Justin West

I have been a student of the ecosystems of North America my whole life, and of the western half of North America for the better part of 15 years.  I completed a BA in Environmental Science at The Colorado College, Colorado Springs, and later an MSc in Holistic Science at the Schumacher College, School of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, University of Plymouth, UK.  In between I worked on numerous vegetation mapping projects in Yosemite, Riverside County, CA, Rocky Mountain NP, Great Sand Dunes NP, and Glacier.  More recently I worked for The Schumacher College in creating a living classroom curriculum of skill building in place based ecology.  After also working for several years with The Agroforestry Research Trust I have delved into edible forest garden design in various different countries throughout Europe and North America, and I run a small tree nursery  in New Jersey dedicated to offering disease resistant edible fruit and nut trees for changing climates and changing habits.  Much of my effort is driven by the feeling that we as a society need to ‘unlawn what we have lawned’ in response to both the physical as well as the unfortunate metaphorical monoculturalization of our homescapes, our environments, our thoughts and ideas, as well as our food systems, a topic of particular interest to me in which I will soon be pursuing my doctoral studies.

At the age of 19 I solo thru hiked the Appalachian Trail.  Since then I have traveled to over 30 countries studying ethnoecology, volunteering, and generally learning how to more ‘skillfully live artfully.’  In 2008 I was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to travel for several months in Colombia and Brazil and study the various ancient and contemporary tropical agroforestry systems.  I lived variously with the Arhuac, Witoto, and Tikuna tribes, as well as traveled down the Amazon to Manaus where I met various soil scientists and agroforesters working with Terra Preta and biochar.   My journey also led me to the far eastern savannah of Colombia, Los Llanos, as I spent time with the innovative people of Gaviotas, the legendary and at times, infamous community which has afforested 20,000 acres of grassland and in the process created viable micro enterprises.

I am passionate about understanding life’s interconnections in a way which contextualizes our personal actions in the larger unfolding story that is our planet.  I seek to do so not by continuing to propagate the dominant  ‘nature’ myth, but rather by delving to the root of what Thomas Berry called our ‘perceived radical discontinuity’.  It is, after all, only a perception.  Drawing awareness and attention to the ways in which we are all deeply and inextricably actors in a larger unfolding story (whether in a city or on a mountain top) is the quality of ecoliteracy to which I hope to make a contribution.  We need to relearn how to read our environments not as dusty, mildewed old tomes, but rather more as continually evolving choose- your- own- adventures wherein the consequences of our actions, be they positive or negative, are real, felt, and embodied.

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