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Transformative Conservation

There are constant reminders that the way we conduct ourselves as human societies lays waste to people, species, and ecosystems. The coronavirus epidemic shows how the confluence of stressed ecosystems, lowering biodiversity, lower human health and welfare, and human predation on wildlife harms all the earth and her beings, and especially humans at this time.

I gave a presentation on Transformative Conservation in December before the pandemic, knowing that so much was at a breaking point. I experience devestation daily in my work with the people and parrots of the Americas, and it seems even more clear now that we must not abide all those that have died. I also see much, much more beauty in the people fully committed to caring for the earth, their families, and their fellow species.

Motivated by both beauty and tragedy so regularly these days, perhaps we can collectively turn to seeing that now is the time for Transformative Conservation, which I defined in an earlier blog this way:

We strive to keep our hearts open to our pain and of others, for it compels us to do the inner work so that we have the awareness, resilience, and power to do our outer work on behalf of all the people who are caught in an unjust societal system. We accept the tragedy so, paradoxically, we change it through transformative parrot conservation, or transformative social action of any kind. It’s transformative because the outer societal transformation only comes about accompanied by an inner transformation based on beauty, tragedy, and its result, love. We are not talking about some minor change, but a complete revamping of how we think and live. Through work and experiential immersion in beauty and love, we come out as completely different people on the other side, for we have shed the stories that don’t result in our freedom and the liberation of others.

Perhaps we at One Earth Conservation say it a little bit differently than others, but others have come to similar conclusions. A discussion paper from the IUCN was recently released, “Transformative Conservation in Social-Ecological Systems.” They define Transformative Conservation as conserving biodiversity while justly transitioning to net negative emissions economies and securing the sustainable and regenerative use of natural resources. At first glance this appears quite different but as you get further into the article they say:

Conservation must combine societal transformations of the social and ecological relations, technologies, and institutions that bind local places to global networks, with personal transformations of people’s values, identity, and behavior. We must strongly link societal and personal transformations. Societal transformation hinges upon how tightly families, workplaces, communities, institutions, and government nurture individual transformations and transformative learning. Conversely, despite noble intentions, personal transformation in one’s religion and spirituality, worldviews, values, ethics, and behaviors will fail to systemically improve conservation results, unless one links such development to collective action that transforms our culture, political economy, and institutions. TC in the context of climate change depends on such “outer” (societal) and “inner” (personal) transformations supporting and reinforcing one another, and creating unprecedented ways of living within nature. Stepping into this middle ground, numerous organizations, social movements, and scholars are arguing that ecological degradation is a spiritual crisis that requires a commensurate response, and therefore coupling interfaith unity, ritual, and ceremony with environmental protection and climate justice. The resulting self-empowerment and political action increase the capacity of people to cope with the emerging mental health pandemic around climate anxiety, climate grief, and solastalgia (the distress caused by environmental change while people remain directly connected to their home and territory).

They seem to have captured One Earth Conservation’s mission:

One Earth Conservation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that seeks to heal human systems that diminish individual worth and separates humans artificially from the rest of nature in many ways. We affirm that people must be healthy and develop multiple intelligences so all of life, individuals, and human and biotic systems on Earth can flourish.

The mission of One Earth Conservation is to engage people, communities and organizations in a unique manner that inspires them to contribute to their own well-being and the well-being of life on Earth. We achieve this by encouraging them to support and/or conduct parrot conservation in Latin America and to nurture themselves in nature. We combine work directed outward toward other beings and outward towards nature with work directed inward toward one's own human nature, as outer well-being and inner well-being are inseparable and mutually beneficial.

Our Nurture Nature Program explicitly expounds on our mission, with a multitude of resources, and we incorporate our strategy for Transformative Conservation in our parrot conservation projects throughout the Americas, but we cannot do this alone. We need you to take up the challenge of transformation, and have designed a program, the Parrot Conservation Corps, just for that reason. It’s a new program we designed last year, but it seems to have captured ever more so what the earth needs today.

Always, One Earth Conservation’s model of conservation is highly relational and seeks to “Help people and parrots where they are from where we are.” This has never seemed more important than with the COVID-19 pandemic, that not only restricts travel, but also reminds us how urgent is the call to protect our wildlife, biodiversity, and ecosystems. For when they are vulnerable, it often leads to disease and poor health for many of earth’s beings. Our Parrot Conservation Corps seeks to meet these dire challenges of our times by giving people the tools, understanding, and ability to preserve life on this planet no matter where they are - at home or in the field. Join us and learn to be a parrot conservationist, become part of a vibrant and impactful digital community, and learn to “let the beauty you are be what you do.”

Caren Lacuth in Honduras, interacting with liberated parrots that had been rescued by her people as part of the Apu Pauni project in the La Moskitia region of the country.

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