Fixing What We Broke: the 5th National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration

NCER conference banner

Or maybe it should be “healing what we’ve hurt”. The 5th National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER) just ended yesterday in Schaumburg, IL with

  • David Doig, President of the Chicago Neighborhoods Initiative, talking about projects going on in Chicago, particularly their work on Pullman Park, and
  • David Donnenfield and Kevin White of Full Frame Productions sharing their work and perspectives on the vital role of storytelling in ecological restoration (the trailer for their excellent film A Simple Question is below).

NCER5 has been an intense four days of presentations, panel discussions, plenary sessions, posters, networking and excellent food. While it’s been great hearing about the work happening in so many places, I’m reminded that there’s still much to be done: more places to work on, people to reach, money to be raised.

Although I am alternatingly skeptical and enthusiastic about bringing business approaches to traditionally non-business enterprises (e.g. education, public infrastructure, etc.), I left the conference thinking that we need to figure out how to make ecological restoration profitable, beyond firms getting contracts from the government for restoration projects. There just isn’t enough public funding to do the kind of work that is needed, and businesses need to step up and do their share, and if money can be fairly made in a way that supports the environment, community and economic growth, let’s go for it. Social enterprise could be a great way for the field of ecological restoration to head.