This past semester I had the enjoyment of being in the Ecological Peacebuilding class, taught by Kenton Lobe. We were a small group and over the semester we became a close-knit group of peers with a high level of trust among us. Before, during, and after class we gathered together and engaged in a variety of honest, thought-provoking, and vulnerable conversations to a level I haven’t experienced in any other class.
One point of discussion that impacted me the most was considering the interdependence of humans, animals, and the environment and what this consideration means for students living and learning on the land CMU calls home. We talked critically about the balance between rights and responsibilities, pondering how we can develop an understanding of receiving gifts from the earth, rather than taking resources as ours to be controlled and exploited. We framed this as striving for a gift economy, as opposed to a Wiindiigoo one, the Wiindiigoo being a ravenous cannibalistic creature from Indigenous stories cautioning against greed.
In this learning we consulted a variety of voices including an Indigenous water protector and settlers who hold deep affection for the land, the creatures that inhabit it, and also the stories it holds. This was a unique opportunity to learn and explore course material and current issues together in a deep way that we all agreed would follow us beyond the semester.
Knowing that the topic of the climate crisis is complex, emotionally evocative, and oftentimes anxiety-inducing, it seemed that each of us entered the space of the course with a willingness to offer our own insights, listen attentively to others, and respond in ways that allowed meaningful and productive conversations to flourish. This approach led to open conversations where we both encouraged and challenged one another, all wanting to participate fully and collaboratively. This class very well may live on in my memories as a particularly special one and I think of this experience as a wonderful gift to have been a part of during my last year at CMU.
Katherine Penner is a fourth year Bachelor of Arts student, majoring in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies.