Hi, I’m Juno, one of the new youth educators at the Baltimore Orchard Project, where I will be fulfilling my Americorps service year. As a recent graduate from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA in need of a big change, I followed my existential impulse across the country in my Honda Fit with my partner and our leopard dog. We had never been to Baltimore, but were drawn by what we had heard about its diversity, culture, and multi-faceted community.
With me, I have brought a passion for environmental stewardship and experiential/place-based learning. I am interested in education as an unschooling method of communication for the facilitation of students’ curiosity-driven explorations. I occupy the blurring intersection between writing and environmental work, as more than a tool to express scientific evidence in bite-size chunks. To read is to absorb information with the intention to understand; to write is to contextualize your understanding, often beginning with the self and then hopefully moving outward. So why then is environmental change so absent from the modern novel? Do we only understand the environment in bleak or dystopian terms reserved to nature documentaries and science fiction? Even the word environment seems to serve as a backdrop for human affairs, the weather as small-talk, the uncontrollable variable, the unspoken symptom of a greater imbalance beyond any one person’s choices or actions. Or is it?
How does one empower individuals in the context of community? In order to begin to answer this question, we need to question what took that power in the first place? What might a monopoly have to gain from disempowering communities? What structures are in place to prevent the individual from taking action against the inequalities of race, class, gender, and/or disability. It is in this separatism that we revoke not only our empathy towards other humans with differing experiences to our own, but also our connection to our environment, to nature.
While it is a fact that triangles are the most structurally-sound shapes, I believe that of the shapes our society takes, community is the strongest: the ground for real change. I am calling for a shift in perspective towards an anthropological ecology. We cannot dismiss the effects we’ve had on our greater ecosystem. The farther we distance ourselves from each other, from the sources of what we consume, the more limitless we imagine the resources to be, and sustainability becomes an afterthought. The exponential rate of industry can be matched by the graph of humans’ carbon footprint throughout the last century. The rich get richer at the expense of not only the planet, but also the poor.
A fulltime job with an unlivable wage, kids, the more factors you add to this list, food is often the last thing on your mind, or perhaps it’s the stressor that you avoid until the last minute when you’re pouring boiling water into a cup of noodles container. While there is no inherent “good food” or “bad food,” repeat this pattern for any given amount of time and a nutrient deficient diet could manifest itself in a string of seemingly disconnected symptoms. Just as sunshine is the basis for a plant’s growth, the food we eat is the foundation for our day: our energy, our social gatherings, etc. How do we begin to care for our planet if we cannot first care for ourselves? Perhaps we can think of our bodies as the small piece of Earth that we are granted at birth: a microcosm of a much larger macrocosm, both an ecosystem within itself, as well as part of (many) greater ones. By taking care of ourselves, often the choices we make benefit the planet as well. I believe, through mindfulness, empathy, cooperation, creativity, and collaboration, that there is hope for healing the strained, yet still viable symbiotic relationship between humans and our environment(s).