Indigenous People: To Protect the Environment, We Would Need a
Different Philosophy

How our common way of thinking about Mother Nature is not only wrong, but detrimental.

India’s food abundance comes at a cost: Indian farmers receive subsidies higher than the average income of Indians. Source: Seed Freedom

“ A whole generation of citizens thought that the carrying capacity of the earth was proportional to the amount of land under cultivation and that higher efficiencies in using the energy of the sun had arrived. This is a sad hoax, for industrial man no longer eats potatoes made from solar energy, now he eats potatoes partly made of oil.”

According to Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp), Malaysia’s 18 days of food waste is comparable to the size of Petronas twin towers. Source: The Mole

Who can we learn from?

Who were the civilised? Who were the advanced? Source: Discovering Something New

“[…] European agronomists still don’t understand today in some cases the reasons why New Guineans’ methods work and why well-intentioned European farming innovations failed there. For instance, one European agricultural advisor was horrified to notice that a New Guinean sweet potato garden on a steep slope in a wet area had vertical drainage ditches running straight down the slope. He convinced the villagers to correct their awful mistake, and instead to put in drains running horizontally along contours, according to good European practices. Awed by him, the villagers reoriented their drains, with the result that the water built up behind the drains, and in the next heavy rains a landslide carried the entire garden down the slope into the river below. To avoid exactly that outcome, New Guinea farmers long before the arrival of Europeans learned the virtues of vertical drains under highland rain and soil conditions.”

What philosophy?

“ In indigenous worldviews, there is no separation between people and land, between people and other life forms, or between people and their ancient ancestors whose bones are infused in the land they inhabit and whose spirits permeate place[…] the Indigenous world is a world of relationships built on reciprocity, respect, and responsibility, not just between humans but also extending to the entire natural world.”

The stories we constantly tell ourselves are killing the planet. We must wake up from the disillusionment and say, “The Natives have the answer”.

What we should do

“ In that time [3.8 billion years], life has learned to fly, circumnavigate the globe, live in the depths of the ocean and atop the highest peaks, craft miracle materials, light up the night, lasso the sun’s energy, and build a self-reflective brain. Collectively, organisms have managed to turn rock and sea into a life-friendly home, with steady temperatures and smoothing percolating cycles. In short, living things have done everything we want to do, without guzzling fossil fuel, polluting the planet, or mortgaging their future. What better models would there be?”

Architects fascinated by the space-efficiency and profound structural integrity of honeycombs venture creative renderings in modern office spaces and malls. Source: Growth Business

So where do we go from here?

Sutton, M. A. et al. Our Nutrient World: the Challenge to Produce More Food and Energy With Less Pollution. (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology on behalf of the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM) and the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI), (2013). (link)

Mulvaney RL, Khan SA, Ellsworth TR. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers deplete soil nitrogen: a global dilemma for sustainable cereal production. J Environ Qual. 2009 Oct 29;38(6):2295–314. doi: 10.2134/jeq2008.0527. PMID: 19875786. (link)

Collapse, Jared Diamond

As Long As Grass Grows, Dina Dilio-Whitalker

Energy and Civilization, Vaclav Smil

A Handbook for Industrial Ecology, Robert Ayres and Leslie Ayres

Environment, Power and Society for the 21st Century, Howard Odum

Biomimicry, Janine M. Benyus

Tending the Wild documentary (link)

Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth, Kenneth Boulding

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A not-for-profit publication under the Taylor’s Lakeside Model United Nations Club which focuses on amplifying the voices of the youth of today.