Center for Mountain Transitions
MEM Mountain Resilience Corps
Cultures around the globe have long looked to the mountains for inspiration. Mountain regions provide the basis for human livelihood and ecosystem services, making up twenty percent of the earth, thirteen percent of human communities, up to eighty percent of water consumed by humans, and twenty-five percent of biodiversity. Yet these pinnacles of vision and sources of life are in danger, with glaciers melting and over thirty percent of mountain people suffering from food
insecurity. In this era of climate disruption, it is time to look again to the world’s mountain communities as beacons of a more resilient story, stretching from the planet’s headwaters to all communities downstream.
HOW IT WORKS:
The Center for Mountain Transitions (CMT) partners with local, regional, national, and global communities to build resilience for mountain peoples and ecosystems and to transition to sustainable solutions in the face of climate change. Located in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, Western Colorado University’s School of Environment & Sustainability offers the ideal home base as a hub for training and connecting mountain-focused agents of change around the world. The School of ENVS’ Master in Environmental Management (MEM) program requires each student to complete a 600-hour on-the-ground Masters Project for a community organization anywhere globally, resulting in 25,000 hours of annual student work throughout Gunnison and as far as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Alaska, Mexico, Kenya, India, Costa Rica, and Colombia. Students who focus on mountain-based projects make up our “Mountain Resilience Corps.” The Mountain Resilience Corps co-produces place-based mountain resilience with communities on all scales:
- Local: The CMT houses the Coldharbour Institute, a nonprofit on 350 acres, modelling mountain-based sustainable living from sustainable food to renewable energy to green design to land, water, and wildlife management to regenerative grazing.
- Regional: The CMT co-founded the Western Alliance for Restoration Management to reclaim polluting mines in the mountains of Colorado.
- National: The CMT has a unique partnership with AmeriCorps Vista Stewards. Over ten MEM projects have transformed a Vista assignment serving a mountain community into a Masters Project.
- Global: The CMT co-founded the Mountain Resilience Coalition with Telluride Institute and Aspen International Mountain Foundation, voted by the United Nations Mountain Partnership to chair the North America, Central America, and Caribbean region. A team of Mountain Resilience Corps MEM students are currently building this network as their Masters Project.
- Global: CMT Mountain Resilience Corps students worked with the City of Gunnison and the leaders of the Himalayan community of Majkhali, India to form a Sister Cities International partnership, focusing on shared solutions as global “headwaters communities.”
- Global: The CMT is in conversation with The Mountain Institute to send Mountain Resilience Corps students to Nepal and Peru for MEM projects.
Our expert faculty from thirteen different environmental disciplines are dedicated to mentoring Mountain Resilience Corps students over decades, leading to hundreds of projects, deep and lasting mountain-to-mountain partnerships, and many student livelihoods based on the values of mountain resilience. Faculty research and teaching efforts have provided mountain-based climate adaptation planning in Mongolia, climate action planning in Mexico, and sustainability curriculum in the Himalayas of India.