Born in 1965, at the dawn of the modern environmental movement, the Vineyard Conservation Society has worked for nearly fifty years to protect what is most precious on Martha’s Vineyard: the land, air, water, wildlife, and natural beauty of this unique island. More specifically, for the past fifty years this has meant protecting land through purchases and conservation restrictions, working to preserve family farms, fighting inappropriate development proposals, and advocating for recycling, energy conservation, and much, much more. It is fair to say that — as with other groups founded in the Silent Spring era — “Protection” has been our principal raison d’être.
The popularity of our existing education and outreach programs shows that the people are ready. Our interpretive Winter Walks now draw hundreds, while the annual Earth Day beach cleanup has grown from an ox cart and a couple dozen kids to a couple dozen beaches teeming with hundreds of volunteers. Outreach through the Conservation Almanac and our Green-on-Screen film collaborations reach many more. But we must do more.
In the spring of 2014 we launched a new annual tradition, “The Art of Conservation,” a contest for Vineyard high school students to draw on their connections to nature and show off their talents. Later that year, the Living Local Harvest Festival saw an expanded VCS presence, where we engaged the community in a simpler form of artistic expression, to reflect on what they most value about the Vineyard. Click the image above to learn more about that project and see the amazing results. 2015 saw our first environmental film festival, the recently launched “VCS Island Adventure,” and a new theme for the Art of Conservation contest. All of these programs seek to further bolster the connections between the Island’s human and natural communities.
The simple message of Connect–Reflect–Protect is that people must care. For too many, increasing challenges in the economic and social spheres reduce the urgency, or at least the salience, of environmental concerns. Yet, even in this atmosphere of unprecedented development pressure (nearly 8,000 acres remains at risk, see current land tally) and ubiquitous personal distractions, we must care enough to take serious action: through votes at town meeting, individual choices in lifestyle and consumption, and support of organizations like VCS. To protect our future — to make Martha’s Vineyard a place where concepts of sustainability are practiced, not just preached — we must connect and reflect in the present.
Text adapted from Fall/Winter 2014 newsletter introduction by Jeremy Houser