As our world changes around us and we continue to see rampant inequity in our systems, the Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative is spurred to action. We hope to be part of the solution by addressing the failures of the conservation sector when it comes to dismantling systemic inequities. From this need, the Relearning Place Program (RPP) is taking form. RPP focuses on new and old ways of learning, seeking to address issues within conservation and environmental attitudes, specifically those that impact our ability to create a reality where the health of our environments and communities are valued. We are approaching these issues from the field of conservation because it is a sector often stretched between the goodwill of wealthy donors and market capitalism’s interest in natural resources. For most of history, conservation has been a field of the elite and white, meaning that marginalized populations are excluded from employment within conservation and thus, their perspectives are often ignored. To dismantle the roadblocks that prevent access to holistic conservation, the Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative and the Maine Environmental Changemakers Network are creating the Relearning Place Program – a transformational movement aimed at restructuring conservation and providing underrepresented racial, social, and economic groups an opportunity to be involved. 

There is a problematic history of white-led organizations assuming the needs of marginalized groups, often leaving their input out in the rush to create programming. As a small white-led non-profit there is the potential for Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative (SMCC) to walk into the same pitfalls because of the rapidly changing demands of this work. To address this, we hold ourselves to a standard of transparency, because information is power and when information is shared, we can all rise together. This standard is most evident in SMCC’s partner relationship with the Maine Environmental Changemakers Network; where we find power by sharing resources as we strive to be as transparent as possible. This relationship gives us mobility and a model for transparency, enabling us to incorporate the expressed needs of marginalized populations, organizations, and people who are at the evolving edge of environmentalism.


 

Red Fong, former Summer Associate in 2019, is now SMCC’s Relearning Place program manager. Red has played a major role in the development of the Re-Learning Place program. They just graduated from Colby College with a degree in Environmental Studies and a passion for equity in the environment. Lover of quiet walks in the woods and long bike rides, Red is familiar with the outdoors in many settings.

They’re joining us from their hometown in rural Massachusetts, where half of their town is in conservation land! Red is sharing their time with Teens to Trails, an organization based out of Brunswick. The ongoing public health crisis and renewed energy behind the Black Lives Matter movement have them ready to get some work done and make some change.

Relearning Place’s mission is to create a more inclusive conservation movement. We have been working with a committed group of people with diverse racial identities and broad lived experiences from Maine’s Environmental Changemakers and SMCC to develop this program’s next steps. Please let us know if you and your organization would like more information and to learn how to get involved.