Being Human in a Changing World: How We Know
During my undergraduate degree, I studied agriculture. I would go from squinting at powerpoints of the internal anatomy of chickens in the morning to digging soil pits in the afternoon. Many hours were spent in the greenhouse, the glowing crown set atop the Agriculture-Forestry building, trying to differentiate one type of grass from another. Many of my courses were challenging, but by the time I would write my final exams I felt privy to a new world of knowledge, new languages (or old ones, in the case of latin) that could help me make sense of and explain the happenings of the natural world around me. Part of what drew me to the natural sciences was how close and familiar it all felt; even through the abstractions of calculations and the sterility of laboratories, soil still smells like the earth and reminds me of wandering over sun-baked trails in the summertime.
Fast forward a year or so, and I’m in a very different set of shoes. I’ve traded soil texturing for wading through social theory, and the mental strain feels different. In the transition from being immersed in empirical to social sciences, I have thought a lot about the different kinds of knowledge systems that exist outside universities and laboratories. From the rich temporal and ecological knowledge held by Indigenous communities to the localized knowledge that the public hold about their communities, there are many ways of thinking about climate change and the environment that exist outside of the traditional world of science. My Master's research is going to focus on the importance of Indigenous knowledge in managing wildlife, and I am looking forward to continuing to open up my world to the many different ways of knowing that exist around this complex conversation.
The findings of science are important, especially in a field that heavily relies on the observation of the changing world around us, but I would argue that the perspectives held by the public and local land users should not be dismissed as anecdotal, and should be integrated into decision-making around environmental policies. When it comes to assessing decisions and values around climate change-related risks and consequences that will face communities in the future, I think that the knowledge of the social needs of their community held by members of the public is very important. If you haven’t heard of it, check out the deficit model. Two heads are better than one, right? I’m thinking that the same saying could be said for different kinds of knowledge.