Imagine being in a space where your presence in the space is not questioned, where your ideas, creativity and identities you hold are valued, where caring for the planet and the communities that depend on it is the common ground you share with others in the space—that is what we experienced at the People of the Global Majority in the Outdoors, Nature and Environment Summit (PGM ONE) this year. Unfortunately, this is not a common experience for people of color working in the conservation field. But PGM ONE has forged an emergent space of healing from experiences of exclusion in the outdoor and environmental movement. Although conservation organizations have historically excluded people of color, including Black, Brown, Indigenous and Asian Pacific Islander folks, we have always done conservation work. Conservation is not new to us; our ancestors did conservation and stewardship work for centuries. Programs like the Roger Arliner Young Fellowship provide young people of color the opportunity to reclaim this legacy and space in conservation.
PGM subverts the dominant narrative in the United States that people of color means minority. Not only is it inaccurate to use the term “minority” as a stand-in for people of color, but “minority” is diminutive, holding the connotation of less than. But in fact we are the global majority and there is nothing lesser about us.
The themes of this year’s summit were healing, resilience and self-care. With an incredible lineup of speakers and presenters, we were ecstatic to learn from people of various backgrounds and identities and who share a passion for the earth.
Here is what we took home from the summit.
- Reconnect to the earth. Daniel Anthony, taro farmer and food activist from Hawai’I, called us to fearlessly embrace our heritage and reconnect with cultural practices that have sustained our communities to this day. The tools to revitalize the earth have always been there. Anthony pointed out that rather than blazing new trails to heal the earth, we should seek out the ancient trails that just need some weeding.
- Healing is a difficult and necessary process. Writer, social justice activist and keynote speaker adrienne maree brown noted that healing our lands and waters is not just about scientific data and policy (although those are important) but also about healing our relationships with one other. This is why diversity, inclusion, equity and most importantly, justice have to be a part of our conservation work. She reminded us that despite the enormity of environmental issues, any individual can work toward healing by becoming more in tune with their environment and fostering positive relationships with each other.
- Affinity spaces are important. One of the best things about PGM ONE is that it creates a space for people of the global majority to come together to learn, inspire and collaborate with each other to imagine a just environmental movement. We connected over our different intersecting identities in relation to our engagement with the environment. We engaged in topics including disability in the outdoors, culturally relevant stewardship, environmental justice, food, community-based mapping, healing and activism. We shared stories during sessions and mealtimes. We made space to honor our individual and collective grief. We danced and sang together. By the end of the day, we realized how much we had been yearning to simply celebrate life and just be without trying to be.
What it meant to us
We left PGM ONE feeling centered in our connection to the planet and reminded about why we want to stay in conservation. For both of us, an important part of our work in caring for the planet is reconnecting with our respective communities in San Antonio, Texas, and Houston, Texas, and making waves of change in those places we call home.
We will continue to uplift the stories of people making strides in their communities with their conservation efforts. We will continue to bring analyses of equity and justice to our work. We will continue to expand what conservation work looks like.
We will continue to care for the lands and waters of this planet as it has cared for us.
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