Focus of Taos group is nature-storytelling connection

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Taos-based conservation platform wins two awards

Founder and president Tara Waters Lumpkin

Photo credit: Debra Denker, courtesy of Voices for Biodiversity 

Story and pictures originally published in Taos News

Connecting nature and people through storytelling

Voices for Biodiversity, a Taos-based, community conservation platform with global reach, won again the 2016 New Mexico Press Women’s Award for “best website edited or managed by a nonprofit, government agency or educational organization.”

This is the second year that the organization has received the award. It also received an honorable mention from the National Federation of Press Women’s 2016 contest, which the organization won last year.

The organization

The idea for Voices for Biodiversity (V4B) was born in October of 2009, the brainchild of medical and environmental anthropologist Tara Waters Lumpkin. She had returned from southern Africa, where she had originally done her field work in 1993.  Fifteen years later, she had discovered that people there were losing their connection to nature and other species.

“The wildlife was now trapped on islands (called parks) among a sea of humanity,” she said. “As in the United States, the majority of people had drifted away from having a deep bond with other species and the local ecosystems that supported both people and wildlife.”

Witnessing this massive die-off of species around the globe, called the Sixth Great Extinction, she returned to Taos and created an online gathering place for other like-minded people who wanted to help both humanity and wildlife.

“It was a place where we could share our stories about connection with nature and animals in order to stop biodiversity loss,” she said. “The online magazine Voices for Biodiversity is for those who believe that humanity’s health and well-being depend upon the health and well-being of other species and the ecosystems that support us all. We use the ancient human art of storytelling to connect humanity with the natural world.”

The president

Today, Waters Lumpkin is president of the nonprofit Voices for Biodiversity and its umbrella Perception International, which she co-founded in 2000. She has worked as an international development consultant for UNICEF, the United States Agency for International Development, and a variety of nongovernmental organizations.

She has a PhD in medical and environmental anthropology and an MA in creative writing. She has published poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and has won more than half a dozen writing prizes, fellowships, and grants.

“I hope someday to return to writing my eco-memoir, which she put aside to run Voices for Biodiversity,” she said.

She is particularly excited about these two recent awards and the fact that V4B has developed an informal affiliation with the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in North Carolina.

“Awards give us credibility,” she said. “Credibility allows us to be understood and move forward organically into becoming a funded organization. It’s time for me to move on from being the Program Manager and take on the role of founder. We’re in the process of bringing on board and training a new management team right now.”

An all-volunteer team

Lumpkin lists among her greatest achievement that she somehow managed to keep Voices for Biodiversity running for seven years using only volunteers.

“At first many people didn’t understand what Voices for Biodiversity did,” she said. “It was not concrete enough or local enough. Yet when non-experts, whether living in Thailand, Taos, or Tanzania, are given an opportunity to share their passion for other species through telling their stories about nature, they become advocates for the wild animals and nature around them. They are empowered. People realize they can make a difference even if they aren’t a big name, or rich, or an expert, even if they aren’t literate. It comes down to caring and sharing.”

She describes the organization as “local, but globally so.”

“We aren’t traditional media; we are an anthropological, conservation-media platform,” she said. “We don’t have our own projects on the ground. We are outside the box. That is our power, but it makes for difficult fundraising.”

So how do they survive?

“Through the goodwill of hundreds of volunteers around the globe who ‘got’ our concept and who volunteered their time to keep the e-zine running–as writers, photographers, videographers, editors, production helpers, outreach assistants, social media helpers, storytellers, and more,” she said. “These are the people who created Voices for Biodiversity. All I did was remain resolute in the power of the vision despite the many set-backs we endured.”

And, of course, she also worked many twelve-hour lonely days at the computer over the last seven years. Given that the organization is virtual, with volunteers from around the globe, there wasn’t an office to go to.

Would you like to collaborate?

Voices for Biodiversity welcomes submissions and ideas.

“I always say ‘TAOS’ stands for ‘Talking About Other Species,’ said the founder. “I hope the people of Taos will join with others around the world to share their own stories, photos, and videos about the value of other species.”

If interested, people can look at the website’s submission guidelines and sign up for its quarterly newsletter.

“We also are able to assign eco-reporters to tell the stories of those people who don’t feel their skill levels are good enough to write an article themselves” she added. “I hope Taoseños will share their passion for their beautiful heritage, environment and plentiful wildlife on our e-zine. And I also hope people will visit the website regularly to read our stories.”

To find out more about Voices for Biodiversity visit http://www.voicesforbiodiversity.org

Taos-based conservation platform wins two awards

Connecting nature and people through storytelling

Voices for Biodiversity, a Taos-based, community conservation platform with global reach, won again the 2016 New Mexico Press Women’s Award for “best website edited or managed by a nonprofit, government agency or educational organization.”

This is the second year that the organization has received the award. It also received an honorable mention from the National Federation of Press Women’s 2016 contest, which the organization won last year.

Picture taken from Voices for Biodiversity

The organization

The idea for Voices for Biodiversity (V4B) was born in October of 2009, the brainchild of medical and environmental anthropologist Tara Waters Lumpkin. She had returned from southern Africa, where she had originally done her field work in 1993.  Fifteen years later, she had discovered that people there were losing their connection to nature and other species.

“The wildlife was now trapped on islands (called parks) among a sea of humanity,” she said. “As in the United States, the majority of people had drifted away from having a deep bond with other species and the local ecosystems that supported both people and wildlife.”

Witnessing this massive die-off of species around the globe, called the Sixth Great Extinction, she returned to Taos and created an online gathering place for other like-minded people who wanted to help both humanity and wildlife.

“It was a place where we could share our stories about connection with nature and animals in order to stop biodiversity loss,” she said. “The online magazine Voices for Biodiversity is for those who believe that humanity’s health and well-being depend upon the health and well-being of other species and the ecosystems that support us all. We use the ancient human art of storytelling to connect humanity with the natural world.”

The president

Today, Waters Lumpkin is president of the nonprofit Voices for Biodiversity and its umbrella Perception International, which she co-founded in 2000. She has worked as an international development consultant for UNICEF, the United States Agency for International Development, and a variety of nongovernmental organizations.

She has a PhD in medical and environmental anthropology and an MA in creative writing. She has published poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and has won more than half a dozen writing prizes, fellowships, and grants.

“I hope someday to return to writing my eco-memoir, which she put aside to run Voices for Biodiversity,” she said.

She is particularly excited about these two recent awards and the fact that V4B has developed an informal affiliation with the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in North Carolina.

“Awards give us credibility,” she said. “Credibility allows us to be understood and move forward organically into becoming a funded organization. It’s time for me to move on from being the Program Manager and take on the role of founder. We’re in the process of bringing on board and training a new management team right now.”

An all-volunteer team

Lumpkin lists among her greatest achievement that she somehow managed to keep Voices for Biodiversity running for seven years using only volunteers.

“At first many people didn’t understand what Voices for Biodiversity did,” she said. “It was not concrete enough or local enough. Yet when non-experts, whether living in Thailand, Taos, or Tanzania, are given an opportunity to share their passion for other species through telling their stories about nature, they become advocates for the wild animals and nature around them. They are empowered. People realize they can make a difference even if they aren’t a big name, or rich, or an expert, even if they aren’t literate. It comes down to caring and sharing.”

She describes the organization as “local, but globally so.”

“We aren’t traditional media; we are an anthropological, conservation-media platform,” she said. “We don’t have our own projects on the ground. We are outside the box. That is our power, but it makes for difficult fundraising.”

So how do they survive?

“Through the goodwill of hundreds of volunteers around the globe who ‘got’ our concept and who volunteered their time to keep the e-zine running–as writers, photographers, videographers, editors, production helpers, outreach assistants, social media helpers, storytellers, and more,” she said. “These are the people who created Voices for Biodiversity. All I did was remain resolute in the power of the vision despite the many set-backs we endured.”

And, of course, she also worked many twelve-hour lonely days at the computer over the last seven years. Given that the organization is virtual, with volunteers from around the globe, there wasn’t an office to go to.

Would you like to collaborate?

Voices for Biodiversity welcomes submissions and ideas.

“I always say ‘TAOS’ stands for ‘Talking About Other Species,’ said the founder. “I hope the people of Taos will join with others around the world to share their own stories, photos, and videos about the value of other species.”

If interested, people can look at the website’s submission guidelines and sign up for its quarterly newsletter.

“We also are able to assign eco-reporters to tell the stories of those people who don’t feel their skill levels are good enough to write an article themselves” she added. “I hope Taoseños will share their passion for their beautiful heritage, environment and plentiful wildlife on our e-zine. And I also hope people will visit the website regularly to read our stories.”

To find out more about Voices for Biodiversity visit http://www.voicesforbiodiversity.org

Picture taken from Voices for Biodiversity

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About dovalpage

Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana and now lives in Taos, New Mexico. She has a Ph.D. in Spanish literature and teaches at UNM Taos. She also freelances for Taos News, Profile, Hispanic Executive and other publications. A bilingual author, she has published eight novels, six in Spanish and two in English, two collections of short stories in Spanish and one in English. Her English-language novels are A Girl like Che Guevara (Soho Press, 2004) and Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family (Floricanto Press, 2010). Her collection of short stories The Astral Plane, Stories of Cuba, the Southwest and Beyond was published by the University of New Orleans Press in 2012. In her native Spanish she has authored the novels Muerte de un murciano en La Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana, Anagrama, 2006, a runner-up for the Herralde Award in Spain), El difunto Fidel (The late Fidel, Renacimiento, 2011, that won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2009), Posesas de La Habana (Haunted Ladies of Havana, PurePlay Press, 2004), La Regenta en La Habana (Edebe Group, Spain, 2012,) Orfeo en el Caribe(Atmósfera Literaria, Spain, 2013) and El retorno de la expatriada (The expat’s return, Egales, Spain, 2014). Her short novel Las Muertas de la West Mesa (The West Mesa Murders, based on a real event) is currently being published in serialized format by Taos News.
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