I've always been curious about how the stories we tell reflect and influence our experience of the natural world and our place within it. While working on my literature degree, I minored in environmental studies and focused my honours thesis on ecopoetics, a multidisciplinary approach to literary criticism that seeks to elucidate the nuanced relationships between stories and ecology. I continue to explore and write about these topics both critically and creatively through the lenses of ethnobotany, cultural ecology, sustainability and community resilience,often in collaboration with scholars, activists, artists and scientists.
Since early 2016, I've been working extensively as a freelance language and content editor to the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe in Copenhagen, Denmark. Highlights have included editing and co-writing publications for the Division of Information, Evidence, Research and Innovation's cultural contexts of health project, and editing for the WHO Healthy Cities Network. You can see some of my past editing and writing projects below.
Sample editing projects
A focus on culture. Developing a systematic approach to the cultural contexts of health in the WHO European Region (Published by the WHO Regional Office for Europe in 2016)
ABSTRACT: Over the past 20 years, a range of conceptual frameworks has been developed to examine how social and economic determinants intersect with health and well-being. While the importance of cultural contexts is frequently referenced in these frameworks (in a positive or negative way), the concrete ways in which value systems, traditions and beliefs act health and well-being are often unacknowledged, as are the frequently positive, protective effects that culture can have in the face of certain health challenges. In January 2015, the WHO Regional Office for Europe convened its first expert group meeting on the cultural contexts of health, thereby initiating a project that seeks to build a platform for research from the health-related humanities and social sciences to support the implementation of the European policy framework Health 2020. The second meeting of the expert group was convened in April 2016 to further explore how research from the humanities and social sciences can inform policy-making, and where this research can shed light on the subjective, human experiences of health. This report outlines the recommendations made by the expert group in relation to these objectives.
Culture matters. Using a cultural contexts of health approach to enhance policy-making (Published by the WHO Regional Office for Europe in 2017)
ABSTRACT: This policy brief was developed in response to the increasing awareness among policy-makers and the public health community of the important relationship between culture and health. By exploring the three key public health areas of nutrition, migration and environment, the policy brief demonstrates how cultural awareness is central to understanding health and well-being and to developing more effective and equitable health policies. Consequently, it argues that public health policy-making has much to gain from applying research from the health-related humanities and social sciences.
Vision 2020. Climate and Sustainability Action Plan 2017–2020 (Published by the McGill Office of Sustainability in 2014, updated in 2017)
ABSTRACT: McGill University's Climate and Sustainability Action Plan is the result of an extensive public consultation process that engaged thousands of students, researchers, professors and administrative leaders in mapping out a pathway for the University to becoming a leading institution in the study and practice of sustainability. Its actions are structured around five categories: Research, Education, Connectivity, Operations, and Governance and Administration. I was a member of the original Vision 2020 team tasked with facilitating this process and writing the first Action Plan, which was officially adopted by the University in 2014.
Plant people speak (Published in the Holistic Science Journal, Fall 2013)
ABSTRACT: How does studying, harvesting, and healing with native wild plants reveal and deepen our own very real membership in a biotic community? And how is this embodied ecological understanding connected to conservation? How can a practice of wild-harvesting medicines, in other words, contribute to the restoration of ourselves as well as the land that holds us? And how is such a practice to be cultivated? In this excerpt from my thesis, and with their permission, I offer direct quotes from my conversations with indigenous and land-based herbalists, healers, and wildcrafters living in the Pacific Northwest about their relationships to sacred and healing plants. Covering themes of song and speech, balance, perception, family, and learning, their words illuminate a quality of connection to the earth that emerges from mindful participation over generations.
The scent of rain and light (Published in Pure Green Magazine, Spring 2015)
Link coming soon!
Embodied belonging: wild-harvesting explored as a restorative practice (Schumacher College dissertation, 2011)
ABSTRACT: Harvesting medicinal plants from the wild, an increasingly contentious activity in an era of overconsumption and poor practices, is explored through a lens of reciprocity and right relationship to illuminate potential for transformative learning in an ecological context. Through stories, literature, and fieldwork, wild-harvesting is established as a practice of reconnecting personal and ecological wellbeing through conscious, embodied participation with place. Traditional harvesting patterns and protocols are oriented within emerging understandings of complexity in natural systems, opening up possibilities for the realignment of harvesting with conservation, restoration, and, moreover, the cultivation of ecological selfhood. Excerpts from conversations with healers and wild-harvesters of the Pacific Northwest are presented to illustrate the qualities and characteristics of relationships being built and maintained among people and local plants. Finally, through the author’s experience of working with the medicinal shrub devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus), Goethe’s scientific methodology is offered as a framework for developing an appropriate way of seeing for wild-harvesters.To conclude, insights, questions, and suggestions for further research are offered in the hopes of carrying this work forward in the future.
The poetics of wholeness: new language for science with qualities (MSc paper, 2010)
ABSTRACT: Within a dynamic and interconnected natural world, relationships are the most meaningful points of entry into new understandings of living systems. Exploring and mapping communication, feedback, and expression within the systems we observe, and within ourselves, is central to holistic methodology. Human language, however, is commonly identified as a profound cerebral barrier between self and world. Yet further exploration of the work of Henri Bortoft and David Abram, as well as the discourses of hermeneutics and ecopoetics, reveals good reason to believe that language - specifically symbolic language - has a vital role to play in developing a science with qualities. In calling forth complex imagery and opening up space for fertile ambiguity, creative linguistic expression is well equipped to not only describe a world of meaning in science, but also to reilluminate pathways to embodied humanness for scientists themselves. Potent and sensual, rich in descriptive power, I suggest that poetry and metaphor knit us back into a fully coherent world, drawing us into participation with our processes of inquiry and nurturing a rigorous science of wholeness.
Blessing the black dog: exploring creativity and release within the adaptive cycle (MSc paper, 2011)
ABSTRACT: Panarchy, a branch of systems theory linking the transformational processes of natural and social systems, develops connections between the dual qualities of persistence and change to explore adaptive cycles as they unfold through time and space. In considering these adaptive cycles, we begin to see that certain characteristics of self-organizing systems - such as path dependence, uncertainty, stability, and changeability - are expressed to a greater or lesser degree during particular phases of being. As calcified socioeconomic and political systems reveal cracked foundations and new systems yearn to access energy and materials for their own experimental processes, we are now called to take a fresh look at the role of release in the cultivation of resilience, and at the ability of our current worldview to embrace/facilitate creative shift.