By Luiz Moraes, Co-Chair, SER2021, The 9th World Conference on Ecological Restoration
Founded over three decades ago, the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) advances the science, practice, and policy of restoration as a proactive solution to the most pressing ecological challenges of our time. Never in the organization’s history has there been such momentous interest and desire to invest and engage in restoration.
But sometimes the challenge can be knowing where to begin. We may feel we lack resources or expertise. Or we think that our small actions are insignificant given the scale of change that is needed. But whether you live in a city or in the country, in a desert or a rainforest, all restoration starts with just one seed sown, one tree planted or one weed pulled.
“I have seen first hand how small, local actions can evolve to have much wider impact,” says Milene Alves. Milene became involved with the Xingu Seeds Network in the Brazilian Amazon at the age of 14. What started as a local initiative to restore the forest has become the largest seed network in Brazil, and a source of livelihood and income for multiple communities in the Xingu watershed. “The Xingu seed network has made a great contribution to the restoration of our forest and is helping protect its future. Just as importantly, though, it has brought together communities and increased prosperity for many people here in the Amazon,” she adds.
Make a Difference Week: Turning small steps to collective and transformative change
The call to action from the UN Decade is clear; conservation alone is no longer enough, restoration of our ecosystems is imperative to secure our future and that of our children.
In her 2013 book, Braiding Sweetgrass, Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, describes ecological restoration as the ‘antidote to despair’: “The stories are piling up all around in scraps of land being restored: trout streams reclaimed from siltation, brownfields turned into community gardens...Your hands itch to pull out invasive species and replant the native flowers...These are the antidotes to the poison of despair.”
If your hands are itching to be part of the solution, come join SER’s Make a Difference Week! This global volunteer event starts on World Environment Day, June 5, and continues through June 13. We invite you to join us in this collective call to action, the collective antidote to despair, by hosting or joining a #MADWeek event in your watershed.
Projects can be as simple as planting milkweed in your backyard to create habitat for Monarch caterpillars or gathering with friends to pull invasives from your local waterway. You can bring together a small group to collect native seeds or coordinate a citizen science monitoring program.
Visit the Make a Difference Week website to learn more, submit a project or sign up to participate!
A new global trajectory
“Make a Difference Week is a fantastic way to inspire engagement from the ground up, but it is just the beginning,“ says Bethanie Walder, Executive Director of the Society for Ecological Restoration. “For the UN Decade to succeed we must continue to build momentum, following the path of change-makers like Milene, Robin, and many others - including thousands of SER members - doing inspirational restoration work around the world.”
As we begin this vital decade, SER is hosting our 9th World Conference on Ecological Restoration (virtually) from June 21-25 at SER2021. We invite you to join the world’s top restoration leaders, practitioners, researchers, volunteers and others, to network and share the latest innovations, research, and policy on restoration. With interactive discussion sessions, workshops, and networking events, you will launch new collaborations and partnerships with restoration colleagues from over 70 countries.
And if you are interested in seeing restoration in action, a highlight of the conference will be our virtual field trips, starting on Friday, May 7. Travel with us from urban restoration projects to coral reefs, from the arctic tundra to the Brazilian rainforests to explore and learn about the diverse ways in which our ecosystems are being restored on every continent.
“SER2021 comes at a crucial time,” says Karma Bouazza, Conference Co-Chair and Ecological Restoration Specialist with Lebanon Reforestation Initiative. “We need a forum where restoration practitioners, scientists, and researchers can exchange ideas and knowledge with indigenous leaders, alongside innovative engineers and bold policy-makers. It’s through these kinds of collaborations, as well as broad individual participation, that we can achieve transformative change.”