The Katun river was the highest that many had seen iteverflooding huge areas at the foothills of the Altai just north of Gorno-Altaisk. A call from Altaiskiy Zapovednik (nature reserve) warned us the previous night that its tributary, the Biya river, had risen up onto the road and bridge. We would have to spend the night in Gorno-Altaisk and wait until morning to make the last leg of our 350 mile trip from the Siberian "capital" city, Novosibirsk, up to the Zapovednik.
Vyacheslav Trigubovich of the Siberian Interregional Center, "Zapovedniki," and Altaiskiy Zapovednik, had invited NEEAP Director, Susan Cutting, and Superintendent of Cape Cod National Seashore, Maria Burks, on a ten day journey across hundreds of miles of the Altai mountains. Our mission: to hold seminars on community-protected area relations at Altaiskiy and Katunskiy zapovedniks and community meetings in two rural villages near their boundaries.
Altaiskiy zapovenik staff live in a little village on the banks of the inspirational Lake Teletskoye (see photo on the front page), and on the edge of 881,238 hectares of virgin wilderness. This reserve is one of the largest in Russia and is the home of the endangered Snow Leopard, Argali sheep, Siberian Pine and other plants and animals sacred to the region's ancient cultures. When we arrived, we learned that the zapovednik staff were debating possibilities for running ecotours within its boundaries. Maria quickly re-configured the seminar to develop conflict resolution skills and apply them to open discussions on ecotourism and alternative approaches to desperately needed economic support. Members of the staff noted that they have been talking with each other informally about this controversial question for a long time, but had not had the opportunity to gather and openly express opinions and discuss problems together as a staff.
We were pleased to hear from both advocates and opponents of ecotourism development that the seminar and discussion period had been very useful and interesting for them. The Director of Altaiskiy Zapovednik, Sergei Yerofeev, was thankful for an opportunity to hear the staffs opinions and concerns; he found the seminar valuable for making decisions about the reserve's future: "You came at exactly the right time."
Our next stop was Katunskiy zapovednikhigher into the mountains. The issues and problems that this reserve faces are somewhat different from those at Altaiskiy reserve. Concern is more focused on illegal trespassing by backpackers and mountain climbers than poaching, but staff of Katunskiy do indeed face challenges in building strong mutually beneficial relations with surrounding communities. Katunskiy zapovednik staff have been working on this over the past several yearsespecially through their educational programs and publications. After the seminar, we visited the village of Terekhta to hold a public meeting about Katunskiy zapovednik and Terekhta's relationship to it. Our reception in this tiny village was incredibly warm and generous. We were delighted to hear from its residents their thanks to Katunskiy zapovednik staff for all their hard work in protecting nature in their backyard. In this tiny village, where resources are scarce, to see such sincere enthusiasm for long term wilderness protection was truly moving.
The final chapter of our journey brought us to the extremely remote village of Ulagan, located about 30 kilometers from the southwest boundaries of Altaiskiy zapovednik. We had learned that there have been problems with poaching in the area, and of the severe economic difficulties facing this community. We were impressed and pleased with the openness of those attending the meeting, from the start. When asked about their perspective of Altaiskiy Zapovednik, they answered, "We have never heard anything from them,we know nothing about it!" Later one man confessed, "Yes, some people here do poach in the reserve, and we will poach. What else are we supposed to do?" Hunting and fishing and livestock herding are the main source of survival for this Altai community. Perhaps 85% of their people are unemployed. At this relatively high altitude, farming can only be marginally successful. But at one moment, after some of the frustration had been voiced, something happened. The entire atmosphere in the room changed. People started bringing up ideas about how members of the community could start working with the zapovednik: from Ulagan schools' participation in the zapovednik's youth educational programs, to collaboration on Snow Leopard research, and possibly planning alternative protection schemes for the reserve's buffer areas. Something positivea new energyemerged.
Whether over specially brewed Altai tea of wheat, herbs, salt and milk with our generous hostess, Chirchik, or over an NGO round table in Republic's capital, Gorno-Altaisk, we were blessed with many new acquaintances who are deeply committed to preserving the wilderness and cultures of the Altai.
Special note of thanks to Vyacheslav Trigubovich and Maria Burks for their time, energy, and flexibility!
Chirchik, a native altai woman (second from left) and her family support local conservation action projects near Ulagan, a remote, traditional Altai village. (photo Maria Burks)
As SEN looks deeper into the Altai Mountains of Southern Siberia, we learn more about the treasures that this precious region holds, and we become acquainted with more and more people who have committed their lives to preserving the land and its heritage. Although we had heard of the Argali Ecocenter for several years and met some of its members, Susan Cutting's trip to Yailu provided our first opportunity to sit in at an organizational meeting and get to know more about how they work and what they do. Altaiskiy Zapovednik is extremely lucky to have such a professional and grounded NGO in its borders. The following piece was put together by Argali Ecocenter members Irina Filus <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Mikhail Paltsyn <email@example.com>.
In the village of Yailu, at Altaiskiy Zapovednik, one of the largest and most biodiverse zapovedniks of Russia, a small but active collective called the Argali Ecocenter is living its passion: we are doing all that we can to protect the wilderness of the Altai Mountains. From the group's inception, our 12 members took on enormous challenges: creating an independent anti-poaching system, helping the Zapovednik with research and conservation projects, providing the Zapovednik with information and communications support, running environmental education programs for schools and adults in the community, and seeking sources of alternative energy. After seven years of working together, we now take the time to step back to assess our achievements and take a glimpse into the future.
Argali EcoCenter took its name from a passing inhabitant of Altaiskiy Zapovednik and the most rare subspecies of mountain sheep in the world, and the protection and study of the argali has remained a priority for the organization. Our annual extensive expeditions to argali habitat - the high altitude, harsh southeast Altai and Tuva- have made a significant contribution to the development of a strategy for protecting this subspecies. The argali is not merely an endangered mountain sheep; it is a keystone species of high altitude steppe ecosystems of the Altai, Tuva and Mongolia. If it were preserved, then many other interesting and rare species of plants and animals, and their habitats would also be protecting . During field expeditions, our members have gathered interesting data about other species as well, including pallas's cat, snow leopard, saker falcon, black vulture, eagle and others. With this information we have published a number of research papers and "popular" articles.
The Ecocenter's staff regularly holds photo exhibits about the nature of Altaiskiy Zapovednik and the Altai Mountains, and this has drawn many visitors to the remote corners of the Altai. We have spent a lot of energy on installing a micro-hydroelectric station and solar panels at the Zapovednik ranger stations; in some cases, these renewable sources serve as the only electricity available. We have also set up Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at Altaiskiy and Katunskiy zapovedniks. Participating in cooperative US-Russian GIS training programs has become a tradition in our organization, and we just can't go a year without organizing fun environmental events for kids at Lake Teletskoye. We have recently begun collecting video footage of Altaiskiy Zapovednik and the Altai Mountains in the hopes of making a film, and last but not least, "Argalisti" (members) are actively involved in patrolling the Zapovednik to protect it from poachers and other uninvited guests.
The future of the Ecocenter can not be separated from that of the Zapovednik; the state of Altaiskiy Zapovednikits creatures and their habitatin many ways determines our objectives as an organization. Among the possible future directions for our work are: helping the Zapovednik obtain biosphere reserve status, organizing ecotours, seeking opportunities for sustainable development of the region, developing alternative energy, improving the anti-poaching (ranger) teams at the Zapovednik, and of courseother efforts to protect the Golden Altai Mountains World Heritage area!
We actively collaborate with many organizations and foundations, among them: ISAR, SEN, WWF, the Ecology Center, the Weeden Foundation, the Turner Foundation, International Society for Conservation GIS, and Pacific Environment and Resources Center.
In Russia, there's a saying, "Do not fear your path, as long as your horses are strong and healthy." For Argali EcoCenter, our few but active members are the key to our success. We hope the future brings growth to our ranks, and allies from both Russia and abroad!
Rocket booster fuel container with extremely toxic residual heptyl that land regularly in the Altai Mountains, Siberia (photo by Alexander Lotov)
by Joanna Macy
Our planet is in trouble and we know it. We know about the devastation of our forests and our trees. We know about the poisons that are leaching into our soils and seas and air. We know about the spasms of extinction that are wiping out our fellow species at a rate never before chronicled. We know about the exponential rate at which the forces of destruction, set lose by our kind, are eroding our very life-support systems. We know it in our bones. And we know this is a time of challenge we must face together if we are not to go under.
We know we must now learn new steps and strategies. How to live ecologically, how to live sanely and simply. How to organize effectively, how to start moving more and more toward a system that is sustainable, without which we can now see there is no life, no future. We know that by our intention bold new forms can break through, burst forth new institutional forms, new ways of confidence, new ways of justice, new ways of economics, new ways of farming, new ways of being together, new ways of being on Earth.
Where do we find the power for this, the power that can lead to the healing of the world? I think we find it in our pain, our pain for the world. We find it in the grief that comes over us as we see what is happening, the fear that takes us, the rage that swells up. Honor it. Do not think that this is a private craziness. Know that this is life itself crying through you. Let us be bold to acknowledge our grief and our rage and our fear for all beings at this time is our deepest health, our deepest sanity, the other face of love.
There is a gospel in our grief. It says we care. And that caring springs from our profound interconnectednessan interconnectedness that weaves the web of life out of which we come, a web out of which we cannot fall.
The power that is there for the healing of our world doesn't come from any one of us. As we venture out the power is there. You see, we only need to let the amazing power of self-healing of our planet come through us. And where do we tap into this power? In our story, in the very journey that we have lived in our lifetime. In our lifetime as Gaia, the planet. This power comes as we drink from the deepest wells of the spirit and hear the song that has been sung through us since time began. The song that burst forth in the forming of the galaxies. The song that sucked biology out of the brimming rocks and that peopled our planet with the exuberance of life forms. That is what sings in us now. And we want it to be kindled, to hear it again stronger. Now that we, in our long planetary journey, have become graced with self-reflexive consciousness, we take glory in those roots and we can let the song sing through us.
Reprinted with permission from Continuum Publishing from "Earth & Spirit, The Spiritual Dimension of the Environmental Crisis," edited by Fritz Hull.
Joanna Macy is one of the founders of the Deep Ecology movement.
She has both developed and inspired many of the processes we use
at the Metamophosis Project.
Monthly Metamorphosis Gatherings
Healing Self, Healing Earth
Winter Retreat for Activists and Healers
Healing Self, Healing Earth
Shamanism & Ecology in Siberia
*What's not on this calendar are the customized workshops the Metamorphosis Project is doing for organizations and groups. If you're interested, please contact Leslie at (413) 253-6998 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Sunday, November 18th the Sacred Earth Network, in collaboration with an impressive list of environmental organizations, will welcome Miriam MacGillis, a Dominican Sister who co-founded Genesis Farm, a CSA and learning center in Blairstown, New Jersey. She lectures internationally on the New Cosmology and is a primary interpreter of the writings of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme. She will lead us in inquiry for the path to a sustainable future.
Sponsored by: Sacred Earth Network; Social Justice Forum of the Unitarian-Universalist Society of Northampton and Florence; Brookfield Farm and the Biodynamic Farmland Conservation Trust, Inc; Discovery Center for Earth Partnership; Connecticut River Valley Greens; Franklin County Interfaith Task Force for the Environment.
Monthly Metamorphosis Gatherings
These gatherings bring together caring individuals who want more consistent time to reconnect with themselves and others and share their feelings about what is currently happening to the Earth.
Healing Self, Healing Earth
This workshop will focus on purifying and deepening our connection to Self, Earth and each other and empowering participants to take committed action in their lives. Through deep ecology processes, sharing circles, nature awareness activities, shamanic journeying, and ceremony, we are guided to remember our connection to all life and to uncover our unique gifts for aiding humanity and our planet.
Winter Retreat for Activists and Healers
This workshop is for anyone in need of time to rest, rejuvenate and renew one's commitment to oneself and one's work. In a cozy, rustic setting surrounded by the deep stillness of winter, we'll come together with kindred spirits to laugh, cry, breathe, dance, sing, journey and play. Skilled facilitators will lead processes that allow us to share our stories, release our pain, and embrace our passions.
Shamanism & Ecology in Siberia
Take a powerful inner and outer journey into the heart of Siberian shamanism and walk in an ancient road of wisdom. Learn to energize directly from the elements, live in greater harmony and in communication with the Earth and other living creatures. Experience the adventure of being in a very different land and culture with the intent of assisting its quest for sustainability.
There is no greater spiritual challenge for the 21st century than that we re-connect to the spirit of the Earth itself.
- Marianne Williamson
Those of us who have had the honor of being part of the Metamorphosis Project are delighted by the amazing participants who have come and helped to make our events so alive and transformative!
Since the turning into the year 2001 we have held a Winter Retreat for Healers and Activists, a weekend Healing Self, Healing Earth workshop, five monthly evening gatherings in Amherst, a presentation on the Metamorphosis Project at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment and helped put on the annual SEN birdathon fundraising event. We also designed a custom weekend program for the Vermont Wilderness School, and they have invited us to come back and share our work with them annually. All this with one part time staff member and very generous consultants, volunteers and facilitators!
The feedback for our work has been overwhelmingly positive including many people who have shared that the processes they have done with us have sparked major changes in their lives. Here are samples from the feedback we have received:
"To me there always seemed perfect balance and flow from day to day, exercise to exercise and within each exercise. The workshop was set up and your skills applied to allow each person the flexibility to participate, share, express, learn and grow at their own pace, with infinite opportunities to face these challenges with courage. Thank you deeply once again."
~ David Hunt, Community Ecologist, Healing Self, Healing Earth participant April 2001
"It was a thoroughly fantastic replenishment. I am forever thankful for the chance to connect with so many beautiful people. Thanks again and again."
~ Brendan O'Neil, Teacher/Activist, Winter Retreat participant January 2001
"I have rarely spent a weekend where I felt such a deeply rooted shared sense of values and faith and such a free flow of healing tears and expansive laughter."
~ David Boothby, Counselor, Winter Retreat participant January 2001
"Thank you so much for your presentation on the Sacred Earth Network at the Hitchcock Center. Your work is so important and just what people need to be connected and empowered."
~ Jennifer Wiest, Program Coordinator, Hitchcock Center for the Environment
As we have gained experience with this work, we've become very aware that this profound sharing with individuals includes opportunities not only for deepened and renewed connection with the Earth, but connection also with a strong and growing community of people. During our workshops we witness and engage participants in networking, sharing ideas about how to live more sustainably, have lively conversations about creating community or bringing Spirit into the workplace, all in addition to doing the deep personal and planetary healing work that our programs are designed to do.
The Metamorphosis Project has attracted people from a variety of class backgrounds and work experiences including people employed by major industry and technology companies as well as educators, activists and conservationists. We also attract people from a wide range of ages- this spring participants ranged between 25 to 60+. Our hope is to continue to attract a diversity of people, anyone who is willing to open to Spirit and welcome the chance and challenge to go deeper and open to the possibilities of a healed human relationship with one another and the Earth. Our programs offer different levels of challenge and depth. We believe everyone has a role to play in this transformation. We welcome you to join us!
If you're interested in learning more about the Metamorphosis
Project: Restoring Our Inner and Outer Ecology or any of our specific
programs, contact Leslie Goldstein at email@example.com
or (413) 253-6998.
SEN's cooperative effort with the International Snow Leopard Trust has provided the opportunity for members of the informal group of snow leopard protectors, Asia Irbis, to organize information gathering and public awareness projects. Here's what Asia Irbis has achieved this year:
· Public Opinion Poll and School Text book
Ecologists, biologists and teachers in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan held a public awareness campaign in the regions surrounding snow leopard habitat of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. They produced a bilingual textbook on nature conservation and protection of endangered species of the region, and developed and distributed questionnaires as part of a public opinion poll in rural mountain communities. Contact: Emilia Vashetko <firstname.lastname@example.org>
· Documentary Film
Andrei Klimov of the Siberian Interregional Center, "Zapovedniki"is producing an educational and promotional documentary film on Snow leopard protection problems of Siberia and Central Asia. <email@example.com Sb: for Andrei Klimov>
· Public Awareness and Education at Ala Archa National Park
Valentina Toropova of Asia Irbis-Kyrgyzstan conducted a public awareness campaign and initiated an educational program at Ala Archa National Park and a neighboring village in Kyrgyzstan. She and her colleagues held a lecture and showed a film, and they organized an arts competition on snow leopards. They also produced and distributed questionnaires to park visitors, especially mountaineers, to gather information on snow leopard and ibex tracks and raise awareness of their existence in the park. Three questionnaires returned with positive identification of snow leopard tracks, and several with ibex. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
· Snow Leopard Research and Rural Outreach Expeditions
Two expeditions including 6-8 regional snow leopard specialists were conducted along the border of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In Zailiiskiy Alatau it was discovered that 4-5 snow leopard families were stably living there. In Kungei Ala-Too, snow leopard populations were found to be minimal, but participants determined 3-4 snow leopard families in the nearby Chilikskiy valley. Participants met with rural residents and reserve staff to engender support in preventing poaching in these areas. <email@example.com>
· Latest News and Information on the State of the Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard researcher Yevgeniy Koshkarev hired 3 specialists to gather information on snow leopard populations in key areas of the Tien Shan region, especially along the borders of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan with China. Koshkarev's report includes materials on 137 encounters with the snow leopard during the 90's in this region, and he concluded that the snow leopard's population along border areas is far more stable than within the individual countries. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
· Teacher Trainings and High School Student Seminars in Rural Towns of Northern Kyrgyzstan
Snow leopard researchers Vitaly Vyrypaev and Vyacheslav Lozhnikov visited 14 schools in the Talasskiy district of northern Kyrgyzstan to conduct "ecology hour" sessions for the older students and run teacher training programs. They reached over 500 people over the course of the project. <email@example.com>
· Technical and Informational Support to Asia Irbis
Alexander Zagrybelniy <firstname.lastname@example.org> has been providing technical and communications support to the three Asia Irbis members in Aksu Zhabagli, Kazakhstan. He worked extensively on the Asia Irbis web page, moving it to a more accessible site, http://www.geocities.com/asiairbis.
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