The Shadow
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The Shadow

The Green Road

News from Ukraine’s underground railroad

Like most hippies, I was born with a congenital abnormality that expresses itself as profound aversion to war. We are the Peacenik Generation, with the bomber-inside-a-circle finger-painted on our foreheads in brilliant Day-Glo colors. I don’t really care who started the war in Ukraine, I just want it to end.

Honestly though, it would likely end more quickly if the Western side listened more to the reasons given by the Eastern side instead of dismissing them as Parkinson’s disease or some other lame excuse. From the Urals south to Bessarabia and the Khanate of Crimea there lay a buffer zone between the ancient empires of the Caesars (Czars), Ottomans and Austrian Kings. It should not be surprising that here were built scores of ancient megacities 2000 years before Babylon, Egypt, India or China. As I look at old maps, the color lines of political boundaries seem much less important to me than the more obvious topographical features of foodsheds and watersheds, but I understand how threatening it can be to those in the East to have hostile armies setting up bases and missile batteries on those same features, directed at them.

As I write this there are emotional young Jewish and gypsy jihadists flocking to bombed-out children’s hospitals to take up arms beside OUN ex-Berkut (Ukrainian: Бе́ркут, “golden eagle”) skinheads gang-inked with swastika tattoos whose Nazi-era flag is red and black — “Blut und Boden” (blood and earth). Such unity. There are noisy parades of beeping cars around the blue-and-yellow-lit Arc de Triomphe and the Brandenburg Gate. I prefer to sit quietly in a Japanese garden, watching cherry blossoms fall. Where have all the flowers gone? Gone to passions, every one.

There is something we ecovillagers and permies are doing about this war. Diligent students of design, we are accustomed to patterning the structure of a crisis and determining the best points of intervention to achieve lasting results. Right now our designs include drawing exit routes through or around cities under attack, identifying safe places of refuge both within and outside the region, planting vegetable gardens behind homes, and purchasing more time for desperate families until cooler heads prevail and passions subside.

The size of Ukraine

Global Ecovillage Network Ukraine, Permaculture Network Ukraine, Global Village Institute, Gaia University and Ecosystem Restoration Camps have come together to mobilize our ecovillages and permaculture farms to host displaced people fleeing the war zone and to grow extra provisions to share.

Thousands of Ukrainians are displaced and wandering. Like so many Yemenis under Saudi jets, their eastern and southern cities, towns and villages are being bombed every day. Being in locations situated mainly in the countryside, we are in a position to shelter families either on a long-term basis or temporarily, as people wait for the best moments to cross the border to a safer place, or to return to their homes if that becomes possible.

We’ve called our project the “Green Road.” We have 62 sites in Ukraine and 265 around the region, a northern road, a road through the cities and a southern road. These are something like the underground railroad, but with very few places to rest along the way, they might better be thought of as the Trail of Tears 2022. With tanks and artillery barrages at their heels, thousands are moving desperately by night and hiding by day. We pass out an instruction set that includes the rules of traveling, getting through or around checkpoints and advice for crossing the borders into different countries.

If you want to take a look, GEN-Ukraine has set up a landing page to solicit more sites, with the information on how the project can be supported through on-line donations, crypto, direct wires and other support. Those in the United States wishing to make a tax-deductible gift can do so through Global Village Institute by going to

So far we have collected and distributed around 10,000 euros. The collected money is being spent only for peaceful purposes: to improve the accommodations (often people are hosted in old empty houses without anything and it is winter now), to feed people and to transport them. Special attention is needed for children, the elderly and the sick.

I received this message from a friend in our network in Estonia, at Lilleoru ecovillage where I taught a permaculture masterclass in 2019:

We took one Ukrainian woman with 9 cats (she started with 11 to Warsaw) to start with and we’ll see if more people can be hosted in Lilleoru. She got the small house fully for herself and the cats, as this company needs some space :)

Yes, the conditions in Russia are getting more and more complicated. We have a member of Lilleoru there in Sankt Peterburg, all intl money transactions are blocked for them. I sent an official invitation letter, so he could come to our Spring retreat, but tourist visas are not given, so all documents were returned.

And so on and so on…

We all had hoped that the war would end in several days or that we would manage this project with our own funds. Neither of those came true. As we start to think about the future and gardening season, we want to involve people in growing food. We would like to acquire additional farm machinery, seed, and be able to erect greenhouses. We need to counter the food crisis at the local level, as may you all in the days and months to come.

Lilleoru: Firewood stacked for winter, 2019, photo by the author.

Another part of our project is resupplying the first aid kits of Ukrainian permaculturists who stayed in Ukraine to support vulnerable members in their communities or, forced into military service, have become paramedics. Our primary objective is to supply them with materials for wounds and trauma because civilians are suffering similar injuries to the military.

Those fortunate enough to find refuge in ecovillages, permaculture farms and ecosystem restoration camps are getting the best training possible for what is to come. Those kids who made it to places like Lilleoru are the one real hope we have for a better world. They are the real Green Road.

The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

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“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”

— Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.

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Albert Bates

Albert Bates

Emergency Planetary Technician and Climate Science Wonk — using naturopathic remedies to recover the Holocene without geoengineering or ponzinomics.