Nature should invite everyone, but it doesn’t. National parks have a long history of excluding Indigenous peoples. A group of teenagers walking through the woods is viewed with suspicion. Women fear being alone in nature because of who might come around the corner or out of the bushes. Dog walkers and cyclists have a long history of conflict. Neighbourhoods of privilege have greenspaces; neighbourhoods of need get paved spaces. Black birders live with fear of what they will be accused of for trying to enjoy their hobby and the wonders of the world.
In studying and teaching biology and environmental science in post secondary, I have seen one of the very real consequences of these realities. Biology is very white. Most of us need to be able to see ourselves in a field before we recognize that it is a viable option and not just an unreachable dream. Therefore, what you see is what you get. Over my years of teaching in the field I have attempted to do my part by bringing in underrepresented voices and pointing out as many injustices as I could. Silence is not an option. Being comfortable is not an option. It is everyone’s responsibility to change and contribute to change. No one group should have to do it all.
This week, follow #BlackBirdersWeek on Twitter and see some of the amazing people who experience incredible injustice as they try to BE with nature. And if you are willing to go a bit further, explore a resource like White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism by Robin DeAngelo.
Note: I didn’t post this yesterday in support of the #blackout Tuesday to give space for Black voices. But, know that the work ahead is much greater than not posting for a day or the content of this post. We are all responsible for making change happen regardless of how difficult that might seem.