Deep Ecology Collaboratory – Join the Movement

Ecologistics Deep Ecology Collaboratory Topic Leaders on October 23, 2016 - Photo Ecologistics From left to right: Derrick Jensen, Joe Bish, Dave Foreman, Eileen Crist, Stephanie Mills, Bill Ryerson
Ecologistics Deep Ecology Collaboratory Topic Leaders on October 23, 2016 – Photo Catie Michel
From left to right: Derrick Jensen, Joe Bish, Dave Foreman, Eileen Crist, Stephanie Mills, Bill Ryerson

If you are concerned about the future of life on Earth, consider joining the deep ecology movement which embraces all living things, not just people.

Participants at the Ecologistics Deep Ecology Collaboratory held in San Luis Obispo, CA October 21-23, 2016, had the opportunity to meet and work with local and national environmental leaders in a small group setting while addressing environmental issues through the lens of deep ecology.

A fusion of “collaboration” and “laboratory”, a collaboratory is an open creative process where a group of people works together to generate solutions to complex problems.

So, what is Deep Ecology?

Deep Ecology Overview

During the 1970’s, Norwegian philosopher and mountaineer Arne Naess introduced the phrases “shallow ecology” and “deep ecology” to the environmental movement.

He described shallow ecology as short-term thinking and taking shallow actions to address environmental issues without fundamentally changing our values or the way we live. This includes actions like recycling, driving electric vehicles, and buying energy efficient consumer products. While these approaches do some good, they allow us to continue with our human-centric, fossil fuel dependent, consumer-oriented lifestyles with little inconvenience to ourselves and not much thought to all the other life forms on Earth.

Deep ecology recognizes the inherent value of all living things. It involves deep questioning and acknowledging that tweaking our “business as usual” approach is not working. Global climate change, the collapse of biodiversity, the extinction crisis, environmental degradation, and overpopulation are enormous problems. Deep ecology requires us to change our basic values and practices; to use a long-range deep approach to addressing environmental issues and preserving the diversity and beauty of the Earth we all rely on for life.

Deep Ecology Collaboratory

Throughout the Deep Ecology Collaboratory topic leaders and attendees grappled with topics such as the biodiversity crisis, overpopulation, globalization, psychological barriers to addressing climate change, and grassroots activism.

In between presentations and brainstorming sessions, collaborators dined on delicious omnivore, vegetarian, and vegan food prepared by Linnaea’s Café enjoyed listening to music at an outdoor concert and breathed in the brisk fall air on a Sunday morning nature hike.

During the Collaboratory brainstorming sessions, participants began working on the Deep Ecology Manifesto for Preserving Our Planetary Commons, an action plan for addressing Earth’s climate change and biodiversity crisis on political, social, and scientific levels.

Ecologistics is forming a Loomio group for people who participated in the Collaboratory and people who did not attend but want to join the group to work on creating the Manifesto and to collaborate on other actions. Loomio is an online conversation, collaboration, and decision-making tool.

Pay-What-You-Can Registration

The environmental movement needs everyone’s voice, not just those who can afford conference and event registration fees.

To make the Collaboratory accessible to anyone who had the desire and time to participate, Ecologistics offered pay-what-you-can registration allowing each person to determine what she or he could afford.

This philosophy likely contributed to bringing together a diverse group of attendees including educators, business professionals, retirees, nonprofit representatives, students, environmentalists, and activists.

Topic Leaders

The Collaboratory gave participants a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and collaborate with environmental leaders and experts.

  • Kelly Sorenson – Executive Director of Ventana Wildlife Society
  • Dave Foreman – activist, author, and co-founder of Earth First! and Director of The Rewilding Institute
  • Robert Gifford – professor at University of Victoria, BC, Canada, environmental psychology
  • Bill Ryerson – founder and President of Population Media Center
  • Joe Bish – Director of Issue Advocacy at Population Media Center
  • Eileen Crist – educator and editor of Gaia in Turmoil: Climate Change
  • Stephanie Mills – lecturer, activist, and author of Whatever Happened to Ecology?
  • Matt Ritter – author, editor, and professor of botany at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA
  • Derrick Jensen – radical activist and author of Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet

Surprise guest, Roberto Monge, gave a firsthand account of his experiences at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest taking place on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

Songwriting Contest and Concert

Music and art are essential mediums for connecting people and ideas while spreading beauty and joy. To this end, Ecologistics hosted a songwriting contest and concert as part of the Collaboratory.

Songwriters of all ages across California responded to the call for an original song about the impacts of climate change, habitat loss, extinction, or overpopulation on our planet, animals, and ecosystems and on humans. Ecologistics received 37 song submittals. Ranchers for Peace and the three contest winners performed at an outdoor concert on Saturday evening.

If you would like to learn more about the Deep Ecology Collaboratory topic leaders, listen to the songwriting contest songs, or join the Loomio group, please visit the Ecologistics website.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” —John Muir

Note to readers. At the time of this writing, I am a member of the Ecologistics Board of Directors.

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Our Environment

Farm Worker Spraying Pesticide on Lettuce and Cabbage Crops

Imagine preventing the people we love and ourselves from getting breast cancer by ensuring our environment is clean and healthy. Expand that vision to all cancers.

This October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I propose we look beyond the pink ribbons and feel good activities. Let us talk about the pink elephant in the room, the possible link between our environment and cancer.

Breast Cancer Risk

Throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there is a deluge of articles and blog posts written to help you evaluate your breast cancer risk mostly by reviewing your genetics, family cancer history, and lifestyle choices (often referred to as environmental factors). Competing for space are advertisements for pink merchandise and reports on efforts to find a cure for cancer.

I am not against learning about breast cancer and ways to reduce risk, or pink ribbons (I am wearing one as I write this), or research to help people with cancer live happy and fulfilling lives. What bothers me is the emphasis on preventing cancer through personal choices.

“A person’s cancer risk can be reduced with healthy choices like avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol use, protecting your skin from the sun and avoiding indoor tanning, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, keeping a healthy weight, and being physically active.” —Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This is good advice—for everyone.

Breast Cancer and the Environment

The thing is, while you are busy living your healthy lifestyle (which I am definitely for) you may be missing a crucial piece of the cancer causation puzzle—the environment. You, me, everyone is part of the environment and we depend on it for oxygen, water, food; a place to live, work, and play; for beauty and spirituality.

How does breathing polluted air, drinking contaminated water, eating food doused in pesticides; living, working, and playing in spaces made with and filled with toxic materials and being exposed to carcinogens just by walking around contribute to you or your loved ones getting cancer?

It is a complex issue requiring a lot more research. However, lack of research does not necessarily mean there is no problem.

  • Has anyone ever proven that spraying poison on food in the form of pesticides and herbicides is good for people’s health?
  • Has there been a scientific study showing that emissions from coal-burning power plants improve the condition of people’s lungs?
  • Is there peer-reviewed research demonstrating that the unpronounceable ingredients in cosmetics are safe and improve life expectancy?

It seems to me that a clean and healthy environment on planet Earth is crucial for each one of us to be healthy, happy, and cancer free.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Call to Action

Okay, so now perhaps you are willing to consider that our environment may be contributing to the possibility of you and / or your loved ones getting cancer. So what can you do about it?

Take action.

First, eat your fruits and vegetables, be physically active, and get enough sleep. There is no downside to living a healthy lifestyle!

Become Informed

Read the ingredients on your favorite snack package or preferred shampoo brand bottle. Then go look up the ingredients on the Internet. Do you still want to eat that or wash your hair with it? Do this repeatedly. Involve your kids and everyone can learn something.

Make your Voice Heard

Write a letter or e-mail to your congressperson, the mayor of your town, or the President of the United States letting him or her know you are concerned about cancer and how our environment might be contributing to it. Government agencies track issues of concern to their constituencies and data can be a powerful tool.

Hit the Streets

Join a group of people in your community who are working on something important to you. Do you worry about pesticide residue on the lettuce you buy at the grocery market? Are you losing sleep over the expansion of a natural gas fracking operation near your home or your child’s school? Are you concerned about pollution in a favorite stream or lake? Locate a group via your friends, family, coworkers, web browser or social media.

For my action, I am doing some research.

In his, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, 2016 Presidential Proclamation, President Obama announced the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force, which is striving to make a decade’s worth of progress in preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer in just 5 years. I want to find out if and how the environment is being included in this national cancer research project.

What are you doing? Share your Breast Cancer Awareness Month action with other readers.

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Tools for Grassroots Activists – Book Review

Tools for Grassroots Activists Book CoverActivists are businesspeople. Or they should be. That thought kept recurring while I was reading Patagonia’s Tools for Grassroots Activists: Best Practices for Success in the Environmental Movement.

Perhaps if a greater number of people understood the business side of activism, we could accomplish more towards ensuring Earth remains habitable for us and other living creatures.

Published by outdoor clothing and gear company, Patagonia and edited by Nora Gallagher and Lisa Myers, Tools for Grassroots Activists brings the best of Patagonia’s Tools Conference activist training program to the public.

I have read other Patagonia books like Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman and The Responsible Company so I was expecting a thoughtful well-written and interesting book. It delivered.

The Business of Activism

In the introduction to Tools for Grassroots Activists, Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard tells the story of how the first Tools Conference came about in 1994. It was a way of bringing activists together with experts in fields such as campaign strategy, marketing, fundraising, lobbying, and working with business.

“While I am often embarrassed to admit to being a businessman—I’ve been known to call them sleazeballs—I realize that many activists could learn some of the skills businesspeople possess.”

—Yvon Chouinard

The book intertwines short essays written by keynote speakers from past Tools Conferences with case studies demonstrating activists putting the tools to use and achieving their goals. My copy has many colored Post-it™ flags marking ideas and passages I feel are particularly important to my environmental not-for-profit work and me. Here are a few things I found interesting:

Communications

Kristen Grimm begins her piece with a hilarious tale about what can happen when you lose sight of what you are trying to achieve. She acknowledges that good communication is difficult and gives readers some concrete suggestions.

While reading Grimm’s essay, I found myself thinking of times when the organization I belong to has jumped ahead to identify tasks before clearly defining the goal. I think I will start taking the book with me to meetings to remind me and the rest of the group to stay focused on strategy first and then tactics.

Changing the Climate of Public Opinion

Lois Gibbs shares the story of how a small group of people living on top of a toxic waste dump changed the climate of public opinion resulting in the United States government relocating hundreds of families. You may know the neighborhood is Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York.

This story resonates with me because it demonstrates how everyday people can not only change public opinion but also overcome governmental inertia and compel agencies to act.

Working with Business

John Sterling points out that many of us work in the businesses that sell the goods and services we all rely on in our daily lives, and that businesses need to make money to stay in business. He offers practical advice on how environmental activists can effectively engage businesses.

As a project manager, I understand the importance of getting all stakeholders to the table and working together ensuring the project stays on track and within budget. It seems to me that businesses are essential stakeholders in the environmental movement, but sometimes (maybe often) activists view them as enemies and treat them as such. I realize it is difficult to view a company that is dumping toxic effluent into a stream as a partner, but they are a stakeholder in the environment, too; it behooves us to engage them.

The Bottom Line

Patagonia is a global enterprise selling outdoor clothing, equipment, books, and food provisions. Patagonia’s mission statement is, “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Putting on the biennial Tools Conference and sharing knowledge in Tools for Grassroots Activists is part of how Patagonia is fulfilling its mission.

While the essays and case studies in Tools for Grassroots Activists have an environmental theme, the ideas, advice, and tools are applicable to any type of activism from advocating for an after-school art program to saving a historical building from the wrecking ball. Businesses could learn a thing or two about topics ranging from strategic planning to employee retention.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I’m not an activist so why would I want to read this book?” Interestingly, many of the stories are by people who were not activists either. If you care about something—a person, a place, a cause—then read this book. Somewhere in its 254 pages, you will likely find an idea, a tool, or a story that inspires you.

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