3R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

To me, embodiment in the context of climate change and ecoliteracy can be defined as:  The intrinsic feeling one has to make positive, responsible change to their everyday life, regardless of how small, in order to become more ecoliterate and to combat against climate change.

For some, the 3R’s remind them of the old expression Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic.  But for most, the 3R’s bring to mind the important steps in waste reduction:

  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle

I grew up being taught that recycling is good for the environment but that was about the extent of my knowledge.   I never fully realized that the 3R’s, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are as important individually as they are together to help reduce climate change. Growing up I learned to throw obvious recyclables such as cans and bottles into the recycling to be disposed of responsibly instead of being thrown out.  However, it was not until I began working in a variety of early childhood settings that I fully realized the potential of what I used to see as trash or recycling to simply be disposed of.  So many of these things can be “upcycled” or used to create so many other things.  Personally upcycling or recycling within our own lives teaches children the endless possibilities of what can be done to benefit the environment and the importance of the 3R’s.

Kimmerer says, “Let us put our minds together as one and send greetings and thanks to our Mother Earth, who sustains our lives with her many gifts” (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 256). There are many possible ways to embody change, become more ecoliterate and to combat climate change. We only have one Earth and need to take action to protect our planet and sustain its resources and gifts.

Even after this class is over I am going to continue to embody change, become more ecoliterate and “Reduce my WASTEline!”

Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.

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Earth’s Caregiver Braid

Before enrolling in this class, my thoughts about ecoliteracy could easily have been summed up by this silly little poem I quickly jotted down.

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Trees are green

Go green too

However, after reflecting on what I have learned about ecoliteracy in class, it is obvious that this poem was a very shallow understanding of what is means to be ecoliterate.  Being an ecoliterate person is so much more than one just “living green”.  A person truly committed to ecoliteracy is someone who, is not only dedicated to improving the environment through their own personal actions, but is someone who is also concerned about educating others and contributing to a society that behaves responsibly towards the environment.  For this assignment, I created a concrete “heart-shaped” poem using adjectives that I believe embody the definition of one who loves and is dedicated to ecoliteracy.

Brehanna’s poem is similar to mine in many ways. Just like mine, Brehanna depicts love, appreciation, knowledge, education, action, vision and many more things as part of what embodies ecoliteracy. Her poem is different in the sense that it tells a story of ecoliteracy, whereas mine is created using over forty different adjectives in a heart-shaped poem describing those with a love for the environment and who embody ecolitireacy. Brehanna concludes her poem with, “Thank you for showing me your ways, I’ll hold these close for all my days”.

I feel a strong connection with these phrases as I also feel that we must appreciate our environment and show our love and gratitude by giving back to protect our earth.

Samantha’s poem offers a different perspective on ecoliteracy. Her poem is written to her parents, thanking them for her outdoor childhood experiences. These experiences shaped Samantha’s view of nature and enhanced her understanding of ecoliteracy. Initially, I felt that our poems were very different.  I did not think or write about how my experiences growing up shaped my view of ecoliteracy.  However, after reading Samantha’s poem, I realized that my childhood outdoor adventures were reflected in my poem as it was these memories and experiences that contributed to my choice of adjectives describing a person that embodies ecoliteracy.  A person who loves nature and feels a responsibility to ensure that everyone can continue to enjoy this wonderful gift by keeping it safe.  Upon reflection, I see that our poems are actually not that different, despite being written in very different styles.  Both poems depict ecoliteracy similarly by expressing such underlying themes as awareness, appreciation, education, learning, knowledge and love.

In Kimmerer’s preface he writes, “. . . old stories and new ones that can be medicine for our broken relationship with earth, a pharmacopoeia of healing stories that allow us to imagine a different relationship, in which people and land are good medicine for each other” (Kimmerer, 2013, p. x). Kimmerer believes that there are a variety of ways to repair, deepen and strengthen the human relationship with earth. The land needs human interaction and vice versa. This is another form of ecoliteracy, that one might call the base of ecoliteracy and from there humans decide what themes they want to be involved in to sustain the environment thus strengthening their knowledge of ecoliteracy.

In summary, Brehanna, Samantha and I wrote poems that told very different stories but shared many of the same themes and, as Samatha wrote, “a bird’s eye view” of nature.  Reading each of these poems deepened my understanding of ecoliteracy in some way with their similar messages and themes woven throughout.  Kimmerer’s belief that interaction between people and nature is important is mirrored in all of our poems.  We too, feel it is important to love and appreciate the nature that surrounds us, and to educate others in order to sustain these earth’s gifts by wisely taking care of them.

Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.

Maple Nation

I created a flag with a Maple leaf to symbolize what Kimmerer refers to as “Maple Nation” (2013, p. 167). The feather on the maple leaf represents the importance of the Aboriginal way of thinking about nature.  The aboriginal view of the environment believes that we learn from plants, animals and nature.  This is in direct contrast to, the more commonly used scientific method, that believes that we learn about things in nature.

Kimmerer asks Mark, “What does it mean to be a citizen of Maple Nation?” (2013, p. 171).  Mark replies, “You make syrup. You enjoy it. You take what you’re given and you treat it right” (2013, p. 172). This conversation is what inspired me to create my own Maple Nation flag.  We have been provided land as a gift, along with the animals, plants, water, etc., in order to learn from and to survive.  We need to treat it with care. Unfortunately, all too often, we are no longer learning from or respecting land but are managing it in a way that is destructive.  Human growth has done a lot of damage to the environment and needs to be evaluated, “We are what we eat, and with every golden spoonful maple carbon becomes human carbon (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 172). Changing our thinking to follow the more holistic Aboriginal way will not only rejuvenate the environment, but will also make us think about life in a different light.  As Kimmerer states, “Our traditional thinking had it right: maples are people, people are maples” (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 172). This simple phrase struck a chord and challenges me to change the way I think.  I will endeavor to reverse my view of nature from the traditional scientific perspective, to look at things in a more holistic way.

 

Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.

My Favourite Outdoor Place

When asked to make a visual of our favourite outdoor spot I immediately knew what I was going to do. I created a bench from popsicle sticks to represent my grandparents’ memorial bench at Waskesiu Lake in Prince Albert National Park, along with a picture of me sitting on the bench.

Years ago, my grandparents owned a boat business at Waskesiu Lake called Brayford Boats. Their memorial bench overlooks the site of where Brayford Boats was located. My grandpa spent many summer hours taking people on guided scenic tours of Waskesiu and surrounding lakes (day trips and overnight), showing them the beauty of the National Park. His favourite trips were the guided fishing tours as he was an avid fisherman himself who spent hours on the lake.  He actively portrayed his love for the outdoors while unconsciously showing this to others as a, “’subversive science’ for its power to cause us to reconsider the place of humans in the natural world” (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 218). After their children reached school age, my grandparents sold the boat business but continued to spend every summer at the lake until their deaths.  In total, my grandfather spent 67 consecutive summers in this special place, connecting with the outside environment daily and truly living the quote, “the land is the real teacher” (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 222). My grandparents were a huge part of my life. Each summer we would go and visit them and other family members with cabins there as well. I, myself, have spent time visiting and vacationing in the park over 22 summers, only missing two summers in my entire life.

The plaque on their memorial bench reads:

Mel and Sheila Brayford

Looking at the view of “Brayford Boats” at the main docks circa 1950

I included a photo of me sitting on their memorial bench as I am the fourth generation of Brayfords to enjoy the park.  For us, it is a symbol of how deeply my grandparents were loved and that they will never be forgotten.  Not only does this bench represent my grandparents’ deep connection to this special place,  but also allows me to feel connected with nature just by sitting on the bench surrounded by the beauty of the National Park.  I spend time looking out onto the former site of the boat business and imagine what it was like when it was a part of our family. In those moments I feel and understand harmony” in a way I had never before or have been taught in the classroom (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 222).  I feel at peace with nature and with the memories of my grandparents.  Waskesiu as a whole makes me feel connected to my grandparents as I have so many fond memories of times spent with them there. I experience a sense of peace and calmness that I have never felt before.  In those moments, I am at harmony with myself and with the natural environment. This peacefulness allows me to reflect on the memories of the past without sadness.  I remember how much they loved me and imagine how proud they would be to see what I have accomplished and what more I will still accomplishAs Kimmerer says, “my job was just to lead them into the presence and ready them to hear” (2013, p. 222). My grandparents were my leaders.  They taught me to love, respect and appreciate the beauty of nature over many long, summer days.  Simply sitting on “their” bench today, transports me back to those memories and lessons, and allows me to once again feel and hear the messages of nature surrounding me.  

Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.