Seattle, WA: DDCSP Homecoming

By far one of my favorite experiences while in college was my summer internships with the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program (DDCSP). Through DDCSP I met people of color from around the country who were also passionate about social change and conservation. 

Me and my people.

But by now the post-graduation blues have hit hard. And, unlike the pre-graduation blues of frantic enthusiasm and angst, the post-grad blues are less cute and more existential. I take comfort in the knowledge that all of my friends who have graduated before me have also faced this quarter-life crisis. And even though using my two majors and minor from a tough school to box pizzas and wipe down tables still sucks, the solidarity with my peers is helpful. 

After graduating though, that solidarity has been hard to hold onto. My friends are scattered across the country partly because I went to a large out-of-state university and partly because I made a strong group of friends through DDCSP. This means that though we support each other through FaceTime rehearsals for interviews and group messages dissecting screenshots of Tinder nightmares, my day-to-day reality hardly resembles the meaningful and cross-cultural social network I’ve actually created for myself. Homecoming was an opportunity to learn about new social change processes and methods, but it was also a time to reconnect with loved ones I hadn’t seen in months or years and without this chance wouldn’t have seen again for far longer. I joked with my closest DDCSP friends without skipping a beat. Even people I hadn’t spoken to since the program ended surprised me with their own personal growth and with the newfound connections made during Homecoming weekend. 

At DDCSP Homecoming I witnessed a land acknowledgment for the first (and second, and third…) time, and a workshop with the organization Uprooted and Rising presented a model for fighting big food in higher education, an issue I hadn't thought about that much before.

I got to explore a new city and a beautiful island, meet people from different programs, interact with new program staff, and learn more about what my peers are up to in their respective cities. Even friends with full-time conservation jobs are going through some of the same young-adult struggles and it was nice to have a space to finally laugh about it all. One of my favorite moments from the weekend was the final gathering where people shared out ways they hoped to collaborate further with the larger DDCSP network. As an introvert, I was already proud of myself for the handful of new connections I’d made over short conversations and mutual Instagram follows, but this last group conversation gave me an opportunity to push myself. I look forward to creating a dope community with the new DDCSP book club (still in beta)! 

Ultimately (and at the risk of sounding utterly cheesy), DDCSP Homecoming weekend gave me a positive vision for what I want my life to look like. One night as I looked around a dorm lounge filled with intelligent people of color laughing and dancing, I thought This is what I want. I want to be around people who are working hard to make the world better, safer, more livable and more equitable. And I want to be around people who are thriving while doing so. We talked a little bit about Octavia Butler and Afrofuturism during our time together, reminding us of the importance of positively reimagining the future. These positive visions of the future are imperative for meaningful social change and also for hope, and I gleaned a bit of that this weekend.

Big thanks to all the Environmental Leadership Program staff and DDCSP staff and alums for making it such a memorable weekend.

Book Review: An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

During my last semester at college I had the chance to take a class called Green Indigineity. The class discussed various forms of colonization; settler colonialism, globalization, and neocolonialism all from the perspectives of various Indigenous peoples. In many ways this class exposed me to truths I had never even considered before. Through previous research I had some understanding of how the National Parks System violently displaced Native Americans and stole often the most valuable land and resources, but the class taught me about the ancestral traditions and belief systems that made these offenses so truly abhorrent.

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The class increased my interest to learn more about how the United States continues to perpetuate a system of colonial oppression for Indigenous peoples here and around the world. That interest led me to this book. Due to its size and heavy topics, it has the potential to deter some readers. However, I found the book quite useful in learning big picture ideas by not worrying about memorizing every date and name and instead focusing on the details of a few events while holding onto the larger themes of others. Though this book is full of information about the history of the Americas from initial European settlement to now (with a brief intro about pre-European America), below I will list just a few of the takeaways that interested or surprised me most.

  • The British colonization of Ireland acted as a model for the colonization of “the Americas” and the slaughter of its Indigenous people. The tradition of scalping was even carried over from European traditions there.

  • By sending Black soldiers who had fought in the Civil War out West, the US military avoided disturbing predominantly white East Coast cities with large populations of Black men and also gained force in eradicating Native Americans. These “buffalo soldiers” were meant to continue the displacement of Natives and to squash any rebellions.

  • The US military continues to use and exploit Indigenous names and words as military jargon in its campaigns to further neocolonialism around the world. In fact the name for enemy territory used in official military documents is “Indian country.” These misuses are a disrespect almost unimaginable.

Of course there were many things I picked up from this book and I now recommend it to anyone who will listen. Give it a read and pass it on. The subject matter is heavy but knowledge is power.


Belle Isle.

It took me over four years of living in Michigan, but I finally made it to Belle Isle. And I’m glad I did. The aquarium was so beautiful, I was almost more interested in the architecture and design of it than the fish. The green tiles inside reminded me a little of the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter. We explored the gardens outside a bit on our own. It was a gloomy day, but it was fun to run around looking for weird corners of the park.

Michigan Autumn.

Autumn is my favorite time of year.

Emma took this photo of me.

Emma took this photo of me.

We took a walk through some corn fields. The air was crisp, the sky was blue, and everything living was golden.

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It always surprises me to see people throwing away trash bags full of leaves from their yards. To me that’s the best part of the season.

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Yellowstone.

Last month I spent 3 days in Yellowstone National Park as a part of a capstone project for my internship program. Aside from obviously being in constant awe of the landscape, I was also incredibly grateful to be present in that space.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

 

Going to one of the big name national parks has always been a bucket list item of mine. The allure of such naturally grandiose features and otherworldly landscapes filled my head, though I wondered if I would ever get to see any in person. Being such a far away location meant that going to Yellowstone on my own would require significant funds for airfare and camping equipment that I don't have. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of inequities in accessibility of our nation's parks. While in the park, we saw very few black and brown people, though there were many international tourists. Hopefully, inequities in access will drastically change as more and more people of color enter the environmental sciences and conservation fields. 

Being in the park brought on a lot of conflicting emotions. Though a lot of violence and destruction (against the land, animals, and Native peoples) had to occur in order for the park to exist, the park is something truly beautiful. I found myself fighting off feelings of pride at living in a country with so much beauty, knowing that beauty was stolen and has come at a price far too high. Regardless of the ugly history that is often attached to landscapes, I am proud to be a person who cares deeply about the land and feels emotionally connected to it. And that's a pride I don't have to fend off. 

So many of the things I saw in Yellowstone seemed surreal. At times it felt like I was a tourist visiting another planet for the first time. I can't wait to see more of this land's crazy textures and colors.

Old Faithful was named so because it would produce an eruption of water and steam precisely every 60 minutes. An earthquake in 1959 dramatically altered the landscape of the Yellowstone region and changed Old Faithful's schedule, making it less predictable. Now she's not so faithful.

Up North.

I've gone to school in Michigan for four years and have finally made it to see the Upper Peninsula. The cool air made me momentarily forget about the busyness of campus. Here's a few things I saw.

Even though Mackinac Island is a little creepy in a Stepford Wives kind of way (isolated, wealthy, and overly groomed), the place did have an idyllic feel. The houses all had the most incredible designs with bay windows, porch swings, arches, and stained glass. 

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Here's a piece of my favorite house.

The next day we did some more naturey stuff. Here's Tahquamenon Falls.

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Sunset on the water...so pretty.