The Anam Earth Center for Sustainability and Culture was conceived as a visionary, strategic, entrepreneurial, systems-change youth, community development, and environmental organization in the mid 1990s. We received IRS determination as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization in April 2000. The first Board of Directors met regularly to develop research-based strategies to address the most pressing ecosocial sustainability issues and prepare young people to assume responsibility and leadership in community problem solving.
In the summer of 2002, we received major funding to create a new rural youth conservation corps program to conduct ecological restoration on forests and watersheds damaged by the Rodeo-Chediski wildfire, a national disaster that hit northeastern Arizona. Western wildfire disasters are worsened by climate change. We created the White Mountain Youth Corps to train and employ rural tribal and non-tribal youth from the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and the greater White Mountains region around Show Low, Arizona. We transitioned the White Mountain Youth Corps to an independent organization to create more opportunities for young people and to better respond to ecological conservation needs of the regions.
In 2003, the Anam Earth Center for Sustainability and Culture relocated operations to the Finger Lakes-Great Lakes ecoregion in Central New York near Syracuse to address the sustainability needs of urban/rural interface communities and ecosystems of the Northeast.
In New York, the Anam Earth Center for Sustainability and Culture began working with local community and faith-based organizations on pressing environmental justice issues. We helped develop strategies and models for mobilizing and engaging youth and young adults in environmental, environmental justice and sustainability issues from their religious and cultural perspectives as part of regional and global Care for Creation movements.
With inspiration from Francis and Clare of Assisi and the Franciscan tradition, we developed the Franciscan Ecology Center to promote a Franciscan ethic and Franciscan ecology approach and helped develop new collaborative strategies for sustainability education, ecospirituality and ethics, environmental justice advocacy, and ecological restoration with service learning.
In 2003, the first Franciscan Earth Corps young adult program was implemented at Syracuse University and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. College student members of the Franciscan Earth Corps helped to implement the first Franciscan Earth Club for junior high and high school students in Syracuse. We collaborated with the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse to develop a Franciscan Spirituality and Nature Center (SANC) at Alverna Heights next to Green Lakes State Park in Manlius. With the financial support from the Franciscan community, a second Franciscan Earth Club was established in the inner city of Syracuse.
In 2006, the Anam Earth Center for Sustainability and Culture expanded to Albany County, New York, and new operations were set up in rural Clarksville, southwest of Albany, just north of Lawson Lake County Park and west of the Bennett Hill Nature Preserve. A new field office and learning center were set up at Glendara Homestead.
New initiatives, including a new branch of the Franciscan Earth Corps, were developed in partnership with Siena College just north of Albany. In 2007, with financial support from the Franciscan Friars and the allocation of a Siena VISTA fellow, the Anam Earth Center developed the Urban Environmental Health and Justice initiative to study environmental justice issues in the Kromma Kill watershed along the Hudson River. We also worked with the Franciscans to conceptualize an international Franciscan Ecological Sanctuary and environmental justice center in the rainforests of Bolivia. The Franciscan Ecology Center worked with the Franciscan Action Network to publish the “C4C: Franciscan Care for Creation” training program, and to promote Franciscan approaches to climate justice mobilization with faith-based communities. The Franciscan Action Network took on leadership for Franciscan Earth Corps.
The Anam Earth Center for Sustainability and Culture created the Anam Circle as an intergenerational think tank (or “think and do tank”) to bring together college students and graduate students as junior fellows and their scholar mentors as senior fellows. Anam Circle fellows provide thought leadership on local rural and urban sustainability and resilience issues by providing integrated policy analysis based on cutting edge social-ecological systems tools and approaches.
In 2008, the Anam Earth Center for Sustainability and Culture developed a new pilot project for middle school and high school youth called 4H Earth Clubs. In collaboration with public schools and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Albany County, we established a small network of after-school 4-H Earth Clubs to explore sustainability issues. In 4-H Earth Clubs, college students mentor youth to identify local watershed-based environmental sustainability problems, plan solutions, advocate for resources, and then implement ecological restoration projects. The initiative was expanded in 2012 with funding from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program.
In 2008, the Anam Earth Center for Sustainability and Culture expanded operations by developing an Eco Mamas and Papas program to work with urban young parents and their pre-school children to learn about sustainable living and environmental health issues. Eco Mamas and Papas was transformed into a new program for toddlers and young children and their young adult parents. The program is called Síolta (Irish for “seeds”). Parents and children gather to celebrate seasonal cultural festivals and traditions, and participate in weekly nature-centered cultural activities and food preparation as a way of moving toward sustainable simple living.
In the summer of 2016, the Anam Earth Center for Sustainability and Culture completed its new draft of the EarthQuest game. Originally developed in 1999 as an environmental and climate change game for informal clubs of youth and young adults, EarthQuest has been play-tested with young people and revised several times over the past several years. EarthQuest is a hybrid table-top scenario and simulation game for engaging teams of youth and young adults in game-based learning about climate change, their local environment and civics. The game integrates storytelling with group role-playing and electronic multimedia for social learning and collaborative problem-solving. We are currently beta-testing EarthQuest, and are seeking funding to complete the final development of the game materials, including a mobile device app, and to begin national distribution.
The Anam Earth Center for Sustainability and Culture partnered with the Onesquethaw-Coeymans Watershed Council to restore and protect the Onesquethaw-Coeymans watershed, and to mobilize watershed communities to move toward sustainability. We have been actively engaged in community-based networking, local environmental governance work, local sustainable economies work, and in developing community-based ecosystem management models and tools. Much of our applied work on sustainability education is focused on applied sustainable living models developed at Glendara Homestead.