Before we understood ecology, we thought species were just disparate sets of experiments, evolving in isolation of one another.
Now that we as ever-learning humans know better — now that we know the whole world has a whole list of reasons for the way ‘things work’ — we can see the chain of events, the web of life in the little, the grand, and the miraculous.
Before the continents divided us across oceans, we were one landmass of plants and people. Before it was a degree, it was just a synergistic list of courses I had taken and fallen in love with, simultaneously. Before we found each other as friends, we were merely bodies roaming the earth with the same thoughts, same desires, the same longing for belonging.
Just when things were breaking apart, the jagged pieces of my life fell together, creating a whole new, interesting collection of angles and curves, not unlike the invisible and interconnected processes that keep our web-of-a-world whirring.
Breaking apart the pieces of one’s life can be traumatic. It can cause disillusion, confusion, leaving you with a jumbled mess that looks more like a pile of rubbish than the remnants of a dream.
But it can also cause for reconsideration, innovation, and of course a different perspective on the pieces (scattered as they may be).
We can find ways to pick up the shattered pieces and put them back together again.
In this final semester of my undergraduate education, I’ve been playing around with the scales of knowledge, twisting in and out the lens in which I view life and how it all connects.
The jury’s out: I’m a geographer at heart, as it was pointed out to me 3 discrete times this week in my distinct (but, of course, related!) classes. Finding geography, I say now, was like finding myself — how I see the kaleidoscope of fractured colors that is and makes our world.
Likewise, picking up the (many) fractured pieces of my body has been frustrating and excruciating, to say the least. Now that I’m relatively a whole body again, I’ve thought intently about how to translate my newfound, grounded knowledges of bodies and permeability into a career of geographic thought and research.
But what I’ve discovered this semester has profoundly fractured my vision of single body-permeability research: I can’t see these bodies in isolation.
Thanks to a rich and deep education in intersectional feminism, I see the whole person beyond the cell walls — the body in space, connected with a community, intersected by life experiences and uncontrollable life ‘prescriptions,’ if you will, of race, gender, class, sexuality, etc.
So far, I’ve explored this passion sporadically in my research, by:
- critiquing a neocolonial construct for forest ‘preservation’
- highlighting the risk of environmental human rights defenders in contexts outside the Global North
- cautioning ’empowerment’ claims in ‘community’-based ecotourism
- remembering women leaders in the American environmental movement
- focusing on gendered perspectives in Navajo livestock reduction histories and legacies
- problematizing pesticides (’nuff said there)
- questioning nuclear power and its consequences for contaminated bodies
Currently, I’m investigating the (oft times) competing narratives between institutionalized epidemiology and indigenous formations of knowledge — and earnestly wondering how I can utilize my privileged educational position to continue critical environmental justices research in graduate school, and beyond.
On their surface, I’d consider these various research endeavors to be a collection of arms outstretched, catching as many falling raindrops as can descend from this seemingly limitless sky of things-to-learn.
But these arms all fall under the same umbrella, somehow leading back to the same body of thought that I’m building.
Stay tuned for where I go next.
We are alive in this moment because of millions of other people who have supported us, because of everything on this planet, which just happened to be the perfect conditions for creating the person we are right this moment. What a freakin’ miracle! —Leo Babauta