ECO_CARE meets Emily Murray

By: Emily Murray


Shortly after moving to the south of France earlier this year, I was jogging along the seafront when I noticed this repeating street art painted on the concrete barrier separating me from the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. The spray-painted art, in the same shade of blue as the sea in front of me, read “RESPECTE TA MER!”. For the first time, I realized the word for “sea” in French (mer) sounds identical to the French word for mother— “mère”. I immediately thought to myself “how perfect is that!?” and paused to take in the beauty of the sea with a newfound appreciation for this source of life—our planet’s mother. I do not think I would have made this connection, or looked at the sea with such great respect and awe, if it were not for the ECOCARE project and the inspiring team who I have had the pleasure of working with over the past year. 

Photo by E. Murray: “RESPECTE TA MER!”. Spray-paint art along La Corniche in Marseille, France.

At the end of September 2021, after switching from the thesis to course-based stream in my Global Health master’s program at McMaster University (Ontario, Canada), I was scrambling to find a practicum for the Fall semester. Knowing I had a strong interest in community-based participatory research, and specifically with Indigenous communities, my academic advisor quickly connected me with the co-principal investigators of the ECOCARE project—Margherita Paola Poto and Giulia Parola. The practicum was set to start while I was travelling around the East Coast of Canada with my grandmother, so naturally, I (virtually) met Margherita and Giulia for the first time over Zoom while sitting in my car using the local Starbucks’ Wi-Fi. From this very first interaction, I knew our paths were meant to cross and that ECOCARE was a project unlike anything I had been a part of before.

 Margherita, Giulia, Elina and I got right to work on one of ECOCARE’s most recent publications, Environmental Law and Governance: the helicoidal pathway of participation. A study of a nature-based model inspired by the Arctic, the Ocean, and Indigenous Views. My main role in this project was to provide linguistic revisions, edits, and suggestions for Margherita, who was bringing together her many years of research to address the question: Is administrative law capable of effectively addressing the complex environmental challenges of our time? Despite having no educational background on environmental law and governance, I was able to draw on years of coursework and research I had done on community-based participatory research and Indigenous research methods, and the experience I gained working with a First Nations community back in Canada during the 2020-2021 academic year, to bring flow and connectivity to the book. At a particularly difficult time in my life, diving into this project and working so closely with Margherita, who embodies the values of the ECOCARE project to her very core, kept me afloat. Through editing Margherita’s work and reading other ECOCARE publications, I learned so much on the history of environmental law and the way the oceans have been governed and why the status quo of state regulation and policies will never be enough to protect our water, and more generally speaking, our planet. I believe that participatory research and co-creation of knowledge that leads to concrete action is the only way to address the most pressing environmental concerns of the 21st century, which is one of the core values of ECOCARE. One of the most unique aspects of this co-creation research project is the emphasis on empathy, compassion, and care—which are values that are difficult to find in the world of research and law.

 The connection between Margherita and myself felt so natural, in both a personal and professional sense, we decided that we must keep working together. Our next project was our first co-authored publication on the theoretical and practical implications of bringing law and science into the sphere of sustainable development and finding solutions to achieve the targets set in Agenda 2030. Margherita brought forth the original idea and we worked together to develop it and are currently waiting to hear back from the journal reviewers. Working on this piece and having the chance to bring in my research and thoughts on the UN’s framework for achieving sustainability and gaining a better understanding of what ECOCARE stands for was empowering and encouraging; in fact, it has led me to direct my energy and future work towards environmental health and policy. Through working with ECOCARE, I have also realized how important interdisciplinary collaboration is—the research team is so diverse and live all around the world—and how a virtual work environment can be motivating and productive when team members genuinely care for each other and the work they are doing.

 The next (and current) project I have had the honour of co-authoring with ECOCARE is the beautiful educational resource Follow Your Heart: The school for multipotentialites which encourages a teaching model that fosters emotional intelligence and the multiple talents of children. The book is an original idea of Valentina Russo, the most colourful, free-spirited, creative human I have ever met, who has illustrated for other ECOCARE publications such as A Story About Knowledge. Margherita, Valentina, and I have spent the past few months bringing this idea to life and it has been the most playful and inspiring academic/research experiences I have had. The project has flourished quickly and smoothly, even with our very different schedules and 3 different time zones, and the involvement of educators across the globe. As someone who has always struggled with the linearity and structure of the Western education classroom setting, and someone who has never been able to confidently provide an answer to “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, this book project really speaks to my heart and I know it will speak to yours too, when it is ready to share later this year.

 Something that ECOCARE emphasizes, and an inherent belief of many Indigenous communities around the world, is the connectivity of water. There have been two moments in the past year that I truly experienced this connectivity and I think it is most appropriate to share it here. I completed the last semester of my master’s while backpacking around Europe, and I happened to be watching the sunset along the Amalfi coast, reminiscing about my time in Italy, when I saw an email with the subject line “Monograph Day :)” from Margherita pop up on my phone. As I listened to the crashing waves, scrolling through the final copy of the new environmental law book, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to a resource that will surely impact how people view the oceans, and my connection to ECOCARE which, appropriately, began by the water (Canadian Atlantic Ocean). Then, about a month ago, I visited the European Atlantic Ocean for the first time from a small coastal town in France and despite never being there before, I felt the strongest connection to home (Canada).

Emily holding her copy of Environmental Law and Governance: the helicoidal pathway of participation after it travelled from Italy to Canada.

 ECOCARE has given me a new perspective on the beauty of our oceans, the value in bringing empathy and care into research, law, and academics, and the power that younger generations have to make a difference, especially when given a creative space to grow.

Illustration by Valentina Russo, Mucho Amor, for the book Murray, Poto, Russo, Follow Your Heart. The School for Multipotentialites, Aracne, 2022, forthcoming.


This post may be cited as: Emily Murray, ECO_CARE meets Emily Murray, (October 1st, 2022), online: here