I (she/they) was born in Haudenosaunee ancestral lands/the Catskill Mountains. My paternal family travelled here from Great Britain in the 17th century. A great grand-uncle, John Burroughs, was a 19th-century writer and naturalist. My maternal family sailed from Friesland within the past century. A grandfather, Dr. Frederick Bronkema, was a transient, passionate Calvinist theologian. His wife, Sadie, committed suicide. My families’ women have been overshadowed.
I am a scholar, creative writer, and performance artist. My formal education is in music, linguistics, with a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology.
I moved to Fairbanks, Alaska–ancestral and unceded lands of Tanana Dene–with my husband, Jim, for the 2ndtime, 2 years ago. Before this, I taught in environmental studies at New York University. I was invested with students in the fossil fuel divestment movement when Hurricane Sandy and Occupy Wall Street intersected. This pivotal moment opened me to learn how to listen in ways I hadn’t before—including to younger people, and, as a privilege-oblivious white person, to those with brown and black skins. I chose to furlough myself from academia to do some important listening, assumption-questioning, re-grounding, writing, and other transformative, and activist work beyond it. I’ve needed to come into different spaces in order to be a more helpful member of a movement of transition from an oppressive system into communities who express justice, grace, and self-re/generative conditions. My work during this season is mostly unpaid. I acknowledge that being able to do this and have a good roof over my head is a distinct privilege, a gift. I am grateful. For this moment, Jim’s employment floats us.
I am author of Aldo Leopold’s Odyssey, an intellectual biography of this icon of U.S. conservation and environmental history and ethics. This book is about how Leopold became intimate with local land communities, called for transformation of extractive culture, and envisioned ecological land health-that is, flourishing economies of air, waters, plants, sun’s energy, soils, animals, including human beings-except that he erased living Indigenous Peoples.
I’m in an ongoing process of decolonizing my own past work and understandings, and my still emergent self. I am unlearning my ancestors’ supremacist habits and retrieving and renewing fresh, generous ones. My journey through white-evangelical spiritual abuse has prepared me to stand strategically against its totalizing impulse crescendo-ing from the White House.
What I unlearn and learn I continue to discuss with my neighbors and trusted friends outside academia and back inside with students and other colleagues. For example, I am collaborating with the Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition within a “just transition framework,” including keeping oil and gas in the ground here in Alaska. This has meant taking care to follow the leads of the Gwich’in Nation and other Alaska Native Peoples on the front lines in defense of their inseparable ancestral lifescapes and lifeways. At the same time, I continue to contribute old and new understandings and skills as a Fellow of the Center for Humans and Nature and as a member of an “ecosphere studies” educational venture of The Land Institute.
And, I write, for healing, and for the vexing joy of creation!
My most recent publications include creative non-fiction pieces and poetry. Coming along are shorter and book-length and spoken narratives. These incorporate sound recordings of extinct birdsongs and other voices. I try to unsettle white-settler presumption. I hold space for reconnecting thoughts and feelings–from grief to wonder–split apart by a legacy of alienating habits, and, for reconnecting ways of knowing, people with people, Peoples with Peoples, and human beings with the more-than-human of land communities.
Overall, I naturally trace interdependencies; integrate, peel down to deep, often hidden assumptions. I question what fuels and orients them, including cosmologies. This, to me, is a form of resistance to authoritarianism; of healing; and, of defense and celebration of the manifest sacred.
I believe that the best uses of knowledges make love more skillful. I believe that humankinds’ worthiest hopes mirror healthful conditions of Lands-and-Peoples, which is also the ways of beauty. I believe in co-creative allied powers to release old and transition to new, just, re/generative cultures. I believe this movement entails ongoing negotiations of trust fueling fierce, peaceful action.