Native Plant Trust


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Exploring the Social History of the Outdoors

Join us for a virtual spring symposium focusing on aspects of the social history of natural spaces, from nature appreciation and inspiration to notions of territory, access, and participation. We will explore and consider humanistic and scientific approaches to this subject through a transdisciplinary lens. Through these investigations, we will consider how historical actions continue to impact societal and environmental change. Here's our program:

10:00 a.m. Communities of Color & Access to Nature
With Mardi Fuller

People of Color face systemic barriers to accessing natural spaces for recreation and have limited visibility in the mainstream conservation movement. The reasons for this are layered and complex, but date back to the founding of the United States, the original sins of dispossession and slavery and the colonial imagination that positioned white people as landowners with practical and figurative freedom of movement while restricting the rights and movement of People of Color. In this talk we will explore the founding policies, cultural norms and illusions that have led to the entrenched exclusion that People of Color experience today. 

Mardi Fuller advocates for racial equity through writing, speaking and community building. A lifelong backcountry adventurer, in January 2021 she became the first known Black person to hike all 48 of New Hampshire’s high peaks in winter. She lives in Boston where she works as a nonprofit communications director and volunteers with the local Outdoor Afro network. She writes for Outside magazine, SKI magazine, Melanin Basecamp and more. Mardi is committed to personal and corporate Black liberation and thereby, liberation for all humanity. She believes deeply in nature's healing power.

11:00 a.m. Speaker and topic to be announced

12:00 p.m. When Life Gives You Lemons
With Dr. Xan Chacko

In the early 20th century, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded international expeditions with the aim of finding plant specimens for introduction into the agricultural landscape and new experimental projects in hybridization. One such agricultural explorer, noted for his eponymous lemon, was Frank Nicholas Meyer, an immigrant from the Netherlands whose expeditions in Asia have brought to the United States celebrated fruit and toxic weeds. The era of these plant explorers has ended, but their material trace remains in a variety of spaces and modes of existence that have hitherto been disregarded. Reading Meyer’s letters shows the authority and discipline behind his transformation from gardener’s apprentice to professional plant collector. These photographs and plants are understudied material traces that enable historians to re-examine the means by which credit was received, given, and exchanged.

Xan S. Chacko is a Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies for the program in Science, Technology, and Society at Brown University. In 2018, Chacko received a PhD from the Cultural Studies Graduate Group at the University of California, Davis, with designated emphases in Feminist Theory & Research, and Science & Technology Studies. Chacko's co-edited volume, Invisible Labor in Modern Science, which explores the people and practices that are crucial to the production of scientific knowledge but remain uncredited and marginalized, was published in August 2022.

Please note: We do not make video or audio recordings of classes or programs available after the fact, because we believe education is interactive, with instructors and students building a community and culture of learning. Some programs may be recorded strictly for instructor-training purposes. Please visit this page to review this and other FAQs about our policies.

Date/time detailsWednesday, June 21, 2023, 10 AM-1 PM
LocationLive Virtual
Program codeSYM1011
Fee$60 (Members) / $72 (Nonmembers)
CertificateElective: All Certificates