Breakfast (09:10) :
Today’s Blogtember prompt: Describe where or what you come from. The people, the places, and/or the factors that make up who you are
A while back I presented a paper at the University of Sheffield Law School’s Post-Graduate Research Day. I did the usual thing and panic near the day about what to talk about. I didn’t have a chapter that I felt near enough to completion to be presented, and I like using this opportunity to do something a bit quirky.
While hiking into a boulder area in Font, the idea came to me: why did I choose ecofeminism as my theory of choice? Why did it appeal to me, and, taking that further, what does my past tell me about my present self? (Jackson 1998). I decided to present on that, using photographs from my past to try and explain why ecofeminism informs my research and how it affects my own stories. So, this post originates from that presentation.
I grew up in Vancouver. It’s an idyllic place (well, I remember it that way) to be a kid. I did all the kid things: ballet, gymnastics, acting, Arts Umbrella, the Emily Carr institute during the summer break, circus school, choir and school. But, I also did things that lot of kids won’t have done.
We had land on one of the gulf islands where I used to spend most of my summers. We stayed in a caravan on the island, usually in a cooperative where my parents good friends lived and spent the days swimming, canoeing, fishing and playing. Of course, I remember the good bits when it was sunny and hot and care free. I specifically remember learning to swim in a lake. Ever since, I find pools really unpleasant.
However, I think the island and its people were so influential on my interest in the environment. Val Plumwood in her last book (2002) used a concept she explains as nested stories -i.e. – a small story is nested within medium and large stories. Using this approach, I can now see three different stories emerging from being there:-
- Me as a small child, playing in what looks like idyllic water and countryside and probably this experience has led to my interest and enjoyment of the outdoors.
- This photo was taken in a provincial park, established to protect the cultural heritage of local Indian tribes. There are defensive (we think) works built by the native Indian tribes on the island. They’re built out of oyster shells. Also, following from this, just outside of the picture are two sets of industries which use the natural resources around the island
- Small, artisan oyster farmers and local fisherman. Thus, there is an interest to keep this place as pristine as it looks for economic and cultural reasons which had competing interests with
- The massive pulp mill which used timber clear-cut from the surrounding islands to make paper.
- At this period in time the Canadian Government issued an indefinite moratorium on cod fishing off the Newfoundland coast. I remember, albeit dimly listening to the different voices and perspectives which were in the media at the time over this approach. This moratorium ‘put about 30,000 people in the province out of work and ended a way of life that had endured for generations in many outport communities. It also made evident the vulnerability of marine resources to overexploitation and that existing regulatory regimes were insufficient to protect cod stocks.’
So here, the small story is of me, playing in beautiful sunshine with my dog, while the medium story is one of mitigating ecosystem destruction and livelihoods within the provincial/national and international context. The large story still ongoing. Thus as a child I was immersed in the ongoing debates concerning fisheries and competing interests that I’m now grappling with in my PhD.
As a family, we canoed a lot. My mother loved being on the water and immersed in an environment. There is nothing closer to the sea than being in a small boat like a canoe or kayak (apart from swimming, obviously). We used to canoe to a pair islets near the island and spend the day on the rocks. They were made of granite and housed immense tidal rock pools. I would swim and play in these, exploring for small little animals and what grew in them. I would swim in the water around the islets, and often, we would surprise a family of seals who were basking on the warm granite rock to the other side of the islet from us.
To get to the islets, we would have to canoe through a gorge. And anyone who has canoed will know that it can take a long time to get anywhere, especially if you time it wrong and are battling against the tides. This meant that I would spend a lot of time looking at the cliffs at the side of the Gorge and wondering what was up there. Actually, there were Pteroglyphs on the cliff that I used to look out for. At the same time, because I was very close to the water I could see the coastal ecosystem quite clearly, particularly that just submerged and on the edge of the Gorge.
Looking at these images now, and reflecting on how they may have influenced my approach or understanding of both ecofeminism and IEL, I think this period of time was profoundly important for me.
I spent ages looking at the intersection between coastal and marine ecology. I canoed past artisan oyster farmers in the gorge and due to my proximity and precariousness in a canoe, I got a very up close experience of the sea. Even now, when I’m reading fisheries conventions and other multilateral environmental agreements, the imagery that I have in my mind is often that of the west coast ocean environment.
The last time I went back to the Islets, we passed 2 dead seals on the way there. I don’t remember seeing a dead seal when I was a kid growing up there. I think this is because the Island is becoming so popular with motorboats and tourists rather than its original community of hippies, and similar.
Ecofeminism articulates a situated understanding, or contextual understanding of socio/economic/political and other areas in order to understand and suggest ways to move forward.
So these photos, I think represent the start of my interest in being and tied with the surrounding discussions I outlined in the previous slide – my belief that objective, subject/knower approach doesn’t necessarily reflect all the subtleties and interconnections. Drawing on Code, she suggests that ‘in its epistemological mode, socio-moral-political analysis of the geographical, institutional, and material circumstances, historical events, and climatologically shifts that foster or constrain scientific/epistemic practices are integral to ecological thinking.’ (Code L, Ecological Thinking: The Politics of Epistemic Location (Oxford University Press 2006)
Furthermore, I was growing up in Vancouver during a period when there was immense environmental activism happening both in British Columbia and around the world. David Suzuki’s daughter opened up the UN Convention on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, and who’s speech is still so powerful now.
While I was very young, I listened to CBC all the time (as my parents did) and absorbed some of the debates. I also saw the effects of environmental damage (granted, from a more privileged position than many).
As I mentioned in the earlier slide, there is a pulp mill in Campbell River which was about an hour away away by ferry. This was one of the big industries in this region of Vancouver Island, along with salmon fishing for the area and also provided beautiful sunsets from the factory. However, what you can’t see in this picture is the vast swathes of clear-cutting which fed into this pulp mill. In the wider context, there was significant campaigning and debates going on, particularly over in Clayoquot Sound in BC, which was near (in Canadian terms) to the Island. While driving to there, I would pass huge swathes of clear cutting and see the scars on the mountain. While living in Vancouver we would see the houses creep up the mountains and the discussion/debate about where/what to do with encroaching wildlife.
Interestingly, many of the ecofeminists who I read and have integrated into my critical framework from have informed or developed their critical analysis and theory through the activism of what Niamh Moore labelled ‘eco/feminist’ peace movements on the Island. In terms of my current research, her analysis and discussion of how the Clayoquot Sound Peace camp was structured and its ‘celebration’ of grass roots action is particularly relevant due to the international approach of my own research and the corresponding interest of the UN in gender mainstreaming and participation.
Niamh Moore argues that ecofeminism influenced the use of consensus decision-making, and the identification of the group themselves to a place. This too, is similar to my identification with the island that I grew up on, as it too, was organised through committees and a consensus approach.
I grew up surrounded by mountains – in BC they were always there. I used to go running with my dad in them. We got lost in them once, which was not fun. In fact, we nearly (but didn’t) come across a bear and cougar when stumbling around. Now, I always bring emergency stuff with me. Although, not so much for bears in the UK! Now, I have a tendency to throw myself down them, cycle up them and enjoy being in that environment.
This picture is of Ellmau in Austria and taken in around 2011. I had started my PhD by this point and like most PhD researches, couldn’t turn off my research brain. This meant that at this time, I now looked around me in two ways, both in the present enjoyable (or terrifying moment) and through the eyes of my research.
I went on a road trip to Ellmau to go all mountain-biking and downhill mountain biking – both of which were super scary and a helluva lot bigger than in the UK. This meant I was really scared for a lot of it, but the sense of achievement if I only fell off a couple of times was great. This picture at the start of an epic day on the bike. The clouds were still thick in the valley. I think we covered a couple of mountains with big descents in one day.
Looking back, I see the mountains through different eyes. I see the reminder of a really challenging holiday where I had to face my fears of going downhill, fast. And also re-examine what I enjoyed in holidays, but I also see a framework and mesh of different environmental agreements, assumptions and basis for protection.
- I see the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) agreed at the UNCED (1992) where the eco/feminist movement was ‘celebrated’ but still marginalised – I see this sky which extends in a transboundary way and thus needs to recognise different perspectives/needs and contexts; and also fragmentation by sovereignty.
- I see mountains and their ‘special ecological’ conditions which have been the subject of a number of provisions in the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (1994) , the UNFCCC, and general documents such as the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002) Plan of Implementation – but I also see the discourse of ‘sustainable development’ in here – through tourism and the importance of economy/diversity of situation
So through this photo, I can see my past and love of mountains, wilderness and experiences within, and how these inform my academic interest now, and theoretical basis for my research.
I think that many of the experiences that I had when growing up quite probably established the basis of my interest in environmental law. I grew up in a melting pot of ecological/environmental activism – Vancouver during the 90s was particularly an alternative environment. Clearly the time/place/situation that I grew up in has informed my approach in research. similarly, during the 1990s, Canada was addressing a number of different issues to do with conservation/environmental protection and environmental management – as well as the impact of appropriating the territory of different native American lands.
- Island Timberlands plan logging of old-growth forests in Port Alberni watershed (vancouverobserver.com)
- What Are You Reading At The Moment? (theheartofwriting.wordpress.com)
- The latest from a very busy environmentalist professor and mother (ecofeminism-mothering.blogspot.com)
- Blogtember: A September Blog Challenge (storyofmylife.blogspot.co.uk)
I keep saying this, but the last couple of weeks have been really hard. I feel knackered most of the time and have gone through the wringer. On the whole, my climbing hasn’t been affected that much. I’ve had some sessions where I’ve not done much, but still felt like I had achieved something, and I have been pretty frustrated at my limited gains during the summer. However, that’s part and parcel of being a climber.
This week has been different. I’ve been really stressed about a tight deadline for work. It got to the point where I could not switch off my mind at night and was not making sense when in work. Anxiety does strange things, it impairs my ability to form coherent words, limits my ability to think and generally makes it bloody hard to make any progress on anything! Coupled with trying to develop a very different area of my research from what I’ve been working on for the last year, it has been an extremely stressful couple of weeks.
After losing a day to a bug, I was really worried that I’d not be able to complete my work for my deadline. Come Monday night, my brain was already ticking over the different things that I needed to do, and the fundamental issue that I’d no narrative and my theoretical framework was close to non-existent on paper and in a diffuse cloud in my head. I could not fall asleep. I ended up with about 4 hours on Monday night, and 3 hours on Tuesday. This made training on Wednesday really, really hard.
I was emotionally and mentally exhausted and didn’t know what to do. In the end, I did some warm ups trying on new pairs of shoes (when stressed, try shoes). And then worked individual moves on some L2s. I didn’t even try to top anything because I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t really be able to rationalise it.
In the end, I managed to link some moves on a L2 that I’ve been trying for ages. Unfortunately, I fluffed the next move (a swing and a miss) and then couldn’t get the link again! Super frustrating, but at the same time, it was one move more than last time.
I was then very tired, so did some core work. I also think that I’ll be able to start campusing soon. My finger hasn’t twanged much at all recently!
Instead of the usual post climbing pint, I went for a celebratory meal with a friend who had just submitted their thesis. It showed me there was a light at the end of the tunnel!
- Warmed up on L1s
- Worked moves on 3 L2s
- 3 x A6W series
I’m up against a very tight deadline for a thesis chapter. My deadline is Monday, and the closer it comes, the more anxious and incoherent I am. I’m rewriting my theory chapter 1 1/2 years after the last draft and have had 3 weeks to remember ecofeminism and feminist security studies as well as write the thing! I’m find it very difficult to translate my thoughts on paper in any form of coherent argument. This image represents the sum of nearly 3 weeks worth of work. In reality, it needs to be deleted, restructured and rewritten.
Friday was a mixed day. I had a supervision with 2/3 of my supervision team before meeting up with some of my friends for coffee. As always, supervision left me in a mess of different feelings. I really appreciate the constructive criticism that I receive on my writing and ideas. However, it is always hard to hear criticism as what it is – criticism of my writing – not of me. The fact that my writing is never finished and there is always more work to do can also be hard to hear. In this supervision I had a number of issues with the chapter that will need to be addressed within the already very tight word count. There were other problems which me and my supervisors discussed and produced some solutions for, but on the whole, I felt like I had gone through a wringer. I think I was also very tired. I’ve been writing non-stop for since May and have revised 4 chapters of my thesis in that time. So, after the supervision, I had a bit of a cry and was convinced by colleagues to take the rest of the day off.
I met up with my friends over coffee and got to catch up with one who has moved away, got pregnant and every time that I see her she is getting even bigger and more glowing. It was a lovely break and then I went home, collapsed on the sofa and watched BBC4’s series agony & ecstasy – a year with the English National Ballet on YouTube. I used to dance and I miss it occasionally. Right now, I miss it a lot. Anyway, I loved watching the rehearsal time and the development of choreography. One of my favourite pieces at the moment is Aniel by Ballet BC. It’s so whimsical and makes me smile every time I watch the rehearsal. I’d love to see a full length version of the piece, but I can’t find one online anywhere.
Anyway, my OH and I went to the Climbing Works in the evening. I wasn’t expecting much from myself considering the emotionally draining day that I’d had, on top of a very exhausting 2 weeks. I completely surprised myself! I climbed strong and topped a couple of problems that I’d been trying on the black circuit without any problems. I was reading sequences well and enjoying the physical movement. I wonder if it was because I’d watched some dance and remembered the enjoyment that I got from movement? I also tried to be pleased if I progressed on individual moves rather than completing actual problems. The fact that I did both mean that it was a really good session.
The Works was very quiet as well. The regulars were there, (including us) and some newbies as well. We could choose to climb the problems that we wanted without any waiting and didn’t have to worry about falling off onto people. I helped some newer climbers on a purple spottie problem. They couldn’t read the sequence very well, so I gave some suggestions on how to move their body around to help with the sequence and also how to read problems from the ground. I also showed another climber some tricks on one of the blacks that I flashed last sunday. The best part of the evening (well 2nd best) was watching some climbers get their groove on with the music. It was both hilarious and awesome to see people enjoy moving both on the wall and off of it. I may have done some grooving myself.
The best moment of the session came while I was climbing. One of the newbies who I was helping went up to my OH and asked if we were family. He said yes, and the newbie asked, ‘is she your mum?’ My OH said no, she’s my girlfriend. My friend who was climbing at this moment found the whole conversation so hysterical that he promptly fell off the problem and legged it to tell the rest of the group. I’m now being referred to as ‘mum’. Slightly creepy.
We then went for curry (it’s the Friday ritual).
- Topped 2 more black problems
- Repeated some yellows
- Worked moves on yellows
- 5×10 crunches
- 3×20″ planks
- 6×3 Spidermen