NewEnergyNews: NewEnergyNews EXCLUSIVE – THE AIDS QUILT FOR ENDANGERED SPECIES: A mom-started movement to ‘Sew the SEEDS’ of preventing extinctions.


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    Thursday, September 26, 2013

    NewEnergyNews EXCLUSIVE – THE AIDS QUILT FOR ENDANGERED SPECIES: A mom-started movement to ‘Sew the SEEDS’ of preventing extinctions.

    NewEnergyNews EXCLUSIVE – THE AIDS QUILT FOR ENDANGERED SPECIES: A mom-started movement to ‘Sew the SEEDS’ of preventing extinctions.

    By Herman K. Trabish, September 26, 2013 (NewEnergyNews)

    When Lonesome George, a tortoise often called the rarest creature in the world, died last year, it ended his species’ existence but started an effort to prevent others from following George down.

    “I've always been aware of environmental challenges and consider them the most important issue of our time,” explained Sherrell Cuneo, “so when I saw that Lonesome George had died I was pretty depressed.”

    Instead of staying depressed about predictions that as many as 40 percent of today’s species will be extinct in the next 50 to 100 years, Cuneo started a movement to create an AIDS quilt for endangered species, which she calls Sew the SEEDS (Saving Earth's Endangered and Diverse Species).

    Cuneo’s first ”visceral reaction to extinction” was when her father told her about Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon, and the flocks of passenger pigeons that had disappeared. She fell in love with birds and giant tortoises and made plans with her childhood BFF to become an ornithologist and sail to the Galapogos Islands.

    “All that had been buried but George brought it back,” explained Cuneo, whose life path had led away from science to a career as a Hollywood costumer and the fulfillment of being a mom.

    "Somebody ought to do the AIDS quilt for endangered species," Cuneo, who lost close friends to AIDS, blurted out while talking about George the day he died. “The words just came out of my mouth, like they weren't even mine. I was surprised when I discovered it hadn't been done yet. So I came to believe the idea had chosen me.”

    The obstacle, Cuneo came to believe, was that many people had personal relationships with AIDS victims while fewer know the harsh truth about endangered species. But, she decided after talking with teachers at Thomas Starr King Middle School where her daughter Apollonia was a student, the project could become part of a teaching curriculum. ”Teachers these days are always looking for interdisciplinary topics.”

    Research into curriculum standards led her to focus on kindergarten, fourth grade, sixth grade, and high school biology programs. She worked up the quilt’s name SEEDS (Saving Earth's Endangered and Diverse Species) and a friend suggested “Sew The SEEDS” for the movement.

    Apollonia taught Cuneo how to create a Keynote presentation and when she showed it to Linda Harada and Aileen Rabina, teachers at the middle school, they encouraged her.

    While waiting for the teachers to work the material into their schedule, Cuneo said, “I did what I'm good at; making things. I figured I needed to make a panel or two to show people what I was talking about. The first panels were George and Martha.”

    She also began exploring other outlets and seeking support for Sew the SEEDS. She got encouragement from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Mike Chrisman, Madeline Rose and Chris Pincetich with the Turtle Island Restoration Network and Center for Biological Diversity Endangered Species Act Organizer Angela Crane. Joel Greenburg publicized the project at the Project Passenger Pigeon website. And Candice Cain, the Center Theatre Group costume shop supervisor, promised fabric.

    When she introduced the project to the middle school classes, Cuneo began with a presentation about extinction and the AIDS quilt. “Anyone close to my age gets ‘the AIDS Quilt for endangered species’ pitch. But most people from Gen X on have no real idea what AIDS meant in the 1980's and how something as simple as a quilt actually made a difference. From there, I had to draw the comparison to losing an entire species forever and why it should matter to kids who are increasingly distanced from nature.”

    The teachers divided the children into groups. Each did a panel. The measurements involved in making the panels fit well with the school’s math and geometry curriculum. The teachers also had them write about extinction and think about it in ethical terms.

    Each group had to find online images of their species, do a scale mock-up on graph paper and transfer it, at actual panel size, onto pattern paper. “Some used an overhead projector to trace the image onto the full size panel, some drew freehand, some painted their panels, or appliqued, or embroidered, Cuneo explained. Some used rubber stamps for lettering, some hand printed, and some combined several techniques. “I was basically there to help them do what they wanted to do. There wasn't a lot of machine sewing until it was time to put all the panels together.”

    As much as possible, Cuneo obtained materials for the project that were environmentally friendly, she said, “and all sewing was done on a 1906 Singer Treadle machine or a 1922 hand crank, so no electricity was used in the sewing of the quilts."

    The endangered species quilt project has begun to take on its own life. A small grant to Ms. Rabina will allow her students to make new panels this year in conjunction with the Long Beach Aquarium.

    As with the AIDS quilt, which now has over 6,000 blocks of eight panels each, it is time for others, individuals and schools, to follow the model, Cuneo said. She sees her undertaking as part of something larger. "Climate change is the big problem. Species extinction is a different way of getting to it.”

    Information on how to become a part of the movement to create a quilt for endangered species is available at Sew the SEEDS (Saving Earth's Endangered and Diverse Species) [] Cuneo can be contacted at:


    At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Sherrell Cuneo is an inspired artist and a good friend to people, the earth and all the species who live on it! Go, Sherrell! She deserves enormous support for this great idea!


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