The indigenous people of the world lived as a part of nature and developed the principles of life based upon the relations and connections, they depended upon from the natural world around them. This closeness to nature provided the in-depth wisdom of the complex inter-relationships between life systems that literally, millions of different organisms or species share. Sharing the wisdom of nature from one generation to the next, has allowed these people to co-exist in challenging environments for thousands of years. They recognize that trees and humans evolved and thrived with forests. We will always be creatures of the forests.
The Koyokon, the S’ami, the Naganasan and the Anishinabee are just a few of the countless indigenous people whose worldview attest to our fundamental reliance on the forest. Our so called advanced western society, has alienated ourselves from nature and lost our appreciation for the elements that sustain life, including the human species. Our arrogant intelligence has us believing we are the masters of Earth and our own destiny. Unfortunately, the intricacies and complexities of nature are ignored except by a few science-minded individuals. The fundamental focus for affluent ways of life and to Western minds, are founded on progress, peace, democracy and economic growth. We use the Gross National Product (GDP) to measure success rather than the wellness of the people. Capitalism not only alienates and commodifies nature into products and changes people into consumers, it alienates and commodifies many modern-day societies. Our long history of co-evolution with forests has a much longer history then does capitalism, and the ending has not been written yet!
We must begin with the recognition of human’s reliance on natural processes, and acknowledge the awesome responsibility that rests on the shoulders of mankind. We are not born indifferent from our surroundings! If we look to the fragile borders where human life exists, we get a glimpse of what the future may be like. Before the end of the twenty-first century, we will experience a wave of extinctions, trees will leap north, the tundra and Attic ice will disappear, ocean level will rise and cities will flood.
We need to initiate new educational programs to prepare our youth for what is to come. Re-connection to nature will only come when nature itself is the classroom. More than any previous generation, the lives of today’s children will depend upon in-depth knowledge of ecological principles and changes in the nonhuman world. Observation and curiosity are the natural but radical prerequisites for a new relationship with Earth! If we hope to be part of the group of species that co-evolve to survive the inevitable coming changes, we must revive the essential understanding of other living things. Constructing an ecological foundation, within our students, is the only solution. This will be a challenge as our world population continues its shift from rural to urban living. Our indigenous people’s recognition of mankind’s strategic ecology will soon be a primary element in national security and community survival. The forest is a never-ending experiment in co-evolution, and we need help in understanding the complex relationships forests provide for life-systems on planet Earth.
Author, Ben Rawlence suggests, “It has always been the case that life is a moral endeavor, the very act of living a legacy. To look at the forest through the eyes of our indigenous people is to see a world of multiple selves and souls communicating with each other. The leaf talks to the wind, the flower talks to the bee, the roots talk to the fungi – the world is a chaotic, noisy place! When we step into the forest, we are making the world with our bodies, with our feet, our eyes, our breath, our imaginations. A million randomized branching futures are possible”. We must prepare our youth for the future through education and facts, without frightening them, for we are the stewards, still charged with caring for and nurturing the land. The fact is that every move you make, no matter how large or small, matters. When a pebble falls in a pond of water it creates concentric waves that expand until they cover the entire pond. You too can make a difference! Your future, and mine, depend upon our willingness to care and respond!