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Our mission is to provide the means by which people anywhere on Earth can reconnect to the natural world where they live. The Exploring a Sense of Place programs and guidebook are the tools for discovering how to do this wherever you are.

Karen Harwell, Director kharwell@exploringsenseofplace.org

Joanna Reynolds, Guidebook Coordinator jreynolds@exploringsenseofplace.org

Exploring a Sense of Place evolved from the vision that as modern humans we are identified with our human constructs, but we have lost an intimate relationship with the natural ecosystem where we live. The team of people who developed the program started in 2001 at the Foundation for Global Community (FGC) in Palo Alto, California, by reading the works of some of the great natural philosophers, such as Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, and Wendell Berry. They reflected upon the words of Simone Weil, who said that “rootedness in place is the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”

Inspired by this wisdom, in 2002 the team developed and offered the first experiential program for the San Francisco Bay Area region around Palo Alto, specifically the San Francisquito Creek watershed. Called “Exploring a Sense of Place,” the program is a yearlong, in-depth exploration of the local region, guided by some of the area’s most gifted naturalists. Besides learning about the natural world around us we are lead in nature awareness techniques. The team’s hope is that by taking the time to really experience the region – its story, geology, weather and climate, watershed, plant and animal life, and the way it naturally functions to support and enhance life – people will not only feel rooted and restored, but will be inspired to discover ways to make our human systems more compatible with and supportive of all life.

In 2006, with the encouragement of FGC, several projects joined together to become a new non-profit collaborative organization called “Conexions: Partnerships for a Sustainable Future.” Exploring a Sense of Place began an exciting phase with a new location in Palo Alto. In August 2006, the program received a boost when the Exploring a Sense of Place guidebook was published. The guidebook offers inspiration, philosophy and all the practical tools needed to begin an Exploring a Sense of Place program in any bioregion.

Since the initial course in 2001, people have been inspired to create Exploring a Sense of Place programs for their own local areas. Courses have been offered in the East Bay of the San Francisco estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Requests for the guidebook have been received from over 100 locations in the United State and from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, England, Germany, and France.

And now, as of July 1, 2010, Exploring a Sense of Place has become a project of Acterra, Action for a Healthy Planet. Acterra is a non-profit organization (http://acterra.org/) based in Palo Alto California.

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