KWEEN WERK on the Necessity of Representation in Conservation and Outdoor Recreation

KWEEN WERK on the Necessity of Representation in Conservation and Outdoor Recreation

Parker McMullen Bushman, aka KWEEN WERK is a vibrant, joyful Black hiker and environmental educator who is setting out to discuss representation and education in conservation and outdoor recreation. Her spirit and love for the outdoors backs her message that outdoor recreation is for everyone and looks many different ways. We'll let Parker share about her finding her career path, finding her love for nature and more! 

KWEEN is actually an acronym that stands for Keep Widening Environmental Engagement Narratives. I started KWEEN WERK because of my own experiences facing the drastic lack of representation in the Environmental Education and Outdoors Recreation fields. I've had a 23-year career in the outdoor industry, but I didn't often see people who looked like me. It also took me a long time to realize that this career was something that I could do and be successful at. You see I never thought of myself as outdoorsy even though I spent a lot of time in the outdoors growing up.

People often ask me where my love of nature and the outdoors developed and how I came to my profession. Answering the question of where my love of nature and the outdoors developed is much easier to answer than how I came to my profession. My love of nature came from my mother, and while I can’t point to a specific instance where a conservation ethic was taught to me as a childhood value, she is definitely the person who set me on my path. My mother thought it was very important to expose me and my two younger sisters to nature so, even though she was raising us in the middle of the city (Bronx NY), she went out of her way to make sure we were connected to the outdoors. She would take us on picnics, hiking, fishing, anything she could figure out access for.

I grew up with a deep love of being outdoors even though I never really thought of myself as outdoorsy. I never saw myself in a career like a park ranger or environmental educator. To be honest growing up when I pictured people in those types of positions, I didn't picture people that look like me. There weren’t a lot of people who looked like me represented in the field so, figuring out that conservation and outdoor recreation was the career of my dreams took me a little bit longer than most.

You see, people of color are underrepresented in conversation about conservation and the outdoors. My work and my passion is about connecting all people to nature, no matter their background. My work is also about empowering all communities to create healthy habitats for themselves and for wildlife. It took me a long time to realize that the only thing it takes for something to be an outdoor activity is for you to be doing it outside!

I ended up in a career where I teach people about the environment, ecosystems and the importance of caring for our natural world. I love being an educator and I think it is very important to discuss the lack of representation that we see in the conservation and outdoor recreation fields. In order to care for our planet properly we need everyone to be a part of the conversation. In order to make this happen everyone needs to feel like they have a space in the outdoors and are truly included in conversations around environmental impacts and their lives.

I believe that social justice and environmental justice are important topics to be discussed in the outdoor industry. A lot of people have trouble seeing the connection, but when we start to research the historical reasons that we have the current disparities in access and participation it's easier to see the links. Research shows that people of color are less likely to engage in outdoor recreation activities and historical discrimination has been listed as one of the underlying factors. I also believe that we need to widen the conversation about what counts as an outdoor activity. I think getting out in nature in an urban environment is just as valuable as climbing a 14er, but we don't tell the stories about people visiting their local park.

This is what KWEEN WERK is about. I am dedicated to disrupting the narrative that only certain people care about the environment and participate in outdoor activities. I want to show that bodies of size, BIPOC bodies, bodies with disabilities, gender non-conforming bodies etc. all deserve equal representation in the narratives we communicate about outdoor engagement.

My favorite things to do outdoors is walk, hike, dance, camp, and nature journal. I love taking my time to enjoy the environment and nature journaling requires me to slow down and take it all in. I love connecting to nature and relaxing. I also love to dance and move my body to music outside.


Learn more about KWEEN WERK's business and mission:

I believe business and conservation strategies are enriched and made stronger by the contribution of the experiences, perspectives, and values of diverse individuals and communities. For the past 22+ years I’ve had the opportunity to work for science education and non-profits organizations that have woven into their missions a commitment to raising environmental awareness in their local communities. Personally I’m passionate about finding new and meaningful ways to communicate science and conservation related issues to diverse audiences through interdisciplinary learning, hands-on education, and stewardship. I am also eager to help organizations develop inclusive internal cultures to create organizational environments that are welcoming to all. Ecoinclusive Strategies was born out of these two passions.

I founded Ecoinclusive Strategies in 2014. Ecoinclusive Strategies supports the creation of healthy and diverse organizational and community ecosystems. A basic principle of ecology is that diversity in an ecosystem fosters strength and resilience. I am a diversity trainer and leader of several initiatives to increase diversity in environmental and STEM fields. I firmly believe that social, economic and environmental issues are interconnected and that it is necessary to promote and embrace diversity to create the social change needed to protect the environment and all who depend on it.

Ecoinclusive Strategies has 4 pillars inspiring social change. Read below and click on the links to learn more.

Pillar 1 - Awareness

Ecoinclusive– Ecoinclusive was created in response to a growing recognition that the environmental movement as a whole suffers from a lack of cultural and socioeconomic diversity. With increasing urgency, scholars and activists have called for the environmental and conservation movement to directly reflect and engage with the great diversity of people who are affected by environmental issues. Many leaders are now faced with the challenge of developing more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organizations. Ecoinclusive provides resources and a platform to raise awareness and talk about these vital issues.



Pillar 2 - Consulting and Training

Ecoinclusive Strategies, LLC - Ecoinclusive Strategies provides training and resources for leadership at non-profits, cultural and environmental organizations to aid them in building a culturally diverse and culturally competent staff that reflects the populations that they serve.    

Pillar 3 - Community Building

Summit for Action is a 2 day event for thought-provoking discussions and solutions-based recommendations for Justice, Equity, Diversity, Accessibility and Inclusion. The Summit for Action model brings together a variety of community leaders and key stakeholders to develop shared understanding around the steps needed to inspire and drive social change around Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion issues. The vision of Summit for Action is to be a catalyst for action that creates a more equitable world. This is done through facilitating dialogue and creating cross-sector partnerships to tackle these complex social problems.



Pillar 4 - Disrupting Narratives and Activism

KWEEN WERK – KWEEN WERK is dedicated to disrupting the narrative that only white able-bodied people care about the environment and participate in outdoor recreation activities. KWEEN stands for Keep Widening Environmental Engagement Narratives. At KWEEN WERK we are challenging traditional representations of what it means to be outdoorsy by showing a variety of bodies engaged in outdoor spaces. Bodies of size, BIPOC bodies, Gender non-conforming bodies, Bodies with disabilities, etc. all deserve equal representation in the narratives we communicate about outdoor engagement.


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