Sarada Sangameswaran is an environmental educator based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Born in India, Sarada was raised in South America before moving to the US for graduate school. Having loved nature for as long as she can remember, as a child Sarada didn’t know what options were out there. She first decided she would become a vet, before enrolling in some ecology classes at college and discovering this was her true passion. After graduating, she began working in environmental consulting before transitioning to work in environmental education.
Over the course of her career as an environmental educator, Sarada has worked for nature centers, where her work involved teaching people about the outdoors, with activities ranging from “taking people snowshoeing to bringing out a snake and telling them there’s nothing to be afraid of.” Really, she tells me, her work is about “introducing people to nature, and plants and animals guided by the philosophy that ‘you can’t preserve what you don’t love’.”
Sarada is currently working for a small nonprofit called Communitopia, whose mission is to provide climate change education and advance equitable climate solutions. A big part of this, Sarada tells me, involves educating young people about environmental issues, as well as empowering them to recognize how they can participate and make tangible changes in the world. She explains how often, the communities she serves are disconnected from the natural environment, or have never really has much exposure to nature. Sarada is really motivated by the joy that stems from “taking people out and showing them how exciting nature is,” sparking an enthusiasm for the natural world.
An unconventional member
Sarada is not (yet) a mediator. She got involved when MBBI CEO Prabha Sankaranarayan introduced her to an MBBI project, in partnership with eduCCate Global, with the aim of providing comprehensive climate education modules for teachers. MBBI is contributing a module on peacebuilding, and Sarada’s joined the project to assist with organising the materials so that they make sense to teachers.
After this initial involvement, Sarada joined the Climate Change Project, where she met Liliana Pimentel and discovered their shared interest in water resource issues. The two decided to team up to start a new MBBI group on water-related topics, housed under the United Nations Multilateral Working Group. This involvement will soon take the pair to the UN Water Conference (22-24 March 2023) to represent MBBI. While the group is still in its very nascent stages, Sarada’s hope is that it can form a repository of case studies, documenting the lessons of other water resource management projects, which can then assist practitioners and communities in the implementation of their own initiatives.
While not a mediator, it’s evident that Sarada’s expertise as an educator and a naturalist link closely with the work of MBBI. For her, mediation is a really fascinating practice, and she sees the skills as being really relevant in the world. Sarada sees mediation as a framework which creates solutions to the benefit of everyone involved. She believes this framework is equally applicable when attempting to redirect our currently exploitative relationship with nature. She’s hopeful that, sometime in the future she will have the time to complete her 40-hour training, but for now there are plenty of projects, both in her work with Communitopia and with MBBI, keeping her busy!
Peacebuilding with and through nature
Discussing the role of the natural world in peacebuilding, Sarada describes how this idea has been “front and center” in her career. She sees “a big role for spending time in nature” in diffusing tensions and improving quality of life. She explains how “one thing is mediating a conflict, and another is just sort of setting up conditions where people are less apt to get into a conflict because they’re in a better spot themselves.” This peacebuilding work of connecting the human with the more-than-human is crucial to our survival as a species, as “protecting nature protects people.”
Sarada is hopeful for a “future where the environment is protected,” but at the same time she doesn’t see this as a bleak future for humanity. Instead, she views it as an attempt to “turn the Titanic and hopefully not hit the iceberg head on.” To achieve this, “we need to change the way we look at the Earth, and we need to change the way we look at each other.” Sarada’s hope is that, as each of us contribute meaningfully and in our own way, we can together change global consciousness.
Article by Natalie Dewar, MBBI Writer