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BorderLore, April 2016 
Culture is both a powerful agent of conservation and a critical natural resource.

Earth Day was celebrated earlier this month, but the focus on culturally-engaged spectators who shape identity of the landscapes we occupy is still front of mind. The links between nature and culture are inseparable -- forming many diverse worlds within this one earth we are obligated to protect.    

Some cultures take great care in this obligation to honor and conserve their Mother Earth. They exercise guardianship over their ancestral mountains, and do not separate their intangible culture from the land. Others appropriate traditional earthly objects -- from the woodworkers to basketweavers, from birdwatchers to naturalists -- to build traditions of human experience. The interrelatedness of all life, geographical, cultural and biological, is what's key to the resilience of a natural ecosystem. UNESCO notes: "There exists an ancient and continuing intimacy between people and nature, a last human tradition of attentiveness, curiosity, receptivity and care." 

In this BorderLore edition we detour around our natural world showcase to finds expressions of cultural heritage that blend with environmentalism:  
In Ajo, backyard and indigenous farmers relate community-building to respecting the earth. Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture's Nina Sajovec, and International Sonoran Desert Alliance's Tracy Taft, explain here.  

With "Trees for Earth" this year's Earth Day theme, we turn to the Trees for Tucson movement to help understand the importance of neighborhood trees. Tucson Clean and Beautiful's Membership Director B.J. Cordova provides insights here.

The EPA recently recognized the UA Compost Cats for local programs that inspire stewardship and environmental justice. Check some Compost Cats' comments here.

The desert is the learning land where nothing escapes relevance. Observations and field notes of a participant in SFA's recent Fieldschool are featured here.

The Natural Resource of Folk Art -- I
n the fourth of a BorderLore series, Jim Griffith introduces us to Hispanic northern New Mexican family grave markers found in two northern Arizona cemeteries, here.


  • Master-Apprentice: The Southwest Folklife Alliance launches the second annual awards program in support of traditional master artists and apprentices. Applications and information here.
  • News and additional resources are here.
End Notes... 
Just as physical wilderness and natural species distinguish the land, so do the people's symbolic traditions. Cultural diversity is the rhythm of human experience that mutually reinforces and protects a natural world that's continually changing.
A place cannot have personality except as that personality emerges in the expressions of its people.
The world keeps opening up, unfolding, and just when we expect it to be closed -- to be a sealed sensible box -- it shows us something completely surprising.

There is no certainty vouchsafed us in the vast testimony of nature that the universe was designed for man...the courageous thinker must look at the inimical aspects of his environment in the face, and accept the stern fact that the universe is hostile and deathy to him save for a very narrow zone where it permits him, for a few eons, to exist.

2016, Southwest Folklife Alliance. All rights reserved. BorderLore is the e-news magazine of Southwest Folklife Alliance. The study and documentation of folklife involves the accurate representation of people's viewpoints in their own terms; quotes and opinions expressed in interviews with individual tradition bearers do not necessarily reflect the sentiments and opinions of BorderLore editors, the Southwest Folklife Alliance or any specific person or entity at the University of Arizona. 
Managing Editor:   Monica Surfaro-Spigelman 

Thank you for reading this newsletter. We welcome your feedback, commentary and any suggestions or ideas. Write to us at:  swfolklife@gmail.com

Previous issues of BorderLore Newsletter are archived  here and here.