A Global Environments Network gathering in Northeastern North America
For four days in late June 2015, 40 Indigenous environmental leaders from Canada and the United States met on traditional Mohawk/Kanienkeha'ka territory at the Montreal Botanical Garden and in the community of Kahnawà:ke. Professionals, practitioners, elders and youth shared research, strategies and tactics, and stories of resistance, joy, tragedy, hope and transformation. We explored potential collaboration for environmentally sound solutions for critical issues facing Indigenous communities in the 21st century. A series of themes emerged from workshop sessions and conversations:
The link between Indigenous language learning, understanding and living one’s culture, and applying that to learning cultural uses of plants in-situ.
Dr. Henry Lickers (Turtle Clan Seneca) opened the workshop with a keynote address on Leadership and Biodiversity Conservation. Founding member of an environmental department that preceded the U.S. EPA and Canadian Department of Environment, he spoke on the ongoing challenges of advocacy, protection, and remediation as well as the urgency of regenerating our ability to know, nurture and marvel at the everyday nature that surrounds us – and be healed by it. Reflecting on the theme of the workshop, and the still-limited incorporation of Indigenous environmental knowledge in broader environmental work, he concluded, “The day we all declare ourselves part of biodiversity will be the day that we will have succeeded.”
The urgent need to form networks and stewardship alliances across Native nations and communities, to acquire and share information, strategies and tactics, and offer the advocacy benefits of alliance and collaborative organization.
Stemming from respect for the enormous experience and commitment present, a spirited desire for collaborative action filled the workshop. One idea that sparked plans for joint work was that of tribal parks. Eli Enns (Tla-o-qui-aht) shared the success of this context- and culturally-driven conservation model from the Pacific Northwest as a negotiating tool and path to increase autonomy and recognition of sovereignty in management of Indigenous traditional territories. He considers tribal parks as a type of Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ Conserved Areas and Territories (ICCA), and works with the ICCA Consortium and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to advance recognition and establishment of such community-controlled conservation efforts worldwide.
The importance of the arts to learn, reflect upon, live, and share stories, values and cultural heritage. These processes bring people together in strength and beauty.
“The arts and creative expression are vital to the work we do in our communities,” says Monaeka Flores, Chamorro artist and activist from Guam. “Through traditional and non-traditional art forms… we revitalize, rejuvenate, and strengthen languages, customs, and sovereignty movements; restore cultural practices and life ways; give voice to lost narratives and counter narratives; educate younger generations and provide connections with elders; speak to injustices to repair our connections and relationships; and renew the spirit and provide medicine for our peoples and environments in need of rehabilitation.”
Community Exchanges like this one form part of the emerging Global Environments Network. This North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchange (NACELE) is a bi-annual, invite only workshop, co-organized by GDF staff and board members, and GESA alumni and resource people. Each convenes participants from a particular region, with additional representatives from across North America and the Pacific. The next NACELE has been proposed for Northwestern Mexico in Fall 2016.
Support from this GlobalGiving project helped us cover participants’ attendance costs, as did a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Convening Grant, support from The Christensen Fund, Quebec Center for Biodiversity Studies, the law firm of Fredericks Peebles and Morgan, The Cultural Conservancy, and McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.
(Full) photo captions:
(above) Dr. Henry Lickers speaks about his work as Dr Nancy Turner, GDF board president, Verna Miller (Nlaka'pamux; future president of the International Society of Ethnobiology), and others look on.
(below) Monaeka Flores (Chamorro) of the Guam Humanities Council leads the creation of a collaborative art piece representing participants’ journeys and stories.
(bottom) 2015 NACELE participants gathered on the banks of the Saint Lawrence in Kahnawà:ke, Mohawk/Kanienkeha'ka territory. The Nation is working to restore its traditional shoreline, which was drastically altered by the Saint Lawrence Seaway.
A brand new initiative is now taking form in the hands of six driven, committed Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) alumni. After four successful Academies since 2011 (with the fifth now being planned for this summer), we are excited that a regional focus on Latin America will solidify the Global Environments Network (GEN)’s aim to train and bring inspiring and dynamic environmental leaders in a global action network.
The Latin American Academy of Socio-Environmental Leadership (ALLSA) 2015, or in Spanish, 1a Academia Latinoamericana de Liderazgo Socio-ambiental, will be our 1st regional academy. Entitled Transformative Environmental Learning: Our relationships with biocultural landscapes, this Academy will gather around 25 environmental changemakers from Latin America who are passionate about improving the relationships between society and the environment.
A regional focus enables GEN to recruit and support emerging changemakers who are not proficient in English, a gap recognised during our selection processes for GESA (see previous report on GESA selection process). Alumni from Chile (Antonia), Dominican Republic (Daniel), Mexico (Edgar, Thor and Yolanda) and Spain (Ana Elia), having experienced the transformational power of the GESA learning program and, knowing the potential of many in Latin America, are now joining forces with the unconditional support of GDF to create ALLSA. This pioneering event will be held in the Dominican Republic this November in partnership with Instituto Nacional de Formación y Capacitación del Magisterio de la República Dominicana (INAFOCAM). This strong collaboration amongst GESA alumni is a testament to the durable connections formed during GESA and the importance of the Network.
ALLSA aims to broaden and deepen knowledge, learning methodologies, social networking and communication skills of graduate students, professionals and activists interested in the human dimensions of environmental problems. It is designed for Spanish-speaking people studying or working in the field of arts and humanities, social sciences and natural sciences - as well as people working for the defense of the environment and social justice, audiovisual communication, policy and advocacy – focused on the relationship between environment and society. Community leaders are welcome to apply to ALLSA. Interested candidates can apply here.
Photo caption: Spanish Ana Elia, who joined GESA in 2014, is now working with fellow GESA alumni on the 1st regional academy in Latin America. ALLSA is designed for Spanish-speaking participants studying or working in the field of arts and humanities, social sciences and natural sciences - as well as working for the defence of the environment and social justice, audiovisual communications, policy and advocacy – who are focused on the relationship between environment and society.
The first stage of the GESA 2015 application period, from 15 October 2014 – 15 January 2015, seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. Expressions of interest flowed in from around the world, and we were pleased to receive far-flung applications from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Guatemala, Jamaica, Latvia, Mongolia, Sudan, Yemen, Zimbabwe and other nations that are typically underrepresented in international courses. We have a record number of candidates vying for a spot this year, over 500 from 93 countries, up 63% over last year. Now comes the hard part: choosing the finalists from this talented set of applicants.
The good news is that we have a stellar jury to help us with the tough choices we have to make. We are pleased that many GESA alumni have agreed to help select their future peers, and this gives international breadth to the jury. For the 2015 lineup, we have Daniel (Dominican Republic), Rishi (Nepal), Chryl (United States), Manoj (Bangladesh), and Eda (Turkey). Their enthusiasm in taking on this task is an inspiration. Of this undertaking, Rishi said, “I take this as our collective responsibility to make GESA a dream academy for change-makers and I am honored to volunteer to achieve this mission.” Chryl agreed to these sentiments, responding, “I would be honored to serve on the jury as GESA has a special place in my heart.”
The other jury members are GESA coordinators and resource people: Gary Martin (United States), Sarah-Lan Mathez-Stiefel (Switzerland), Emily Caruso (United Kingdom) and Susannah McCandless (United States).
Many have asked us how we go about making the decision of who attends the summer academy each year, and we would like to make the process as transparent as possible. The jury members choose their preferred candidates based on the leadership capacity communicated by their personal statements and CVs, ensuring that the resulting class has a good balance of men and women, mixture of nationalities (with no more than 2 people from the same country), regional spread, age range and multidisciplinarity. As we want to continue expanding our network globally, we also take into account if the candidate is from a country not previously represented in GESA.
Daniel, a GESA 2014 participant, will assist in the shortlisting process this year.
Group photo taken during GESA 2014: A great mix of participants is an important feature of GESA.
GESA 2014 concluded just over a month ago, with high levels of enthusiasm for the connections forged and the promise of new collaborations, yet with sadness to be leaving such a cohesive, stimulating space of exchange. As always, it was an intense, fascinating, memorable experience for all who participated – this year brought together 18 participants (1 from Africa, 5 from Asia, 5 from Europe, 6 from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 1 from Northern America) who actively engaged with highly experienced representatives of academia, civil society, government and the private sector invited to GESA as resource people. GESA, once again, served as a meaningful platform for the exchange of insights drawn from diverse backgrounds and disciplines.
We would like to thank our GlobalGiving donors who provided crucial funds enabling participants to attend this year’s Global Environments Summer Academy.
GESA 2014, through pictures:
Salvia Goethe Dynamic Engagement Retreat
GESA 2014 opened with the 5-day Salvia Goethe Dynamic Engagement Retreat, a retreat that prompted participants to weave Goethe’s presence into the rest of the course, both in everyday interactions and reflections, and through specific workshops and discussions. In this photo, Silvia (from Italy) introduces her course-mate Eda (from Turkey) to different elements of nature during the Mirror Walk exercise, an exercise designed to provide a holistic lens and activate all pathways of perception. (Credit: Inanc Tekguc).
TED-style talks at GESA
The application of TED-style talks, a new feature of GESA, resonated throughout the course with the aim to develop participants’ communications skills through the practice of presenting their research and ideas, which came to be known as the GESAx talks. Here, GESA 2014 participant, Edgar, who hails from Mexico, delivers his presentation titled "My environmental education: A journey of theory and practice". (Credit: Silvia Forno).
Video Communications Workshop
For the fourth year running, our successful Video Communications Workshop was conducted, led by visual anthropologist and GESA photographer/videographer Inanc Tekguc, and journalist and videographer Ruth Krause. (Credit: Silvia Forno).
In keeping with the theme of enhancing participants’ communications skills, resource people Reinhold Leinfelder and Alexandra Hamann delivered a well-received workshop on making comics for communicating complex scientific ideas and innovations. Here is a participant’s experiment with visual note-taking and comic techniques to record the report-back from the mapping workshop led by Susannah McCandless. (Credit: Ana Elia Ramon Hidalgo)
Reflections on the Salvia Goethe Dynamic Engagement Retreat by participants:
Reflections, by GESA 2014 participant, Mel (Brazil)
“Many of us had the opportunity to get in touch with our deep emotions and our sense as part of a beautiful whole (with the wholeness within us).”-Mel (Credit: Silvia Forno)
Reflections, by GESA 2014 participant, Yuan (China)
“The method has triggered my interest in drawing, from which I discover many details I used to ignore. For my life, as now I am standing at the crossroads where many things could happen, I deeply appreciate this method so that I could describe and explore new paths, using my senses and feelings, which is quite new and exciting. I am not sure of how this going to influence my work in the future, however, for certain I will carry with me more emotions, feelings and imagination when I make decisions.” -Yuan (Credit: Silvia Forno)
We are proud to share some of what we have in store for this summer. Thanks to support from the Salvia Foundation, GESA 2014 will begin with a five-day retreat in the Swiss mountain town of Kandersteg. The Salvia Goethe Retreat, led by Emily Ryan, is titled Dynamic Engagement, a Goethean Approach to Connection. Its purpose is to ground the participants and the entire three-week academy in a profound connection and commitment to the natural world, inspired and informed by the majestic Alpine setting. Through the lens and application of the Goethean process, GESA participants will foster their capacity to experience the world holistically. Workshop activities will focus on generating self-reflective practice, establishing a strong learning community, sharing tools for creative resolution of conflicts arising from conservation and development, and exploring modes of socio-ecological resurgence and resilience. Participants will have the opportunity to get to know one another away from the bustle of the city, with time to make meals, take walks, and share stories together.
A word on our participants
Our group of finalists continue working, both in their home communities and institutions and through GlobalGiving, to raise funds to attend GESA 2014. We would like to profile one successful applicant, Eda Elif Tibet. Eda is an independent documentary filmmaker and visual anthropologist from Turkey whose passion for the cultural aspects of being human is depicted through her films. Her first documentary film, 28 Days on the Moon, pays homage to her ancestral roots in Cappadocia, Turkey, while advocating for local livelihoods in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Protected Area. This was closely followed by Amchi, a film that advocates for the transmission of traditional knowledge in rural areas of Ladakh in India.
Eda’s films have been screened both within her country and around the world, a growing testament to her aim to advocate for local livelihood rights and their conservation through ethical and anthropologically inspired film-making. Now in her first year of a PhD on Social Anthropology at the Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Eda continues working in film, currently developing a story on a nomadic family from the Sarkeçili tribe, who herd 500 goats in Southern Turkey. The goal of the film is to engage support to protect nomadic pastoralists' livelihood rights.
Visit our Participants page to learn more about Eda and the other emerging environmental changemakers lined up to attend GESA 2014.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.