North Cascades Institute : from concept to 25 years

In January 2011, North Cascades Institute will begin its 25th year conserving and restoring Northwest environments through education. In the winter issue of Adventures NW, Bellingham-based writer and photographer John D’Onofrio tells the story of the Institute’s inception and of its co-founder and executive director, Saul Weisberg.

Here’s a secret: Saul Weisberg is changing the world.
Saul is the co-founder and executive director of the North Cascades Institute, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2011. Based in Sedro-Woolley, NCI has become a formidable and internationally recognized champion of environmental preservation and healing through education. Its success is built on a premise as solid as the bedrock beneath the North Cascades: people will protect what they love.
It starts with making them care. Early on, Saul understood that it was essential to reach kids, especially those alienated from the natural world, kids who have never felt the warmth of a camp fire or gazed upon the expanse of the Milky Way on a summer’s night and somehow been transcended. Reaching these kids on an experiential level is the key. Once the head—and the heart—are engaged, Saul says, the magic can happen. What is this magic? It’s a sense of belonging, a sense of place. An appreciation for the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things in nature (including us). In the broadest sense, it’s a feeling of community, an excitement at being part of a magnificent whole. It’s all of this and more.
Too often in the battle to preserve the environment—and by extension, ourselves—skirmishes take place on one front or another but the victories are ephemeral and simply position us to fight new battles. To succeed in a larger sense, to keep that “magnificent whole” intact, victories must be lasting. In NCI’s model of environmental preservation, the institute’s victories, the changes it creates are lasting, nourished by an inner flame within individuals that, once kindled, Saul has observed, tends to be self sustaining.
Now, understand: this approach to change takes time. It’s generational. But to someone as conversant with natural history as Saul is, well, time is relative. It’s clearly an approach that requires patience—and perseverance. When Saul and institute co-founder Tom Fleischner were first beginning NCI, they were hiking in the Chuckanuts and decided to throw the I Ching to see what they could learn about their new endeavor. The hexagram that came up for them: Perseverance Furthers.

Read the entire story at

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