Cascadia Restoration Guild and Restoration Camping
This page describes an evolving concept. While it may sound well defined, it is intended as a provocative "draft for discussion". We would be grateful for your insight or thoughts. This concept was inspired by the visions of John D. Liu and Commonland, to develop ways of mobilizing popular support to reverse desertification in the Spanish Altiplano in collaboration with local land-owning partners such as AlVelAl. The goal of "restoration camping" is to remove the intermediation of government in ecosystem management, and to bring the labor of agencies, cities and students into a right relationship with rural communities and their landscapes. We envision a membership based direct action guild that collaborates with local landowners, and leverages public sector resources. The entry point is through a mutually beneficial stewardship relationship with land trusts. The Guild establishes seasonal camps and ecological designs on land trust holdings. The guild includes restoration scientists, ecological designers, regenerative agrarians, and ancestral skillkeepers, who trade knowledge and perspectives, as they work to implement designs and develop a watershed vision. Local landowners are invited, neighbor to neighbor, to share knowledge, break bread, and collaborate.
What's the Problem?
Ecosystem restoration is being outpaced by climate change and the destructive lifestyles of growing populations. To live here in the Northwest forever requires that we limit growth, modify how we live, and restore ecosystems.
Local communities that control the land base are disempowered by the tightly held authority of government agencies, and may see their own governments as poorly understood adversaries.
Current restoration efforts depend on taxation and contracting, dependent on government use of authority and a market definition of value. Market valuation is disconnected from ecosystem values, and we cannot tax and spend enough to compensate for historical and ongoing damages.
We don't imagine people in a healthy relationship with ecosystems. Our strategy for ecosystem protection is to acquire land rights one parcel at a time and then exclude people, as if we were not an important part of ecological systems. Regulation restricts all interaction. And then land trusts lack the mechanisms for tending and stewardship.
The education necessary for thoughtful stewardship is hard to get. Ecosystem stewardship is not taught in public schools or upon land ownership. Academic knowledge comes at a high cost, and is abstracted from place and community.
Ecosystem stewardship has become politicized, so that now taking care of ecosystems has become about ideology, power or money rather than about our responsibilities to our children.
Professionals that could contribute to ecosystem tending operate in isolation or even at cross purposes, among different communities of practice, including restoration, construction, research, agriculture, government policy, and ancestral skills.
Young people struggle to find skills and experiences that are meaningful, and that lead to apprenticeship within professional networks.
We are attempting to restore and tend an ecosystem, but the "human systems" we have created are slow, expensive, burdened with conflict, and may ultimately be incapable of broad-scale stewardship. Our current conservation model doesn't "scale up". We need to radically increase ecosystem stewardship, using positive feedback loops. A system of restoration camping creates new resource flows, connects people to each other in place, and focuses on learning by doing the work of restoration with landowners.
How Does Restoration Camping Work?
Restoration Camping is a evolving strategy to practice working and living together tending ecosystem, where we can be temporarily removed from our accustomed ways of life:
Citizens who want to restore join the Cascadia Restoration Guild, which includes a diverse network of professionals, complemented by sympathetic citizens and community leaders.
Land Trusts and other land owners give access to ecologically important sites that become base camps for the guild's operations. The guild's presence at the camp is thoughtful, carefully planned, and enhances the site.
Guild members pay annual dues, and with support from sympathetic business sponsors, we employ camp coordinators.
Guild members go camping where they organize into project teams. Participation is voluntary, and becomes part of professional life, student work-study, internship, or family vacation. Guild members share food costs, and sponsor camping for those that cannot afford it. The Guild is a private club, that operates under a rigorous social contract.
Design/build teams lead projects to enhance base camps, restore landscapes, and build relationships with watershed neighbors. Design teams may bring in additional resources from their home institutions or through grants. Our initial work is to develop base camps to gracefully support the restoration camping lifestyle, and produce the supplies necessary for restoration and camping.
We leverage the value of guild-member's labor and dues to secure public and private grants for capital investments: tools, camping technology, and plant stock. Our continuing seasonal presence makes use of continuous observation, succession and efficient strategies for nudging ecosystems back to abundance and diversity.
Basecamps are a social network where neighbors are invited as guests, to become collaborators and perhaps guild members. Over time, camps serve as a center for development and sharing of practical restoration knowledge. The steady presence of camps, working and eating together, and the opportunity for personal relationships builds trust among allies.
Restoration is leisurely and fun with time for learning, reflection and celebration. Clear roles create a niche for weekend visitors, week-long visitor or seasonal apprentices. At a basecamp, the design and build work creates learning and teaching opportunities, that are enhanced by visiting teachers, peer-to-peer learning, and educational events.
The guild expands over time because restoration camping is full of rich and meaningful experience. As the guild expands, the number of camps increases based on membership and sponsorship. A population of around 500 guild members can support the continuous operation of a camp. As camps and guild membership increases, the number of camps can increase, which increases the rate of recruitment and the potential to establish new camps.
Decision making is shared at an appropriate level, at annual guild gatherings, within watershed networks, at a camp management team, or within a design/build team, to advance opportunities for a life of service.
Eventually there will be networks of camps across Cascadia with opportunities for camp-to-camp learning, and rich and protracted apprenticeship. Restoration base camps and their teams augment and build our stewardship capacity by building community, a process where government agencies are naturally weak.
Prospectus - Draft for Discussion (link to Google Doc) For more information, contact Paul Cereghino