I came to Canada for a four month exchange. I saw the snowy city of Regina from my hotel window and then was amazed by the rabbits and squirrels in Victoria Park. In Environmental Education class, I was asked to remember a time I enjoyed being outside, and then the mountains I used for picnics with friends as a child became a modest piece of art. It was easy to me to have fun outside, and to feel connected to nature around me. That’s how I feel one with the cosmos. Now I understand why it is important for a kid to feel that way, how this pedagogy of hope works, because developing this ecophilia is essential to value nature and to have citizens who will work towards disrupting climate change.
The sense of wonder we have outside is important and has to be developed. Children need their time outside to fall in love with the Earth, to get dirty, to explore, take risks and learn from them. The EcoMuseum in White City is a place for such opportunities, and we, as future teachers, need to engage in outdoor activities so that we can repeat them with our students. We also need to practice our respect towards the Earth, even when it means leaving behind a cool antler you found lying around.
Once we understand that we’re one, we can work together. We can rethink our habits and stop hurting Mother Earth. Inspired by the class discussion and the second creative journal, I reduced my consumption of industrialized potato chips, instead cooking real potatoes. The less wrappers, the less trash filling up landfills. Instead of throwing away plastic, I used the potato peels to make my Abaporu. Then, it all became worm food in our class vermicomposting project, following the circle of life. We need our feet down on Earth to think about what’s happening around us and how we can impact it. This is one small way we can give back to the Earth and develop a relationship of reciprocity.
But one single person buying less wrappers, less straws and plastic bags is not enough. Individually, our impact on the environment is small. That’s why it is important to try and work together to make a difference. Team work allows for bigger changes to be made. We tried making our small impact on life in the residence of the University of Regina, to make it easier for everyone to recycle more. It’s still a small step, but way bigger than what one person alone can do.
Different people working together, uniting forces, but still being separate individual beings. Each one with their special strengths, together to make a group even stronger. Team work is something that I consciously value, but that is hard for me to practice. Maybe we can weave our strengths, the same way we can weave our knowledges. This course really helped me remake my own views on science and other forms of knowledge and how they can relate.
It is easier for me now to understand what braiding means. It’s not assimilation, and it’s not about finding a superior view. It’s coexistence, it’s multiculturalism. It comes with its tensions and might be hard to understand and absorb. But the tensions are not meant to be undone. Different ways of knowing means knowing more, if done how it should. I have always valued science: both my poem and a blog post have scientific names. But I also live with people who value traditional and popular knowledge. It has always been difficult for me to understand how to combine such different ways of knowing. Kimmerer helped me understand this and how to deal with this. “you have to pull a bit” when you’re braiding ecoliteracies. “A certain amount of tension is needed”. And it’s better when it’s done together.
Analyzing what I wrote throughout the course, I noticed that I talk a lot about time. The time I spent outside as a child, the time I spent walking around the University or enjoying nature here in Regina, and what will happen over time with the antler, left to decompose in the EcoMuseum. I also talked about indigenous people, not a lot, but I did, because I don’t really know their current situation in Brazil, and it makes more sense to me [to talk about Brazilian indigenous peoples]. But now I am more open to their understanding, to their point of view and maybe I can better weave that with my understandings and my knowledges. I don’t talk a lot about guilt or despair, or the bad things that are happening. I try to focus on the right things and which path to follow. And I talked a lot about art. I’m not a person that is very artistic, [aside from my photography], but I mentioned poems, paintings and performances. And I think that art speaks to our senses and is an important tool that we have to weave in our understandings if we want to actually understand how to live in this Earth, how to do right, how to protect and live in reciprocity with this land.
PS: My anthropocentrism is showing when I talk about “protecting the Earth”, my lack of indigenous knowledge is showing when I speak of the indigenous peoples of Brazil as one uniform mass. Learning is a continuous process.
Pictures from 2012, 2018 and 2019; videos from 2019 – Mateus Figueiredo
Vermicomposting video: Mackenzie Mullie
Beyond Ecophobia, by David Sobel, published by Yes, available at https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/education-for-life/803
Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Kimmerer. Quotes from page ix.