No more writing prompts. Instead, we have been tasked with creating a meta-reflection of what we learned and took from ESCI 302. I had a though time with this project, mostly because it wasn’t in essay format. I believe though, that my final product is a good representation of what I got from this course, and how it will keep affecting me into the future. I hope you enjoy watching it as much (hopefully more) than I enjoyed creating it! Due to some technical difficulties, I am unable to insert a copy of the video, instead please click here to view the video via my Google Drive.
The prompt for this creative journal was “In Robin Wall Kimmerer’s story The Offering (p. 33-38), she considers sacred and personal ceremonies of thanksgiving, respect, and reciprocity. “Ceremonies large and small have the power to focus attention to a way of living awake in the world” (p. 36). What are your own homemade ceremonies, your offerings to the earth (p. 38)?” When I started thinking about what ceremonies I Currently engage in that show a reciprocity with the land, I immediately gravitated to another reading that we had taken from Kimmerer; Epiphany in the Beans. The relationship that I have with my father reminds me a lot of the relationship that Kimmerer describes between her and her daughter. When I was young I admittedly didn’t like helping my dad in the garden, but when I graduated and moved out I missed the days that Dad and I spent in the garden.
In terms of my relationship with the land, I don’t think that a single activity I have ever undertaken brings me closer to the environment than gardening. To help describe the ceremony behind gardening I created a Gardeners’ Manifesto.
Writing the manifesto gave me a reason to reflect on what gardening really is to me. One of the biggest beliefs about gardening that I have is to do with the sparse use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. I expressed this point in the “we believe” section of the manifesto. I personally think that anytime someone is working or playing outdoors they should be conscience of how they are impacting that environment, and make all efforts to reduce that impact.
Another point that I made prominent was that as a gardenener it is my responsibility to not only sustain myself with the food that I produce, but to also sustain the Earth itself. When I was working in Moosomin, I was renting a house that had a yard with a freshly cut garden. Before planting anything into the garden my dad and I knew that I would have to help out the Earth. To do this we tilled several hundred pounds of composted manure into the soil, so as not to drain the soil of nutrients in the first summer.
In the end, I feel that gardening of any sort can be seen as a homemade ceremony, especially when you keep your influence on the environmetn in mind. By following the manifesto that I have created, I plan on continuing my gardening ceremony without placing undue stress on the environment.
The prompt for the fourth visual representation was to explore a decolonizing encounter that we had experienced in our lives; a moment of unlearning or relearning. When I first thought of this prompt I had no idea what I was going to do. I honestly couldn’t think of a single life event that stood out to me. What I realized though, after thinking about it for a bit was that the growing up on a farm has filled me with a colonizer mentality. Due to this, I would say that moving away from home, and more specifically taking classes such as this one has allowed me to reflect on the majority of my life experiences. To try and represent some of the experiences that I am reflecting on I have created a collage file with pictures from my home.
The way that I arranged the images was meant to make groups of things that go together (overlapped). On the left there are three ‘artifacts’ from the farm; top to bottom we have a partial bison skull, then a stone axe head, followed by a butter press. When looking back and thinking of these items I remember that as a kid all three were on display in our house, but the significance of the items were never explained to me. As far as I knew all three were from the same time period and had the same amount of historical value. I am now beginning to release that it might not be the best practice to have all three items on display in the same space without at least acknowledging the distinct pasts that these items have.
The next group of pictures shows the wildlife that naturally exists in the space vs the ‘wildlife’ that is now living in the space. When reflecting on this I’ve come to realize that the relationship between farming and being environmentally considerate is a tough one to define. My family respects the land that we are on, we don’t overgraze and are as accommodating as possible to wildlife. At the same time though, we have to realize that by using this land to produce food we are displacing the wildlife that we often are trying to save.
The final row of pictures are to show the ways that settlement has altered the landscape. This is, once again, something that I have never given much though to before. After taking this class, along with INDG 100, it is hard to look at a space without thinking about how it was pre-colonization and what our responsibilities to this space are now that it has been altered.
In the end, I think that this reflecting process has created more questions for me than it has answered. My hope is that I can take these new questions and keep exploring me thoughts on colonization, environmentalism, and my place within it.
The prompt for the third visual representation was to visually represent a particular time that you experienced wilderness as a common sense Canadian ideal and/or as a disruption of this normative narrative, in a formal or informal Environmental Education context. Growing up on a farm gave me a lot of informal Environmental Education opportunities. When by brothers and I were young, we would often walk down into the valley and play by the creeks edge in the summer. Among the many things that my brothers and I did was catching crayfish.
Although there may not seem like much of a lesson to be learned here, looking back I’ve realized that I took in a lot. Finding and catching crayfish meant that we had to understand where they lived, how and when they moved around, and what could be used to lure them. For the most part searching for crayfish meant turning over rocks and hoping to be quicker than them. In response to the prompt I have created an informational placard, like what you might find in a zoo or aquarium that describes crayfish.
The placard, while informative, is meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek as the experience of catching the crayfish is much more memorable than the words presented here. Much like other aspects of Environmental Education though, I think that there needs to be a balance between what is taught thought the use of texts and what is taught through the use of place-based learning. One way that this placard goes a small distance to disrupt the normative narrative is with its use of the Cree word for crayfish (given that the translation I found was accurate). The language that information is presented in is something that I had never thought of before this class. After our class experience in the garden outside of the Indigenous University though, I feel that we should properly represent the people who first interacted with these plants and animals.
Reading other classmate’s responses to this assignment really opened my eyes. I knew going into it that everyone’s poems/letters would be different, what I didn’t expect was just how different the points of view taken would be. When comparing and contrasting to my own poem, the only similarity I could draw with most other assignments was the theme of change. Mateus and Jaimie’s poems offered me a great reference point for some deeper thinking and introspection.
Mateus’ poem shows a much broader worldview than mine. In my poem I am speaking to the University of Regina. Mateus’ poem on the other hand is written from the perspective of someone living in a completely different part of the world. The setting of Mateus’ poem is evident in his opening lines “the sun, the flowers, the latex plants and trees and quatis”. Both of us are making a call to action of sorts, even though the call in Mateus’ is less explicit than mine. Mateus also diverges from the anthropocentric view of the environment, stating things such as “we are part of nature and so are bacteria and archaea”. This connection between the smallest life forms on Earth and the ‘top’ of the hierarchy definitely makes you stop and think about who/what is being affected by human actions. This nature-human equality that Mateus presents is something reflected in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass. In one of her stories she makes the connection between human actions and the loss of natural habitats. Her story doesn’t tell us that we need to change our ways, but the implied call to action is unavoidable.
Jaimie’s poem seems to compliment mine very well. In my poem I am arguing with someone, asking them to change their ways. Jamies poem is written to a person who has already made significant changes; someone who understands that more needs to be done. Lines such as “you reduce, reuse, and recycle” and “when garbage is found lying around, you pick it up off of the ground” show that instead of pointing out someone’s flaws and areas that they need to improve, Jaimie is instead praising someone who has already begun to make changes. Both of our poems show a certain amount of cautious optimism, acknowledging that any change is positive but that more must be done. Jaimie’s poem confronts this by stating “you understand that we need to help out, instead of doing nothing but shout” which agrees with what I am saying in my poem while ironically confronting my statement to shout until change is made.
Both Mateus and Jaimie’s poems work well with my own. What I have realized after reading theirs, and thinking about mine, is that my poem held a really negative undertone. Not only that, but I also clung tightly to the anthropocentric view of ecoliteracy and environmentalism. Reading their poems has opened my eyes to greater connections with the world around us, as well as alternate ways of creating change (praise for the good instead of dwelling on the bad).
I wrote a poem to the University of Regina. The poem links to the group project that I have been participating in. Our project is hoping to have recycling bins implemented into all dorms on campus. On Monday evening I knocked on doors hoping to collect signatures for a petition to show that there is a greater want for the recycling bins. I wrote this poem as a reflection of that experience.
A Dozen Floors
I walk these steps,
a dozen floors.
Catching my breath,
knocking on doors.
The subject of change,
that’s what I’m about.
When will you listen?
Maybe if I shout?
Your missions statement claims,
“we value managing resources responsibly.”
Yet on that front,
you are failing demonstrably!
To practice what I preach
is what I want to do.
At this moment,
my only obstacle is you.
Recycling is such
a small step you see.
We could change the Earth,
you and me.
It’s just the beginning
of a life we could commit,
to raising awareness
of the things we must omit.
I can teach you
the simple things we need to change.
I’ll widen your scope.
I’ll broaden your range.
The world will never be again
the way it was before.
We’ve polluted water, land, and air;
plastic coats the shore.
is the next best
Getting there won’t be easy.
We all must do our part.
Recycling isn’t everything.
But it is a start.
And so until
the policies change,
I will walk these steps,
a dozen floors.
Catching my breath,
knocking on doors.
This weeks prompt was; what will be your powerful acts of reciprocity with the land? What could you commit to doing/being? How will you act? What could it take for you to make a “leap” into action? This prompt was designed to go along with reading Robin Kimmerer’s short story “Maple Nation: A Citizenship Guide”, and our previous investigation of the Leap Manifesto. Both texts are a call to action of sorts, with the latter being a lot more upfront about it. Kimmerer’s “Maple Nation: A Citizenship Guide” appeals to your emotions, personifying the forest that surrounds her, and asking what we can do for it. The Leap Manifesto is much more upfront in the way it breaks down how we can change our lives for the betterment of the environment, and in turn, all living things.
Both texts spoke to me. The prompt itself offered space for a lot of introspection. When I first started thinking of what my act of reciprocity would be, and in turn how I would represent that I was stumped. I knew that whatever my act of reciprocity was, it had to be something doable. I didn’t want to make an empty statement. After thinking quite some time of ways in which I could cut back or change my habits, I realized that one of my current hobbies is already an act of reciprocity in itself. My great grandfather was a botanist, who loved gardening. This passion was passed through my grandparents to my father, and now to me. Our current garden at the farm is aproximaly 1/4 acre (1011 m², 10890 ft²). A lot of people don’t realize just how much difference a garden of any size can make. Not only are you reducing that amount of food packaging that you purchase and throw away, but your also reducing emissions used to transport produce to you.
My visual representation of this act of reciprocity is a simple jar of dirt. I origional wanted to grab some of the actual garden soil, but given the winter conditions had to settle for some bagged potting soil from last year. On the top of the jar I wrote a very shortened definition of reciprocity (one that I could remember). The sides of the jar were painted with the following food facts: on average, produce in North America travels 1200-2400 Km, for every 1 Kg of potatoes produced 2.9 Kg of CO2 is produced, for every 1 Kg of broccoli produced 2 Kg of CO2 is produced, for every 1 Kg of beans, 2 Kg of CO2, for 1 Kg of tomatoes 1.1 Kg of CO2, approximately 10 Kcal of fossil fuel energy is used for every 1 Kcal of food energy produced. My hope is that my simple jar of dirt will act as a reminder of the good that can be done with something as easy as gardening.
This weeks prompt was “What does the environment mean to you?” When I first started thinking about how I would respond to this prompt I immediately thought ‘home’. For me the environment is my home. A good part of this is probably due to the fact that I grew up on a farm, surrounded by valleys, and was constantly exploring them. For me, being in nature and exploring the outdoors was second nature.
After reading Robin Kimmerer’s “The Sound of Silverbells” my idea for the project shifted a little bit. I realized that the environment is my home, but it is also the home of literally every other living creature. What the environment meant to we was still home, but it was now other creatures homes, and I wanted some way of showing the way in which all the environments are connected.
The idea for the globe came to me as the only way to showcase every environment, and the way that they are all connected. I also still wanted to draw attention to my home, and my environment which is what prompted the use of the road map, and the magnifying glass. If you were to take that magnifying glass and move it to other areas of the globe, however, you would find all kinds of habitats, and all types of environments that are existing beside and within each other. Everything is connected, and it isn’t until you zoom in and really pay attention that you notice little things, such as bugs and spiders living on the ground that you previously mistook for lifeless.
The creative journal is something that is “more than a place for recording observations and data, [a] [creative] journal [is] a springboard to fresh insights and new discoveries about the natural world.” (Hammond, 2002, p. 34) After being introduced to the topic, given a prompt, and completing the readings, it became obvious to me that I needed a little more structure. I was honesty uncomfortable with the amount of ambiguity that the assignment offered and wanted some way to narrow my own throughts and expectations for my projects. I needed more rules! You’d imagine my delight when I found out that William Hammond, author of “The Creative Journal: A Power Tool for Learning” suggests that creating personal rules is a great way to start your journaling journey. I took the ambiguous rules that had been laid before us and tightened them up until I was comfortable with it. This is what I came up with:
- Use tools/techniques that I would often shy away from. One of the guidelines laid out by our professor was that we couldn’t use the same medium repeatedly. After hearing that, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get away with a simple magazine collage every week. Because of that restriction I decided that I wanted to take the bull by the horns and challenge myself to not only use different mediums (required) but attempt the mediums I am least comfortable with.
- Contemplate at least as long as it takes to create. What I meant when I wrote this down was that I wanted to spend at least as much time visualizing my projects, and thinking about them as I spent creating them. I don’t want to jump on the first idea that I have, and then spend the whole weekend making something that in the end doesn’t mean what I had hoped. If I am going to make something that takes me all weekend, I want to put in the time thinking it over, and know that it is what I want.
- Don’t settle for something simple, unless simple is the only answer. The rule forces me to think outside the box and move beyond my initial ideas, but also gives me the room to fall back on them if they turn out to be the right ideas. I just want to make sure the I don’t choose something easy when I could have given it a little bit more thought and created something truly amazing.
- Try to relate every topic to my core scientific studies (physics, chemistry). As a chemistry major and a physics minor I want to be able to explain things in a way that is relatable to the subjects. My hope is that by attempting to frame the journal entries in a way that is relatable to chemistry and physics I will be better prepared to make the same connections when I am in front of a class in the future. The truth is, every discipline can be linked to the environment in some way, it just has to be figured out.
Although the four rules that I laid out for myself are still a little ambiguous, I believe they will help me to stay centred when creating my journal entries. I also think that this will help me to develope a little bit of a theme around relating physics and chemistry to environmentalism.
Hammond W.F. (2002). The Creative Journal: A Power Tool for Learning. Green Teacher, Fall, 34-38.