“5 things we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment” with Sri Charles and Dee Doanes of Heal the Atmosphere Association
Start at Home. Parents need to start at home first by teaching children about the ecosystem and the various ways that people pollute every day. Download a free copy of the Fourth National Climate Assessment published by the United States government. It highlights that human activities cause most of the pollution and climate crisis problems. This report was put together by more than 300 scientists and experts from NASA, EPA, USDA, the Department of Health, and other government agencies, universities, and private sectors. Our organization uses this reference book frequently when we teach. And homeschooling parents that attend our workshops use this tool for class assignments. As kids learn, have them list all the ways the household contributes to pollution, and action steps to correct the issues. Then parents can assist their children in daily tasks that keep the home pollutant-free.
As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing environmentalists, Sri Charles and Dee Doanes of The Heal the Atmosphere Association, Shanti Villa Institute, and Shanti Atlanta.
Sri Charles is a Yogi, and Dee Doanes is his student. They’re grassroots environmentalists who teach the Vedic science of Agnihotra that has been scientifically proven to reverse pollution. These environmentalists are part of the millions of people who practice Agnihotra worldwide, including scientists and medical professionals. They travel the world to teach at-risk communities how to fight pollution and take care of the planet.
Sri Charles is a Homa Therapy and Agnihotra (Ayurvedic Medicine) expert. Agnihotra/Homa Therapy is a vital methodology for healing the planet and curing physical ailments. He’s been practicing and teaching this for more than 45 years. He was a student of Shree Vasant Paranjpe, who brought the science of Agnihotra from India to the United States in 1970. His journey on the Agnihotra path was under the guidance of the Avatar, Parama Sadguru Shree Gajanan Maharaj.
Sri Charles is the founder/custodian of Heal the Atmosphere Association (HTAA), an environmental organization based in Tuskegee, Alabama. He also runs Shanti Villa Institute (SVI), an Ayurveda school, a 13-acre farm, and eco-Center. HTAA was the first African American environmental organization formed in the 1970s.
Dee has been studying with Sri Charles for eight years. She runs Shanti Atlanta and Shanti Atlanta Ayurveda Stress Clinic, based in Conyers, GA. This location is an extension center of SVI. Dee is a certified Ayurveda Stress Therapist, having received her training from SVI. Dee has spoken at Georgia State University and Spelman College. She’s been featured in Yogapedia, Yahoo, Inc. Magazine, Ebony Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune. She’s also an environmental journalist. She recently published on, Zora Magazine by Medium.
Work Highlights include: Sri Charles has received Resolutions from both the Georgia House of Representatives and Alabama State Senate for being an expert in Agnihotra (Homa Therapy). In 2013, HTAA organized a 1,300-mile Green Earth March from Washington D.C. to Tuskegee, Alabama. Sri Charles and Dee host, Climate Change and You: The Solution — Facebook Live Events and National Tour to public about climate change and pollution happening in the U.S. and globally; and demonstrate Agnihotra as to being the solution to climate change. In 2019, Georgia State Representative “Able” Mable Thomas made an announcement at the Atlanta City Council. She stated that Agnihotra is a way, “to have a purification process that will clearly help in our communities.” Currently, HTAA is working with Mr. Maxwell, Chairman of the Macon County Commission in Alabama, on a youth environmental education program.
Sri Charles and Dee are involved in a movement to bring awareness to the benefits of Agnihotra. They do this by having meetings and events with community residents and leaders, politicians, (EPA) the Environmental Protection Agency, scientists, and medical professionals.
Thank you both so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you two” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you both grew up?
Dee: I’m a Southern gal, born and raised in Atlanta, GA. My grandfather and mother sparked my love for the environment, nature, learning, and helping people at a very young age.
As a young child, I remember my grandfather growing turnips, mustard greens, collards, and potatoes at his farm. The collards reminded me of elephant’s ears because they were so big! He would sit on a milk crate in the middle of the row of vegetables while he harvested.
He also ran a handyman business, and would often give or loan money to Black men wanting to open a business. Grandad took me with him when he visited barbershops and other storefronts on Auburn Avenue, where he would check on the new business owners.
My mother was a high school Latin and French teacher who taught at inner-city schools. She chose to teach where she could make the most difference for poor students. She frequently gave bus fare, money for food, and school supplies to the kids.
She always encouraged me to learn about as many subjects as possible. My favorite things to learn about were nature and animals.
Mom bought me my first wildlife animal card set published by Leisure Books when I was five years old. The cards came inside of a green lunch box looking container. The container became my “briefcase” that I carried to every room at home. The “briefcase” in my hand meant I was serious about learning about animals! The animal cards came in alphabetical order. I loved flipping through them, reading the scientific information about phylum, class, order, habitat, and behavior of each animal. My favorite animal was the Axolotl. It’s a cute amphibian that looks like a fish. I first looked at that card in 1975, and the Axolotl was plentiful in its habitat. Currently, it’s on the critically endangered list. I still have some of those original cards if anyone is interested in seeing them!
Sri Charles: I grew up in Durham, NC. Observing the surroundings in my neighborhood instilled my desire to help Mother Nature. The Civil Rights Movement was going on during my high school years. During this time, I had the had the opportunity to meet Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, and Jessie Jackson. I saw how the protest marches worked and how they affected people. These experiences inspired me to become an environmentalist activist in the 1970’s.
Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?
Dee: My “aha” moment was more than eight years ago when public relations and marketing was my profession. On paper, it was a glamorous dream career. But it led me to being materialistic and shallow, and I was unhappy. My soul ached for a fresh start and a higher purpose in life. I began to be more spiritually centered and focus on helping people and not acquiring more money. I started volunteering, working with people challenged with homelessness, a private foster care center, and other community projects. These lifestyle changes were how I began to transform myself into a better person, living with love and forgiveness in my heart.
During this time, I worked with Charlene Edwards, who ran a grassroots nonprofit. She made me a board member of her organization, and we began to develop a big project that would help at-risk residents of DeKalb County. We planned on building Common-Unity, a sustainable, co-housing community for senior citizens, low-income people, and single mom’s — people looking to go green and live healthier. This environmentally-conscious based community would feature a variety of sustainable home types: tiny, strawbale, and earthbag. Each person living there would share in building and maintaining the land. Co-housing duties included: building homes under the guidance of a natural builder, growing healthy food, raising bees, and organizing farm, cultural events, sustainable building classes available to the public.
We were also doing this to solve some county issues with homelessness, improving senior citizen health, and underemployment. Unfortunately, even after meeting with numerous DeKalb County officials, the project wasn’t completed due to lack of funds. But this didn’t stop us from starting and finishing the next project on our agenda.
In 2016, we set up a garden and a Youth Urban Garden Ambassador program at the City of Lithonia Park. We funded this project from both of our incomes, donations, and grants from the Upper Ocmulgee River RC&D Council, Inc., and The Food Well Alliance.
It was a wonderful experience teaching the children about farming, environmental stewardship, and eating healthy. This program was important since, at that time, Lithonia, Georgia, had a poverty rate higher than the national average. There is only one grocery store with a limited selection of healthy food. The government considers at-risk communities without healthy food access, food deserts. Because of the one grocery store in Lithonia, the city is classified as a “food swamp.”
The children were excited to grow healthy food planted with their own two hands and loved teaching what they learned to their parents. It was a joy seeing the kids eagerly taking seeds in their hands and placing them in the soil! And residents of all ages participated in helping build and maintain the urban garden. I watched resident friendships grow at the same time watermelons and snap peas grew. Everyone participating grew closer together as a community. It warmed my heart to see all the people showing love to each other.
During the process of working on these projects, we needed a farm consultant. Charlene learned about The Heal the Atmosphere Association, the first African American environmental organization in the United States that was founded by Sri Charles. That’s how I met him. He became a consultant for both of our projects. Later on, he became my teacher, which led me to working with him full-time now.
Sri Charles: My mentor, Master Vasant, recognized that the planet had some environmental problems. He knew that pollution would affect every human being, every plant — everything that lives on the planet. This knowledge is what inspired my mentor to do his work in helping the Earth.
With this in mind, I thought about the struggles Master Vazant had to face. He had worked alongside Mahatma Gandhi, (he was one of Gandhi’s students), and there were battles he had to fight. I knew those things would come about when I started doing my environmental work.
Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?
I’ve seen nature inspire children. I’ve seen natural disasters distressing and inspiring children. Youthful curiosity inspires kids, as well. Children in the community care and want to learn more about the environment. A lot of them are curious about how the ecosystem works, especially if they live in cities, not near farms or forests. All it takes is for a few kids to start making significant steps to deal with pollution, and other kids will join. They will come up with solutions for the climate crisis as a group.
We see numerous examples of youth joining together when Greta Thunberg’s made international news for talking about the climate crisis. Other children from all over the world have risen to the challenge in their cities. They are urging adult leaders to do what’s best for the planet. In the United States, teens like 15-year-old Juwaria Jama, and 19-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, (he made national headlines when he was 16), are amongst the many youth fighting for the Earth.
My work is meant to set an example for children on how to take care of the world. All adults have to do this. We are to guide young people to be caretakers of the planet. Doing this inspires the youth. And, at the same time, show them how to love all humans equally. Children that take care of the planet are more inclined to grow up to be loving and peaceful adults. At some point, all of the so-called grown-ups will be dead. What we inspire or don’t inspire the children to do will carry on for many generations. They’re saying loud and clear that adults are doing a crappy job of taking care of the planet and the people that live here.
Many of the children I worked with in Lithonia, GA, didn’t know about growing food. After working in the garden for a few weeks, some of them wanted to become farmers or soil scientists when they graduated from high school. They developed a passion for caring for the land. Before this project, they certainly didn’t think they could make a living doing something important and that they enjoyed doing too. The kids were able to see the direct benefits of growing food in their community. Some of them had parents and grandparents that had serious health problems due to eating unhealthy food. And growing healthy food was a way to help family members.
Sri Charles: I hope that the example that I have set will be enough to inspire all young people to know that there is a solution to pollution.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
Dee and Sri Charles: The Heal the Atmosphere Association has several initiatives. We’re working with Mr. Maxwell, the Chairman of the Macon County Commission in Alabama. With Chairman Maxwell, we helped develop the “Green is the New Lit” movement focused on local youth, paving the way in taking care of the environment. We’re coordinating green education events throughout the year for Macon County. Children will be learning at and leading neighborhood and community events such as local nature site education and care program, home garden setups, neighborhood recycling, school gardens, and working closely with local scientists and United States Forest Rangers.
Our first event was an environmental education summer youth camp for children aged 5–14. The activities consisted of environmental stewardship lessons, yoga, art, interactive storytelling, and camping tutorials. United States Forest rangers gave forest eco-system information. There was even a cow pasture workshop that had the younger kids mooing with delight! It took place at Shanti Villa Institute, Sri Charles’ 13-acre Ayurveda School, farm, and eco-Center.
December is the relaunching of the Shanti Sun, our organization’s environmental digital magazine.
We’re very excited about a unique youth education event coming up on February 22, 2020. We will be co-hosting with Chairman Maxwell, the Macon County/Tuskegee East Sports Day. This event connects young video gamers to climate change and pollution education.
The Heal the Atmosphere Association hosts an ongoing monthly, Climate Change and You: Facebook Live Stream watched worldwide. Sri Charles and I report the latest local and global climate crisis and pollution news, scientific pollution studies. We also give information about and demonstrate Agnihotra/Homa Therapy, which is an Ayurvedic (Vedic) science solution to pollution, that has been scientifically proven to reverse pollution. Numerous scientific studies on Google Scholar show that Agnihotra/Homa Therapy purifies water and cleans the air. Worldwide, many scientists, nurses, medical doctors, and chiropractors practice and teach it. Several medical professionals attend Homa Therapy classes at Shanti Atlanta. When used in farming (Homa farming), restores polluted soil to a healthy state, increases plant yield, and cuts harvest time. Homa farming is a way to grow food naturally without the use of pesticides, which is bad for humans and all of nature. Having low-income communities practice Agnihotra is a way to help with severe pollution problems there, that aren’t happening at the same level as in affluent communities. Though pollution is in every city, businesses that pollute tend to dump more pollution in at-risk neighborhoods.
We have worked with the English Avenue/Vine City community, which is an at-risk community where Georgia State Representative “Able” Mable Thomas resides. She hosted our organization’s Climate Change and You English Avenue and Vine City Event. We educated residents on how to deal with climate change and pollution, and demonstrated Agnihotra/Homa Therapy.
The Heal the Atmosphere Association has a lot more projects in the works, so stay tuned!
Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks things that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?
Dee and Sri Charles: 1. People need to work in occupations that actively take care of the planet. This work change is hard for most people to do. Still, every person must help solve the pollution problem in every aspect of life, including what job they work. Find companies that allow working at home and have ongoing environmental community projects that involve employees. Employers should use recycled and repurposed items in the workplace and the consumer marketplace. They should sell only products that don’t put toxins in the air, water, and food supply. Workers setting these job standards is the only way to make a significant change in a system where a lot of companies keep harming the Earth.
2.Consumerism needs to be cut by 80%, especially in industrial nations. Americans, as a whole, spend a lot of money to live. According to US.gov, Americans are the biggest consumers in the world, spending 13.3 trillion dollars on products and services. The majority of these purchases cause harm to the environment, clogging up water systems and landfills. Mother nature will sigh with relief when people buy less, and recycle or repurpose items they already have.
3.Grow pesticide-free food (on your own or start a community garden), shop at a local co-op grocery store, or support a local farmer who uses organic or natural growing techniques. There have been many food safety issues in the news recently: Roundup cancer lawsuits, Romaine lettuce with E. coli, and an uninspected pork recall. Not using the conventional agriculture food system is the only way to ensure food is safe, and toxins don’t destroy soil.
Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview: The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
Dee: 1. Start at Home. Parents need to start at home first by teaching children about the ecosystem and the various ways that people pollute every day. Download a free copy of the Fourth National Climate Assessment published by the United States government. It highlights that human activities cause most of the pollution and climate crisis problems. This report was put together by more than 300 scientists and experts from NASA, EPA, USDA, the Department of Health, and other government agencies, universities, and private sectors. Our organization uses this reference book frequently when we teach. And homeschooling parents that attend our workshops use this tool for class assignments.
As kids learn, have them list all the ways the household contributes to pollution, and action steps to correct the issues. Then parents can assist their children in daily tasks that keep the home pollutant-free.
Sri Charles: 2. Parents Learn First. Parents need to understand what pollution really is and how it affects the world. They need to use the right terminology when talking to the kids. This way, the children understand as well as the parents.
Dee: 3. Involve the School. Start an environmental awareness initiative at your children’s school. Get the PTA/ PTSA involved to educate other parents. Get the principal on board to work with the science teachers to have environmental education classes and projects. Encourage the kids from every classroom to form committees in charge of getting climate change guest speakers, start a school garden, and set up a recycling program.
Dee: 4. Involve the Community. Encourage children to educate their neighbors. Help them become advocates for at-risk communities where pollution is more rampant. Businesses tend to dump more pollutants in low-income neighborhoods. Examples are: incinerator companies, factories, and medical supply sterilization facilities. The Flint, Michigan water crisis is one example of poor people slowly being poisoned because of greed. Kids living in these areas tend to suffer more from behavioral and health problems. Your kids will see this first hand and be able to love, care, and have empathy for others while genuinely making a difference in their lives. These actions are how they authentically connect with all people to make the world a better place.
Dee: 5. Involve Adult Leaders. Assist your children in talking to local businesses, scientists, and community leaders to implement changes on a city-wide and statewide level. They can organize round tables, meetings with other youth leaders, and invite the news media.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
Dee and Sri Charles: A business aims to do what is best for the planet first, caring for people first. Because if there is no more planet, then no one will be alive to make any money. I know that CEOs and CFOs discuss profit and loss (P&L) statements and have an obligation to shareholders. But, a business has the greatest responsibility not to destroy the planet or the people that live on it. Consumers are the people that buy products and services, and they can’t do that if they’re ill or dead from the toxic effects of the environment.
We’re all connected and depend on each other and the environment. Nature is set-up for the ecosystem to function harmoniously with the flow of creation and humans. Business interests are never more important than nature’s interests. Most companies don’t embrace this philosophy. One exception is Patagonia, which supports grassroots environmental activists and has committed to being environmentally and socially responsible.
We teach free workshops at a business that’s socially and environmentally conscious. Agnihotra Wellness is a Homa chiropractic© clinic in Atlanta, GA, owned by Dr. Chris Bowe and his wife Lenise (a retired chiropractor), who runs the clinic. Agnihotra Wellness serves low-income patients, along with patients who can afford services. Dr. Bowe observed that patients had stress and various health problems due to pollution. So, he educates all patients about the environment and the climate crisis. Dr. Bowe gives patients access to free resources to live daily in a state of health. Starting in January 2020, twice a month, their low-income chiropractic care initiative is available to those in need.
Their business doesn’t focus on seeing as many people as possible to make a lot of money and has a long history of being profitable.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Dee: Meeting and working with Sri Charles has changed my life profoundly. I’m incredibly blessed and fortunate to have an opportunity to work with someone that has dedicated his entire life to helping the planet. He has helped me to become a better person, allowed me to assist him in helping other people, and trained me in ancient ways of cultivating love, harmony, and balance through the practice of Ayurveda and Agnihotra.
Sri Charles: In our journey to experience life the way we’re experiencing it now, there was a certain type of individual that we needed to meet. We met that person after x amount of years. They spoke about the importance of the natural balance of all things. And the necessity of the balance of all things. If there’s no balance or harmony in nature, then there is nothing. With that direction, The Georgia House of Representatives gave us a resolution to support the fact that we were on the right track.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Dee Doanes: I wish for all people to advocate for at-risk communities affected by pollution.
Sri Charles: Homa Therapy has been presented as a new idea, but our research has found that it goes back many, many years. We suggest to use this old technique for modern-day problems. Already millions of people worldwide practice the Agnihotra/Homa technique for rejuvenation of the environment. It has presented itself as the solution to pollution and climate change.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
Dee and Sri Charles: “I come from a place where our voices aren’t heard, and I’m tired of feeling this way.” Juwaria Jama, 15-year-old environmental activist. Co-state lead for the Minnesota Youth Climate Strike. While it saddens us that Juwaria feels this way, we’re proud of the strength we see when she speaks at rallies. Juwaria is a teenage leader speaking on behalf of her Heritage Heights Community in Minneapolis, which is an at-risk community suffering from pollution.
We work with the youth regularly. And we stand with all the youth that are taking action!
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This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!