Kealey and I collaborated on our Digital Story for our final project in ESCI. It was a loft of fun, and we were super glad to share our experiences with everyone!
I sit here, wondering what it means for an encounter to be decolonizing? I mean, can I include a collective of encounters? If so, I would have to say the most essential decolonizing encounter I have had is going to University. Specifically, going in to the faculty of education at the University of Regina. Before this, my views of the world were highly Westernized. Without a doubt, I still privilege western ways of knowing in my mind– they are after all what I have learned for twenty years. However, being a student at the University of Regina has been the most important decolonizing encounter of my life. I have learned to question knowledge and places. Why is the land divided in the way that it is? Why do we even divide the land? Why do we not share it? These are questions that I have been asking myself since my first days as a pre-service teacher.
Ho wrote “without unpacking the colonizing effects of the dominant culture, one does not have the necessary tools to pursue the kind of living that recovers social and ecological disruption of places.” (p. 4). This quote is of utmost importance to my own embodiment of decolonization. It is impossible to state how important it is to understand colonization before you can hope to end it. And colonization is actually incredibly broad. It is Canada. The Canada we know, the Canada we live in, is a direct result of colonization. It is the embodiment of the beliefs and values of white settlers, forced upon all those who dare reside on our divided land. To call Canada divided is an uncomfortable thought. We are a country proud of “our unity” but at the same time, we have the land completely divided. If we are truly stronger together, why have we always acted to keep ourselves a part from our neighbours?
The visual representation I have chosen is a wooden house, a symbol of the first Europeans coming here and making it their home, changing the land to suit their needs, with roads. The second half of the picture involves the land returning to the way it was, with the only effects of colonization remaining being the torn down wooden house. The faded colouring serves to represent how this idea is still new, and that it is just forming, meaning not many people have quite embraced it yet.
Over the course of the last year, I have found myself questioning my own views and knowledge more frequently. As a student-teacher, I have found myself evolve drastically over the last few months alone.
When I first started in the faculty of Education here at the University of Regina, my views on teaching were traditional to say the least. I believed that what teachers were meant to do is stand at the front of the room and impart students with knowledge. This is how it was done for me, and how it has always been done. However, I now find myself believing this way of teaching is highly ineffective, and perhaps even outdated. Now, I would most likely teach in a way that allows for inquiry based learning. I think that students should learn things and in a way that incites their interests; not the interests of the rest of society. Everyone is different, why teach them the same.
With that in mind, I believe it important to teach in the right setting. To teach about the environment outside rather than within the four walls of the classroom. Why limit how much kids can learn, and how they learn, by the space? In Barrett’s article, the following is stated “Poststructuralism attempts to gain some understanding of ways we have come to understand ourselves, questions the legitimacy of these understandings, and brings previously marginalized discourses to the fore…” (p. 80). This concept of poststructuralism involves including other ways of knowing. Learning from the land, through experience, is a highly indigenized way of learning and knowing. To invite students to learn from the land, and not out of a book, is a way I would like to incorporate environmental education as a future teacher.
My visual representation is pretty straightforward. The earth on the left represents the traditional view of the world, that is to say how it is seen in a western way of knowing. On the right, this same world is torn in two. This represents the disruption of western ways of knowing, making room for other forms of knowledge to take place.
Over time, I have found that the most interesting thing about stories is that everyone has a unique one. For example, one hundred people could write about the same experience, but they could speak like it was completely different for each and every one of them. For this post, I notably struggled to come up with just one idea. I discovered that every single place is full of stories for myself, and ultimately, I chose to go with the most recent self-story. It was just over a week ago, and it was quite possibly the time I felt most connected to nature. My friend Kealey and I went out to Wascana park to practice stillness. Although I have been to this park a few times in my life, this time was significantly different. I took the time to feel nature around me, and become a part of nature. When I sat there for 50 minutes, which did not feel like 50 minutes at all, I felt like I became one with my surroundings. I could sense all the trees around me, and I could sense their roots in the ground. This was with my eyes closed. It was a truly remarkable experience. And when I quit leaning against the tree, it went away. I lost this additional sense. It was both a new experience, but one that will last for me.
As I mentioned above, every person can have a different story about the same experience. After practicing stillness for 50 minutes, even if we were in the same area, Kealey and I found that our stories were significantly different. We did the exact same thing, but our experience could not have been more different. “For many Indigenous Peoples, the landscape holds wisdom stories, which through self-reflection, serve to guide people towards proper relations with place and with each other.” (Curthoys, Cuthbertson & Clark, 2012). This quote from story circles best reflects my views. Each and every place holds different stories, and it is through self-reflection that each person draws out their own version. Although Kealey and I did the same thing in a very similar place, what it meant for us was significantly different. It is the land that guided us in our stillness, and it was the land that made our experiences that much different. My visual representation was made alongside Kealey after our stillness session. It reflects the idea that, even though we both had drastically different experiences, we both acknowledge that we are a part of nature, or that we are nature.
So far, in my journey in environmental education has been interesting to say the least. Although I have learned a great deal over the last few months, I have found that my overall attitude towards the environment and the state of the planet in general has been rather full of despair. In my first creative blog, my attitude is rather negative. My visual is quite depressing, but I would consider it to be realistic in relation to the current state of the world. We tend to exist as a separate entity to nature, or rather, our existence in a place means that nature cannot also exist in that same place.
This view is heavily reflected in my third blog post, in which once again, I portray nature as being a part from civilization. However, this post touches far more on the portrayal of nature as a capitalistic enterprise. That is, we see nature as something that we can benefit off of, and accrue capital gains. This sentiment builds on to my first blog post, in that one portrays nature as a place to get away from civilization, and the other shows it to be more what exists in the absence of civilization. In both cases, I reiterate the reality that we face in Euro-Western culture, nature is seen as different from humans, and human-life. That to be a part of nature, you need to be a part from civilization.
These two posts tie together nicely in regards to the context of my second blog post, in which I explore how humans impact the environment through their everyday lives. Once again, in a very bitter tone full of despair, I discussed how humans impact nature, even though we consider ourselves to be a separate entity from it. The following best describes my position “poisoning the world poisons us we are it we are toxins as we do so we are.” (O’Riley and Cole, 2009, p. 126). Although my views of how we damage our environment are more heavily referenced in this second blog post, I find that the general tone is reflected in all three of my first blog posts. I tend to see humans as almost a cancer to themselves. We act out of convenience, and in a carefree manner. Granted, some more than others, but most everyone partakes in our consumer-based Western culture. We always seek to have more than our neighbour, and I feel as though that belief is present in all three of my creative blog posts. We act as a separate entity to nature, out of convenience, with very little thought as to how we might be impacting the planet itself.
This belief of mine was in fact echoed during my eco-literacy group project field trip. It was then that, as a group, we spoke to elder-in-residence Brenda DuBois. One thing that really resonated with me was the exact idea that I mentioned above. We only have one planet, and we often act more out of convenience than out of thoughtfulness. She even stated that despite her beliefs, 75% of what she consumes is convenience. This makes me wonder how humans can change their path. It is difficult to imagine how we can shift when even our elders have a difficult time switching. They have the knowledge of their ancestors, and they transmit beliefs, but even they have succumbed to consumer-culture. This feeling of despair is the one that every single one of my blog posts has transmitted. Despite my beliefs, I do not know how we can convince the majority of people to change their habits if I cannot do so myself. Thus, we will continue to live in a world like in my first blog post where civilization can only exist in the absence of nature, and we will continue to treat nature as a tool for capitalism.
“The History of Life on earth has been a history of interaction between living things and their surroundings.” (Carson, 1962, p. 5). This quote is the truth. So many subjects in school touch on it to some extent, especially Sciences. So, how then have we gone so long knowing this, that we depend on our surroundings for life, without ever questioning the impact we have on our surroundings? It is hard for me to understand, and perhaps the leading cause for my despair. My braid echoes this, and it is the final piece that weaves all of my work thus far together. My braid speaks of my belief that all past human interactions have lead us on this crash course to our own destruction. That, despite the knowledge we have, we are still victims of our own nature. The way our world works, that is civilization as being a part from nature, and that nature is capitalistic enterprise at most, needs to change for humans to have any realistic shot at fighting what should be our own demise.
Carson, R. (2002/1962). Silent Spring. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
O’Riley, P. & Cole, P. (2009). Coyote & Raven talk about the Land/scapes. In M. McKenzie, P. Hart, H. Bai & B. Jickling (Eds.), Fields of Green: restorying culture, environment, and education. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc. (GC)
When I think about the outdoors, many of the examples that come to mind involved how “white” wilderness is or has become. Trying to think of place in Canada that was true wilderness if the definition used involved being untouched and unregulated by humans, I drew many blanks. Instead, I could only think of advertisements for different parks that promise a visit to the great outdoors, for a fee of course. As such, my visual representation is an indicator of this idea. The leaf with a $5 represents the small fraction of the outdoors we get to experience, and for a price. The tree in the top left corner represents reality. Despite our promise of visiting the wilderness, what remains to visit, or what remains to be “explored” is but a part of what it once was, thus a half-dead tree. The signs represent the commercialization of the outdoors. Even going to a park, it is hard to leave without seeing or hearing some mention of a gift shop. The signs also display the irony: we are promising a visit with nature all the while printing the invite on a now dead part of nature. It would be similar to advertising a zoo and using animals that have been killed and stuffed to invite you to come see the real deal.
Finally, the bottom left corner of my representation features a body of water. This body of water represents a canoe canal, but it is devoid of a canoe. Like in Newberry’s article, outdoor education often leaves out the rich historical content that could be taught through canoeing, or through canoe trips. Present views of the outdoors in Canada often include canoeing, but as Newberry points out, the historical connotations and potential experiences are often left out of canoe trips. Much like in my visual representation, from which I chose to exclude canoes altogether as a way of showing how they are removed from the ways of learning in Canadian society, the rich experiences that come with canoeing are lost. There are no lessons on the origins of canoes, the importance they held to First Nations peoples. Most people tend to associate canoes with the voyageurs or the fur traders. They might know that they are responsible for its invention, but they often overlook it. This is a testament to how the outdoors has traditionally been viewed as a white place, as even when the opportunity presents itself to educate people on the importance of the knowledge of First Nations’ peoples and how it helped the white settlers, it does not get taken. The outdoors, or are portrayal of nature, is often a result of our own commercialization. We see what we want to see, and we get what we pay for. If a white settler family goes for a camping trip, they likely do not want to hear about our colonial past. They just want to enjoy nature, without any concern as to where it came from, or how it came to be the way they are experiencing. It is a tragedy that such a huge part of Canada’s history is so easily dismissed.
When I began thinking about how I embody climate change, I could not help but think about the line from Coyote and Raven, “poisoning the world poisons us we are it we are toxins as we do so we are.” (p. 126). This really made me question the variety of ways that I, as a singular body, have impacted the planet. So my visual representation was simply me writing down as many ways that I pollute down on my arm. I used my arm to encompass how these things would impact my body through pollution. How my body would become pollution because I polluted, much like what was said in the line from Coyote and Raven.
I feel like it is important to stress that for me pollution is a wide variety of things. But for the sake of this blog, I use the word primarily to represent the creation of greenhouse gases, and as such the impact that greenhouse gases have on the environment.
When I think about climate change, it is almost always about how my actions contribute to changing the world around me. How driving everyday produces pollution, and how that in turn changes the environment I live in. For this post, I questioned how in turn, the toxicity ended up coming back to me, and affecting my body. By putting all these labels on my arm, in a matter that is almost shaming, I made a direct link from the ways I pollute to how they affect my body. The art is by no means pretty, in fact I would feel ridiculous showing it off willingly for more than a few minutes. It represents how climate change is not pretty, and that it affects people’s bodies for the worse.