Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that are making positive impacts in our communities. This month, Mission Nonprofit host Deborah Vinsel sat down with Eli Sterling, director of Earthbound Productions, to discuss the history and future of the Procession of the Species.
Eli Sterling actually started out after college working as a producer for a live call-in talk show with TCMedia called “Earthbound.” Eli wanted to get more culture involved in the talks on things such as policy, that shape our future. The show ran for five years and won a number of awards. There was always a music video as part of the show. “When you create culture, this music video, you naturally have community participation,” he explains. “So, this idea of generating a cultural dynamic around our environmental concerns and our environmental appreciation, as a way of engendering more participation, was just how that TV show was developed.”
But with the internet just taking off in 1995, Eli decided they needed to do something else. And that was how the Procession of the Species came to be. “The idea of doing the Procession in a cultural way, which did not carry any language with it, any words in it, was a new concept because there was a lot of demonstrations but it was one that leveled the playing field,” Eli continues. “And that, you know, was the essential aspect that came from five years of doing television shows.”
The vision of Earthbound Productions is, “to inspire a behavior of reverence, respect, and celebration among humankind by cultivating a cultural identity of our place and responsibility as active participants in the miracle of the natural world.” Eli goes on to explain that the mission of the annual Procession of the Species was to make culture available to everyone. He believes that, due to language, it is not, and so they created a wordless event to break down barriers and allow everyone to experience and be part of culture.
The Procession has been a staple in Thurston County since 1995. At that time, the Endangered Species Act Reform Act of 1995 was happening as well as the Threatened Species Protection Act of 1995. “It was at a time…where people recognized we are losing something valuable here, we don’t have an answer, let’s just stop and the Act is really very simple,” Eli shares, though he explains that some people were fighting against the Act. “The Procession was an opportunity then to advance against that pushback.”
The Future of the Procession
2020 was the first year since 1995 that the Procession of the Species did not take place. “The word I used at that time was that Earthbound Productions would not be producing the Procession, but we’re not postponing, we’re repositioning,” Eli explains. “And I think this is the word that I still consider using for us…There are things more important than the Procession right now. We need to start looking out for agism, for racial relationships, we need to practice what we are doing right now as a way of being able to take on global warming. There are a lot of things we need to be focused on and the Procession isn’t one of those things. We now need to take what we have done as a community and how to shovel through stuff.”
“We have not been out trying to proliferate this idea of community gatherings,” he continues. “We have a Governor and people, who are doing their best…trying to figure out all the different types of things—medical assistants and stuff—and we’re going like, ‘those people need support, what do they want us to do? If they don’t want us to gather, we’re not gathering.’ Until everyone has a vaccine, you can’t have inclusive events.”
There will not be an event in 2021, as Earthbound Productions continues to reposition and pay attention to what is most important right now. Eli also shares that the Procession of the Species was only supposed to be a 20-year event – one generation he says. So now they are looking for the next story and how to reengage the current population.
For more information, watch the full video and visit the Earthbound Productions website.
You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 77 on Sundays at 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch on TCMedia.org, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thuston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.