What are the solutions that can help us as a society to positively redefine our relationship with nature?
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There are 370 million Indigenous people around the world, spreading across more than 90 countries. Indigenous people have a historical and territorial link to their land and have lived in balance with their ecosystems for generations. They have distinct cultural traditions and local traditions that often help their surroundings to thrive. The vast wealth of Indigenous knowledge is often ignored and has been misunderstood under the Western scientific paradigm. However, as stewards of 80% of the world’s biodiversity, it is clear that Indigenous people have proven to be the best guardians of their local land and water. We need to recognise, champion, and learn from this knowledge if we are to have any hopes of mitigating the loss of our natural world.
It is a Western colonial tradition to think of Humans and Nature as separate, with Humans being superior. This rationalisation has been used to insight violence against nature and those perceived as more ‘wild’. The implications of this are present to this day, we are constantly thinking of ways to distinguish ourselves from other parts of nature - we are sapient, we have opposable thumbs, we have clothes and supermarkets. It is this arrogant worldview that has led us down this path of destruction that permits extraction and exploitation. We need to very quickly entrench in ourselves the view that we are not only part of nature, but that we are no better than it. How we live with nature comes down to ethical and value-based reasoning; both are not set in stone but can be used to carve social constructs that bind societies together. The planet can’t continue to sustain humanity’s current ontology of human dominance over nature, so we must re-learn how to live with nature.
Around the world, Indigenous people are often marginalised and face discrimination in their countries legal systems. Many territorial communities and Indigenous groups worldwide are stuck in a fight for their land rights. Even some groups who have legally won their land back are finding that victory unrecognised as government-supported companies continue to encroach on what is rightfully theirs. For example, logging or fossil fuel companies intrude on their land to extract harmful substances and destroy them for profit. As a result, Indigenous people are left in dire circumstances and face huge risks when they try to re-occupy small bits of their land. To this day indigenous people are losing their lives protecting their land, often without any help from the government which perceive these companies as the profit-makers, rather than as the destructors they are. We must stand in solidarity with Indigenous people to bring an end to the violence against them and their land.
Stewardship of nature recognises the responsibility to use and protect the environment through conservation and sustainable practices. Nature itself is a social construct, so deciding how to steward and conserve it is inherently shaped by cultural, political, and economic factors. For example, large-scale conservation projects have been shaped by the cultural belief that wilderness should be separate from nature, resulting in local human practices being disregarded. It is essential that we recognise our responsibility to care for our environment, but we must be considerate of the rights of local communities and the social, cultural, and ecological dimensions of nature.
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