“How has the way I understand and communicate my capstone evolved over time?”
While feeling a little lost amid COVID-19 disruptions to my capstone, thinking over this prompt was motivating. So much about my research has become concrete since I first had the general idea that I wanted to research the often unnameable feelings associated with the natural world. I first toyed with the concept of “eco-spirituality” before I recognized the phrase, wanting to stay away from the biases associated with such a subjective and fluid idea. I would have to dive deep into my folders to find my first thought processes around my concentration, but I was attempting to approach eco-spirituality through a literary analysis. I took English courses in order to improve how I analyzed literature. At this point, I was already interested in what I did not have words for: how do private belief systems guide environmental approaches? I was searching through environmental narratives and poetry in order to capture what experiences and attitudes make someone interested in conservation. I narrowed my situated context to the United State’s Pacific Coast and began exploring piles and piles of books from a range of genres.
Fast forward a few years, after many more classes and a semester abroad. I became exposed to “eco-psychology,” which took a step closer to what my concentration had struggled to grasp. Eco-psychology is defined as the study of the relationship between human beings and the natural world through ecological and psychological principles. A common example of this at play are the multitude of studies that demonstrate human well-being and exposure to green spaces. While simultaneously understanding eco-psychology as significant in my own life, I became involved in activist groups and was more engaged in deconstructing a society based in white supremacy and individualism. I was exploring my interests at the intersection of passion about the environment while also wanting to challenge social justice issues in a post-2016 election landscape. This showed up in my coursework, as I tried to tie my essays and projects into community equity work. I wanted my capstone to represent my interests and progressed my research towards eco-psychology and climate activism. After doing this, I began to feel more comfortable moving away from a secular lens and extending my vision into eco-spirituality.
Eco-spirituality is broad and simultaneously deeply specific. It is an individual experience that presents itself in the collective, from vast perspectives. It is a perfect topic for exploring the way the private sphere informs the public, with significant information and history to draw from. My outcome has more immediately changed: I’m navigating a new situated context, but the framework has stayed the same. My capstone is still developing! By the end of the week, I will have a more concrete research background in this new arena to share.