Why Now?

We Are Nature Rising, founded and directed by Mark Morey, is a project Merrohawke Nature School. Founded in 2007, Merrohawke is part of the 8 Shields nature connection movement that grew out of the 1970s environmental movement. In 1983, Jon Young founded Wilderness Awareness School and developed the 8 Shields method of connecting children to nature. This system is based on three things:

  • Jon Young’s childhood of long term mentoring in nature connection from a single mentor, Tom Brown who was influenced by indigenous teachings of the Apache.
  • Jon’s studies in anthropology and environmental science at Rutgers.
  • Many indigenous mentors who were bridge builders, directly passing on cultural approaches to being a connected person in a connected community. These mentors were from the Mohawk, Lakota and Odawa tribes.

The founding belief of 8 Shields held is that if we can return children to the same intimate relationship to the natural world as was held by our indigenous ancestors, with active mentoring, ceremony, ancestor awareness, the arts of tracking and survival, and the surrounding culture of aunts and uncles that all value this deep immersion to place, these children will grow up to consciously appreciate, be authentically connected to, and be actively willing to, protect and nourish the natural world and their community.

They will embody a moral compass that values and actively advances environmental and social justice in their own neighborhoods.

Today, 34 years after the founding of 8 Shields, Merrohawke is one of at least 75 nature connection organizations nationally–and 150 internationally–that have emerged and self-identify as an 8 Shields school. Collectively the nature connection movement nationwide now serves upwards of 50,000 unique youth annually. Alumni of the 8 Shields wilderness schools now number in the hundreds of thousands, the oldest of whom are in their early 30’s and entering adulthood. Thousands of youth and schools can link their lineage to time spent with Mark Morey, who founded the Vermont Wilderness School, the Institute for Natural Learning, and led 100 Art of Mentoring gatherings in five countries across 16 years.

These nature-connected young adults are awake to the world they have inherited, and feel the responsibility to do something about it. They are hungrily asking for guidance to address the issues they face: political destabilization, environmental crisis, and inequality.

“When we become familiar with the conduct of connection, we start to understand and appreciate what traditional cultures are holding. We become friends and allies with the people who are hanging onto the last threads, and we need that… That’s the place where we can be effective… It is a really challenging time, but this does gives us really a lot of hope, and I just focus my eyes on those people in their 20s and 30s and 40s that grew up this way in a place when their parents didn’t, and how powerful they are right now… I do believe that is where the hope is…. This is going to take all of us. We all need to look at this in our own way and bring connection back into the fore.… Thanks for your work in the world, Mark. It’s making a difference.”  – Jon Young, February 2017

We Are Nature Rising will create an action-oriented pathway for the tens of thousands of young adults who experienced a nature-connected childhood. They will be supported to rise up in their community to advance social and environmental justice causes with principled leadership and direct action. This regenerative leadership project is about awakening youth to their ecological identity, immersing them in regenerative culture over time and fostering their leadership skills to act on behalf of the planet. Specifically, leadership training will include cross cultural collaboration with native youth leaders, forming community exchanges and project collaborations.

The nature connection alumni are uniquely trained over a long period of time to appreciate the natural world, the value of biodiversity and the wisdom of native leadership.

We Are Nature Rising is committed to four key goals:

  • Provide proactive training and mentorship with native and non-native teachers, with the subjects of leadership, peacemaking, mentoring, nature connection and regenerative community practices
  • Create opportunities for indigenous youth to have a powerful, positive influence on their own communities futures and future generations
  • Activate teams of empowered youth leaders to take initiative, bolster existing social or environmental justice movements, and respond to calls for guidance from communities in need
  • Build a network and movement in which nature connected individuals can find guidance, support, fellowship and purpose

By 2020, We Are Nature Rising will have seeded, organized, empowered, and funded youth led projects and established leadership network. Native and non-native youth will be actively collaborating for a safe and just future by applying solutions with creative, principled thinking and actions, at all levels of society, nationwide.