Education includes people, naturally

 

When I was 20, I joined a college-abroad program in Kenya, Africa, to study the country's magnificent wildlife reserves. But my most memorable experience wasn't the night I nervously watched a herd of elephants crash through our campsite (though that was pretty cool). It came in the dusty, colorful markets of Nairobi. There, walking through a crush of humanity and exotic smells on the crutches I have used all my life, I saw other "disabled" people like me. They weren't buying or selling goods; instead, they sat in the dirt, or propped up on crude crutches against walls, usually holding out tins in hopes of a handout. For a young, sheltered American, it was an epiphany: Only wealth and circumstance separated me from them and their hard, even desperate lives.

Later, in the storied Maasai Mara National Reserve and Tsavo National Park, we learned about the immense human pressures on Kenya's wild places, where farmers and nomadic herders compete with tourists and armed rangers for space and survival. We realized that conservation comes down to the fundamental challenge of meeting human needs without destroying the natural base upon which those humans depend -- a tall order in any country, but especially one with an exploding population.

HCN's associate editor, Sarah Gilman, who assembled this special issue on natural resource education, had a similar revelation years ago on a field course offered by Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. The Semester in the West program, still going strong after a decade, allowed Gilman and her fellow green-leaning college students to experience the West through the eyes of a variety of people: ranchers, water developers, federal land managers, environmental activists and many others. It gave them more visceral and nuanced experiences than they ever could have received in a lecture hall. And many have carried that awareness of the complex relationship between human and natural needs into their adult working lives.

Today, many educational organizations and institutions offer incredible learning opportunities -- both in the field and the classroom -- for students to dig into the West's meaty issues. That goes beyond wildlife studies; it also includes surging energy development and the sometimes controversial academic universe it's created, as documented by longtime HCN contributors Joshua Zaffos and Jeremy Miller.

Every New Year, many of us resolve to become better, smarter and more useful citizens. With this issue, we've done our best to spark your educational interest. Even so, we ran out of room, so I hope you will take some time to peruse this issue's especially robust advertising section, perhaps exploring some programs on your own. Better yet, share this issue with the young people you know. After all, they are the ones who will inherit the increasingly daunting task of accommodating the West's ever-growing human presence while protecting its beauty and wildlife.

High Country News Classifieds
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    The Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations to value, conserve, enhance, manage, and protect...
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • ARIZONA PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    Title: Public Lands Organizer About the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) The AWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • NORTH TUCSON FOOTHILLS
    11.63 acres of lush desert foothills on Tucson's near north side, secluded, secure, no HOA. 10 minute walk to Waldorf and Montessori schools, regional bike...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • MS ACCESS DATABASE PROGRAMER
    Looking for an access programmer. Contract position. Send resume with references and rates to: [email protected] www.prospace.biz
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.
  • ROADS END CABIN NEAR YELLOWSTONE
    Vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, loft, jetted tub, wifi. Forest, mountain views. Wildlife. [email protected]
  • ACCOUNTING CLERK
    Our director is seeking to employ the services of an Accounting Clerk to assist with various accounting and administrative tasks. This is a great opportunity...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY RADIO PROJECT
    Community Radio Project, Cortez, CO (KSJD & the Sunflower Theatre). Visit ksjd.org and click on the Executive Director search link. CRP is an EOE.