June 2022 Meeting Announcements

Highlights from the June 2022 Chapter Meeting

The Announcements
View the full set of June announcements by clicking here. There are many chapter activities available. The calendar lists even more opportunities to get involved. Please note the Summer Social coming up July 6 at Texas Discovery Gardens. Opportunities and contacts, websites, and other details are available here.

Highlights of the meeting

Recognition – Congratulations to Joe Labay, winner of this quarter’s Volunteer Service Award. Your steady, long-term, hard work is much appreciated. Very well deserved, Joe!

Affirming Abundance: Mexican American Culture, Abolition, and #LandBack

A huge thank you to Dr. Priscilla Solis Ybarra for an insightful and thought-provoking presentation. Dr. Ybarra is an author and Associate Professor of English at the University of North Texas. She has written extensively on Mexican American literature, sharing perspectives on wilderness and environmentalism.

Power of Birdwatching – Her talk centered on the role of creativity and storytelling in protecting and engaging with the natural environment. Moving beyond academic assessment, Dr. Ybarra wove in elements of her personal transformation, starting with her recent activity as a birder. She discussed the ways her own engagement with nature impacts her thinking of Mexican American culture.

Part of what is so refreshing about listening to Dr. Ybarra is her literary viewpoint. Bringing that perspective to us naturalists broadens our horizons. Thus, her first question: Why environmental humanities? Or, rephrased, why would we need the humanities to understand scientific issues? She asks why we’d think environmental issues are fundamentally scientific matters: “Is science not history and philosophy and literature?”

Part of contemporary philosophy works to end that split between knowledge and being. In contrast, indigenous history of ideas does not discipline knowledge but rather works to integrate thought and experience. She pointed out that the complexity of our problems, like climate injustice, challenges us to move away from compartmentalized approaches.

One way of decompartmentalizing is seeing science as a story. Dr. Ybarra showed how we need stories to tell us who we are and how we exist on this planet. She points out the range of stories, addressing our sense of curiosity and wonder versus focusing on the human story, how we are positioned to be altering the planet. That involves histories of colonization and capitalism. She then asks what stories can help us imagine a different, better way of being.

Imagination becomes central to our process.
This led to an overview of Writing the Goodlife, her work to document 150 years of Mexican American writing on environmental issues. Dr. Ybarra traces a history of ideas and practices, ways of knowing and being, through literature. She observes that while Latinxs haven’t typically identified as environmentalists, environmental justice bridges this gap.

She also points out wider contributions to both environmental thought and activism. Dr. Ybarra relates a paradox: environmental rhetoric critiques modernity (mind/body, human/Earth), but not colonialism/capitalism. Learning from the experiences of peoples of color and indigenous peoples bridges this divide and helps us integrate different ways of knowing.

Spiral Time – Dr. Ybarra contrasted the indigenous relation to time running in spirals – cycles and seasons – to the western, linear view of time that views environmental crises as right now.

Spiral time is important to Dr. Ybarra’s birdwatching. Birding can let her disconnect from linear time and connect to indigenous practices, deepening a sense of place and seasonality. She works to distance her observations from an enlightenment-era viewpoint and integrate instead with something older, reinstating respect for all relationships like her indigenous kin.

Remaking – Summarizing her journey of deeper connection, Dr. Ybarra sees these lessons in the history of colonialism and capitalism:
• Affirm abundance. Colonized cultures continue rich relationships with all of Earth’s entities. This goes beyond a counting and categorization of natural history. Ancestors of indigenous people demonstrate resilience both in affirming abundance and adapting to ongoing loss, a story of surviving and thriving.
• Abolition feminism and Landback. She underscores the needs for revolutionary change in society and to ally with indigenous nations as accountability for colonial violence. Quoting from Abolition.Feminism.Now: “Power lies in the capacity to see the connections among systemic oppressions.” She sees this as power not just to remediate the consequences but to remake the world.

Providing a Different Narrative – In closing, Dr. Ybarra pointed to creative individuals to whom she is paying attention. Daisy Salinas’ Madre Tierra fanzine connects environmental issues with broader justice concerns. An artists’ collective, Decolonize This Place, sees environmental issues enfolded with their social justice commitments: “We have learned the limitations of issue silos and identity-based organizing. We also know that decolonization is a shell game if land, water, and air are not central.”

Going deeper:
Writing the Good Life – Mexican American Literature and the Environment – by Dr. Ybarra
Latinx Environmentalisms – co-edited by Wald, Vazquez, Ybarra, and Ray
Dr. Ybarra at University of North Texas
Priscilla Solis Ybarra website
Indigenous science (fiction) for the Anthropocene – Kyle Powys Whyte
Muchacha Fanzine – Daisy Salinas’ Xicana Feminist zine

When the recording of this meeting is available, it will be posted here.

Thanks to our guests and members for participating in this month’s meeting. I hope all feel welcome at NTMN.

Take care,
Scott Hudson
North Texas Master Naturalist


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