Dear Environmental and Outdoor Education Community,
I had intended to send you a happy new year message, sharing my hopes that this year will bring a return to in-person programming, more young people with access to learning outdoors, and an ability for us to high five in person once again, among many other desired and necessary benchmarks in what we hope will be a containment of the virus. And now I can't stop watching the news. I am horrified and saddened by what is happening in our nation's capital. This is what white privilege looks like. This what an unwillingness to confront and dismantle the systems that uphold white supremacy looks like. It's disgusting and it's scary. And it's a stark reminder that our work has never been more important. Critical thinking, empathy, scientific understanding, respect, communication, and reasoning – these are some of the principles that unite us as environmental and outdoor educators. These are the qualities that we need in our leaders now more than ever.
At AEOE, we begin this new year recommitting to our mission to advance the impact of environmental and outdoor education in California, which must include a commitment to anti-racism if we are to ensure that all young people have access to meaningful learning experiences outdoors. I am proud that our board has committed to "Develop and implement practices and policies in support of our commitment to equity and inclusion in AEOE's programs, outreach efforts, leadership, and organizational culture" as a part of our strategic plan. We have important work to do. Personally, I am working through the guided journal that accompanies the powerful book me and white supremacy, by Layla F. Saad. I am lucky to have a group that I meet with weekly to discuss our learning and our struggles. I hope that you also have trusted colleagues and friends that you can lean on in your ongoing learning (and unlearning). We hope that AEOE will continue to be a place that you turn to for support and inspiration. One thing is certain: we will need each other in the coming months and years as we rebuild our field and work towards a more just and sustainable future.
Estrella Risinger, AEOE Executive Director