I just attended the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) annual meeting. It was my second environmental education (EE) conference, and during both I lamented the fact that they were not the anthropology or primatology conferences where I feel the most satisfying sense of belonging. (Note: Not everyone feels this way, and that’s a major problem within the field. I do not mean to imply that anthropology is perfectly inclusive.)
I was surrounded by like-minded people at these EE conferences, too, so what was the difference? I was forced to revisit the question: What is almost anthropology? Who AM I (professionally, but let’s be honest, in this type of work it’s never not also personal)?
When I decided not to pursue a PhD right after finishing my Masters it was because I felt limited by the prospect of working within academia. My interests and passions were the same. I just wanted to do work that was more applied.
I wanted someone other than a handful of academics to read what I wrote. I wanted to be less of a white scientist abroad pretending she can address complex conservation problems and more of an animal sharing her love of nature with fellow creatures in the habitat in which they coexist. Instead of studying one endangered species, I wanted to inspire people to show more compassion toward all living beings, both human and non, ourselves and others. I discovered so many potential ways to achieve this: play, music, art, yoga, writing, meditation, and positive experiences in nature, to name just a few. My overall goal broadened in scope as my methods became less scientific.
For the past few years I feel like I have been struggling to come to terms with having only one foot in ‘the anthro world,’ the world in which I have spent almost all of my adult life. Yet my studies in anthropology still very often inform my current work. I still share my research with audiences of all ages. I apply what I have learned and continue to learn about human-wildlife coexistence to where I live now.
I am happy as an environmental educator. The work is enjoyable, challenging, and fulfilling. When I recently read an anecdote about a scientist-turned-yogi, everything made even more sense. He said he didn’t want to analyze data anymore- he wanted to BE the data. This is why I teach environmental education! This is why I incorporate mindfulness practices into my programs. This is why I am writing a book about human-primate relationships from a very personal angle. I want to have meaningful experiences connecting to nature. I want to help others who are open to it to have them too, in ways that are relevant to their own understanding of the world.
I am an environmental educator, anthropologist, primatologist, and writer. I have one foot in ‘the anthro world’ and another in EE and another in wildlife conservation and another in the writing community and another in the yoga and mindfulness community, etc., etc. I am a polypod, a many-footed creature. When you’re an Almost Anthropologist it helps to have lots of metaphorical feet.