Hello and an Offering
Anne and I wanted to reach out and explain our recent absence in this forum.
The last several months have hit us hard with COVID-19 changing every aspect of what we’ve conceived of as normal. On top of the national awakening around the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and other social justice issues.
It has been and continues to be a very disassociating feeling to be BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), and particularly a Black immigrant in my case, and feel and specifically see White America going through awakening around racism. I’m glad more people are entering these conversations, but the fact that catalyst was death, and continues to be death—particularly the death of Black men—is really disheartening.
The whole situation has me questioning my role as an environmental and outdoor educator—something I was already critical of. COVID-19 has led to a national interest in outdoor spaces and learning. In (re)prioritizing environmental education and everything that falls under it or splinters off of it. “Just go outside! It’s great for your physical and mental health.” However, context is everything. These calls to “just go outside” have got us thinking how overwhelmingly White, able-bodied, anti-Indigenous, and steeped in Dominant Culture the concept of “The Great Outdoors” is. Ahmed Arbury wasn’t able to “just go outside” and enjoy a jog (because it’s great for physical health). He was hunted down and murdered because he didn’t fit the description of someone who should be enjoying that space. Christian Cooper wasn’t able to just enjoy birding in Central Park. Every single place that education and recreation occur on is Indigenous land. BIPOC communities have been and continue to be policed in the outdoors. And the outdoors are overwhelmingly created for abled-bodied folks. How are we asking, inviting, and encouraging more engagement in these spaces without addressing these systems? It’s not as simple as just going outside.
Being outside can be great, however, if we’re ignoring systems of oppression and how they impact marginalized communities, we’re not able to fully offer inclusive spaces or understand why some people don’t feel comfortable entering them.
These are all heavy topics, but we hope that this group becomes a space where we can connect, and unlearn, and learn together. To the effect, there are two groups that we want to uplift.
Environmental Professionals of Color (EPOC) is a community that comes out of the Center for Diversity and the Environment. This is a great space for BIPOC folks in the environmental field to support a vision of an inclusive, equitable, and relevant environmental movement. Please follow the link for more information: https://www.cdeinspires.org/our-services/movement-building/environmental-professionals-of-color-epoc/.
QEEN (Queer Environmental Educators Network) is a newly established community whose members also support a vision of an inclusive, equitable, and relevant environmental movement and how that intersects with Queer/LGBTAI+ identities. To join this community please send an email to QEENetwork@gmail.com.
Both communities are only for individuals who identify with those identities and not for allies. Both communities will state when and where allies are welcome.
For those that are needing some nature inspiration right now, please check out the May 12 webinar with Author, Poet, Master Teacher, and Certified Wildlife Biologist at Clemson University, J. Drew Lanham. Drew talked about how we can use nature, wild things, and inspiring words to find solace and bring us closer during COVID times.
How do we find good in the bad times?: https://youtu.be/owYwIn2idCo
We’re in the same storm but in different boats. Some of us are in small boats and some of us are in yachts. Some of us have oars, and some don’t. Let’s move toward ensuring that are truly welcoming for all.
peace, love, and apple slugs
Anne and Charzy