Re Sources Environmental Heroes Award

Aimee Frazier, Girls Explorers Club Founder

September 4, 2014

I am so delighted to receive this award, as acknowledgment of the work we are doing in Wild Whatcom. In the collaborative leadership culture we’ve created, we like to talk about “We, not Just Me” and so I feel I am receiving this award on behalf of the we not just me that makes up Wild Whatcom. Some of that Wild Whatcom community is here tonight: parents, educators, board members, administrators, contributors.

But the Wild Whatcom members who aren't here are the kids of all ages who participate in our programs, who collectively have given over 7000 hours of service to our community; who stretch their edges hiking many mountain miles; who work hard to follow our mottos of Leave No Trace, Collaborate and Compromise, Walk Your Talk, You See It, You Own It; kids who helped start this program 10 years ago . What Wild Whatcom aims to do is create a whole lot of environmental heroes, so I am receiving this award on behalf of them as well.

There are so many ways to mitigate the planetary problems we face, and this year's honorees Mitch, Martha, Fred, Duane represent truly heroic approaches. 

Wild Whatcom's approach focuses on fostering wonder and curiosity through exploration, growing a sense of responsibility and agency through self awareness and collaborative leadership, and directing this leadership toward service to our community, ultimately connecting participants meaningfully with themselves, one another, the community and the earth that sustains all of us.

Our tagline sums this up: Explore, Serve, Connect.

Self-understanding is a foundational piece of our explorations.  Who am I? What challenges me? What scares me? What aspects of myself do I need to work on? How can my unique gifts contribute to our world? 

Our relationships with others is another aspect of what we explore.  What challenges exist in our relationships? What can we work on in our communication, our ability to listen? How can we build bridges, not walls?  

Wild Whatcom also fosters community awareness, helping participants understand that community is not something outside of us - It is us. Each one of our contributions build it. We believe 7 year olds can contribute to our community as effectively as 17 and 77 year olds, and aim to create lifelong stewards through ongoing service, collaborative leaders out of engaged learners. Wild Whatcom fosters relationships that help a generation labeled the Me generation become the We generation. 

A thread that weaves and connects all of our explorations is that of earth understanding, an ever-present joyful awareness that all circles and cycles in the human and non-human realms are interconnected. That every action has a consequence. And that our daily choices make a real difference in the health and vitality of the earth systems that sustain us. 

I mentioned Joy. At the heart of Wild Whatcom's work is Joy.

There is an education writer named David Sobel, who wrote a book called Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education. Sobel observed the effect of sharing dire environmental news with children, inviting them to think abstractly about problems and solutions... this made them resist, pull away, shrink in despair. He termed the results of too-early introduction of abstract ecological problems and bad news – rainforest destruction, climate change, acidifying oceans, etc... –“ecophobia”. Sobel then wondered what inspired the many environmentalists he knew, what was the seed of their impassioned efforts? Sobel found that “most environmentalists attributed their commitment to a combination of two sources: many hours spent outdoors in a keenly remembered wild or semi-wild place in childhood or adolescence, and an adult who taught respect for nature.”

Climbing trees. Building forts. Playing in the sand. Rolling in mud. Smelling the wind. Creating and playing and discovering, outdoors.

Sobel concluded: “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the Earth before we ask them to save it. “

And that is what the “We, not Just Me” of Wild Whatcom is doing: weaving webs of connection to inspire people of all ages to love and care for the earth.  We work on connection, to inspire protection. Connect to Protect.

In an age of commerce and capitalism, it can be challenging to do work that often feels undervalued by society. Thank you, Re Sources, for hosting the Environmental Heroes Awards and valuing the work all these environmental heroes do.