In partnership with LA Nature for All, Earth Share is a series of conversations on IGTV with the goal of sharing knowledge and inspiration with local organizations and individuals caring for the Earth. The following is a partial transcript of our conversation with Brenda Kyle, Volunteer Coordinator at the Theodore Payne Foundation. It has been edited for length.
Paloma Avila: I wanted you to talk about your experience with Nature for All and your connection with them.
Brenda Kyle: It was a very positive experience learning organizing. I think we all know how to organize, we just need to brush up on those skills. And art as activism. That blew my mind. And activism is storytelling, that’s the one that really stuck with me personally: Storytelling is activism. That oral tradition, getting someone to empathize with what you’re saying, maybe not to convince, but maybe to have them see things a little differently.
PA: Can you tell us about some of the work, and I know you do a lot of work all over the place, but some of the work you’re doing now?
BK: Right now, I have been quietly organizing to get binoculars so that we can get more people of color out birding. It hasn’t been easy, it has been very difficult on a very personal level. But the only way we can normalize seeing people of color out in nature is by being the people of color out in nature.
Levi Brewster: I wonder if you can talk about the community that you work in, how that functions to serve you, and how you are able to serve the community that you are a part of.
BK: I’m everywhere; I’m all over the mountains, specifically the mountains. I’ve done work at the beach, the river, the mountains are always home. The Tarahumara people are the runners of Copper Canyon, that’s mountain. Tepehuan means “mountain dweller”, that’s who I am, that’s the community I support, not necessarily people, but the mountains themselves; and to get people to understand that the mountain is alive, the mountain needs respect. So I see myself as serving the mountain and everybody else that comes along. When it comes to serving people, it’s the people in my community, the people in the park, the people that are brown, the people that are black, the people that don’t have access to the outdoor experience that maybe need a little guidance to enjoy the outdoor experience, to enjoy insects, to enjoy flowers. A lot of communities are denied that opportunity.
LB: So you mentioned access, can you talk about how you see the needs for access? Describe how you see equity in this context?
BK: With a lot of the closures, some of the comments I’ve been reading across all social media have been, you know, “stay home”, “stay away from our spaces”, and I’m thinking, no, they are our spaces, too. And some of us don’t have places to walk to in our neighborhoods, that’s why we have public parks. Some of us don’t have stable home situations, that’s why we have rec centers and other places we go to fill that void. Some people don’t feel safe in their communities, that’s why we go to where there is that built-in safety, we are all here just to enjoy the park … Access is still an issue and a lot of communities take ownership in different ways. Equity is making sure everyone finishes the same way, not just starting the same, not just giving people the tools to start in the same way, but giving people the tools to finish.
PA: Do you think it’s connected that so many human beings are disconnected from each other and from nature as well?
BK: Yes, absolutely. The idea of “community” has changed. And because the idea has changed, the definition has changed. Community isn’t just where you live, community is Kindred, community is people who share ideas, community is helping each other out, community is relationships. It’s not a place, community is a feeling. In nature, community is a web, it’s everything that’s helping each other.
Nature is not just life, it’s the sky, it’s the stars, it’s the moon. I can’t believe you can be standing on the planet earth and be so disconnected from everything that’s around us. It’s an emotional, scientific and educational disconnection as well.