There is great natural beauty in America; the sight of Mt. Shasta on the horizon, with the knowledge that there is an abundance of spring water there and a beautiful township on the side of the mountain, it leaves a wonderful impression of life in California. It heralds a warmth that my skin, heart and mind embraces .
The sight of the natural forests that echo back into the ancient heritage of the First Nations, you can see how growing up in California would inspire a love of the environment.
In the midst of these incredible visuals of the North American West Coast, I am blessed with the delightful, intelligent and peaceful dialogue of Elaine, as she drives knowingly through her home state of California. We have recently met each other in Vancouver and are united on a road trip to PranaFest in Oregon and then onto Black Rock City in Nevada. It is a journey for exploring the regions of the West Coast – the mountain sides, the forests, the hot springs as well as the communities enriched by the consciousness of locals and travellers alike.
Elaine is worldly for a manner of reasons; the daughter of Taiwanese migrants, her success as a scholar is greatly supported by her accomplished academic family. Her vision as a young woman is one that has enabled her to achieve great international success and her wisdom is calm whilst electric with an inspirational force.
A University of British Columbia PhD scholar, her education as an Environmental Law Student sparked a passion for transboundary conservation areas and promoting peace and cooperation around the world.
In the wake of this field, her work and interests has led her to travelling great distances to participate in peace park research; from Costa Rica to the Heart of Africa – Uganda, Rwanda and The Congo – Elaine has encountered a spectrum of the natural world.
Whilst, conversely, this opportunity has also led her living in some of world’s largest cities; as an undergraduate in Los Angeles, a Law student in New York City and studying abroad in London and Japan.
Most recently, as an organiser and speaker at the World Parks Congress in Sydney in November, Elaine has had the opportunity to travel in Australia.
It is in the shadow of an Australian Government in which the Prime Minister Tony Abbott is hauntingly characterised by Orwellian political slogans in which he declares that “coal is good for humanity.” The significance for environmentally focused initiatives in the global community to have an ignited platform with a core for progressive dialogue and active focus is essential to Australia’s health as a developed country.
Elaine as a speaker at the Congress provides a genuine voice in the realm of environmental consciousness and conservation. It is a confident one, and it up coming leaders such as her that form the backbone of a new generation of activated environmentalists and global citizens.
Elaine’s travels in Australia have enabled her to meet prominent Australian political leaders as well as off-the-grid Australians in New South Wales living in self created sustainable housing.
One of those creating thriving environments is Dan, a Byron Bay based Creative Director at, Starseed Gardens since 2005. Dan’s most recent direction is exploring systems of perpetual renewal and designing human interfaces to enable harmonic human communication, relationship and custodianship of the natural world. “A Holistic Vision Blooming into Reality.”
In Sydney, a group meeting with Senator and Leader of the Australian Greens, Christina Milne, enables the importance of international communities to share the environmental priority for The Great Barrier Reef.
Queensland’s GBF is the worlds largest coral reef system of is of significant natural value. Even the US President Barack Obama mentioned this importance in his speech at the G20 Summit in Brisbane. A wish for his daughters to be able see it infused the inherent value of the Reef and the significance for cross generational environmental awareness and appreciation.
Elaine reflects on her own relationship of being a child and the importance of environmental consciousness.
“My family took me to protected areas, walking in the foot hills and encountering wildlife. Being taught in public school that the San Francisco bay had been filled in and wildlife was endangered and there are things we can do about it.”
Elaine sights that the values of environmentalism in day to day life, was “a part of growing up in California.” With a state highly affected by drought, water conservation was important. And active citizen roles in the conversation of energy and resources through reusing and recycling was a part of the community awareness of the human impact on the environment and waste.
In a reflection of this upbringing, Elaine mentions that the lifestyle of environmentalism – in the culture – “as a child, through education and being involved in protected areas, endangered species protection and the natural environment opens up your consciousness in youth to the environment.”
“California, with the impressive natural landscapes, the worlds largest red wood trees, Yosemite national park, makes you aware of what is lousy and what were capable of protecting if we want too.” And it is true, one can’t think of California without being reminded of the first time I witnessed the monster city of L.A. on a flight path; the sight of the lava like streams and pools of red light seemed endless in the darkness of the night. I noticed that everyone else on the plane as stared out the windows awe struck to see it, and I wondered about the insane reliance on cars and highways as a way of life in a modern city.
California is speckled with diverse cities and towns. Los Angeles and San Francisco are human jungles in one of the countries largest farming and forest regions. It is a densely populated State – with around 38 million people – it outnumbers Canada’s entire population of 35 million. It is the breathing cultural lungs for the America I’ve known from across the ocean, uniquely holding a space for film, art and technology produced for a global network.
And that is why I am so relieved to have travelled through California with someone as empowered and intelligent as Elaine, working with global initiatives for the environment.
A former resident of L.A., her work has been starkly different to the environmental avenues she has pursued. I ask about the reasons for becoming involved in this field and she reflects on the experience as one of inherent love for how you experience your work.
“At the time I was working with Marketing in the Entertainment industry. Without making a lot of money and not having much inspiration from my work, I knew I’d always had an interest in environmental work, but it always more on the side. So I decided that, if I’m going to be poor, I would rather respect and be inspired by work that I love. There are a ton of reasons why we should be working for the environment. But to make that jump, it was a chance to be around something that I loved and be surrounded by people that I admired.”
Since that decision, Elaine’s passion and integrity have opened up the doors to the admirable, citing Professor Nick Robinson at Pace Law School, NYC, as one for spending his life dedicated to environmental conservation. “Being one of the early pioneers of environmental law in the US, on the forefront of pushing environmental conservation through the legal system, he helped open up that gateway for so many others.”
And in recent times, her work has also directed back into her own “backyard,” as issues of Conservation and Protected areas are highlighted by the admiration she feels for the First Nations people in North America that have faced, “deep cultural loss. I am inspired by the indigenous stories and people that fulfil that responsibility to Mother Earth in the face of disenfranchised men and being removed from their land in the wake of cultural genocide. There are Generations of scars, to see half of their families dealing with those scars in unhealthy ways or to come out of extreme poverty and fulfil the ancestors duty, in those circumstances, it is incredibly admirable.”
Elaine also is incredibly proud and in admiration of the work of young Indigenous Environmentalist, Ta’Kaiya Blaney.
“I am so grateful that she is doing what she is doing. Speaks her truth, and is not afraid. A lot of people tell children to not have a voice, to leave it to the adults. I believe we should let her be and let her become her maximum potential instead of trying to silence her. Give her a platform, if we activated other children in that same way, other people, if we empowered them, it would be a way to open up people to their gifts.”
“Shutting them down limits us from doing what we need to do. To talk about the things that aren’t pretty. She’s such a great example.”
“For a lot of people that think that culture is lost and that people are plastic. The environmental protection is all about reclaiming cultural identity. It is all interconnected. Which is why it is important for a girl that is coming into being a young woman, grappling with self identity, bringing people into environmentalism can have huge impacts on their own identity and potential save our cultures so to speak. Her nation has lost it’s nationhood because they signed away their rights to the Canadian government. Sliammon Nation, with the loss of their land, is the loss of their place, and the loss of their identity caused by environmental change.”
As an Earth Visionary, Elaine sees the importance of empowering youth:
“Defining youth, not by boxes, define ourselves by our actions. A commitment to actions. That we beleive to help co-create the world that we want, not the one that’s been given to us, not the one we’ve been told to accept but the one that we want. Generation now. Generation action. Young people today and into the future are going to be dealing with it because climate change has been set in motion. So many of the physical things, as a human being we take for granted the stability of environmental. When our environments shift before our eyes it can be unsettling.”
She also envisions and speaks on behalf of “going beyond sustainability… being more than being “less bad”, not just potentially sustainable, living in harmony, being retentive, not just with ourselves but with the rest of creation and having healthy lives.”
And on the concept for “health,” she defines that our lifestyles being healthy is core to our environment being healthy.
Define Health : “In Mind, Body, Spirit:- when we’re making the choices that are healthiest for us, are also healthy for Earth. If we promote nature in our environment. It’s healthy for all life. Health on all the levels. A healthy being – spiritual, emotional, mental, is better for everyone as a collective. Living in a healthier world, a less wasteful world. Helping each other more collaborative, less competitive.Healthy Minds – freeing our lives from addictions and prejudices. Peaceful societies which makes for better environments. The less war and violence we have, that’s healthier.”
The Shadow of our Earth: ” Being honest about the problems, critical of them, and being a change maker and leading by example. Not waiting around for anyone else, not even your government. Do what you can do within your spheres of influence. And collectively our spheres are bigger.
EARTH VISIONARY LINKS FOR INFORMATION:
World Parks Congress: Visions for Sydney
StarSeed Gardens: Visions for Restoration of the Environment in Byron Bay
Takaiya Blaney: Empowering Youth for Environmental Initiatives