Monarch butterflyPhoto by chainfoto24

— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —

It takes five generations of Monarch butterflies to complete their migration and return to the place of origin—five generations! The ones that return aren’t the ones that left. How do they manage that? And how do we know that? Because of input from something wonderful called citizen science: thousands of individuals, normal people like you and I, participating in learning about and helping our Earth. Thousands of individuals spotting the butterflies and sending the information to a data center that compiles it all.

This was just one bit of information and one innovative approach from a recent TEDWomen conference that I attended. The event was filled with incredible women doing mind-bending projects around the world to help humanity and our planet.The butterfly research was shared by Dr. Mary Ellen Hannibal, author of the book Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction.

Climate psychologist Dr. Renee Lertzman asks, “There is no shortage of good ideas about how to make the world cleaner and greener. Then what’s the issue?” She then proceeds to answer the question in a clear list of insights into human psychology that could help us each become powerful agents of change. She writes: “Understanding human behavior at the deepest levels is no longer an option. It’s an imperative. We know more than ever about the immense scale and magnitude of the challenges facing humanity on a finite planet. However, we also understand more about creativity, resilience, and problem-solving than ever before. At the intersection of neuroscience, behavioral sciences, clinical psychology, psychosocial research and public health, are insights uniquely suited for meeting our immense challenges. Insights we can be accessing, applying and scaling. No matter the challenge or context. Each of us has the ability to be a catalyst for exactly the kind of change we need.”

Dr. Lucy King shared her innovative research on non-lethal ways to keep elephants out of rural African gardens—a significant source of human-animal conflict and elephant mortality. She discovered that elephants stayed away from trees occupied by aggressive African honeybees, and used that knowledge to create fences around the gardens with live and dummy hives. At the same time she showed how she encouraged rural farmers to grow plants attractive to bees, which could be turned into cash crops—including the honey.

Many of the talks proved that innovative thinking and creative solutions had larger ramifications than simply resolving the initial problem.

Inspired Women Lead, founded by Bonnie Fazio, supports the belief that it is time for “authentic feminine leadership to take hold as a strong complement to masculine leadership… at all levels of society around the globe… harnessing the power of women to transform communities at the grassroots level.” To that end she has developed a one-on-one mentoring program, which I am joining. The program trains mentors, who then help women around the world discover their own unique leadership skills.

The conference was a window into a very encouraging world of powerful, creative ideas and actions led by deeply committed, passionate women. It truly lived up to the TED Conference motto: “Ideas Worth Spreading.”

Learn more about TEDWomen 2019 here

Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.

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