Bridges or Walls for a Sustainable Planet?

(A Case for Bridges)

As I contemplate writing I admit to a whirling dervish mind. I want to pack in all of my experiences at a recent Board retreat in Ensenada, Mexico as a member of an international Board on which I sit. Why? Because it was that meaningful and I always want to share important, impactful chapters in my life as Mrs. Green. I hope the ultimate take away for you, the reader, will be similar to mine: why we need to build bridges instead of walls and why that is the only sustainable solution for our planet.

The name of the organization is CEDO Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts & Oceans. Its mission is to empower coastal communities in the Northern Gulf of California region with the knowledge and tools to create sustainable livelihoods that exist in concert with the surrounding natural and multicultural environment. Sounds good right? But what does CEDO do that really got to me?

Bridge Thought #1
I spent hours with some of the brightest, most passionate, inspiring people from both the US and Mexico all dedicated to preservation of the planet and all of its inhabitants. I learned about the work of the CEDO staff who spend every day of their lives studying things like “managing spatiotemporal participatory system of the coastal and marine area in the Sea of Cortez as a tool for integrated management.” And not only do I know what the heck that even means but I also learned the reason why it matters to all of us:  because it involves saving entire species and eco-systems and the very livelihoods of hundreds of people who feed their families from fishing. They are citizens of the same planet on which I live and their lives matter to me.

Selfish reason for us to care? Americans eat LOTS of the fish they catch and isn’t figuring out how to preserve the habitat of those fish important to all the fish eaters out there?

Bridge Thought #2 – Saving the Vaquita from extinction
So what the heck is a vaquita and why should we even care? It’s a porpoise and did you ever meet anyone who didn’t love porpoises? The vaquita is considered the MOST endangered marine mammal on Earth – our earth. There are probably fewer than 180 individuals left. The primary threat? The use of gillnets by coastal fishermen of the region. Their survival depends on finding alternative livelihoods for fishermen who depend on these fisheries (to feed their families) or finding alternative gear for the most economically important fisheries, such as SHRIMP!

Vaquita-smWith the recent extinction of the Yangtze River dolphin, also known as the baiji dolphin in China, the vaquita porpoise, now becomes the world’s most endangered marine mammal. That number is down from just over 500 ten years ago and it is estimated that the population could be declining by 25 each year. At this rate, vaquita are declining to a level where extinction may be inevitable regardless of efforts underway or good intentions. The baiji dolphin was the first cetacean species to be documented as being driven to extinction by humans. The vaquita could soon join it.

So what does all of the above have to do with building bridges? We need to use every single bit of collective knowledge, research, and experiences in our GLOBAL community to work together to persevere this great planet of ours and all of the species that inhabit it. And by working together with Mexico, the Mexican Government, the fishermen, the CEDO staff and researchers working in the Northern Gulf and coastal communities, we can “protect and preserve” so that our children and grandchildren might just get to see those vaquita. I know I want to.

Bridge Thought #3
This one is REALLY a stretch but was part of my experience. Former Congressman Ron Barber sits on the CEDO Board with me. In case his name doesn’t ring a bell, he was shot on the same day as Gabby Giffords along with 6 other people who died and 13 who were injured. Ron is an old and dear friend and we had a chance to talk about his experience on very deep levels. I will hold those memories close and dear. I asked him if I could share in my newsletter about how he was cured from insomnia – I mean the horrible insomnia that most of us can only imagine – the kind of nightmares and totally sleepless nights and extreme PTSD that one experiences after being shot and literally seeing friends die right in front of your face. This bridge is about an alternative therapy that Ron was willing to try called EMDR therapy and about opening our minds to considering alternative treatment modalities that don’t involve taking drugs – which weren’t curing anything in this particular case. It’s about building healthy bridges and getting our Western medical culture to learn about and embrace them and about getting health care companies to pay for them if the science supports that they work.

What is EMDR therapy? Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. Basically, it’s a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress. According to Ron, he had not slept for days (which was interfering with his recovery) and after one treatment, he slept for 10 hours – a peaceful, restful, restorative sleep. We all build lots of walls in our minds and treatments like EMDR are scoffed at and ridiculed. But in this case, it helped my friend and one of my heroes – because he was willing to open his mind and knock down a wall.

Opening our minds to what is possible – working together for a socially just and sustainable planet, working together by building bridges and sharing our collective knowledge, by looking at best practices from around the world, by getting to know and spend time with people from every walk of life and, yes, even stretching our minds to include how to live healthy, happy and intentional lives using alternative healing modalities does work. Building walls has never worked. In many cases, all walls do is give us a false sense of security without ever taking a deeper look at the reason we built them in the first place.