In a quiet clearing among the hemlocks, a boy stands on a hewn log bench, arms folded, eyes closed, his back to two rows of fellow campers. Their arms are outstretched and loosely interlaced. In unison, they count down from ten. When they shout, “Go!,” the boy on the bench falls backwards.
This exercise is familiar to most of us as a “trust fall.” Although it’s often used for team building, it’s notable that our first experience with the important lesson it imparts often occurs outside: in the woods, in a field, on a beach. In developing trust with other humans, we are introduced, too, to the natural world. Do we learn to trust nature as we learn to trust our peers? Where else does trust find its way into environmental practice?
As a society, we have established social, economic, and legal infrastructure designed to protect ourselves and the natural resources that sustain us. What happens when we lose confidence in our institutions, our economy, one another? Does skepticism bring new freedom, greater insight, more reasoned approaches, and an increased willingness to speak truth to power? Or has the decline of trust led instead to climate change denial, an undermining of science, and an erosion of civility?
Land trusts have become an essential tool for conservation, preserving wilderness, water, farms, and historic sites at local, regional, and landscape-level scales. Is it a mistake to place our trust in the legal contracts that have come to define modern conservation? Does entrusting a person or organization with the wellbeing of the land confer special obligation?
In the wild world beyond the realm of human experience, do animals exhibit trust? Do plants?
On a more personal level, how do we learn to rely on others, and what does it mean to trust our instincts? How, in the face of overwhelming evidence on the looming impacts of climate change and resource scarcity, can we maintain our faith in the future? Yet how can we lose our certainty in a world that includes such grace and beauty?
For Volume 22, Whole Terrain seeks original submissions that consider the theme of Trust in the context of environmental practice. We welcome essays, personal reflections, journalism, short fiction, creative non-fiction, visual art, graphic novel excerpts, and poetry. Prose submissions are limited to 2000 words and should be double-spaced with numbered pages and word count noted. Poetry submissions may include up to three separate poems. Electronic submission to firstname.lastname@example.org is strongly encouraged.
The reading period for Volume 22 ended February 15, 2015.