This morning I woke up to a baboon howling outside my safari tent in the middle of Mozambique. As the sun rises over Gorongosa National Park, I set my intentions for the day for me, my five-person team from Additive Adventure, and 35 emerging leaders in the field of disruptive conservation. Disruptive? You bet. It’s disruptive because it’s a new model for building community-driven conservation in some of the world’s most remote and biologically diverse places in the world. Mount Namuli, the site of my now four- year initiative in northern Mozambique called the Lost Mountain, inspired this all.
I believe one of the most fundamental challenges facing our world today is summed up by this one question: can there be powerful collaboration between communities and ecosystems that allow them to both thrive? And to answer this question, we brought the young minds and future leaders of tomorrow into the conversation here at The 2015 Lost Mountain Next Gen Symposium.
Which is what I was explaining recently to Geraldo, my Mozambican counterpart for our ongoing conservation and rural development work on Mount Namuli. “I want their brains,” I said. Geraldo coughed. We’ve been chatting on Skype for three years and I know by now that his well-timed cough means I need to explain myself better. “I am not trying to take their brains. I promise. I want to use them…How would you say that in Portuguese?” It’s the first time we’ve run this Symposium, and it’s been a wild ride. To me, you can be the best scientist or researcher in the world but without a solid foundation of personal vision, strong leadership skills and a deep respect for the natural environment, all that science and research means nothing. So we’ve taken a multi-disciplinary approach to engaging the next generation.
Since we began just a few days ago, the participants have been thrown into the deep end of leadership training, best practices in conservation and wilderness management, and more. Combining a 5-day intensive in the Open Standards approach to Conservation Management with the first-ever delivery of the Leave No Trace platform in Africa (outside of NOLS trainings in Kenya) and transformative leadership training. These classroom activities have been punctuated with visits to Gorongosa National Park for a safari, a lab tour of the E.O. Wilson Center for Biodiversity, and for a visit to the Vinho community. Our ultimate goal is that students will draw from all of these disciples and experiences for the final days of planning and creating a plan for Mount Namuli which will then be vetted with Namuli community members and implemented in August.
Put another way, we’re open-sourcing Namuli. And I can’t wait to see what comes of it. Consider what Gerson Timbissa, a Masters candidate in Rural Engineering at Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo, wrote when we asked him why he wanted to take part in the Next Gen Symposium: “Humans have produced profound changes in our habitat – much more than any animal species. These changes have often been in one direction that veers away from the natural capacity for regeneration of ecosystems. We have acted in our own interests in short term and have not considered the long term implications…today my spirit is captivated by an even greater enthusiasm for those questions – questions that make me invest time in looking for new perspectives. To me, exploring and conserving nature is like moving a chess piece: the victory depends on the way of thinking.”Gerson is one of 21 African university students who have full scholarships to the Symposium. Meet them and the rest of this crew here.
And that’s enough from me. It’s time to give the next generation the floor.
Learn more about The 2015 Lost Mountain Next Gen Symposium here: http://www.thelostmountain.org/next-gen-2015-symposium/
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