The Arc of Evolution

After nearly six years, and serving more than thirty-five clients across Canada, Highwater Mark Strategy and Communications is evolving. I have accepted an exciting new position with an international conservation effort called the Crown of the Continent Conservation Initiative (CCCI) where I will be the Initiative Coordinator. I’ll officially be employed, full time, by the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, an organization I played a leadership role with as a board member from 1997 through 2004. I’ll work from Canmore, Alberta, where my family and I are settling in nicely after our December move.

My work with CCCI starts on Monday, the 14th, fittingly Valentine’s day. There will be chocolates and flowers.

For the last six years Highwater Mark has been the tool with which I have tried to make the world a better place. Coming on the heels of a dozen years as a full time activist and as Executive Director of a small, scrappy conservation group concentrating on wilderness protection and endangered species preservation, I needed to step back and see if what I had learned could be applied more broadly to help civil society. That was 2005. For the last six years I have worked with a wide spectrum of clients: Ontario’s Voices for Children and Victoria’s Steering Committee on Homelessness; Vancity Credit Union and Mountain Equipment Co-op,  Salt Spring Coffee and Holland Barrs Planning. I worked with governments too: the BC Ministry of Labour and Citizen Services, the Regional District of Nanaimo, and the North Shore Recycling Project.

And I worked with friends old and new in the environmental movement: The Sierra Club BC, the Stanley Park Ecology Society, The Pacific Resources Conservation Society and the Flathead Wild team, including Wildsight and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

It was an often intense and rewarding time, and I learned a great deal, some of which I will try to capture in future blog posts.

I can’t say what the future holds for Highwater Mark. For the time being I’m going to continue to volunteer as a strategic advisor to MitoCanada, a new national health care organization serving people suffering from the debilitating and often life-threatening illness of mitochondrial disease. I’m also helping the Advocate for Children and Youth for the Province of Ontario with an organizational merger with another former client.  And I’m going to do my best to synthesis the last six years of my work to try and leave behind a little insight into how leaders, and their organizations, work (and sometimes don’t) in the day to day effort to make the world a better place. And I will continue to publish books: that will be in my free time.

That’s what the last six years has been for me: an effort to help those who are helping children, families, the homeless, the sick, and the wild things and the places they need to survive. It’s been an honor to serve so many amazing people and organizations.

I see this next stage in my career as an evolution: my great hope is that I can bring all that I learned as an advocate and Executive Director together with the spiritual approach to leadership and advocacy I wrote about in Carry Tiger to Mountain, along with the new skills I built helping businesses, governments and social-profit organizations, to the Crown of the Continent. Sometimes when you’re undergoing these changes in trajectory it’s hard to see how one evolves into the next. But when you stand back its possible to see the arc of that evolution clearly, as I see it now.

My work with the Crown of the Continent Conservation Initiative will be to serve those who are protecting a massive swath of extraordinary land south from Alberta’s Kananaskis Country to Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness, and east from the Rocky Mountain foothills and front to the Columbia Valley in the west. It will be conducted through the lens of preserving a climate-change ark; a refuge where wild things and the human communities that thrive along with them can change and adapt in a world of flux. It is one of the great challenges of our time, and I’m excited to find myself in the middle of it once again.

I have been preparing all of my professional life for a challenge and an opportunity like this. To bring together my passion for the mountains, for wilderness, for wild creatures; and to use the skills I’ve developed as a facilitator, coordinator, planner and advocate under one banner to make things just a little better, for the wild blue-green earth and all those who call it home.

Thanks for being a part of the last six years. I hope I can count on you to be along for the wild ride that starts on Monday.

Preparing for the Perihelion Shift

This is an extraordinary time to be alive.

It is, arguably, the most important period in the history of humanity.

We face the most extraordinary challenges. The twin apocalyptic horseman of climate change and the loss of biological diversity are laying waste to so many of the world’s ecosystems. Global economic systems are failing. War and conflict plague us on nearly every continent.

And now, we see that these three monumental challenges have a common source: borrowing from tomorrow to pay for today. We have failed to respect the natural limits of our life-support systems, and in doing so, have amassed a staggering ecological and economic debt. The scarcity that this had created has lead Dennis C. Blair, the head of US Intelligence — the umbrella organization that overseas the FBI, the CIA and the NSA — to site the global economic crisis as his number one concern for global security.

While the world faces nearly unprecedented threats, I believe we have both the skill and the opportunity to meet them.

And so we have a choice to make:

What do we want to be doing during this most important time in the course of human kind? What do we want to be doing as individuals, and what do we want to do collectively, as a community, as a society, as a species?

The choices that we make now, today, will carry us as individuals and as a species into the next perihelion shift.

The perihelion is the point at which a celestial body, such as a planet or comet, is in its closest orbit to its star. In the case of Earth, the perihelion orbit takes place roughly every 23,500 years. That’s the point at which the Earth’s orbit is closest to the Sun. This perihelion is influenced by all of the other celestial bodies in the solar system. Other planets, moons, comets, and even factors like gasses and dust can influence the perihelion. If none of these other factors were involved, then the earth’s orbit around the Sun, for example, would always be exactly the same. But the gravitational forces of all the other objects spinning through space play a role in determining our trajectory.

People have been observing this for more than a hundred and fifty years. And during that time, they have noted anomalies in their calculations of the parabolic orbits that celestial bodies make around the sun. In short, sometimes planets and other bits of rock and ice, hurtling through space, don’t do what we expect them to: they experience a perihelion shift. Their orbits change unexpectedly. Astronomers guess that these shifts are the result of unforeseen forces: a moon or an asteroid, or even a dust cloud, that they can’t see which influences the gravity of the orbiting body.

We as a species are drawing near to the sun. Who among us will be that gravitational pull that creates the desperately needed perihelion shift that sets us on a new trajectory?

What will your part be in that shift? Your relative gravity need not be immense. Small things can create great change. A meteor can change the parabolic orbit of a planet. But we must choose. Now is not the time to be passive. Decide: what do you want to be doing during this most important time in the history of humanity. And then do it: joyfully, passionately, intelligently, and above all else, with love.

Drawing Closer to the Sun, Varkala, India

Drawing Closer to the Sun, Varkala, India