The California Chaparral Institute exists to help everyone better understand and appreciate the chaparral, California’s dominant and iconic plant community. Our ongoing battles to protect nature requires activities like sending in comment letters concerning ill-conceived habitat clearance projects, attending public hearings, negotiations, and ultimately letting adversaries know that we are more than willing to go to court — and we win. But we have come to the realization that our victories are only temporary, and they will be back at it again. Why? Because there is a systemic problem within our hearts that has not only separated us from Nature, but from each other.
This separation is evidenced by the general response to the 2017 wildfires. Despite the massive losses of life and property, the post-fire response has been similar to all the other past fire events – conferences where the usual players talk at each other without creating solutions, sanitized after-action reports, calls for more clearing of habitat, logging forests far from where our families have been devastated by wildfires, and repealing environmental protection laws, etc. People in authority are unwilling to tackle the difficult problems – land use changes, planning, creative approaches to reduce the flammability of homes and communities from within. For example, the city of Santa Rosa is ramping up more building in the same devastating fire corridor.
Yet, rather than being discouraged, recent realizations have inspired us to change the way we see our mission as advocates for Nature. If we intend to really make a difference, we must go straight to the heart. We discovered through our research on nature centers in Southern California that what matters most to the public is not the content on display, but the enthusiasm of the people who are eager to share their love for Nature.