Earth Volunteers Wanted

Since 1971, EarthWatch has sent more than 32,000 of its EarthCorps volunteers to assist scientists and scholars who are researching critical environmental issues. For travelers looking for more than just a regular vacation, an eco-trip such as this might be just the thing.

This year alone, the nonprofit organization will send more than 600 teams into the field to address environmental and scientific problems in 30 states and 50 countries, said EarthWatch President Brian Rosborough.

forest conservation and climate change mitigation

“EarthWatch is about fixing environmental problems,” he said. “It’s a way of giving people ownership over issues that would otherwise be left to governments and authorities — over which they have little control.”

Projects range from monitoring black bears in Minnesota to creating management plans for Brazil’s endangered rainforests. More than 100 projects are listed in each issue of the EarthWatch magazine, sent to the organization’s 60,000-plus members six times a year.

One project is under way on the Indonesian island of Krakatua. When its volcano erupted in 1883, the eruption killed 36,000 people and scoured all life from the island. Yet within a decade, tree saplings appeared, and today the rainforest-covered island boasts trees three feet in diameter, along with 400 other plant species.

Because Krakatua is a perfect setting to study how a rainforest ecosystem rebuilds itself, the project will provide results to help people worldwide restore seriously damaged ecosystems.

EarthWatch volunteers make a tax-deductible contribution to help fund the expedition they join. Contributions range from $800 to $2,000, and cover food, accommodations, field support and equipment, but not airfare. Volunteers need no special skills to join a project team.

“It’s a wonderful way to accomplish a number of different objectives. Apart from assisting scientists who need the volunteer talent to help them do their work, we also do a lot of training of teachers and young people from the host countries,” Rosborough said. “By assigning them to expeditions, they can bring back knowledge and understanding to share with their native communities.”

EarthWatch also runs a Planet Management Program involving corporations. Through this effort, employees are given time off to assist project teams with their specific talents. Typically, these employee volunteers are deployed to assist with environmental impact assessment.

“In our view, there is no better chemistry than getting, say, people in the oil business to go out and work on the problems of coastal pollution,” he said. “Since there is no ownership to many of these environmental problems, they are hard to deal with because no one has accountability for solving them. We find capital and manpower to go out and address as many of these issues as we can.”

Earth Tip: For information on upcoming projects and membership, write to EarthWatch, 680 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, MA 02272, or call (617) 926-8200.

[tags]EarthWatch, environmental problems, environmental issues, rainforest, ecosystems[/tags]