In trying to aikido an industrial growth society into a life-sustaining one, Joanna Macy, noted deep ecologist and Buddhist scholar, provides a useful framework to draw strength and perspective from. She calls the time we are living in the "Great Turning" and refers to 3 vital processes that are happening simultaneously: 1) holding actions (boycotts, other types of protests, legislation) that attempt to slow the rate of destruction, 2) creating alternatives in the basic structures of society such as energy, economics, education, and communications that provide demonstrable examples of a movement towards sustainability, and 3) changing the core values, perceptions, beliefs, and even the cosmology, that is the invisible engine of our current "civilization." (For a thorough explanation of this epochal shift see the Earthlight journal web site at www.earthlight.org)
As you will see by perusing this newsletter, the joy of working with SEN is being involved at all three levels.
1999 may be known as the "Year of Expansion" for the Sacred Earth Network. We have been forging into new territory in a variety of ways from enlarging our workspace to launching new initiatives.
In the spirit of "walking our talk", a solar energy system has been installed to help power the SEN office and a new timber-frame addition is being built. Locally-grown wood was used as well as locally-grown labor! Twenty-five friends of SEN (Thank you all!!) showed up on April 24 to raise the timber frame which in itself was another of SEN's community-building projects. This new addition will give the existing SEN staff more elbow room as well as provide space for new projects and like-minded ventures to form a "Sacred Earth Network Collaborative."
SEN continued its series of "Evening Samplers" with a slide show and information session on March 25 at the Center for Cultural Evolution in Colrain, MA. Staff presented details of the Northern Eurasia Environmental Assistance Program (NEEAP), Eurasian Snow Leopard Project (ESLP) and Earth Experiences Program (EEP). This was another successful evening of educating folks from our local bioregion about our purpose, our concerns, and what we're doing internationally and nationally to help preserve biodiversity and promote sustainability.
In March, Bill Pfeiffer and Cathy Pedevillano facilitated another
"Healing Self, Healing Earth" weekend workshop for a
newly-forming community of environmental activists in Indiana.
This workshop blends deep ecology processes, shamanic ritual and
journeying, nature awareness exercises, visioning and empowerment
into action. This powerful blend of inner and outer work strengthened
connections within the group as well as helped clarify their vision
"Into the Heart of the Desert," a wilderness quest into the canyons of southern Utah was a SEN-sponsored trip that ran from May 29 to June 5. Cathy Pedevillano and Davis Chapman led the workshop which consisted of backpacking into Grand Gulch Primitive Area and spending group time and solo time connecting with each other, self, spirit and this powerful ancient land. This trip as well as "Healing Self, Healing Earth" workshops are part of SEN's new Earth Experiences Program (see following article).
As you can see, the Sacred Earth Network continues to increase in the diversity and depth of the projects and workshops offered. Our core of support is growing stronger as we sink our roots deeper and stretch our branches wider to touch more people and places...in sacredness.....on the Earth....creating networks of peace and cooperation.
May was a month of buzzing activity at SEN beginning with the Birdathon on May 8 and 9, a fundraising event led by Davis Chapman. Twenty enthusiastic birders showed up to tally how many species could be seen and/or heard in a 24 hour period. A record number of bird species (90) was documented for this event which raised $650 to benefit SEN. Many thanks to all donors and birders!
The Eurasian SnowLeopard Project received new funding and exciting plans are in the works (see article on page 6).
Our largest initiative,the Northern Eurasia Environmental Assistance Program, was launched this year through the diligent efforts of Project Director Susan Cutting (see next page for more information).
Participants in SEN's Wilderness Quest hike into a canyon in southern Utah.
Whether we are Swiss or Mayan or American, the indigenous soul, threatened all over the globe, still lives inside each of us. We can rejoice in its abundance, its ingenuity, its determination not only to exist but also to continue giving its gifts, if we will turn and meet it.
- Robert Bly
For the past year SEN has been working towards expanding its "zone of influence" and creating ever-widening circles of support and interconnection. The Earth Experiences Program is an exciting, new venture which includes elements of deep ecology, shamanism, ecotourism, environmental education, and sharing the wisdom of indigenous peoples around the planet. Through day-long, weekend and weeklong workshops and trips, we facilitate experiences which enable people to come together as a group to explore Earth in a new way, from both an ecological and spiritual perspective. Through these Earth Experiences, we help heal the isolation and disconnection we feel from nature, each other, and ourselves. With renewed vitality and purpose, people feel inspired to take committed action to assist in the healing of humanity and our precious planet.
Under the umbrella of our Earth Experiences Program, we have several offerings for the coming months (see SEN Summer Events on p. 9). In the seed stage is SEN's Indigenous Peoples Project which is working toward bringing Native Peoples from the U.S. to meet their counterparts in Siberia, and sharing the wisdom of both cultures with non-native peoples.
Please come join us for these amazing adventures and allow yourself to be immersed in nature's beauty and peacefulness, while remembering your indigenous soul and the sacredness of all life.
Thanks to a grant from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, SEN will be bringing over two delegations of Northern Eurasian conservation advocates to New England in the fall. If you are interested in hosting or participating in a slide show, meeting or other event of any size for these groups while they are here, please contact Susan Cutting (978) 724-3443 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>
You've may have heard that things are changing at SEN, and our work in Northern Eurasia is evolving as well. The end of 1998 brought the closure of SEN's Environmental Telecommunications Project. Over the course of seven years, with our partners in Northern Eurasia and the US, we have provided Internet access to hundreds of environmental NGOs across Northern Eurasia. In 1997-1998 alone, the ETP accomplished the following:
Thanks to all people and organizations who have contributed
to this effort over the years. Yes, the ETP is over, and in its
place, we have launched the Northern Eurasia Environmental Assistance Program (NEEAP). NEEAP helps our Russian, Central Asian, and Caucasus
partners continue to provide the critically needed aid to sustain
their emerging "networks," and NEEAP now emphasizes
spreading the word in New England about these networks, through
exchanges, events and increased publicity.
Several of our environmental NGO partners in Northern Eurasia invited SEN's continued involvement in the coalitions inspired by the ETP. Building on well developed systems, NEEAP grants technical assistance and organizational support to conservation groups of all kinds. SEN, Ecotok, and our colleagues in Kamchatka, Southern Siberia, the Tien Shan mountains, the Caucasus, as well as leaders of "coalitions" in environmental law and sustainable design, continue to offer computer equipment, technical consulting, Internet account funds, and develop web pages for NGOs. In the spring, Ecotok teamed up with environmental protection advocates in Novokuznetsk, Russia and Almati, Kazakhstan to organize seminars on environmental law and citizen participation in environmental decision-making. As we speak, new Internet access is being set up in Kamchatka and Southern Siberia, and Ecotok will also soon be hosting a seminar in Moscow for technical trainers from each of the NEEAP regions.
In addition to this, SEN is increasingly drawing attention to environmental protection concerns of Northern Eurasia by involving the local Massachusetts community in our work. This spring, we held two public events that included slide shows about environmental issues in Northern Eurasia and the NGO initiatives we are supporting that address them. We were also delighted that a number of friends of SEN are visiting Russia to learn more about environmental NGO colleagues. In May, SEN board member and independent journalist, Lee McDavid, and Raven Adventures director, Colin Garland, joined SEN staff on a trip to Kazakhstan to participate in a SEN sponsored Eurasian Snow Leopard Project meeting and a NEEAP environmental law seminar. Lee plans to help us publicize snow leopard protection issues more, and Colin has teamed up with SEN staff member, Susan Cutting in organizing a joint Russian-US student environmental education program and trek in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia this summer.
Members of SEN's SSCI project have long hoped for the participation of environmental NGO advocates from the isolated Tuva Republic, on the eastern side of the Altai-Sayan range. This spring, SSCI Information Coordinator, Alexander Arbachakov, traveled to the Tuvan capital Kyzyl on a "fact-finding mission" to identify active environmental protection advocates and invite them to participate in our SSCI project. The following is from Alexander's report from the field:
The Republic of Tuva became a part of the Soviet Union in 1944 through a decision of the highest Soviet council. Traditionally the Tuvan people had been primarily goat herders and commercial hunters and fishers. The USSR developed the Tuvan agrarian industries: mainly various types of "sovkhoz and kolkhoz" collective farms. A few industrial facilities were also constructed during the Soviet period: including an asbestos plant, a cobalt industrial complex, a thermal electric power station, and a few industrial gold mining projects. Currently, the only of these that are still relatively working are the power station and one gold mining company. Thankfully, due to difficult access, a large percent of the forest has been left untouched, however in neighboring Khakassia, a dam was built on the Yenisy River for the Sayano-Shushushensk hydro-electric plant that destroyed countless acres of forest, partly in Tuva.
The state of the environmental movement in the Tuva republic is a bit murky. If in other regions of Southern Siberia the movement has worked successfully for a few years, the republic of Tuva falls out of the picture. According to a Kyzyl journalist, Vycheslav Salchak, "environmental protection work in the region is very weak, especially in rural areas." Given the state structure of the Tuvan economy, there has been relatively little pointed objection on environmental matters in comparison to other regions of Siberia and Russia. 90% of the budget of the republic is subsidized. Therefore there is a general feeling of not "biting the hand that feeds you". Correspondingly, the native cultures of Tuva who were forced to change their traditional lifestyle by the Soviet state are now relatively docile. In short, these characteristics have resulted in a limited degree of public activism on environmental issues.
While in Tuva I met a small number of dedicated environmental activists using limited resources to achieve what they could. One of them, Lilia Arakchaaa teacher at the university, developed the interesting program "Ecological Culture of the Tuva People and Environmental Awareness and Education." Within the context of this program she trains teachers in local schools in methodologies for environmental education of children on the basis of traditional local culture. Her program has been acknowledged by the state environmental protection committee of the Tuva Republic. Unfortunately the ministry of education did not help her implement this project on as broad a level as planned. So basically, on a completely volunteer basis, she is implementing as much of the project that she can by herself.
I also want to call attention to the fact that communications is not very reliable in Tuva. Those I met who did have some e-mail access had to share computer usage with other colleagues. And this unreliable e-mail went through servers that are outside of the Tuva region. Kyzyl recently came up with their own provider through a city communication node, which has increased the quality of communications, but at a greater expense for the users. Consequently I recommended to the environmental advocates I met that they submit applications for equipment grants to the SSCI project.
On a positive note, while I was there I was able to
attend the second Tuva Republic Ecological Conference, dedicated
to 10 years of environmental education and protection in Tuva.
Here I met a small number of committed environmental advocates
working on improving the environmental situation of the republic,
fostering the development of environmental education and public
awareness, and the development of ecotourism in Tuva.
I was also fortunate enough to have an interview on the state radio station where I discussed SEN, SSCI and my work as SSCI Information Coordinator.
In conclusion, I am maintaining contact with the 7 following environmental advocates from different sectors of Tuva society who are all, in my view, doing good work and are actively interested in cooperating with the SSCI project:
Sacred Earth Network grieves the loss of three committed environmental protection activists of Siberia. Andrei Kubanin of Ecologos in Vladivostok shone with a "spirit of freedom and possibility for changing society, for making it more humane." Andrei, a gentle and selfless marine biologist, left his love for studying marine fauna to help the environmental movement work together and share their resources. Even when he became very ill, he campaigned tirelessly in defense of environmentalist, Gregory Pasko.
On June 10, Lev Blinov and Mikhail Valkov of Tomsk Ecological Student Inspection (TESI) died in a tragic accident. They were 20 years old. Lev's boundless energy and contagious enthusiasm had "activated" TESI and many other NGOs in the Tomsk region and beyond. He was on his way to revitalizing the environmental movement of Southern Siberia through strengthening youth organizations and learning to work together.
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