Why we all should be doing an Ecological Impact Assessment

As I move towards a consultant space I engage in conversations with thoughtful educators who can be dismissive of the importance of the assessment tools that are (or should be) a part of outdoor education.

While our relatively small groups of children using natural spaces as classrooms and playgrounds has much less impact than a large scale development typically associated with such a tool we still have impact.

Additionally the idea that if you are operating on private property you don’t need to do an Ecological Impact Assessment or identify stakeholders because the land is yours is only one way of seeing. It happens to be a very colonialist/Western perspective that considers us as separate from the land on which we live, work and play.

But we are not separate, we have impact.

The idea that there is a way of seeing the world through two lenses has been given the term ‘two-eyed seeing’. This is the idea that we can see the perspectives of both Western and indigenous people to create a greater shared perspective.

In this specific context the idea I will invite you to hold is that all land is shared land.

This doesn’t mean that other people are welcome to come onto your private property and use your space. What it means is that you share this land with the flora and fauna who inhabit it.

That the water that passes through your land is public water, it is part of a global water cycle and the way you use your land shapes its movement, passage and whether or not it will be polluted.

And yes for those of us who work in public parks there are additional considerations but for ALL of us working on the land these are baseline considerations.

Your land is the home for beings beyond you and your family. There are unseen and unacknowledged generations of life cycles that are completed on your land.

You have impact on the land, whether it is ‘yours’ or shared, your actions and decisions have impact.

It is entirely possible that a rare and unique kind of plant, insect, bird or animal has created a home on your small acreage and if you do not take the time to carefully observe your space in all 4 seasons you will disrupt its life cycle and drive it closer to extinction.

As educators who work in nature it is our responsibility to slow down and become aware of the colonialist biases that see the world through a much different lens than our indigenous neighbours.

We are the role models for the kinds of stewardship and observation we wish to see in our children.

The practice of two-eyed seeing is a way for us to reconcile with the people who we stole this land from and it gives us insight into how we might preserve and protect the complex biodiverse systems that sustain life on this planet.

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