“The “Decolonization” of Conservation is Deeper than You Think”
The idea of “decolonizing” institutions, public education, and popular media is increasingly popular. Yet, many proponents of these “decolonizing” efforts fail to grasp the full extent of what such work entails. Genuine, thorough “decolonization” requires an objective, in-depth evaluation of the systems and culture that led to modern power and representation imbalances. The decolonization of conservation is an excellent example of this.
This field has actively contributed to the disproportionate influence and representation of European and European-descended academics through the systemic exclusion of Indigenous and Black people in natural spaces and academic institutions. Fear-based exclusion was enforced via lynching and the “Black Code” during the Jim Crow Era, and the erasure of Indigenous knowledge through large-scale ecological destruction, the Indian Removal Act, and continued legislative and societal marginalization and disenfranchisement. All this considered, the “decolonization” of conservation will be a monumental task.
Sunny proposes a five-step approach to begin dismantling the systems that marginalize Black and Indigenous conservationists. In all, this presentation will provide a robust foundation on which to build meaningful, effective decolonization programs for conservationists.
Jazmin “Sunny” Murphy is a science communicator and reporter that specializes in the intersection between Black and Indigenous U.S. histories as they overlap with ecology. She earned a B.Sc. in Zoology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and plans to complete her M.Sc. in Environmental Policy and Management with American Public University.