| On the foggy morning of Thursday, October 29th, 2009, Peter Banks and I set out early to represent Lambton Wildlife Inc (LWI) at the 11th Annual Conference of the Ontario Land Trust Alliance (OLTA). The conference was held at the Kempenfelt Centre in Barrie. Hidden in a beautiful deciduous forest, the modern Conference Centre overlooks Lake Simcoe. On our arrival, loons still lingering on the lake and trees still cloaked in bright yellows and oranges made for a grand autumn scene.
The theme of the conference was “Solid Foundations: Together We Can!” Over the 2 1/2 days of the conference, Peter and I were exposed to a compelling and dynamic keynote speaker, to some excellent and some not-so-great workshops related to Land Trust issues, to motivational speakers with moving personal stories, to Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources, to landowners who had donated their wilderness lands, to the dedicated people who run OLTA, to the magician at the Awards Banquet, to OLTA’s 2009 Award Winners, to exhibitors ranging from Bullfrog Wind Power to the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust, to good food and good accommodations and, above all, to people representing various Land Trusts, Environmental Organizations, Conservation Authorities, and Government Agencies with a common bond - a ‘Love of Nature’ and a passionate desire to protect and enhance our Natural and Cultural Heritage for future generations.
Day 1: Peter Forbes, a writer, photographer, farmer, conservationist, and co-founder of the ‘Center for Whole Communities’ from the Mad River Valley in Vermont, served a triple-function on the first day of the conference. He delivered the keynote address, conducted the all-day ‘Whole Communities’ workshop and topped it off with an unforgettable, heart-warming, passionate and inspiring evening session.
In his keynote address Peter, who has built a national reputation in the US as the champion of more than 100 successful Conservation Projects, stressed that people like us must champion environmental and social change by reconnecting people to Nature and by engaging ‘Have’ and ‘Have-Not’ communities alike in novel and persuasive ways to once again bond with the land. We must reach out to the 98.5% of the population who are not members of a ‘Nature Organization’ and who do not subscribe to a ‘Nature Publication’. He concluded with these thought-provoking reminders: ‘For a Land Trust Conservancy to be successful, building relationships is as important as place… It is not enough to care, we must act to protect our Natural and Cultural Heritage’.
In the course of the ‘Whole Communities’ workshop, Peter introduced us to the Spanish word ‘Querencia’. It conveys such meanings as a sense of place and belonging, returning to your roots, connecting with people, love and being loved, Aloha, a sense of who I am as a person, a sense of caring and bonding with the land,...Throughout the remainder of the day, Peter repeatedly invoked the spirit of ‘Querencia’.
Next he gave us a glimpse of some novel ways employed to protect ecologically valuable lands: Land Trusts are introducing the ‘Food’ component in Conservation Easement Agreements (CEA’s) to bring local communities and local producers together. Land Trusts are buying forests and contracting out the lumber rights. US Voters in some jurisdictions have successfully tied their tax dollar to conservation efforts. The Nature Conservancy has built a school for the children of a remote Montana ranching community and 17 families of ranchers have agreed to stay and reintroduce bison to the area as part of a CEA. Land Trusts work together with beef farmers and government to secure funding for fencing and cattle drinking stations. Land Trusts provide land for community members interested in gardening and growing their own organic food.
Peter then asked this question: ‘What do Communities need to hear from Conservationists?’ In our discussion we came up with this list: We listen; we care; we want to change the natural environment for the better; we seek balance; we respect you and your views; we value your contributions; we are going to inspire you, not demand of you; we want to create a Culture of Belonging, not one of Suspicion and Fear; we want to work together with you to achieve a common goal; we want everyone, including future generations, to win.
To illustrate how change happens and how a single individual can profoundly change society, Peter Forbes took us back to 1963. He showed us a black and white video of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. making his ‘I have a dream…’ speech to a huge crowd in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. It was the defining moment of the Civil Rights Movement and it changed America. It was the first time I had seen the complete version of King’s passionate speech and it raised a number of questions in my mind: What was it that made Dr. King so influential? What was it in this speech that connected so deeply with people? Who will bring about the defining moment of the Environmental Movement and profoundly change our world for the better?
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Klaus Keunecke: A volunteer for nature, an LWI Member, a Bullfrog Power Customer.
Websites to visit: www.olta.ca, www.wholecommunities.org, www.yurtinfo.org
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