Migratory Species Project

by Chris Desser

If we are to effectively address the environmental crisis facing the planet, we must reconstitute a national and global environmental movement across disciplines. It is not sufficient to address particular environmental problems as though they exist in isolation. More often than not, this has been the problem of the mainstream environmental movement. However, global warming, air and water pollution, overpopulation, consumption, energy, global urbanization, loss of biodiversity and the myriad other environmental problems threatening the survival of life on this planet are systems problems- interrelated and interconnected. Their solutions, therefore, must be approached from a systems, or design perspective. To begin to deal with these issues, an ecological world view- a "consciousness of sustainability," must be imbued in thinking across disciplines, into every realm of human endeavor.

This conference will bring together people with an ecological perspective from many disciplines, including: business, environment, health, education, psychology, spirituality, economics, government, politics, development, trade, etc. It will provide an opportunity for us to discuss the ecological values and principles that inform and guide our work. It will also enable us to explore ways that we may work together to move the understanding of the importance of ecological thinking into the mainstream of every social sector.

One of the limitations of traditional approaches to environmental issues has been the atomization of problems. We have failed to create and reinforce a perspective of sustainability in part because we have treated our global environment problems one by one, rather than demonstrating the connections among them. In order to develop a commitment to sustainability, people must have an awareness of the interdependence of life on this planet--a consciousness of interconnectedness.

In thinking about how to create such a perceptual shift, i.e., a frame of reference that sees things systematically rather than from a linear perspective, I sought tangible, obvious evidence of interconnectedness in the natural world. It occurred to me that the annual migrations of certain species embodied this idea very well. I began developing the Migratory Species Project, an environmental education project, to make young people aware of the interrelationship and interdependence of life on this planet by linking communities based upon the migratory species that pass through them.

The migratory perspective aptly illustrates the adage of thinking globally and acting locally because it helps develop the awareness that environmental degradation in any community along the migratory route may alter the route substantially--preventing or impeding the species' return, threatening its survival, and affecting the environment and culture of places beyond the immediate vicinity of the despoliation. Establishing such bioregional linkages along migratory routes could thus help create individual and community commitment to the creation of a sustainable future.

Our ever more urbanized and culturally homogeneous world insulates us from nature and the rich variety of experience that it offers. Some adolescents have never felt anything but asphalt beneath their feet--never hiked a trail, run on a beach, or sat on a verdant hillside. The absence of such experiences creates a profound personal dislocation and disconnectedness regarding the natural world and makes it difficult to develop a sense of the future or internalize respect for nature, life on this planet, and fellow humans. Surrounded by asphalt, concrete, steel and glass, We need to discover ways to reestablish our intimate and fundamental connection with the earth and make sure that the opportunity to experience that connection is available to our youth. Such unmediated experiences with nature are, I believe, essential for the cultivation of values, knowledge, and awareness, and the source from which inspiration springs.

Our lives are increasingly governed by rules and regulations rather than ethics, values or awareness. One of the significant goals of this project is to enhance individual and community understanding of the choices that we make and the consequences that flow from them. While environmental deregulation at all levels is a vitally important component of environmental protection, equally important, and essential to our survival, is the cultivation of a consciousness--a world view--that treasures and respects the natural environment and that understands the relationship between biodiversity and cultural diversity. The Migratory Species Project seeks to create a program that promotes this perspective by creating values-based materials, methodologies and organizing strategies which emphasize and reinforce sustainability; cultural diversity; grass roots ownership; the participation of young people in program design, content, and implementation; and that ignite the spirit of inquiry and catalyze the discovery, rather than the imposition of solutions.

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