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Reimagining Time: Learning from the Indigenous Garden at the University of Toronto

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Dr. Jessica Nelson
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Reimagining Time: Learning from the Indigenous Garden at the University of Toronto

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Embracing Indigenous Temporal Frameworks

The University of Toronto Scarborough hosts a unique site of land-based learning - the Indigenous Garden. Guided by the Anishnaabe 13 moons, this garden offers an opportunity for close observation of the land and its temporal patterns. However, an incongruity exists between the standard university calendar and the garden's indigenous temporal framework. This discordance limits opportunities for decolonizing teaching and learning, highlighting a challenge that extends beyond academia and into our broader societal structures.

Understanding the Impact of Temporal Patterns on Shared Existence

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Our shared existence is shaped by temporal patterns. The cycles of nature, the changing seasons, and the rhythms of day and night all impact our lives in profound ways. However, societal structures often fail to fully embrace these natural rhythms, instead imposing a rigid, linear conception of time that can be deeply incongruent with the cyclical patterns of the natural world. This is clearly demonstrated at the Indigenous Garden at the University of Toronto Scarborough, where the university calendar and the garden's indigenous temporal framework often clash.

The Need for Adaptation in the Face of Climate Change

As the realities of climate change become increasingly apparent, the necessity for communities to adapt to substantial shifts in environmental rhythms becomes even more significant. Already, we are witnessing changes in seasonal patterns, with longer periods of drought, unexpected cold snaps, and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns. These changes not only disrupt our daily lives, but also have profound impacts on our shared ecosystems and the biodiversity they support.

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Examples of Community Timing Initiatives

There are a growing number of initiatives that seek to adapt community timings in response to these environmental changes. For example, some communities are shifting their agricultural practices to align more closely with changing seasonal patterns, while others are adjusting their school and work schedules to better reflect the rhythms of the natural world. These initiatives recognize the importance of temporal frameworks as key resources, and highlight the potential benefits of reimagining our societal structures to be more in tune with the rhythms of the natural world.

The Importance of Revisiting Adaptive Capacity

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Our current conceptualizations of adaptive capacity often fail to fully acknowledge the importance of temporal frameworks. By recognizing these frameworks as key resources, we can better equip our communities to respond to the challenges posed by climate change. This requires a fundamental shift in how we understand and value time, moving away from a rigid, linear conception towards a more fluid, cyclical understanding that embraces the rhythms of the natural world.

The Indigenous Garden: A Site of Potential Transformation

The Indigenous Garden at the University of Toronto Scarborough offers a potent example of the potential for transformation. By aligning its practices with the Anishnaabe 13 moons, the garden offers an alternative temporal framework that holds valuable lessons for our broader societal structures. As we continue to grapple with the realities of climate change, such sites of learning offer important insights into the potential for societal adaptation and transformation. The university, which has been operating since 1827, recognizes the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit, acknowledging the presence of Indigenous people from across Turtle Island.

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