We are entering a new millenium, and if SEN has anything to say about it, this will be a more holistic, life honoring era. However, the current rate of disappearing species-those that will never be seen again-injects a particular sense of urgency about the pace at which positive change needs to take place. (Increases in consumption, CO2 emissions, and human population are reversible, extinctions are not!) In our last newsletter we mentioned that we were heartened by the global turnout for Earth Day 2000 but added that without any follow-through this event would not really have any "teeth." As it turns out the recent international climate change conference at The Hague in Belgium bore that out. Bold action on climate change needed to happen and it did not, and was especially hindered by the United States. The recognition that humanity is truly at the crossroads seems to be grasped by only a small minority. (If this statement seems alarmist we refer you to "God's Last Offer" by World Watch Institute editor Ed Ayres, the 1993 proclamation entitled "World Scientists Warning to Humanity" <www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/25b/001.html> and a host of Native American prophesies, some of which are eloquently compiled in Steven Mcfadden's book "Profiles in Wisdom")
In response to this time of epic proportions we at SEN have broadened some of our current projects-namely Snow Leopard, Sustainable Energy and Ecological Design (SEED), Metamorphosis-and begun two new initiatives: the Indigenous Peoples Project (IPP) and the Mountain Ecosystems Project (MEP). In addition, SEN is coordinating more professional exchanges through our flagship Northern Eurasia Environmental Assistance Program (of which SEED, IPP, Snow Leopard, and MEP are a part.) Through this unique blend of environmental activism and experiential education we believe SEN continues to occupy an important niche in the global quest for sustainability.
- The Editors
Lots! The Northern Eurasia Environmental Assistance Program (NEEAP) continues to move ahead, diversifying as our partners in Kamchatka, Southern Siberia, Central Asia and other areas find new creative and effective ways to make a difference. We are particularly excited about a common effort to reach out to schools, rural communities and diverse audiences: more and more of our partners are organizing educational events, gatherings and discussions groups. In Kamchatka, this meant a music and environment festival, aimed at drawing attention to the national referendum for reinstatement of the State Committee on Ecology; in Uzbekistan, they chose to set up bulletin board exhibits in reserves, universities, and the environmental protection agency on the crises facing the snow leopard, and what people can do to help. This year, SEN also sponsored a greater variety of publications-ranging from brochures on snow leopard protection, to a book with youth essays on environmental issues, to alternative newspapers and educational TV programs. And of course, we continued to build and help strengthen the capacity of the very environmental groups who are carrying out this important work through computers (and other equipment), grants and face-to-face exchanges.
Susan Cutting (4th from left) and David Johns (5th from left) at a luncheon with NEEAP project participants in Kamchatka
NEEAP Accomplishments 2000
- Organized 12 seminars on conservation policies and approaches as well as NGO strategies.
- Held 14 meetings, including 10 discussion groups and presentations on snow leopard protection.
- Organized 18 environmental education and awareness events, including school environmental competitions, youth reserve support teams, indigenous cultural awareness days and more.
- Established 20 environmental Internet stations, provided one reserve with a radio communication station and a second reserve with other badly needed equipment for their rangers.
- Provided funds to help pay e-mail costs for at least 19 organizations.
- Sponsored at least 32 publications. Among them: 7 printed publications, 9 environmental news releases and compilations, at least 12 articles, 4 separate electronic newsletters (including several editions of each one) and 2 television films. In addition, 4 web pages were created or improved upon.
- Supported legal assistance for two critical conservation cases regarding Sakhalin
- Organized and implemented exchange programs for 10 people: 8 Russians who visited the US and 2 Americans who visited Russia. This included Russian environmental law and sustainable energy and design delegations, a Russian snow leopard specialist, and a US land conservation specialist and a US indigenous cultural program leader.
Kamchatkan girls perform traditional indigenous dances at NEEAP meeting
As readers of SEN's newsletter are already aware, Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far been no friend to environmentalists. In his most sweeping maneuver, he abolished this spring both the State Committee on Ecology and the Forest Service, rolling some of their functions into the Ministry of Natural Resources. Since this ministry has been responsible for exploitation-not preservation-of the country's natural treasures, Putin's move has taken wide criticism by environmentalists who compare it to "asking the fox to guard the hen-house."
Putin has also endorsed the Ministry of Atomic Power's plans to construct many new reactors across the country, paying for them with money made by importing radioactive waste from Europe and Asia. At present such imports would be against Russian environmental law.
In response to these moves, environmentalists mobilized nationwide to gather signatures calling for a binding referendum on the following questions: should the government reestablish an independent committee on ecology and an independent forestry service, and should the government allow the import of radioactive waste from abroad.
NGOs had only a few months to gather over two million signatures, under strict guidelines concerning what kind of individual or organization could gather the signatures, under what circumstances, and in which regions.
With a website, a listserver, and innumerable NGOs across the nation taking part, it was one of the most massive initiatives undertaken by the Russian environmental movement. People were motivated in part by the threat of losing all the ground they had gained over the past decade. There were demonstrations, street theater, and other actions to draw attention to the need for the referendum. Many groups without an environmental focus also helped gather signatures.
Finally, over 2,490,000 signatures were handed in to regional and central authorities for validation, and the counting began. During the very same weeks that the Florida authorities were counting and re-counting votes for US President, the Russian authorities were counting and checking the signatures gathered for the referendum.
On November 29th, the Central Election Committee announced that they had thrown out enough signatures to bring the total down to only 1,873,216-below the number required in order to hold a referendum. But the issue is not dead yet. According to organizers, signatures were denied on such technicalities as a correction of the date without an additional signature next to the correction, or the address not containing the name of the region-although each page of signatures had the region written at the top.
The national headquarters for the initiative has claimed that this was the most successful in the entire history of attempted referenda in the country, which has yet to see a nationwide referendum. They hold that at least 500,000 of the rejected signatures were actually real, and urge organizers to appeal the unreasonably invalidated signatures in their region, and to prove that the regional election authorities prevented citizens from exercising their right to carry out a referendum.
Activists at Greenpeace-Russia feel that the rejection of so many signatures was predictable, since the Russian authorities have "shown themselves to be seriously frightened of the prospect of an expression of the people's will, and have taken all possible measures to prevent it." Alexandr Sidyakin, an attorney working for the referendum initiative, said, "The result has not surprised us, since the practice of freely expressing the will of the citizens has not yet come to life in our country. But we are not ready to give up."
Thanks to the support of the International Snow Leopard Trust (ISLT), the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Weeden Foundation, and the Rockwood Fund, a coalition of snow leopard scientists, rangers and other protection advocates in Central Asia and Siberia are joining hands to try and curb the critical drop in snow leopard populations. This coalition is called Asia Irbis, and since the spring of 1999, they have been working together to reach out to schools, reserve staff, border guards, hunting guides, public officials, shepherds and families in rural communities and cities to help them understand the plight of the snow leopard and ask for their help in protecting it.
In September, twenty-seven Asia Irbis members gathered for a second time in Ala Archa National Park in Kyrgyzstan. Together, they established Asia Irbis as an international organization, developed long and short term plans, and discussed how they can work more effectively together in their educational, research and anti-poaching efforts. As a result of this meeting, and a collaborative effort of SEN and ISLT, six small grants have been issued to support Asia Irbis projects, chiefly to address snow leopard protection, public outreach and education along the numerous and remote border zones of the region.
Due to limited resources, we were not able to fund all the small grant proposals that we would have liked to. In Central Asia a money little goes a long way- you can help; sponsor a snow leopard project!
Yuri Ivanov (with cap on right) of the international NGO "Asia Irbis" handing out snow leopard protection materials to a shepherd community in eastern Kyrgystan, Central Asia. (see article on page 3) [photo by Valentina Toropova]
In the Altai region of south-central Siberia, the struggle over a proposed road and gas pipeline has intensified. It now seems that a massive "transport corridor" is proposed to bisect the protected Ukok Plateau, a World Heritage site, Quiet Zone, and home to many endemic and endangered species as well as historic and cultural treasures.
In Moscow this fall, international NGOs and regional specialists gathered to update each other on the status of the project, the specifics of the area, and the species that would be affected, including the snow leopard. SEN, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Ecotok, the Fund for 21st Century Altai, Ecojuris, the Center for Russian Environmental Policy, and other NGOs began to draw up a strategy for stopping the road and proposing alternatives.
The Fund for 21st Century Altai plans to hold a working meeting on the issue on Dec. 15-16 with the government of the Altai Republic. Proponents and opponents of the road project are expected to attend, including international and regional NGOs.
Meanwhile, the Altai press has carried on a campaign of support for the road and has been criticizing the opposition quite harshly, culminating in a libelous article against the Fund for 21st Century Altai and Mikhail Shishin, its president. The article also insulted IFAW, the Global Environmental Facility, and all the other attendees of the working meeting in Moscow, of which the paper had somehow obtained the minutes. The Fund and Shishin plan to bring a suit against the newspaper.
"We have been pleasantly surprised with the public resonance that our project has had in Uzbekistan. We've created a precedent for using international support for solving concrete nature protection problems. Many people (including ourselves) have begun to really understand what environmental NGOs are for and how they can be of practical, beneficial use." Alexander Zuev and Alexei Kobzev, Ecopolis, Tashkent speak of a SEN sponsored project in Uzbekistan
It's been an exciting growth period for those of us at the Earth Experiences Program! The first big news is that we took a leap and changed our name to The Metamorphosis Project. We feel this name is bold and expresses who we are and what we're about more accurately. This process also challenged us to take a deeper look at embracing our vision. So, in addition to our programs that support people in reconnecting with each other and the natural world and in questioning the fundamental belief that humans have the "right" to dominate nature, we decided to make it easier for people who want to take action to do so. For us, this has entailed connecting with a lot of regional environmental organizations and projects to find out what volunteer opportunities are out there for our participants in the New England region to plug in to. In this way, we get to both help individuals translate their values into action and find ways of staying connected with one another after participating in a Metamorphosis program. We also get the amazing opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues by sending volunteers their way while helping to manifest our larger vision of sustainable living.
We hope that as the Metamorphosis Project continues to grow, we will be able to add more offerings to our calendar. Here are the current scheduled events and some short descriptions. What's not on the calendar are the customized workshops and presentations the Metamorphosis Project is doing for organizations and groups that hire us to work with them. If you're interested, please contact us! Call 978 724-0066 for more information.
All programs held in Massachusetts unless otherwise indicated.
(See our updated calender listing for the year by clicking here)
These new gatherings have been created with the intention to 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.
This workshop focuses on purifying and deepening our connection to the Self, Earth and each other and empowering participants to take committed action in their lives. Through a variety of processes including sharing circles, nature awareness activities, shamanic journeying, ritual and ceremony, we are guided to remember our oneness with all life and to uncover our unique gifts for aiding humanity and our planet.
This annual fundraising event is held during the bird migrations of spring in mid-May. The intention of the event is to raise lots of money so SEN can continue doing its work, while doing a 24 hour bird count of all the species we see within walking distance of our location. An exciting event for experienced and first time "birders" alike!
A weekend for people who dedicate time and energy to creating change toward a healthy, just and sustainable society. It will include space for relaxation, reflection, grieving, raging, witnessing and celebrating in a respectful, safe environment. Our intention is to support one another and to help reenergize the challenging day-to-day work that we do.
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