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Category Archives: Reconciliation

“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating the beauty in the world we find” -Terry Tempest Williams

Planets, Critical Thinking, and Peace Making

Mission to Saturn - Get facts about this planet

In planetary astrology, each planet is ascribed attributes, or energy patterns, that together make up the templates of our day to day experience. Woa, what? While this may turn many off, bear with  me. The key here is template… the probabilities, the behind the scenes forces that pull at our subconscious.

In fact, I don’t care if you’re into astrology or not. I’m not waving a metaphysical banner or striving for woo-woo recruits. What’s more important, and what I’d like to illustrate, is how some ideas from this study can apply universally to our politically vexed and stretched discourse.

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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in Reconciliation

 

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Capoeira: Social, Environmental & Global

Capoeira: Social, Environmental & Global

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SALVADOR, BA– I recently had the amazing opportunity to travel to the state of Bahia, Brazil. To the pulsing, lively, vibrant city of Salvador. My goals were to take a course in Portuguese, stay with a host family, and learn more about the art of Capoeira right from the source. While these goals were certainly a lifetime opportunity, the deeper realizations from them offer other life changing opportunities not yet manifested.

As I mentioned, Salvador is the birthplace of the art of Capoeira. The Portuguese colonists took with them a tragic slave trade, which lasted longer than any other slave industry in the world. Almost 4 million displaced Africans took with them similar fight dances to Capoeira, which laid the art’s foundation to what it is today. In Brazil, interactions with diverse people groups, the social and political structures, as well as the local sense of place and environment, shaped the art. During the time of Slavery, it was a way to train, stay empowered, maintain a cultural identity, and more. Today, it is an active and growing symbol of freedom, birthed from a resistance to oppression and domination. For a more detailed history of the art itself, click here.

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Posted by on January 19, 2015 in News/ Field Notes, Reconciliation

 

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Ecology and Culture: 2014 WAEE Presentation

WAEE

STEVENS POINT– This week I’m excited to be a part this year’s annual Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education conference. The conference spans from August 13-15th, and I’ll be presenting on Wednesday at 10 am!

The title of the presentation is “Continuing the Conversation of Cross-cultural EE”. I’ll be speaking about experiences working at Minneapolis Public Schools, covering some thoughts from my past blog entry on Malcom X, and highlighting a video entitled “Ecology and Culture”, posted below. The video is an EE experiment, mixing break dancing and ecological learning. It was a great learning opportunity, and a lot of fun to facilitate.

A special THANK YOU to Conserve School and all the rock-star students who participated to make this happen! It was a blast training with you!

WAEE Annual Conference Webpage

Past post on Malcom X

 

 

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Wading in Water History: San Francisco, Drought, and Hetch Hetchy

 

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SAN FRANCISCO– The reality of the California drought is a stark contrast from the lush upper Midwest. While one chooses between ground or surface sources for municipal water and need not stop to think about lush green grass underfoot, the other dons signs along the road reading “pray for rain”. While Minnesota and Wisconsin thrive in a culture of river and lake recreation, California has a website for the drought, featuring Lady Gaga chiming in to get the attention of the masses. Not only are the communities of the Bay area strained by the drought, but a key fertile agricultural land in our national economy is strained, too. Wine, fruit, and especially almonds from Northern California make their way around the country and the world. While the region had built an infrastructure to cope with such water scarcities, the current drought has the reservoirs at record lows. The drought reaches beyond the capabilities infrastructure and now calls on personal water use. Reflecting on our history in water resources, are we really ready for such a responsibility?

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Posted by on July 31, 2014 in News/ Field Notes, Reconciliation

 

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Finding a Sense of Place with Malcom X

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Malcom X at the nature center. Malcom X at a National Park. These don’t seem to go together, do they? Well, why not? There isn’t a way to answer without including some aspect of racism. The cultural forces of the past 50, 100, even 200 years have shaped “nature” in the US to be catered to a culturally white space. Where there is land ownership, decision making, and wealth, there is power. In the US today, that power rests predominately in the networks of white folks. To understand how this power works, let’s look to Malcom X’s autobiography. Although Malcom X is a common historical figure to look to in the topic of race, let’s look a little deeper for an insight to the land. After all, he did say that “to understand that of any person, his whole life, from birth, must be reviewed. All of our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient” (p.153).

There are four situations, or “ingredients” in Malcom X’s autobiography that I’ll highlight which pertain to the natural world and his relationship with it. After that though, we’ll be better able to re-frame our sense of place -both in the US and beyond- towards a reflection of a diverse, democratic humanity.

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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Reconciliation

 

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The Natural and Not-So-Natural History of House Plants

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When learning about plant ecology and plant natural history we often focus our attention outdoors. Well, that’s obvious! But how about our indoor habitats and the plants that help compose them? The lobby, coffee shop, and library plants we stroll past daily all have their own natural histories. These plants bring life to our indoor spaces, and get us through long wretched winters. But what’s more, lets take a look at how the stories behind these plants can inform and enhance our indoor living spaces.They are our living history.

Here’s three common house plants you may see around town this Winter:

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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in News/ Field Notes, Reconciliation

 

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Unity in Bird Migration

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BELIZE– September 30th marks the end of Belize’s annual celebration of independence. Belize gained independence from the British in 1981. As a relatively new, vibrant and exquisite country, it makes sense that their celebration spans the entire month of September!

But what does this have to do with the Wisconsin Northwoods? Parallel to Belize’s independence, this is also a key time for warbler and other southbound songbird migration. Seeing birds in the North that will potentially reach Belize brings back my own vivid memories of the lush, humid landscape as if they were just over my shoulder. As if I could breathe it in. The Green Heron, Black-throated Blue, Yellow, Black-and-white and many more warbler species all contribute to this miraculous phenomenon of migration from the north to the tropics. Some of these warblers, such as the Blackpoll, make the stretch over the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight, averaging an astonishing 20 wing flaps/second.

Once they’re there, they experience their second home… well wait, or is it their first home? During my time in Belize, I was able to see that Belizeans (including the super-human birder Belizeans) also referred to these birds as “home”. Seeing this then made me realize, that birds like the Black-billed Cuckoo actually spend more time at their wintering grounds. I must say, as I saw the cuckoos, Scarlet Tanagers, Indigo Buntings, Green Herons and Ospreys in Belize with a backdrop of palms, saltwater and mangroves, I was able to see these birds as if it was my first sighting (In birder lingo, this is known as a “lifer”). In the wintering grounds, these birds are all a part of the Belizean collective sense of place, encompassing culture, environment, values, and folklore. They could teach us much about being cross-cultural. For 4-5 months these neo-tropical songbirds find nourishment and sustenance in the tropics that’s so hyper-productive that it can sustain both migrants and the year-round dwellers. This idea of migrating to find a land of plenty is nothing new, as it’s something nations strive to balance to this day.

So what happens when we realize that two nationalities share the same species? What happens when these nationalities are also geographical neighbors? What happens when these same neighbors also have hundreds or thousands of people migrating opposite to the birds in the fall? Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and even countries as far as Brazil are all homes for neo-tropical songbirds. They are also countries with high immigration rates into the US. If we can learn something from the birds, let us learn that a distant landscape with different cultures, values, and folklore is indeed, also a home. Perhaps with this idea as a foundation, the birds can help guide us towards unity. Looking beyond the issues and politics at hand (which of course are still important), it is the understanding of the wintering ground’s cultures, landscapes, and a golden sunset accompanied with birdsong after a long, hot day that will unite a continually migrating people.

As I say farewell to the Black-throated Blue warbler at the end of September, I know it’ll be in good hands.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in News/ Field Notes, Reconciliation

 

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