Author Archives: GPEI

About GPEI

Great Plains Earth Institute is an environmental education program that seeks spiritually integrated solutions to ecological challenges through transformational experiences.

Wichita Area Sustainability Initiative (WASI)

My name is Andrea Knighton and I am pleased to have the opportunity to tell you a little bit about Wichita Area Sustainability Initiative, “WASI” for short. I founded WASI as a nonprofit shortly after graduating from Wichita State University with a Masters degree in Social Work (MSW) in May of 2012. My area of study in graduate school was psychological trauma. Upon graduation my decision was to work in the area of trauma prevention. With trauma prevention in mind and after much post-graduation reading and research, the WASI vision emerged.

WASI’s mission is to help reduce basic resource insecurity by helping to localize the food and energy systems with sustainable and “people-powered” solutions. The WASI vision is based on the premise that people CAN work together to make survival level resources available to create an environment of resiliency for themselves, their families, their neighborhoods and their community.

Our planet encompasses and supports all life. Everything needed for abundance is here yet scarcity prevails. Understanding the root causes of scarcity in turn can help us design solid solutions. Solutions that work with and within our earth’s miraculous design will unlock self-sustaining abundance. WASI is here to help pull us together, to roll up our sleeves, to get to work to build these solutions together.

WASI’s First Program ‒ Feeding the 5000

Although WASI’s mission is broad, our programs are designed to be targeted and to provide sustainable solutions while at the same time building community‒all to combat scarcity. To this end our first program is called Feeding the 5000. Feeding the 5000 consists of building off-grid aquaponic greenhouses for churches and area nonprofits to run with neighborhood participation. Raising food together in our neighborhoods can help us address the fact that nearly one in four children in Sedgwick County are food insecure and that Wichita unfortunately offers 44 square miles of food deserts. Feeding the 5000 can help combat this scarcity by making fresh fish and 100% naturally grown produce available to food insecure households, 365 days-a-year.

Churches and neighborhood focused nonprofits are well positioned to encourage community building through neighborhood-wide participation in the food-raising process. Expanding upon the Feeding the 5000 program to offer a community garden, onsite food preparation, do-it-yourself cooking classes, adding other suitable urban livestock options, etc. creates a place to gather to learn and interact around life-giving healthy activities.

Why Aquaponics for WASI’s Feeding the 5000 Program?

Aquaponics is a food production system that integrates aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water) where fish and plants are raised symbiotically in a biologically balanced, closed eco-system. Fish waste with the help of nitrifying bacteria feed the plants, the plants filter the water that goes back to the fish which means the same body of water is used to continually raise food.

The sustainable attributes of aquaponics makes it an ideal urban agriculture solution. Plants grown aquaponically can be grown closer together because nutrients are delivered directly to each plant’s root system. In addition, aquaponics requires approximately 90% less water than soil-based agriculture. Add this to an “off-grid” greenhouse structure, you are producing highly nutritious natural food that collapses energy, transportation, processing and storage costs, while at the same time building neighborhood connections and bonds.

In Closing

WASI is in the beginning stages of making its Feeding the 5000 pilot operation a reality. Please visit our website ( and Facebook page to track progress. As soon as the pilot operation is up and running smoothly it will be time to bring Feeding the 5000 off-grid aquaponic greenhouses to Wichita neighborhoods. With your help, a community-based food system for Wichita will happen!

In closing, thank you for taking the time to learn more about WASI’s mission. As the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award winner Will Allen says, everyone is needed at the Good Food Revolution table! With much gratitude, Andrea Knighton, LMSW.

Andrea L. Knighton, LMSW
WASI – Founder
Wichita Area Sustainability Initiative (WASI)
A Not-For-Profit Kansas Corporation

Elegy for a Walnut Tree

black walnuts on a tree image


Old friend now there is no one alive

Who remembers when you were young

It was high summer when I first saw you

In the blaze of day most of my life ago

With the dry grass whispering in your shade

And already you had lived through wars

And echoes of wars around your silence

Through days of parting and seasons of absence

With the house emptying as the years went their way

Until it was home to bats and swallows

And still when spring climbed toward summer

You opened once more the curled sleeping fingers

Of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened

You and the seasons spoke the same language

And all these years I have looked through your limbs

To the river below and the roofs and the night

And you were the way I saw the world

W. S. Merwin

Belledessa was deeply inspired by this poem and is her contribution to our ‘Advice From A Tree’ series!

A Message From A Tree

a message from a tree intro and image - rita robl

I intend harmony, balance, peace and love in all my activities today.
I intend good health in mind and body.
I intend goodness and beauty to surround me.
I intend seeing the Divinity within myself, within every person and all nature this day.
I intend that all be well with myself and with Mother Earth.
I am thankful for the beautiful sunrise, the fresh air I breathe and the nature that surrounds me.
I am grateful for my ASC Community and all the individuals within it.
I am grateful for my friends and the life they share with me.
I intend making a difference in my life, in the work I do and with the people I meet.
I intend GPEI touches the lives of many individuals and makes a difference in their lives.
I intend much LOVE and am grateful to have another day to share with others. Amen,

by Rita Robl

Let It Be ~ Advice From A Tree

image of tree and garden for Let It Be by sharon schwarzHave you ever noticed how much trees contribute to our sense of community? As I sit here writing this I see a community of geese in my backyard gathered under a spectacular hackberry tree that serves as the center of our yard and the central gathering spot for the wildlife that graces our yard. No fewer than ten squirrels are scurrying about in search of stored treasures under the magnificent tree, while two others sit on a branch conversing with one another.

Trees line our rivers and fill our parks and serve as significant landmarks in our residential neighborhoods. Trees on the prairie mean people have settled there and community is thriving. We appreciate the presence of trees as a sign of abundance and opportunity for growth. While we appreciate their beauty and envy their magnificence how often do we take the time to actually interact with them? What if they crave our touch as much as we crave their shade in the summer? What if our kind words are as important to them as they are to our friends?

I have had the opportunity this summer at a workshop sponsored by GPEI and presented by Molly Traffas to take the time to actually talk to a tree and expect to get an answer. When the opportunity presented to actually speak and expect interaction I felt silly and childlike. I was certain that nothing much would happen but I attempted to remain open as this openness and expectation were emphasized throughout the day. I found that if I quiet myself and listen, really listen while expecting to receive an answer that nature does in fact speak to us in very real ways. At the time of the workshop that I am referencing, I was struggling with a personal decision. In discussing my issue with a large tree on the property, I looked up and saw that the limbs and leaves wrote out “Let it be”. My initial thought was that I was crazy and that the tree could not have actually given me an answer I could understand. As I sat there, I became more convinced that in fact this tree was speaking to me by its nature and in the words spelled out by its small branches and leaves. Whether it was my consciousness reflecting the answer to me, or the consciousness of the tree reflecting the answer, the answer was extremely meaningful to me in that time and place. Advice from a tree really is possible. Like so many things in life, openness and expectation precede a precious gift.

Sharon Schwarz, GPEI Board Member

Advice From A Tree

Each month we are going to be focusing on a topic of interest and inspiration. February’s topic is trees – with the emphasis on the wonderful advice we receive from trees when we can be quiet and centered enough to listen. Today’s entry is the original Advice from a Tree.

advice from a tree poem and image

Dear Friends of GPEI ~ January 2015

gpei news january 2015 water drop imageHere we are at the outset of another new year.   We are excited about the year to come and look forward to growth for GPEI. The kind of growth that brings excitement is the growth that involves increased participation from those who believe in our mission. Growth of an organization is much like the growth of a tree, it requires basic tending and patterns of new growth are influenced by the current conditions and amount of sustenance received. As the board of GPEI we see our role as that of those who tend this organization and we attempt to provide the attention necessary to allow for new growth. We see those who participate in the organization as the sustenance necessary for growth. That sustenance comes in the form of participation spiritually, physically and financially. The conditions the organization faces include continuing to create a strong on-line presence as this continues to be a primary form of communication of ideas within our society. Gatherings continue, but attendance demonstrates more people searching for alternative means of connection.

We are planning to bring you even more in the way of useful and engaging workshops and gatherings in the coming year. We will continue to hold our Holotropic Breathworktm and writing workshops on a regular basis as well as offering means of exploring our dreams and learning more about permaculture.   We are hopeful that you will join us in celebrating Earth Day with some dynamic speakers and activities. The board of GPEI welcomes your suggestions for future events and speakers. We ask that you go to our website, join us on facebook and leave us a comment below with your suggestions, thoughts and ideas.

The following are suggestions for inspiration, reflection and understanding:

Looking for a good book to read?

Consider the Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. Promoters of the book have the following to say about it:

the untethered soul by michael a singer book cover image“What would it be like to be free from limitations and soar beyond your boundaries? What can you do each day to find this kind of inner peace and freedom? The Untethered Soul offers a simple, profoundly intuitive answer to these questions. Whether this is your first exploration of inner space or you’ve devoted your life to the inward journey, this book will transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you.”


Considering doing some gardening this spring?

Check out the website and think about sharing with your neighbors. This website promotes earth friendly methods of organic gardening that promote involvement in your own neighborhood.   Below is an excerpt from the Food is Free Project information:

‘The gardens are built and offered for free using salvaged resources that would otherwise be headed to the landfill. By using drought-tolerant, wicking bed gardens, these low maintenance gardens only need to be watered every 2-4 weeks. This simple tool introduces people to a very easy method of growing organic food with very little work. A wide variety of vegetables along the block promote neighbors to interact and connect, strengthening our communities while empowering them to grow their own food.’


Neflix documentaries worth watching per

  • No Impact Man: The Documentary A Fifth Avenue family goes green when writer Colin Beavan leads his wife, Michelle Conlin, and their baby daughter on a yearlong crusade to generate no trash and otherwise make no net impact on the environment.
  • Food, Inc. Drawing on Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, director Robert Kenner’s provocative, Oscar-nominated documentary explores the food industry’s detrimental effects on our health and environment.
  • Gashole An unsettling wake-up call to all Americans, this documentary dissects the country’s dependence on foreign pipelines, exposes rich oil companies’ devious dealings, and explores alternative fuels as a viable solution to our global energy crisis.
  • The Garden Filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s politically charged, Oscar-nominated documentary follows a group of low-income families struggling to protect a 14-acre urban farm in the middle of South Central Los Angeles from bureaucratic real estate developers.
  • Tapped The high cost – to both the environment and our health – of bottled water is the subject of this documentary that enlists activists, environmentalists, community leaders and others to expose the dark side of the bottled water industry.
  • The Last Mountain This gripping documentary follows ordinary citizens in West Virginia’s Coal River Valley as they wage a campaign to prevent the infamous Massey Energy Company from expanding ruinous mountaintop removal mining operations in their community.
  • Waiting For Superman Dynamic documentarian Davis Guggenheim weaves together stories about students, families, educators and reformers to shed light on the failing public school system and its consequences for the future of the United States.
  • Vanishing of the Bees This documentary details the economic, political and ecological consequences of a dwindling world honeybee population. It’s a phenomenon with a name – Colony Collapse Disorder – but no explanation or solution exists.
  • Big River As a follow-up to their 2007 documentary King Corn, friends Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney want to discover what impact the acre of corn they grew in Iowa has had on the Mississippi River. Hopping into a canoe, the boys head downriver to find out. As they travel toward the Gulf of Mexico, they talk to scientists, farmers, fishermen and regular folks about how fertilizers and pesticides have transformed this vital waterway’s delicate ecosystem.
  • Blue Gold: World Water Wars As water becomes an increasingly precious commodity, corrupt governments, corporations and even private investors are scrambling to control it…which leaves everyday citizens fighting for a substance they need to survive.
  • Fuel With America so dependent on oil, filmmaker Joshua Tickell sets out to prove that biodiesel, made from vegetable oil, is a viable alternative. Although politicians and energy execs have done their best to quell it, the benefits of biodiesel are real.
  • A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash In this straight-from-the-headlines documentary, award-winning filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack examine the world’s dependency on oil and the impending chaos that’s sure to follow when the resource finally runs dry.
  • The Future of Food By examining the effects of biotechnology on the nation’s smallest farmers, the film reveals the unappetizing truth about genetically modified foods: You could unknowingly be serving them for dinner.
  • Carbon Nation Bypassing politics and fingerpointing, this forward-thinking documentary zeroes in on enterprising individuals — from a wind farmer to a solar-panel retrofitter — who are devising business-minded ways to avert the looming climate crisis.
  • Colony Colony collapse disorder is the subject of this environmental documentary. As bee colonies around the United States disappear, scientists and beekeepers struggle to find the reason why and ascertain the impact on humans and the planet.
  • Flow: For the Love of Water From both local and global perspectives, this documentary examines the harsh realities behind the mounting water crisis. Learn how politics, pollution and human rights are intertwined in this important issue that affects every being on Earth.
  • King Corn Friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis move back to America’s Corn Belt to plant an acre of the nation’s most-grown and most-subsidized grain and follow their crop into the U.S. food supply. What they learn about genetically modified seeds, powerful herbicides and the realities of modern farming calls into question government subsidies, the fast-food lifestyle and the quality of what we eat.
  • Dirt! The Movie Dirt takes center stage in this entertaining yet poignant documentary from Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow, which unearths our cosmic connection to soil and explores how diverse groups of people are uniting to save the natural resource.
  • Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price Filmmaker Robert Greenwald takes aim at the corporate giant that’s come to symbolize big business in America — Wal-Mart — blasting the box-store Goliath for allegedly paying substandard wages, skimping on employee benefits and gutting communities.
  • Plastic Planet This documentary examines the ways in which plastic saturates our modern lives, and how our dependency on this petroleum product harms ourselves and our planet. See how plastic’s toxic chemicals enter the food chain and other disturbing secrets.
  • Escape from Suburbia After condemning America’s oil dependency in his 2004 documentary The End of Suburbia, filmmaker Gregory Greene here addresses the solutions that will avert catastrophe, outlining the issues actively moving the energy crisis from theory to reality. Spurred to action by the realities of peak oil, Greene focuses his camera on individuals across the country brave enough to challenge and instigate their communities into serious change.


The Unexpected Power of Gratitude

In today’s fast moving world, qualities such as gratitude seem to belong to another age – a simpler time when life moved along at an easier pace and there was time to appreciate everything. Yet within this apparently meek sounding quality there lies a tremendous source of power that can radically reshape the way you look at the world.

grateful scrabble image

What gratitude can do for us:

Puts things in perspective: Human beings have this self-defeating propensity to let the bad things in life fill our mental vision and leave no room for the good, a tendency reflected and perpetuated by television and newspapers. Often it takes just one bad thing to happen for us dwell on it and get depressed, no matter how many good things that are happening. In cultivating a daily practice of gratitude, we start to reverse that process and gain a true perspective on life.

Lifts us above the ebbs and tides of life: The more you develop the quality of gratitude in your life, you will start feeling grateful even when bad things happen to you, because you will have developed the inner vision to see that good things and bad happenings are nothing but experiences to shape you and make you stronger. Hence you will be able to have piece of mind no matter what the outer circumstances are.

Takes us out of our limited ego: As with other practices of self-discovery, your awareness expands and you gradually feel you are part of something much more infinite than your limiting ego and finite mortal frame. Gratitude helps us turn away from selfishness and realize our place in the universe.

Awakens a higher part of our being: Gratitude is primarily a quality felt by the heart center, that place in the middle of our chest where we can feel our soul, or the essence of our existence. Therefore, when we are consciously grateful, some inmost part of ourselves is awakened and we enter into the higher and nobler realms of our being.

Techniques to cultivate the quality of gratitude:

There are many different techniques to use; the important thing is that they be practiced every day, preferably at the same time each day so you can form a habit. Just after you get up in the morning is usually the best time – you aren’t likely to be disturbed, and the peace and serenity you get from the practice benefits you throughout your whole day.

Writing down things you are grateful for: This serves as a useful beginning to the other techniques. Each day you can write down seven things that you are truly grateful for, and as you write try to feel that quality inside your heart. When you start writing, you realize how many things there are – from the big things such as the gift of life and friends down to tiny little incidents that happened yesterday such as someone giving you a smile or the chance to spend a few minutes sitting in a park.

Expanding the flower of gratitude inside your heart: you can try silently chanting the word gratitude over and over again. Each time you repeat the word you can feel that a tiny flower of gratitude inside your heart is growing and growing, expanding petal by petal.

Cultivating inner joy:

Joy carries with it the quality of expansion and awareness which gives rise to gratitude. Try breathing in and out and keeping your awareness on the river of breath entering and leaving your body. Feel that when you breathe in, pure inner joy in entering into your heart, and when you breathe out, worry tension and stress are leaving your system.

Adapted from an article by Shane Magee

12 Principles For Understanding the Universe and the Role of the Human in the Universe Process

Thomas Berry

image of universal human

1.     The Universe, the solar system, and the planet Earth in themselves and in their evolutionary emergence constitute for the human community the primary revelation of that ultimate mystery whence all things emerge into being.

2.     The Universe is a unity, an interacting and genetically-related community of beings bound together in an inseparable relationship in space and time.  The unity of the planet Earth is especially clear:  each being of the planet is profoundly implicated in the existence and functioning of every other being of the planet.

3.     From its beginning the Universe is a psychic as well as physical reality.

4.     The three basic laws of the Universe at all levels of reality are differentiation, subjectivity and communion.  These laws identify the reality, the values and the directions in which the Universe is proceeding.

5.     The Universe has a violent as well as a harmonious aspect, but it is consistently creative in the larger arc of its development.

6.     The human is that being in whom the Universe activates, reflects upon and celebrates itself in conscious self-awareness.

7.     Earth, within the solar system, is a self-emergent, self-propagating, self-nourishing, self-educating, self-governing, self-healing, self-fulfilling community.  All particular life systems in their being, their sexuality, their nourishment, their education, their governing, their healing, their fulfillment, must integrate their functioning within this larger complex of mutually dependent Earth systems.

8.     The genetic coding process is the process through which the world of the living articulates itself in its being and its activities.  The great wonder is the creative interaction of the multiple codings among themselves.

9.     At the human level, genetic coding mandates a further trans-genetic cultural coding by which specifically human qualities find expression.  Cultural coding is carried on by educational processes.

10.   The emergent process of the Universe is irreversible and non-repeatable in the existing world order.  The movement from non-life to life on Earth is a one time event.  So too, the movement from life to human form of consciousness.  So also, the transition from the earlier to the later forms of human culture.

11.   The historical sequence of cultural periods can be identified as the tribal-shamanic period, the Neolithic village period, the classical civilization period, the scientific-technological period and the emerging ecological period.

12.   The main human task of the immediate future is to assist in activating the inter-communion of all the living and non-living components of Earth’s community in what can be considered the emerging ecological period of Earth’s development.

Become Earth!

“Become Earth, that you may grow flowers of many colors.
For you have been heart-breaking rock.
Once, for the sake of the experiment, be Earth!”

image of earth through tulips

A Prayer to Humankind

Hear, O Humankind, the prayer of my and candles for prayer

For are we not one, have we not one desire,
to heal our Mother Earth and bind her wounds?
And still to be free as the spotted Eagle climbing
the laughing breath of our Father Sky,
to hear again from dark forests and flashing rivers the varied ever-changing Song of Creation?

O Humankind, are we not all brothers and sisters, are we not the grandchildren of the Great Mystery?  Do we not all want to love and be loved, to work and to play, to sing and dance together? But we live with fear.  Fear that is hate, fear that is ambition, competition, aggression, fear that is loneliness, anger, bitterness, cruelty, fear that is mistrust, envy, greed, vanity…and yet, fear is only twisted love, love turned back on itself, love that was denied, love that was rejected.

And love…love is life…creation, seed and leaf and blossom and fruit and seed, love is growth and search and reach and touch and dance, love is nurture and succor and feed and pleasure, love is pleasuring ourselves, pleasuring each other, love is life believing in itself.

And life…life is the Sacred Mystery singing to itself, dancing to its drum, telling stories, improvising, playing and we are all that Spirit, our stories tell but one cosmic story that we are loved indeed, that perfect love we seek we are already, the love in me seeks the love in you, and if our eyes could ever meet without fear we would recognize each other and rejoice, for love is life believing in itself.

O Humankind, we must stop fearing life, fearing each other, we must absolutely stop hating ourselves, resenting Creation ~ Life.

O Humankind, life is the only treasure.  We are the custodians of it, it is our sacred trust.  Life is wondrous, awesome and holy, a burning glory, and its price is simply this: Courage, we must be brave enough to love.

Hear my heart’s prayer, O Humankind, trust in love, don’t be afraid.   I love you as I love life, I love myself, please love me too, love yourself, for perfect love, as a wise one said, casts out all fear. If we are to live, there is no other choice, for love is life believing in itself.

Above all, let us set the children free, break the traps of fear that history has fashioned for them, free to grow, to seek and question, to dance and sing, to be dreamers of tomorrow’s rainbows, and if we but give them our trust hey will guide us to a New Creation, for love is life believing in itself.

Hear, O Humankind, the prayer of my heart.