What Does Dogwood Do?

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In my first post on this blog (7 May/10), I proposed that we “work toward building and promoting more equitable and more sustainable human communities” – to devise ways that will allow us to get “there” from “here.”  Then in my last post, after describing many of the problems and obstacles “here” that we face, I started on the path toward “there” – toward more equitable and more sustainable human communities.

I suggest, so we don’t get lost along the way, that we keep a running list, a ‘map’ of our journey from “here” to “there.” For example, in my last post I listed three essential steps along the way:

  • Paying “attention” to what we are doing NOW.
  • Stepping out of the box (made of habit and custom).
  • Addressing multiple levels of our existence (individual, community, nation, and species).

In this post I would like to focus on these different levels of our lives, and so we have a concrete example in mind, let’s examine what Dogwood Initiative is doing. On how many levels does it operate as it “helps British Columbians exercise local control to create healthy and prosperous communities”? Let’s look at its 2009-2010 Annual Report to see how many levels it has worked on during the past year.

Perhaps the best example of Dogwood’s involvement on an individual level is found at the end of the report in its list of Supporters. Excluding foundations, businesses and organizations, each individual on this list represents a unique “win-win” relationship between Dogwood and its donors. Development Manager Kelsey Singbeil states it well:

“Large numbers of [individual] people making small donations is a powerful way to fund organizations. It provides financial sustainability and builds a large supporter base that stands behind a mission. It shows that you believe in a cause enough to put your money behind it.”

Dogwood Initiative is most active and best known for its work on the community (and aboriginal Nation) level. Indeed, this is the very heart of its mission: “We help communities and First Nations gain more control of the land and resources around them so they can be managed in a way that does not rob future generations for short-term corporate gain.”

Illustrative of Dogwood’s work on the community (and regional, government, and corporate) level is its very successful No Tankers campaign. Eric Swanson, director of the campaign, offers this year-end review of what it achieved:

“2010 brought the Coastal First Nations’ declaration and the Save the Fraser Declaration of Nations, and support from BC’s local governments. Citizen groups from Kitimat to Prince George sprang into heightened action, and Canada-wide over 20,000 new people joined our corner.  BC Liberal and NDP MPs were inspired to action, and the year closed with a successful House of Commons motion and a new piece of draft legislation.”

That’s quite a year!

Finally, let’s look at what Dogwood does on the species level. Here it is not so much concerned with the development of the human species; rather it focuses on how we humans interfere with other species, including both flora and fauna. While Dogwood’s overall goal at this level is “to improve the legal protection for all endangered species,” for the past three years it has joined with nine other environmental groups, including Ecojustice, a non-profit environmental law firm, in a lawsuit against the Federal Government to provide more adequate safeguards to protect BC’s endangered resident orca whales.  “The case has also brought media attention to … Canada’s Species At Risk Act. If successful, it will also provide a useful tool for stopping oil tanker traffic in BC waters.”

Work on all these levels is coordinated by the staff at Dogwood to achieve its overall objective of sustainable land reform – and each level is absolutely crucial to the success of its mission:

  • Gaining support from individual donors to endorse its important work;
  • Working with local communities and First Nations to broker ‘made-at-home’ agreements;
  • Networking and partnering with other environmental and advocacy groups;
  • Petitioning government at all levels, including the courts;
  • Negotiating with corporations and their Boards, shareholders, suppliers, and customers;
  • Raising media awareness of the issues at stake; and
  • Protecting all endangered species from human interference.

There are 15 staff members listed in Dogwood Initiative’s 2009-2010 Annual Report. Together, they provide an excellent demonstration of one of the essential steps of how to get “there” from “here” – addressing multiple levels of the problem. Keep up the good work Dogwood!

Alan Hedley is a retired University of Victoria Sociology Professor. He’s currently searching for ways to contribute to a more equitable and sustainable human existence on planet Earth – and blogging about his journey.

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