The Next Generation of Environmental Stewards

Earlier this week, a group of high school girls dedicated an afternoon of their lives to restoring the ecosystem in Patagonia, Arizona. I was lucky enough to work alongside a few masters of their field – permaculture goddess Kate and rainwater harvesting guru David – as they facilitated the construction of permaculture earthworks.

These girls are spending the week at Windsong Peace and Leadership Center, an educational facility located just outside of Patagonia. They’re learning about many different forms of justice (social, food, environmental, etc) and even spending a few days in Mexico learning about the influence of the border to people living on both sides. The forward-thinking facilitators at Windsong put together a program to involve these kids with the Patagonia community in the hope to inspire these future leaders to get involved with their local communities.┬áMy work with the Chicago Botanical Garden’s partner organization, Borderlands Habitat Restoration Initiative, afforded me the opportunity to be a part of the growth of these girls.

After a quick tour of Deep Dirt Farm Institute and the habitat restoration efforts that are underway there, the seven high schoolers, their two mentors, the five representatives from Windsong and four of us from Borderlands Habitat Restoration Initiative got to work. Together we built rock structures that will counteract erosion while capturing rainwater. We set in motion the framework for ecosystem reconstruction. The erosion control structures we built will hold on to more water, supporting pollinator-attracting plants which are the base of the food chain. An abundance of these plants will support a stable pollinator population (and food for migrating pollinators) which will in turn bolster our food system through reliable pollination. And a resilient food system will create a resilient ecological community (for both human and non-human beings alike).

Engaging with the youth, about our connection with the ecosystem was so fulfilling to me. The steps our group set in place to restore the ecosystem were paralleled within the group. The kids were presented with the experience of Kate and David, while the youthful energy of the girls nourished us all. I’m excited for the future resilient relationships that will form due to my work with Borderlands Habitat Restoration Initiative.


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About Caleb

I'm an ecologist, environmental educator, sustainable landscape designer, and a naturalist. I work with to restore native pollinator habitat in and around the farms of Southern Arizona. My goal is to forge connections between people and the natural world.

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