March 2021 Update

March 2021 Update r1 ...

March @ SOVI

Photo by Markus Spiske from Unsplash

A message from our Co-Chairs

Here at SOVI, we are feeling the revitalization and reinvigoration that accompanies the beginning of spring. As we spend more time outdoors (a gift amidst the continuing pandemic) and with Earth Day approaching, the environment and climate are at the forefront of our minds.

This month, SOVI Communications Coordinator Julie Tierney spoke to Cara Gibson, Executive Director of Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary in Saanich, BC. They discussed the importance of fostering a relationship with nature, as well as the role the SOVI Community of Practice has played in her work and life.

Could you tell me about the mission of Swan Lake?

CB: The mission is to foster the community’s direct understanding of nature and to make connections between people and nature. We do this in a variety of ways; from education programs, to an active volunteer community that comes on site and helps us with ecological restoration work.

As the Executive Director of a Nature Sanctuary, what’s been on your mind this year?

CB: So many things! One part is that we are witnessing a lot more people using this place for their mental health and as a place to be with family members in a safe way. I’m also thinking about who the people are. Do people feel safe here? Interaction with nature and who we think of in relation to nature is very racialized, so we want to work to ensure everyone feels welcome here. That includes stepping back and asking “What is the connection of this place to larger communities?” Internally, we’ve started a program largely looking at anti-oppression work, where we look at the ways we interact with different communities, such as Indigenous peoples. As a staff we’re also reading Layla Saad’s Me and White Supremacy. It’s the foundational work that needs to be done before just saying ‘Hey everyone should be on our site!’ First, we have to make sure we’re safe people.

From the biological side, I’m thinking about stewarding these lands, and what that means in a variety of contexts. We have both the wetlands of the lake and then the rocky summit of Christmas Hill, which is a Garry oak meadow - one of Canada’s most bio-diverse, and threatened, types of ecosystems. We have less than 5% of this ecosystem left on Vancouver Island, so having a patch of it on Christmas Hill is very special. But, this is a very urban environment, so there’s an urban/wild interface. The question is how to negotiate that from a biological and socio-cultural standpoint. What’s interesting to me is figuring out how to co-create a dynamic, inclusive, and appropriate environment through all these dimensions.

How do you help people foster a relationship with land?

CB: There’s a famous quote about how we only protect what we understand. The biggest part of it is introducing people to what's here on their planet. When people take time to crouch on the ground and see what’s emerging from the soil, they are dazzled. It happens on a different temporal and spatial scale, so maybe people don’t feel as connected because of our own spatial or temporal cycles. Some of our work is to help bind time and space in those introductions for people, so they can feel connected.

What’s your reaction to the increase of interest in the environment and climate around big events like Earth Day?

CB: I know there’s always campaigns and ways to get people excited, but I’m in it for the long haul. Whether it’s Earth Day, the day after, or any day. We call the space here ‘The Nature House,’ and I like to say that it’s an open house, and you can come no matter the day.

My resounding cry is 'Be in nature and connect to a place.' It doesn’t have to be this place; whatever works for you. I encourage people to do that more because the more time you spend outside, the more you’re going to develop that connection. And you’ll recognize that this is your home. We need to feel connected to it to preserve it.

You are part of the SOVI anti-racist Community of Practice. What prompted you to join this community, as a person working in environmental conservation and education?

CB: It’s about human dignity, and it’s incumbent upon all of us to be doing this work. It doesn’t matter what your day-time employment is; on some level we should all be doing it. Additionally, I’ve always felt that wherever I have privilege, I need to look at what that means. I am privileged to be a leader at this organization, so I have the honour of setting the tone around things like this.

Also, as a trained biologist with a PhD in entomology, I have been a woman in science and know what it means to be in a place where you don't feel you’re allowed to belong. I don't want that for any space I'm part of, particularly with nature, because this is everyone’s planet. It’s critical to shine the light on the bias I have and the structural systems I was raised in that might impede my ability to make sure everyone feels like they belong.

What have you learned that you plan to translate to your work?

CB: You can’t hold space for something you’re not intimately involved in. My involvement in the Community of Practice allows me to share my stories and realizations with my team, and it continuously changes my heart. It’s a group I wouldn't be able to convene on my own, or find elsewhere. It is a beautiful community I feel safe in, that’s changing me- and then I can pass that on.

Looking forward, what would you like to see change in the environmental education and conservation field?

GB: It is changing to an extent, but I would like to see more diverse groups of people in nature and feeling connected to nature.

Recently, I was part of a call about racialized relationships to nature where people shared how they connect to nature. A woman from South Asia talked about how she likes to sit with her family outside, but a lot of natural spaces don't have the capacity to fit her family. It’s a great point - many natural spaces don't have benches and if they do there's only one. I related to her connecting to nature in that way, but my family is small, so it’s not a problem. All families no matter the size should be able to sit in nature. You get all these perspectives on how to use a natural space and it's critical to have more voices at the table to set the structure. I would like to see more diverse people not only in the research, but also in how to shape these places so more people feel welcome.

Anything to add?

CB: I would encourage more people to get involved with the SOVI Community of Practice! I’m really grateful for the learning, connections and friendships I have made, so I would invite more people to join us. It truly feels special, wonderful and timely.

CHAPTER NEWS

The SOVI team has continued to expand! Julia Nunez-Eguiguren recently joined the team as SOVI’s community researcher. Julia will be working on expanding our anti-racism and anti-oppression community and database.

On March 24th, SOVI helped produce the event ‘White Allies Don’t Have to be White Saviors: Dismantling Performative Allyship’ with our friends at The Students of Colour Collective. Panelists from the advocacy group No White Saviors provided attendees insight and education into how international development work perpetuates white supremacy, what performative allyship looks like, and presented critical questions to ask ourselves when engaging in aid or activism. We learned about shifting from ‘allies’ to ‘co-conspirators’ and how white folks can reduce (but never eliminate) their harm in this field.

SOVI has also continued its regular programming with meetings of the SOVI Book Club and SOVI Community of Practice. Both groups are working toward anti-racist education and action in their own distinct ways. As always, newcomers are welcomed and encouraged!

RECENTLY

March 8th was International Women’s Day in Canada, and the month of March is commonly celebrated as Women’s History Month. This year’s theme #ChooseToChallenge emphasized challenging gender bias and inequality whilst celebrating women’s achievements. In the CRD, we saw events about uplifting the work of women in every sector and corner of the world, and strategies to bring further change. The 65th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women took place from March 15th to 26th, and BCCIC presented an incredible group of delegates. You can learn more about the diverse and significant work of women in BC through these compelling delegate bios and blog posts.

There has been an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes and racism in Canada, and globally. Mass attention to the crimes was amplified after a racist attack in Atlanta, Georgia, where a white gunman murdered eight people; six of whom were Asian women. Hate crimes and prejudice against Asian communities has risen significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and project 1907 reported that “BC has the most reported incidents per Asian capita of any sub-national region in North America.” Women, the elderly, young people and those in low-income jobs have been targeted the most. Grassroots organizations, politicians and individuals have called for increased anti-racism education, support for victims, policy changes and structural upheaval to address the roots of the problem, which has existed far before COVID-19 began.

UPCOMING EVENTS & OPPORTUNITIES

  • SOVI Book Club | TBA | SOVI BCCIC
    • Gather virtually to discuss chapters 'May,' 'June,' and 'July' of The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole, and join our community of conversation and learning on pertinent social justice issues.
    • Follow SOVI on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for registration and details.
  • Climate Justice - Reparations and Migration I April 5th I UBC Climate Hub
  • Bystander Intervention Training to Stop Anti-Asian/American and Xenophobic Harassment I April 6th-April 29th I Hollaback! + Asian Americans Advancing Justice
    • As the coronavirus pandemic escalates, we have seen more harassment, discrimination, and even violence directed at Asian communities. These one-hour, interactive training workshops will teach you Hollaback!’s 5D’s of bystander intervention methodology.
    • Register here: https://www.ihollaback.org/bystanderintervention
  • Saanich GeoQuest I April 22nd to May 1st I District of Saanich
  • Indigenous Economics: Reclaiming the Sacred I June 10th to 12th I Indigenous Climate Action
  • Regenerative Agriculture for the Home Garden I April 24th I Compost Education Centre

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”

-Sonya Renee Taylor Facebook Twitter Link Website Copyright © 2021 BC Council for International Cooperation - South Van Isle Chapter, All rights reserved.
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Unit 322 – 268 Keefer St, Vancouver,
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SOVI is based on the stolen lands of the Lək̓ʷəŋən Peoples (known by the colonial name of Victoria, BC). To contact us directly, please write us at r34.

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