Since joining the team of Knowledge Gatherers with CPCIL, Ebany Carratt has delved into parks and protected areas topics relating to inclusion and accessibility, law and reconciliation, and the history of people of colour in parks. With a background in the social sciences and prior involvement with various NGOs, Ebany frequently brought forth enriching perspectives to broaden team discussions around systemic oppression and social environmental issues. Originally from Saskatchewan, Ebany currently lives in Calgary where she recently graduated from University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society.
Here’s what Ebany had to say about her time with CPCIL.
What was it that drew you to this Knowledge Gatherer position with CPCIL?
My educational background is Law and Society, so the degree I completed looked at things related to law, but also political science, sociology, and economics. It was very interdisciplinary in nature, but it also focused a lot on how society reflects what we put into law/policy as well. In my last year, I was really into writing about gentrification and growing wealth disparity and how those things often relate to exclusion in environmental efforts. I was really shocked at how many well intended efforts, like moving towards environmentally conscious development or creating conserved areas, frequently displace people who are typically low-income or racialized.
So when I found this job I was quick to apply because I love writing, but I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be called back because I don’t come from a conservation or park management background. However, I did see that people with different voices or perspectives were encouraged to apply, so I felt inspired to share my story and my perspectives as an outsider. Even then, knowing what I know in regards to a policy perspective and the nature of exclusion, I wanted to try and stop this cycle of ignoring social issues and to ignite appropriate action in any way that I can.
Has this position had an impact on where you see your career going in the future?
If this year has taught me anything, it’s that nothing is certain. I think before I wanted to live my life on a very concrete and specific path, either becoming a policy advisor or a lawyer that focuses on human rights issues. However as I’ve gone through this experience with CPCIL, I’ve felt really compelled towards sustainability and conservation efforts. Prior to this position, the natural environment and climate change were things that I liked to read about and carry on in my personal life, but it wasn’t necessarily something that I ever considered as a career option for me to pursue in the long term. Looking back, I don’t know why I thought this door was closed to me, but now I actually want to do something in this area. Whether it’s about addressing environmental discrimination or just pushing better policies towards transitioning our economy to a more sustainable future, I think the bottom line is that I want to continue my career path towards giving back to the land that I am lucky to live on.
Were there any personal experiences that made you want to move in this direction as well?
Growing up I had always been fascinated with the natural environment and the species that are a part of it, but since I rarely got the chance to travel to wildlife parks I usually spent a lot of my time learning about it from David Attenborough. In many ways, I have always felt more comfortable in nature or with animals than with large groups of people at times. So when I first learnt about climate change as a kid, it gave me a lot of anxiety. When I finally got past the age of crying about an animal being endangered or going extinct, I started becoming more environmentally conscious of my behaviours and donating to conservation funds whenever I had the extra money. Since attending University and having the privilege to travel to and visit different parks and protected areas in Canada or Internationally, I’ve sort of gotten more directly involved in those things. My partner is very into endangered dart frogs and neotropical plants, so vicariously through them, I started getting into caring for different plants that I wouldn’t find in Canada, learning more about endangered species and reintroduction methods, and talking with people who work on bio-reserves in South-America and Asia. In a way I was kind of sad, because I didn’t pursue a career or degree that would look into this, despite my obvious interest in it. I still love policy and human rights, but since it would be too expensive for me to get another Bachelor’s in something like environmental science, I had just accepted that this interest would just have to be a nice hobby or side-interest for me. That perception all changed once I saw that I can bring my love for policy and social sciences towards conservation through CPCIL.
In what ways have your perspectives shifted since beginning your position with CPCIL?
I’ve mentioned it before that when I started I felt kind of at odds with myself that I was hired for this position, because I didn’t have that environmental or parks background. Through time, I’ve gotten more confident in my abilities and I feel a lot more comfortable to share my perspectives on social sciences and policy with everyone. In our western culture, I have always felt like there’s a very distinct line that people try to put between the hard sciences (like biology or chemistry) and the social sciences. This perception made me hard on myself because my family wanted me to go into the STEM field and the only thing that was an acceptable alternative was being a lawyer or working in finance. Even in University, I had a lot of friends in STEM who would say that people who were into social sciences were less intelligent and didn’t really have much to bring to the world with their degrees, unless they became lawyers and made tons of money. So I felt a little insecure about my degree or my career interests once I decided that being a lawyer was not who I wanted to be. Since beginning my position at CPCIL, I have seen that although that line still exists, and will probably continue to exist for many more years, I realize that it’s nothing more than an empty or misguided perception. Not only has this made me more confident in my abilities and intelligence, but I’m also starting to see how connecting my side of thinking to those “hard” scientific fields is valuable and necessary to create a better and brighter future for everyone who calls this planet home.
What have you loved most about your experience working for CPCIL?
I don’t want to sound too cliché, but I love the people most. I’ve probably said it so much that I sound like a broken record at this point, but I love the people I work with. We all work together in such a nice and cohesive way, even though we have different ideas and come from different backgrounds. The way we share knowledge and are willing to open up and talk about difficult things is the part of this journey that I am truly thankful for. Whether it’s the guests on our weekly meetings, the webinars that we get to sit in on, or just Don telling us about the different things that he’s done or is working on, I have learnt so much from anybody that I’ve interacted with thus far and have felt empowered to share my perspectives despite my age. I’ve never worked in an environment like this at any point in my life and so this opportunity will be something that I’ll cherish for years to come.