a small town during pandemic
- theHumm June 2020

As the community grapples with a pandemic that is radically reshaping every aspect of public and private life, we are striving to capture the historic shift through the eyes of everyday people in M......


Lots of Time to Plant! - theHumm June 2020

By David Hinks

Missed planting the vegetable garden on the May 2-4 weekend (well it was a bit early this year)? Do not despair if you haven’t planted your entire vegetable garden yet. It is not at all too ......


KITCHEN at Sivarulrasa Gallery
An Exhibition in Partnership with the Carleton Place & Beckwith Heritage Museum
- theHumm June 2020

Until July 10, Almonte’s Sivarulrasa Gallery is pleased to partner with the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum to present KITCHEN, an exhibition that elegantly combines wo......


Rural Root Zooms into Spring with Couples - theHumm June 2020

At its best, community theatre brings together people from all walks of life to share ideas and create friendships. This has been Rural Root Theatre’s strength since 2005, and they have no intent......


Poplar - theHumm June 2020

By Susie Osler

A Poplar round supports my weight. Its dying body lies here, sprawling in pieces around me. Rings of honey-coloured carbon circle in around dark, decaying heartwood that Woodpeckers have already ......


PRIDE in the Valley! - theHumm June 2020

Here’s an overview of PRIDE plans (as of press time) across the Ottawa Valley. We recommend following these groups on Facebook, because things may change and activities may be added as it becomes......


Role Models for Rough Times
James Naismith and John McLendon
- theHumm June 2020

Just as we were going to print, stories about the death of George Floyd started hitting the news and social media. theHumm doesn’t report on breaking news, but we thought this information about a......


Bike Boom
The Resurgence of Cycling in Uncertain Times
- theHumm June 2020

By John Pigeau

Following a national trend, business at local bike shops is booming. 

“A hundred percent, absolutely,” says Pete Wood, owner of Heritage Bikes in Perth. “A lot of people are finding that......


“Trishaw” Crowdfunding Campaign Launched - theHumm June 2020

With support from Lanark County Council and several local businesses, Cycling Without Age Lanark County (CWALC) has taken the next step by launching a $7,000 crowdfunding campaign with the goal o......


Back to the Books! - theHumm June 2020

By Karen DeLuca, Librarian

The past few months has certainly been posing a challenge to readers everywhere.

For some it has meant exploring those long-forgotten books neatly displayed on bookcases at home. For others ......


Enough’s Enough! - theHumm June 2020

By Glenda Jones

We’ve been behaving ourselves and “staying the blazes home” for the past twenty-eleven weeks. It’s been fine up to this morning, when I scared myself half to death looking in a mirror. Who kidnap......


We are All in this Together - theHumm June 2020

By Wanda MacDonald

In small communities like ours, you just need to ask for help and people step up. And everyone is definitely doing just that!

Mississippi Mills Together — or MMTogether for short — is one wa......


The Power of Tech Shabbats
- theHumm June 2020

By — Kris Riendeau

Back when COVID-19 was just a gleam on the social media horizon, Rob and I listened to an intriguing podcast while delivering the February issue of theHumm. Presented by The Long Now Foundation, ......


Food Truck Evolution - theHumm June 2020

By Sebastian Weetabix

Months ago Weetabix asked his loyal readers “what starts with ‘F’ and ends with ‘uck’?”, and the correct answer had no apparent connection to the spread of a virus or a fundamental change in the ......


Cinema Therapy, Books and Guided Meditations
Finding Some Peace in a Pandemic
- theHumm June 2020

By John Pigeau

In the midst of this dreadful pandemic, people are having to cope with all manner of new challenges. We’re a resilient bunch though, and so far many of us have improvised rather well. Meeting up ......


Business-to-Business Support
A Full-Circle, Feel-Good Story
- theHumm June 2020

By the Fulton’s team

When Shirley Fulton-Deugo, owner of Fulton’s Pancake House & Sugar Bush, got together with the team from Almonte’s Dairy Distillery, little did she know great things were in the makin......