The Edmonton and Area Land Trust’s Culture-Conservation Connection
Pamela Wight, Executive Director, EALT
October 27th, 2011
The Edmonton and Area Land Trust (EALT) is the only regional nature conservancy for the Edmonton area, and besides securing and stewarding lands, we have a mandate to educate about conservation and its benefits. In April 2008, soon after taking up the position of inaugural Executive Director of EALT, I was shown around the agricultural lands of North East Edmonton, which were then slated for development. My ‘guide’ was Jim Visser, local artist and conservationist. We had a short stop at his workshop, where I saw some powerful artwork and I conceived the idea of a Connection between Culture and Conservation, due to art’s potential to inspire, move and engage viewers.
Virtual Art Gallery
EALT’s first project was a Virtual Art Gallery (http://www.ealt.ca/culture-connection/) to add to our Photo Gallery. In addition, in June 2009 we discussed with the City the possibility of their developing an environmental mural as part of their Capital Cleanup murals against graffiti campaign. In September, 2010 the City’s first environmental mural was unveiled (http://www.canadaviews.ca/2010/10/06/a-river-runs-through-it/). The City also held a Children’s Biodiversity Art Competition in association with International Biodiversity Day celebrations at City Hall in May 2011. EALT agreed to host the winners’ works on our Virtual Art Gallery – it’s great to be able to give credit and encouragement to youngsters who are interested in both conservation and art!
Partnering with Grant MacEwan University
Although our Virtual Art Gallery took over 2 years to come to fruition, during this phase, I was also conceiving plans for other types of connections with conservation (music, dance, poetry, etc.) and discussed these ideas with a number of individuals. Among these, Lucille Mazo from Grant MacEwan University was particularly enthusiastic about enabling students to express their interests in conservation and sustainability through writing. EALT’s Culture Connection overlapped with ideas that she also was formulating, related to the University’s Bachelor of Communication Studies program.
Lucille and I agreed that working collaboratively on a connection with literature would be of mutual benefit: EALT would be able to inspire website viewers via a Literary Connections link; and MacEwan University students could have publication credit and an expanded audience for their work. As a result of our partnership, EALT was invited to participate, make suggestions and peer-review papers.
Evolution of the Literary Connections
Our original idea had been an Anthology of Literature which would be published electronically on both organizations’ websites, using student submissions from various classes. However, as committees were struck and discussions progressed, the concept evolved to publishing peer-reviewed online undergraduate journal. The publication was to focus on three areas, which overlap with EALT’s interests:
Conservation: this was of core importance to EALT, since we are a conservancy
Sustainability: EALT is aware that conservation is one of the key tenets of sustainability. We had already developed a chart to show that to enable sustainable development, one needs to sustain natural capital (or ecological goods & services) in order to develop societal wellbeing and quality of life (http://www.ealt.ca/media/uploads/What_Do_We_Conserve.pdf)
Global Warming: this is only one aspect of climate change, which is a long-term, usually human-induced shift in climate. We know that conserving green spaces is both a mitigation and adaptation strategy for climate change (http://www.unhabitat.org/downloads/docs/GRHS_2009Brief.pdf).
In September 2010, at a student publication introduction, I was one of the presenters discussing Conservation, and this gave me a great opportunity to meet other topic experts, as well as interested students. Apart from meetings throughout the year, another practical highlight for me was participating in a writers’ field workshop along Whitemud Creek: “Who Will Speak for Nature? Finding a Voice”, where I discussed relevant conservation issues with students from across MacEwan University. I was impressed by their mandate which included “the opportunity to sit by yourself or in pairs, to experience Edmonton’s wild backyard. Write, draw, photograph, create, or just be still for thirty minutes.”
A Student Journal is Born
The idea of the Journal had originally been that MacEwan University students would have opportunities to submit their work; however, this concept also evolved to include lecturers from MacEwan University and other universities, and ultimately it was decided to include suitable international contributions. A number of MacEwan University administrative committees were active, including a guidance and peer review committee, in which I acted as the external member. Writers’ guidelines were developed, as well as several Sections for the journal, and a competition was held to name the journal: Earth Common.
Lucille also had website experts, logo developers, and other committees, and after this organisational work, came the submissions review – a very interesting process for me. Fortunately, I had previously written and viewed for international journals. Many other reviewers and contributors were involved from the student body, library, lecturers, and others – a tremendous collective effort. It seems almost unbelievable after its long gestation process, that the Earth Common Journal is now published and available. The amazing has happened - a journal focused on conservation and sustainability for MacEwan University students, lecturers, and many more!