A deteriorating environment is affecting lives the world over. The gradual increase in temperatures,irregular weather patterns and their combined overall impact on world eco-system are changing the face of the earth, threatening plants and animal species and altering the conditions necessary even for human survival. Several individuals and organizations are working to arrest this phenomenon and help slow down the impact. The Pachamama Alliance is one of them, and the organization’s most successful initiative is the ‘Awakening the Dreamer’ symposia, which not only spreads awareness and makes people conscious of the roles they can play, but also trains interested persons to carry the message forward.
Linda Foster, the designer and trainer of the Awakening the Dreamer project, is stopping in Nepal to hold one of the series of symposium she hosts in different part of the world. In an email interview, Linda shares with Amendra Pokharel her views about the project and tells us why those concerned with environment and a wholesome society must attend the symposium to be held on 6 July, 2009.
How did the plan to hold the ‘awakening the dreamer’ symposium of pachcmama alliance in nepal came through?
I saw that there was a need for spreading the message in Asia and I have always had a fascination with Nepal. Yam Pokhrel agreed to help me by hosting a symposium in his country.
What are the immediate and long-term goals of ‘awakening the dreamer’ project and symposia?
At the symposium, we provide people with cutting-edge information, the opportunity for group interactions and media that is informative, inspiring and empowering. Our immediate goal is to educate people about the state of our environment, social injustice and our own individual personal well-being. We look at how we came to be in the imbalanced state we are in, learning new ways to relate with our world, environment, and other living creatures, and to each other. There is an emerging force for change all around the globe. The long-term goal is to inspire change after considering our current state, how we got here, and examine where we want to be in the world, and consider both our personal impact and our impact as a group.
Why is there a need for a symposium like that in nepal? Are nepalese ready for the message that you are coming with?
From what I have gathered from conversing with Yam Pokhrel, there are many in your country who are very enlightened, and very ready to hear our message.
You say it is possible to live with a new vision, i.e. a marriage of the technological skill of the modern world, with the earth-honoring wisdom of indigenous cultures. Can you elaborate citing examples of practical nature in nepalese or foreign contexts?
There are many examples of people changing their ways, from small steps to large ones. A small example is people in my country who did not formerly recycle, are now recycling or they are volunteering to help less fortunate. A large example is taking place in Ecuador, which has the endorsement of its country’s president to the Green Plan that “seeks to ensure sustainable development, cultural continuity, indigenous territorial rights and biodiversity conservation of the Southern Amazon region in Ecuador, by assembling socio-economic development options as alternatives to petroleum extraction and expansion.”
What significant successes you have achieved since you started the campaign?
The successes I have personally achieved are getting people involved in spreading the word, learning, rethinking their actions and taking new positive action. Many of the people whom I have met at symposiums have gone on to become trained facilitators like myself and are holding their own symposiums. Participating in Powershift2009, where thousands of American youth came to Washington, DC, to encourage our government to find alternative sources of energy, was another important success. I met young people there who are truly inspired and are actually taking action. One group of students from a university in Chicago came all the way to Washington, DC, in a van fueled by bio-diesel fuel that they had made themselves under the supervision of their professor (who came with them). I find that youth are the most inclined to change and action, and they are our future and our hope.
Is the symposium in nepal going to be just a stopover symposium or do you have a long-term plans to get your message across to the wider nepalese audience through sustained campaigns?
I am hoping that Yam Pokhrel will train to become a facilitator (he has expressed interest) and I personally plan to return to Nepal. Usually, after holding a symposium, people want to get involved and host their own. We will help them do that and in that way, spread the word throughout Nepal hosting one symposium at a time. However, the growth is often exponential!
You also have volunteering opportunities and facilitator training programs. Who are eligible? What are the challenges the volunteers and facilitators will have to be ready for? What kind of commitment the alliance looks for in them?
Anyone is eligible that expresses an interest. There is a cost for the training, about $200 for food and board, which runs from Friday through Sunday, and is currently offered only in the USA, Canada and the UK. However, we are looking for ways to train people via the Internet, as we realize that those we reach in Asia and other areas of the world, may not be able to travel for training. A program for online training is being developed now. You only need to be ready to look closely at yourself, open to learning and participation.
Your main intervention area is rain forest. But one of the major challenges that nepal, being a himalayan nation, faces is the melting of glaciers. And there are other environmental problems.
What are the issues that your seminar will incorporate? Is it just environment or are you going to address other issues also?
The seminar looks at issues that are worldwide, and our melting glaciers is certainly a problem that affects us all. Everyone is encouraged to discuss their concerns with each other at the end of the symposium, as we must work together to find solutions to a host of problems. We address a variety of environmental issues, issues that revolve around social injustice and issues of spirituality: becoming more connected with the web of life, our earth and each other.
The ‘Awakening the Dreamer’ Symposium will be held in Apex College Hall in Old Baneshwor. For more information on the symposium or to register online log on to http://awakeningthedreamer.org/#, or email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.