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The Sacred Earth Network Newsletter - Summer 2001

Issue #16 page 1 of 3



SEN is Moving to Amherst
Birdathon Report
NEEAP update - New Directions
Sustainable Energy and Ecological Design Brings Experts to Russia
Remote Altai Communities Preserving their Lands
The Argali Ecology Center
Inner Ecology Page
2001-2 calendar of events
Metamorphosis Project Update
Snow Leopard Project Update
"Light of the Ancient Lands" Arises
Journeying Into the Heart of Siberian Indigenous Culture
Dam and Road Controversy Sparks Sustainablity Debate in the Altai

Paralleling the green wave of this year's Spring, SEN's activity increased gradually and then "exploded" in May. So much has been going on that it's been difficult to keep track of it all! Throughout the following pages you will read about the wide range of exciting environmental initiatives that you have come to expect from us. In addition, many positive changes are happening within the organization; most notably the decision to move the SEN office to Amherst in the heart of the Five College Area of Massachusetts. Our move is also indicative of a deeper transition that is underway at the Sacred Earth Network. After 15 years, we are in the process of creating a stronger linkage between SEN's initiatives in Northern Eurasia and our work with spiritual ecology/environmental education that has largely taken place in the US. We see our Metamorphosis Project as helping to restore our "inner ecology" while the work in Northern Eurasia has been largely about restoring our "outer ecology." In order for this world to be balanced and whole, we need to be working on both levels.

A recent trip to listen to a dozen of Siberia's indigenous leaders has clarified the importance of making a true synthesis between our "inner" and "outer" work. These incredibly dedicated scientists, journalists, and activists underlined a few key points that we wish every one of the world's leaders were privy to. They said they really appreciated the Sacred Earth Network's name because the acknowledgment of the sacred is exactly what is missing from today's environmental debate. Their grandparents grew up in a time when people loved the land the same way they loved their children. This love was not only aesthetic but a deep understanding that the natural world provided everything for one's well-being and that there were unseen forces at work that needed regular attention through prayer, ritual, and ceremony. Milan Kynyraa, director of the Azas Zapovednik in Tuva told us "My ancestors felt that if they did not 'pray-over' the land and express gratitude for the animals, these things would cease to exist and the people would die."

This attitude is in stark contrast to the mainstream model of environmental regulation and management, which sees humans as the pinnacle of Creation and nature as solely for our use and benefit. This model, exemplified by phrases like "smart growth" and "wise use," is about trying to make nature adjust to human control and cleverness. Not only is this considered arrogant by the indigenous leaders we just met in Siberia, but traditional peoples throughout the world are warning the mass culture to mend its ways or else pay the consequences.

Much of this "new" culture that we are involved in creating is a shift in consciousness which begins with simply perceiving things differently. In SEN's Metamorphosis Project workshops, people often tell us that we provide a space for them to experience the alternative - community, celebration, Earth-honoring ceremony, communion with nature, self and others-and to slow down enough to see themselves and the world more clearly. These are elements of a sustainable culture that most of us long for. They are also some of the basic tenets that indigenous peoples have lived by for centuries. Can we create the future by looking to the past? Can we blend the ancient with the new? It seems like we must.

We thank all of you who have supported SEN in so many ways over the years and we invite new friends to become part of our Network and participate in what the elder statesman of the spiritual side of the environmental movement Thomas Berry refers to as the "Great Work."
- The Executive Director

Lake Teletskoye, part of Altaiskiy Zapovednik nature reserve in southern Siberia, where SEN held a seminar in May. (photo by Alexander Lotov)

We all have our particular work. We have a variety of occupations. But besides the particular work we do and the lives we lead, we have a Great Work that everyone is involved in and no one is exempt from. That is the work of moving on from a terminal Cenozoic to an emerging Ecozoic Era in the story of the planet Earth. This is the Great Work.

- Thomas Berry

What's an easy, $-free way to help SEN? Donate your frequent flyer miles to help us get to these places, they are tax-deductible, too!

SEN is Moving to Amherst

In August, SEN will be moving into a new office space in the Nacul Center for Ecological Architecture building, a 10 minute walk from the center of Amherst, MA. This amazing building is a renovated church, complete with stained glass windows, as well as a small nature sanctuary with a walking trail that ends at a stone meditation circle.

When as a staff we decided to look for office space in Amherst, our first search through realtor channels came up with bleak alternatives. So we turned to our strength of networking in search of the right combination of location, facilities, nature, and an honoring of the sacred. And bingo, it appeared, just a ten minute walk from Amherst center, a beautiful old renovated church with a nature sanctuary that was already housing an ecological architecture firm, healers, artists, and nonprofit organizations. In addition, there is a beautiful large common room with a hardwood floor that will be perfect for our monthly Metamorphosis gatherings.

Not only did we find an amazing building and grounds, in a great location, the whole intention and energy of the place is directly in alignment with our purpose of creating a sustainable culture. Just read this statement: "Nacul Center for Ecological Architecture is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to a higher public awareness of ecological, architectural, environmental, and social issues." And the term "nacul," invented by the founder of the Nacul center, represents an all-embracing philosophy based upon the integration of nature and culture.

We are excited about our new location in the progressive five college town of Amherst, MA. If you live in the area, please be sure to come to our next Metamorphosis monthly gathering (see page 10 for details) to both check out our new space, and to be a part of the essential spiritual ecology work that we look to expand in our new location. See you there!

SEN staff at the new SEN office, housed in the Nacul center in Amherst, MA

The Sacred Earth Network Birdathon Event Report

For 24 hours on May 12th and 13th, 24 intrepid birders braved the black flies and unsettled weather to count 79 species of birds on Sacred Earth Network's traditional Birdathon territory in Petersham. Once again all teams traveled by foot, each covering an estimated seven miles over the twenty-four hour period.

Who can forget seeing Baltimore oriole, scarlet tanager, and rose-breasted grosbeak in the same morning, or watching the yellow warblers feeding among the apple blossoms? Then there are the bobolinks up on the hill singing and fluttering around our heads and a broad-winged hawk carrying dinner in its talons.

This year had exciting finds starting with three greater yellowlegs at one of the swamps and a common nighthawk calling overhead at the Earthlands Lodge parking lot. Both of those were new to the Birdathon along with a singing bay-breasted warbler which was a first for the territory at any time of the year. An early eastern wood-pewee and a northern goshawk chasing off two turkey vultures rounded out the list of unusual sightings.

Noticeably absent were flocks of migrating warblers. Almost all the birds seen were the usual residents. One of the indicators of both the lack of migrants and the increasing skill of the teams was how similar the lists were for the teams.

Even more impressive was the more than two thousand dollars in pledges raised by the participants with more pledges still trickling in.

Thank you all for making this event both fun and supportive of Sacred Earth Network!

Final list of bird species:

Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Wood Duck
Virginia Rail
Turkey Vulture
Northern Goshawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ruffed Grouse
Greater Yellowlegs
Solitary Sandpiper
American Woodcock
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Great-Horned Owl
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Winter Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Grn Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

NEEAP Update - New Directions in Northern Eurasia

Over the years, SEN's work in northern Eurasia has helped lead to a significant strengthening of the environmental movement in Russia and other former Soviet countries. Due in part to the support of SEN and other organizations, we are looking at a different "picture" of northern Eurasian NGOs. We find we need a new strategy to respond to this new situation.

Several of the groups and networks which SEN "seeded" have matured to the point where they no longer rely on our ongoing support for their activities. Ecotok, our sister organization in Moscow, which began as a branch of SEN, has just been granted substantial funding from the C. S. Mott Foundation, allowing it to carry out its environmental assistance program more independently from SEN.

In Central Asia, the members of the international Asia-Irbis snow leopard protection network, to which SEN gave the initial boost, have been able to carry out a number of projects this year with the additional support of the International Snow Leopard Trust.

This year as we celebrate our past successes and watch some of our fledglings leave the nest, we are taking extra time for evaluating our current capacity and looking hard at our goals for the future. We have decided to streamline our program in northern Eurasia over the coming year, integrating our areas of greatest involvement and deepening our partnership with key groups.

We plan to begin working closely with these groups to build model sustainable communities in locations where our main projects Sustainable Energy & Ecological Design, Snow Leopard, Mountain Ecosystems, and Indigenous Peoples all come into play.

Essentially, we are gradually shifting our emphasis from broad-based, region-wide technical and organizational support for the environmental movement as a whole, to a more tangible, practical, multifaceted, locally responsive, "deep support" program. Our long-term goal for this new program is to facilitate the emergence of a growing number of working, living, integrated sites within existing villages that demonstrate and promote economic, social, and ecological sustainability

Our strategy is to begin with a pilot project in southern Siberia, where we have already developed good working relationships with local groups and officials, and where we are well acquainted with the ecological and social situation. In coming years we plan to expand the program to villages in a variety of regions of Russia and Northern Eurasia.

The key elements of our new program, which we plan to launch in 2002, are:

· an emphasis on producing visible results;
· ensuring transparency and replicability;
· a more intimate involvement in a smaller number of places;
· deepening our relationships with local groups into true partnerships through communication, visits and teamwork;
· regular assessments and evaluation;
· an emphasis on whole-system, integrated solutions to different kinds of challenges;
· a hands-on, practical, action-oriented, collaborative approach.

Our vision for this program is that these "sustainability sites" can become models for a region-wide shift toward embodying such values. We are excited about the opportunities through such a program, to bring the necessary skills, know-how, and technology to people in Northern Eurasia who already demonstrate alignment with earth-honoring values and a long-term commitment to working for positive change.

Maria Burks with a group of Altai students during a SEN exchange.

"We do not have the luxury of being pessimistic. The pessimist says, 'It's useless, I can't do anything about it.' But I have no right to doom people and other species who follow with the announcement that I have given up hope."

- David Brower

Energy Experts visit Russia through Sustainable Energy & Ecological Design Project

In May, SEN led an exciting exchange group of three leading US energy experts to Russia. The delegates were: visionary Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), well known for his practical, holistic real-world approach to meeting energy needs while reaping economic benefits and stimulating new technological developments; Ed Smeloff, a highly effective energy policy specialist recently of Pace Energy Project; Gregg Eisenberg, an energy economics consultant for E Source and Financial Times Energy; and SEN's Alyson Ewald as the trip's organizer.

The Moscow mayor's chief of staff Kemer Norkin met with Amory and Gregg to determine how best to resolve some of the city's energy challenges, including Moscow's massive waste of heat and water. While handing Norkin a stack of articles and books on energy saving, Amory suggested a cost-free method of improving efficiency simply allowing potential builders to jump to the head of the queue for building permits if their plans are energy efficient. "That idea just might be worth trying," replied Norkin.

We then had a working session with the top Moscow government advisors on science and technology, including a City Duma deputy and professors from Moscow State University. After over an hour of sharing ideas, these key advisors gladly accepted Amory's invitation to visit RMI.

Other Moscow meetings included the acting Minister of Energy; members of the nongovernmental sector, including Igor Bashmakov of the Center for Energy Efficiency, and Alexey Yablokov of the Center for Russian Environmental Policy; a lecture at the Russian Academy of Sciences that was well received by an audience including some of Russia's most prominent scholars; and an interview with Amory for an environmental program on the NTV station.

Because of Gregg's experience and skills in regional energy planning, and his long-standing interest in the Altai region of southern Siberia, SEN brought him there for a week before we met Amory and Ed in Moscow.

There, we repeatedly encountered the desire to create an energy-independent Altai Republic. The Minister of Economics, local nonprofit organizations, and scientists, already working as an alliance, showed great interest in the possibility of SEN's participation in developing a regional sustainable energy plan, along with demonstration sites showing how it could work.

What with the high price of coal and electricity from neighboring regions, and the government's plans to build a major road and gas pipeline through the republic's protected mountain regions (see accompanying article), plus the recurring debate over a potential dam on the pristine Katun River, energy and economic issues seem to be discussed passionately at all levels of society.

Farther north, in Novosibirsk, Gregg and Alyson were hosted by Igor Ogorodnikov, founder of the NGO "Ecodom," which is promoting a city wide plan for energy efficient building construction. The project's board of trustees is chaired by the Mayor of the city. There is strong support among officials and nonprofits for their plan, which will begin with the construction of a prototype "ecohome" this fall. Here, Gregg offered new information and contacts to people working on a variety of energy issues.

Throughout our time in Siberia we heard over and over again the need for business people and entrepreneurs to invest funds and bring new technologies to the region, where there is both an abundant and highly educated labor force and under used industrial capacity. One popular idea: bring western wind technology to Siberia, and build generators there, using local materials and labor.

All in all this exchange allowed SEN and our hosts and delegates to gain a great deal of new information about prospects for future collaboration. Like many SEN exchanges, this one laid the groundwork for many exciting opportunities for partnership and joint projects. We can't wait to bring more people to Siberia!

Trip delegates Amory Lovins (left) and Gregg Eisenberg (right) meet with Gennady Mesyats (center), vice president of the Russian Academy of Sciences. (Photo Alyson)

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Revised August 27, 2001