Collective ‘Belonging in the Belgian nature*’

 

*Broad definition: everything that touches our roots and feeling of belonging

* Narrow definition: places like forests, meadows… 


 

Fragmented Belgian nature

Belgium is a highly densely populated country with land-use conflicts and which knows many different ethnical communities with their own epistemology. In addition, the ‘other’ nature in Belgium is very fragmented, resulting in Belgium being one of the forest-poorest countries in Europe. For instance, there are not many nature parks or wild, non-managed nature in Belgium.  

 

Belgium has not many forests, with many protected and fenced areas, resulting in a huge pressure on nature if many people come there. In many forests, moving is only allowed on paths. Under influence of COVID-19 restrictions we witnessed how paths became more muddy and wider. During the first lockdown, when ways of virus spreading were not clear and pandemic management measures were still not well established and clear, some parts of forests were closed off. However, already before the pandemic, the availability of natural public places has already been an issue. Only few places in Belgium are designated for swimming and camping outdoors due to possible harmful human pressure on fragile nature environments and lack of human knowledge to engage safely and in autonomous manner into nature relationships. The COVID-19 measures only made some uneven distributions of land (and other resources) more visible. Our collective wants to use systems thinking and design thinking to identify and expand the pathways towards justice, inclusion, sharing and belonging in the Belgian nature (and beyond). 

 

Inspired by the Belonging and Other Institute, we identify these pathways as following:

  • “Systems thinking offers a holistic approach to analyze exclusionary societal dynamics by focusing on the way that a system’s constituent parts interrelate across domains, disciplines and borders.

  • Design thinking is an iterative process that seeks design solutions by deepening one’s understanding of the problem through empathizing with the problem’s stakeholders, questioning assumptions and implications, and identifying creative strategies that might not be instantly apparent.”

 

Although the center of this collective is Belgium, the activities will extend to European and possibly Planetary dimension by using hybrid working methods: combining physical learning spaces with virtual, open to all.

 

The Collective 

We are all fascinated by the questions around othering and belonging, because of our professional and personal backgrounds. Our collective aims to explore the impact of nature based health and art practices on the feeling of belonging among citizens from different backgrounds. Our collective is formed by: 

  • active members of the informal community of forest therapy/bath guides based in Belgium 

  • (apparently, but subject to change) serial rooters; we have rooted in several places and experienced personally that each place can give valuable lessons and gifts, which manifest as internal need and desire to give ‘something’ back or share to more places 

  • People with experience in research and/or practice in nature based art and health practices 

  • People with a deep interest (perhaps partly because they are serial rooters themselves) for rooting, place and sense making, belonging, othering and intersectional environmentalism


 

Learn more about the collective:

 


 

Please let us know if you want to be part of this collective or collaborate as a partner, through the contact form; then we arrange one or more ‘nature walks’ and discuss ideas. 

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