Can urban living and a love of nature go hand-in-hand?

Girls_natureSince I was a child, I have had an insatiable curiosity about nature. I grew up hiking and camping outdoors, and my mom, who had once worked at a greenhouse and had a garden, taught me about the beauty of plants and growing your own food. Despite my love of nature, as I got older the allure of the city was like a gravitational pull, and so six years ago I moved to Toronto to pursue my Master’s degree in Women’s Studies at York University. For a long time I had trouble reconciling this paradox: how can someone who loves nature so much also have a deep seated attraction to urban life?

After having spent some time in Toronto, I started to realize that this wasn’t really a paradox. Nature, I learned, inhabits the city in so many interesting ways – through our parks and green spaces, in and along our watersheds, in gardens, in the potted plants in our homes… I started to ask myself, what is nature, anyway? Who defines what nature is? How do people engage with urbanized nature?

My background in Women’s Studies taught me about the ways in which inequities based on race, class, gender and ability are embedded in the fabric of our society; thinking about nature in this way and living in Toronto allowed me to consider how these inequalities also affect our relationship to nature, environmentalism, and natural spaces. Recognizing that nature has complex social and political dimensions is what piqued my interest in urban groups for girls that are engaged in shaping their community environments and promoting green living.

My research with girls’ groups is currently in full swing. My dissertation project involves working closely with a few groups for girls in urban areas that have an environmental focus, and my aim is to explore how the groups are connecting girls with nature and the environment. I am currently still looking for Guiding units residing in the cities of Toronto, Hamilton, or Vancouver to participate in this study. If you live in one of these cities, are passionate about girls’ environments, and are interested in participating, drop me a line!

To find out how you can participate in the study, click here

By guest blogger Leyna Lowe, who is a PhD Candidate in Women’s Studies at York University. In her spare time, Leyna also paints, cycles the city, and is helping to establish a green corridor in Toronto through the David Suzuki Foundation’s Homegrown National Park.

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