This event was an important milestone for the Environment Education COI, and we were so excited to see a capacity crowd of community members turn up to discuss the Watershed's environmental priorities. That collective enthusiasm bodes well for 2018 and for our ongoing work to make environmental education more accessible and more prominent in the Watershed. Definitely one of our big moments for 2017!
On December 7, 2017, the EECOI partnered with the Three Circles Center to facilitate a Community Forum for Environmental and Social Justice. Over two hours, a wide-reaching series of individual and group discussions brought in perspectives from Watershed residents of all backgrounds, including advocates, organizers, artists, researchers, students, and public officials.
We were honored to begin the evening with Puyallup Tribe of Indians Council Chairman Bill Sterud, who opened the session with a prayer that we recognize our invaluable resources and the efforts we must commit to protecting them.
We also want to express our immense thanks to Running Grass, the executive director of the Three Circles Center, who guided us throughout the evening as we exchanged ideas on environmental impacts and opportunities through the lens of formal and informal education, equity, public health, cultural exchange, economic development, city planning, and so much more.
A big thank you also to our keynote speaker, Dr. Tyrus Smith, professor of environmental studies at The Evergreen State College. Dr. Smith spoke in depth about his formative experiences and how they shaped his views on environmental issues.
Here are some main takeaways from the evening:
- As a community, we need to make space for cultural practices and knowledge that is often overlooked in formal environmental education pathways
- There needs to be greater support for informal expertise and (re)connecting our networks of educators to people who have lived on this land before colonization and who already possess deep knowledge about the environmental
- There is lots of economic opportunity for development and jobs that prioritize environmental sustainability
- There are many difficult conversations that will need to take place before we can make real progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion
No doubt we are just beginning to call in more voices to contribute to these indispensable conversations. We were so excited to see a full room for this Community Forum, and we hope this event will be the springboard we need to launch more conversations and actions in 2018.