“Hi,” I hear a whisper, “Come here.” It’s a sunny day and I’m standing outside between my university’s law school building and the Many Nations Longhouse with the rest of my classmates in Environmental Justice trying to get to know and listen to the more-than-human world which includes land, plants, wind, animals, water and more. It was an exercise our professor invited us to do because we are learning about environmental justice and getting to know the environment, the more-than-human, is an important part of that conversation. How can we know the significance of plants, water, land if we don’t make time to get to know them, to listen and to learn from them?
“Over here,” I walk towards the direction I’m being called to. Walking along the gray concrete path between the law school and the Many Nations Longhouse I end up under a wooden archway and pause to listen again. The path leads me between the Multicultural Museum on campus which is on the same side of and near the longhouse and also opposite the law school. There were people tabling out in front of the museum and lots of students going to and from classes, chatting with friends. A large round green grassy space sits between the law school building and the concrete path and museum. The green grassy space is surrounded on three sides by different plants accompanied by descriptions of them and their common and scientific names.
“Hi, I’m here,” I look over and see a green leafy bush with small bunches of bright reddish pinkish flowers and make my way over to say hi. I leave the concrete path and onto the green grassy path, “Hello, I’m Rose. How are you?” I ask but I struggle to hear their reply in the midst of all the noise coming from people walking along the gray concrete paths and driving by on the black paved roads. “Red Currant,” their description reads; they attract birds and butterflies. I smile a little, apparently they attract humans too. “It’s hard to hear you,” I tell Red Currant. “Focus,” they reply and so I try harder to drown out the noise and focus. I fix my gaze onto Red Current, noting the tiny ridges on their green leaves and the sunlight embracing the reddish pinkish flowers making them softly glow. Everything begins to quiet down and for a moment spread across space and time, I hear them, “Peace”. I feel my body relaxing and my stresses melt away as I begin to focus on Red Currant’s message, “Peace”.
Interning as a Project Manager on the Oregon Water Futures (OWF) and Healers project so far has been focused on building relationships which involves getting to know the different teams and working dynamics, communities OWF works with, attending related workshops, finding new connections, and planning for work involving community engagement activities and events. Connecting my internship work to my graduate program housed in UO’s School of Law, Conflict and Dispute Resolution (CRES), I learned early on in the program the significance of relationships through coursework focused on topics that included: conflict across cultures, negotiations, psychology of conflict, philosophy of conflict, and mediation. Relationships are important.
Many CRES courses I’ve taken viewed relationships in conflict from a different lens but a common theme found in these courses is the significance of relationships and the influence it has on conflict progress and outcomes. Positive interactions that account for power dynamics to help create and ensure equality, supported by social and institutional authorities, intergroup cooperation, and group work towards common goals can create favorable conditions when approaching conflicts.
Below is a brief discussion and pictures related to my first time facilitating a simulated environmental conflict for my Environmental Conflict Resolution course I am currently taking. I try to incorporate what I learned during my first year in the CRES program, the importance of prep work ahead of time and the significance of building trust and relationships. It wasn’t a perfect simulation but it was good practice and I was able to see areas I need to improve.
On Friday 10/22 I volunteered to facilitate an environmental conflict simulation called Cabbage Mountain (CM) where I designed a facilitation process with input from participants which were role played by colleagues and my professor. I appreciated the space and participants for allowing me to practice my facilitation skills for complex environmental conflicts. In thinking through the facilitation process I sought to illustrate my appreciation and initiate a relationship with participants by sending an email to all participants with the same message and attachments. My hope was to open communication and begin to build trust and relationships. I also wanted to learn as much as I could so I can anticipate group needs and mitigate any potential negative interactions. The goal was to facilitate a respectful conversation to work through issues and see if the participants can develop a “shared vision” (common goal) for CM. Participants were invited to add items to the agenda ahead of time and another opportunity to add or change it before facilitation officially began. A survey was offered to all participants to express their concerns and needs in the initial email. I sent out another global email a few days before the facilitation with materials for the planned activities and a draft of a proposed agenda incorporating input from participant responses and another prompt to amend or add to the agenda and inviting questions about the facilitation process and the activities planned. To help create a more welcoming atmosphere and ease any tensions that already existed I offered light refreshments to the participants and inquired ahead of time if anyone had dietary restrictions. Mini goodie bags were assembled which included leaf shaped post-it notes for our Tree Exercise and a heart shaped rose quarts to draw in positive healing energies, express my positive intentions and dedication to the group and to help build unity.
I am a Graduate Student at the University of Oregon (UO) School of Law studying Conflict and Dispute Resolution. I did my undergraduate work at UO majoring in General Social Science with a concentration in Globalization, Environment, and Policy.