Letter from the CEO | 2018

Next Step for the Environmental Movement: Tribal Symbiosis 

ACES doesn’t play politics. 

Instead of furthering polarization, we focus
on environmental science education that transcends the political fray and aims to bring together Republicans and Democrats alike. We do this because I’ve yet to meet one conservative or liberal who doesn’t want clean air, water, and food, as well as a stable climate and economy. 

For the most part, human desire for wild places like national parks and forests transcends political and cultural affiliations. In fact, regardless of your “tribe,” nobody wants bees to be harmed by pesticides, glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, or coral reefs and forests to die. And on a personal level, no one wants endocrine-disrupting chemicals from plastics, or mercury from coal-fired power plants, impacting children’s health. 

Regardless of race, color, or politics, ultimately we are all “environmentalists,” even though the term is often derided and politicized. Being an environmentalist requires that we work in symbiosis with natural systems, as well as each other – a sort of tribal symbiosis. Symbiosis, defined as an interaction between two different organisms to the advantage of both, is vital to our efforts to build community. 

But to have symbiosis, one must be ecologically literate. This is ACES’ work. We educate for ecological literacy in a way that promotes critical thinking and includes multiple perspectives. As part of this effort, ACES convenes some of the world’s top environmental experts to explore solutions to the most pressing environmental challenges. 

Conservation International’s CEO, M. Sanjayan, shared his global perspective on how developing countries are working to protect endangered wildlife. Ocean plastics expert, Markus Erikson, awakened us to how plastics are impacting our ocean ecosystems and what it will take to fix it. Renowned biologist, E.O. Wilson, showed us how we can save biodiversity through his “half-earth” concept. 

Michael Curtin, CEO of DC Central Kitchen, stunned us about the reality
of urban food deserts and how he feeds more than 5,000 people per
day using food waste. Harvard professor, Naomi Oreskes, made the case as to why, in a world of “fake news,” we must trust scientists. And this summer, former EPA chief and Harvard professor, Gina McCarthy, will open our eyes to common sense strategies to address our country’s biggest environmental and health challenges. 

Convening eco-luminaries is educational for adults, but the foundation
of what we do is hands-on, experiential, outdoor and classroom-based environmental science education for pre-k to college-aged youths. In school classrooms, we teach life, earth, and environmental sciences to more than 5,000 students, helping schools meet state science standards. Outdoors, we teach field programs in partnership with over 60 schools, engaging
a growing diverse population throughout our region and connecting thousands of youths and adults each year to the natural world. I am especially proud to announce that this fall we are expanding our school ecological literacy and field programs to New Castle, Silt, Rifle, Parachute, and Battlement Mesa. 

This report summarizes our education and conservation work in regenerative agriculture, forest health, climate change, ecology, and environmental science. It gives you a glimpse into who we are, hopefully inspiring you to get involved, attend an ACES event, become a member, or even donate to our cause. 

Here at ACES, we believe that protecting the people of our planet means protecting the natural environment. To achieve this lofty endeavor, we need more science education and we must bridge the unfortunate political divide that exists around “environmentalism.” It requires a new vernacular for the environmental movement which includes diversity, humility, social justice, innovation, and yes—tribal symbiosis. 

There is plenty of common ground among us. Ecological literacy is the vehicle to get us there. ACES is bold enough to think we can bridge the divide. 

Chris R. Lane
Chief Executive Officer 


Letter originally published in ACES 2018 Annual Report. To view the ACES 2018 Annual Report, click here