Meet Andrés Jiménez, Our 2020 Environmentalist in Residence!
Toronto Public Library welcomes Andrés Jiménez, our Environmentalist in Residence (EnvIR) from August 31 to November 6, 2020, presented as part of the Our Fragile Planet program series! Recently, we reached out to Andrés for an interview about his passions, inspirations and even his favourite books! Find out more below.
What interested you about Toronto Public Library's (TPL) Environmentalist in Residence (EnvIR) position? What are you looking most forward to during your residency?
When I first set foot in a TPL branch for the first time, I was an international student with a young family. In my country, libraries are far smaller and far less reaching. I was immediately taken by TPL- its resources, people and space, which was built particularly for the most vulnerable. In Toronto, there are many tropical international students learning to live in the cold north, and I was one of them.
For two years, the library programs kept my daughter learning. They provided her with a space to interact with other grown-ups. Most importantly, TPL provided us with free tickets to the Toronto Zoo, Art Gallery of Ontario, the ROM, and the Ontario Science Centre, thanks to the fantastic Museum + Art passes program. With my budget at the time, this was the only way we could visit these places.
I want to give back to the library and its ecosystem. As the Environmentalist in Residence, I look forward to finding creative ways to help people connect to the everyday wilderness that surrounds them.
What is an environmental issue that you would like to tackle as the EnvIR?
People and the disconnection with nature – the source of all the environmental issues big and small.
What do you enjoy the most about your environmental work?
Being in nature. I could be searching for bugs, frogs and birds every day of my life. I equally enjoy seeing the eyes of wonder when I share my enthusiasm about a living organism with participants.
Why do you think environmental issues are still important and more relevant now, during this pandemic?
Researchers and experts have established that the decline of nature will bring more frequent pandemics. I don't know about you, but experiencing this pandemic has put so many things in perspective. As much as I have enjoyed being a full-time worker, dad and educator for the past six months, I don't want to live through another global-scale event brought on by the continuous deterioration of nature. I found hope through the songs of birds that retook the city for a whole month. At the same time, I felt despair when I think of the enormous amounts of single-use plastics produced to navigate this pandemic. What I am trying to say is that this is the time to make hope accessible instead of the usual messages of despair when it comes to protecting nature.
What inspires the environmental work you do?
In the last ten years of my conservation work, inspiration had eluded me. Desperation had been constant. My love of nature is so deep that the world's current state brings a lot of grief and sadness. For example, when my daughter reaches my age, I think of how she'll likely only see half of the world's mammal species that I had the privilege to see. This dark feeling motivated me to dedicate my master's research on environmental problem solving and understand our inability to solve dangerous and pressing issues. Ironically, this helped me find my inspiration. I learned that the only thing I can change is myself, my actions and my footprint in the world. I would try to expand my sphere of influence by reaching as many humans as possible with my most potent weapon, enthusiasm.
The most prominent environmentalists inspiring my work are the Indigenous friends that I have encountered in my path. Their relationship to nature understands the basic rules that we need to follow to have a thriving world. In my country, the Indigenous peoples never built big centres of worship – their sacred places and spirits were outside, in the rivers, the forests and the animals. My other inspiration is children and their ever-lasting wonder and love for the natural world around them. I wish to recover that sense of wonderment that allows them to find joy in every corner of this planet.
Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
Among many other things, I am currently working on creating online courses for people with disabilities. I recently launched the first Canadian course on birding-by-ear for people with sight loss with Birds Canada. I am also working on the monitoring of the endangered harlequin toad in Costa Rica.
What are some of your favourite books about the environment?
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel A. Van der Kolk
This book was a fundamental piece for me to understand how trauma defines our relationships with other humans, and in extension, our relationship to nature and space.
Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution by Menno Schilthuizen
Darwin Comes to Town breaks the constructed separation between the human and the wild, bringing evolution to our backyards.
If you're looking for a short and entertaining book that reconnects us with the basic rules of nature, this is it. It's simple yet powerful in helping us use those rules to read nature around us.
Is This Panama? By Jan Thornhill
This is one of the easiest and most accessible book that explains to kids the interconnection of North and South, and the fragility of the borders we have created.
What are some of your other favourite books that you would recommend?
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Leguin
The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov
Siddharta by Herman Hess
What would you read for the TPL Reading Challenge 2020?
For two of the TPL Reading Challenge 2020 categories, here are Andrés' picks!
Meet Andrés Jiménez, Live and Online
Originally to be hosted at the Agincourt Branch, you can now connect with our EnvIR virtually through free online programs, workshops and consultations. For more information, check the Environmentalist in Residence page for more programs.
Join in on the residency's kick-off event!
Environmentalist in Residence Meet & Greet
Are you interested in birds or birding? Want to learn how to be an environmental activist? Do you have a passion for photography and our ecosystem? Then join us on Thursday, September 10 at 6:30pm on CrowdCast for an interactive kick-off event! Ask Andrés questions related to his expertise and get a sneak preview of the programs and workshops he'll be offering during his residency from August 31 to November 6, 2020.
Andrés will appear in conversation with Janelle Richards, TPL's first Environmentalist in Residence in 2018.
The Environmentalist in Residence (EnvIR) program supports the Our Fragile Planet program series and will serve as an industry expert in conservation and sustainability.
This residency and the Our Fragile Planet program series is generously supported by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.