There Is A Way: What Sumacs Taught Me About Resilience And Diversity

B. Lorraine Smith
11 min readFeb 7, 2021
From the north wall of the St. Lawrence Seaway looking south towards one of many industrial sites along the way (at the 26km mark on my run).

The long run

One day in October 2020 I went for a run along the St. Lawrence River. My plan was to explore its banks more closely than I could zooming past in a car or train, and to hold a few questions as I went. Not expecting any particular answers, I wasn’t surprised when I heard less from the river and more from the trees clinging to its banks. Specifically I heard a lot from the Staghorn Sumacs (Rhus typhina). I’ll share some of what I found out in this article. I also created a related (and a bit strange) video about the experience, here.

In a nutshell, the Sumacs shared what it means to have very little to work with, yet to resiliently pave the way for diversity and healing.

I took heart from this lesson. Sometimes I feel like part of a thinly outfitted army that is fighting for a better option than our current industrialized, commodified, and financialized economy. I see an alternative where we recognize humans as just one young species among many others who are older, wiser and essential to our survival. I see a world where our economic norms are aligned with the way nature works because we are in and of nature, not separate. Like the Sumacs, sometimes I feel like I work in pretty barren circumstances.

I work with large companies to shift them into that world I see, what some call a regenerative or ecological economy. The logic and beauty of this world is obvious to those of us in that thinly outfitted army. Yet this is heresy for many people working in business today.

For instance, I note that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are still human-centric and short term, which means that “leadership” in applying them barely hints at what’s needed. This is not generally a welcomed message. I observe that massive funds shifting into environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing are still representative of the broken model that maximizes financial returns while reducing harm instead of increasing well-being. This is also…

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B. Lorraine Smith

Former sustainability consultant replacing ESG with reality-based insights about corporate purpose and impact. https://www.blorrainesmith.com/