Healing And Repairing, Re-imagining Conservation From Where Our Lives Intersect

Year Published:


By Peter Forbes, For Maine Coast Heritage Trust

Written for people everywhere who devote their lives to healthy soils, forests, oceans and people, Healing and Repairing demonstrates through practical examples how better understanding one another will lead to more successful and durable ways to protect nature. At a moment when our nation debates the value of walls and isolation, how might an emerging practice of conservation that honors differences and connects people offer a more compelling story? By carefully examining how this is happening in one place, this essay aspires to respectfully stretch and encourage a change in conservation everywhere. Conservation is Maine is molting as a concept, revealing how much Maine -with all its traditions from privilege to poverty -  has moved the discussion forward toward inclusion and a broader definition of conservation that more and more people can see themselves within. The narrower our definition of conservation the less of it we will have. Maine is asking us to have a different conversation, not one about ecology or one about human well-being but one about how these two things can’t succeed without the other.

The story in brief

Maine is a place shaped by stories. The most important ones are about our relationships, the kind we have with places and the kind we have with each other. This essay explores dozens of efforts underway today to re-think the promise of place-making as bringing those two stories together: repairing and, perhaps, healing some of the divides between us while strengthening people’s connections to a healthy landscape.

Through examining a uniquely modern lineage of conservation from Rockefeller to Rachel Carson to Helen and Scott Nearing, these different perspectives have created an ethic with three goals: protect a place, protect peoples’ relationship to that place, and invite new people to share in those benefits. This essay looks at land trusts working on food security, on rebuilding local wood economies, on fostering local self-determination in the face of global investment, and understanding how to sustain a fishing industry, on improving how some rural cultures treat each other, and how we might consider sharing what we have through a new national park.

Chapter 1: Imagine This. A look at what possible.

Chapter 2: A Story of Two Maines: the edge, centuries in the making, that divides people.

Chapter 3. Who owns Conservation? When does conservation belong to everyone?

Chapter 4: Human Wellbeing. How saving people is connected to saving nature

Chapter 5: Commitment and Creativity. Exploring new measures of success.

Chapter 6: Being in service. How does conservation serve all of us?

If we are willing to change the types of conversation we have and to broaden the audience we commit to speaking with, then conservation can support a much broader range of issues and opportunities.  Conservationists have a longer time horizon and many have unique privileges and expectations that contrast with local views. If conservationists can raise their awareness to consider patterns of class, local fears and shorter time perspectives they can work through many of these divisions and forge understandings to be able to share power and neighbor well. And in this effort to better understand one another, we are learning the skills to protect land in a much more durable way.

In other words, by expanding our awareness and strengthening our knowledge and understanding of people and their needs, we might grow a land-based culture across an entire state that leaves nobody out. Land trusts are taking innovative risks: seeing new connections, building relationships, adjusting patterns of behavior, embracing new strategies, defining new measures of success; these risks are changing the character of these land trusts and creating new opportunities.

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