What better way to engage a group of people as a thinking community than to let them take the stage and share their own learning? The theme for Saturday August 15 (the final day of our summer Building a Land Ethic conference) is Empowering Thinking Communities. The 27 concurrent sessions that will be presented by conference attendees on Saturday morning have been selected, and we are very excited to share them with all of you! Being involved with coordinating the concurrent session proposal selection process was both impressive and a bit overwhelming— we got nearly double the number of proposals than we had space for, which meant that we had some very tough choices to make. This week’s blog post touches on some of the highlights from the great lineup of concurrent session presentations that made the final cut. Even if you can’t join us for the conference, seeing the wide range of projects being shared by people from all different walks is inspiring. We will also be encouraging all of our presenters to write up the ideas from their sessions and share them here on the blog as guest authors in the future! Let us know which of the concurrent sessions you want to learn more about in the comments section below.
The concurrent session presentations are organized into five different tracks that will address the application of Leopold’s ideas in a wide range of contexts including classroom teaching, outdoor education, community-based conservation, art, science, and community engagement.
Track 1. Engaging Thinking Communities
Presentations in this track will focus on how leaders have created opportunities for dialog and engagement with Leopold’s ideas among various audiences, exploring conversations about how we both understand and apply the land ethic in a wide variety of settings, from college campuses to conservation organizations to local communities. One highlight is a session titled Being Bridges: Uniting Factions for Conservation, led by Tovar Cerulli and Karl Malcolm. Tovar is a Ph.D. Candidate from the University Of Massachusetts Amherst, author of the book The Mindful Carnivore, and one of the selected writers in residence for the 2015 Aldo and Estella Leopold Mi Casita residency in New Mexico. Karl is the Southwestern Regional Wildlife Ecologist of the United States Forest Service and a former land stewardship intern at the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Tovar and Karl will present on their personal experiences acting as bridges between so-called “consumptive” and “non-consumptive” environmentalists. They will share the ways they have built bridges among factions by listening for common ground, integrating opposing ideas, blurring lines, challenging overstated divisions, and rejecting prejudice and simplistic labeling.
Track 2. Land Ethic Youth Education
This track will focus on how thousands of educators nationwide are using the Leopold Education Project curriculum and other innovative tools to connect young people with nature and introduce them to Leopold’s ideas. In this track, K-12 teachers and non-formal educators will share ideas on how they have worked to instill a land ethic with the next generation. Dr. Dana Livingston is a professor at Loras College and also serves as our State Coordinator for the Leopold Education project in the state of Iowa. We’re looking forward to hearing Dana present a session entitled Building Receptivity: Leopold and the Future Talk Program. Future Talk gets kids aged 13-17 back into nature by providing meaningful work in natural areas for a stipend. The program includes an 8-week curriculum based on the Leopold Education Project and a model for community engagement that has kids complete volunteer projects throughout the city of Dubuque. The Future Talk program focuses on five key components that relate to Leopold’s Conservation Esthetic: trophies, solo time to reflect outdoors, a change of scene (along with plenty of fresh air), a change of perception, and involvement in stewardship. The volunteer projects completed by participants contribute to the “recreational development” of the people in Dubuque, and are doing so in a manner recommended by Leopold: “building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind.”
Track #3. Working Toward Land Health
Presentations in this track will highlight conservation partnerships and projects that have helped improve the health of the land. We are happy to have a chance to reconnect with Land Ethic Leader Graduate Wendell Gilgert, who will present a session on Cultivating and Engaging Leopoldian Land Stewards. Wendell is the Director for the Working Landscapes Program at Point Blue Conservation Science in Northern California, where one of the goals is to cultivate and encourage ranch landowners that employ Leopoldian values on their land. Wendell credits the foundation’s Land Ethic Leader Program in helping provide a framework for the effort to develop a set of attributes by which a Leopoldian land steward can be identified. Wendell will share the variety of ways that Point Blue’s Rangeland Watershed Initiative is working to engage, cultivate, and encourage land stewardship with ranchers, partners, and collaborators.
Track #4. The Art of Leopold
Art has the ability to communicate with the public in ways that words cannot by challenging one’s perceptions of the surrounding world. This track will feature artists and artisans sharing how Leopold’s ideas have been an inspiration for their creative passions. One of the highlights in this track features artists Rebecca Power and John Steins, presenting The Witness Tree Project and the Art of Engagement. Over the past two years, John and Rebecca have been involved with Witness Tree events that integrate the languages of art, science, public policy, and personal decision-making. They will talk about the connections between the Witness Tree and Leopold’s land ethic, both pointing toward a more holistic dialog that is vital to a sustainable future. John and Rebecca will also engage participants in a creative conversation that will include the production of a collaborative work called “The Good Oak” representing the group’s discussion about thinking communities.
Track #5. The Science of Leopold
This track will highlight individuals who are carrying the scientific tradition of Leopold forward in their research and work. From the practice of phenological record keeping to the science of ecology, a wide range of conservation professionals from many disciplines are building further understanding of the complex entity that Leopold called “the land mechanism.” We are looking forward to learning from Tricia Knoot, a Research Social Scientist with the Wisconsin DNR who will present a session on The Science of Motivating & Inspiring Stewardship. Tricia will talk about social science and evaluation approaches that can help us understand, motivate and inspire people towards active stewardship of the land. Tricia will share examples some of the projects she’s been involved with (including our own Driftless Forest Network) that help to develop a deeper understanding of how people connect to both the land and to one another.
We are looking forward to learning from everyone a part of this thinking community! If you haven’t registered for the conference yet, it’s not too late! The early bird deadline has been extended until July 3rd. We look forward to learning from you and with you this August.