We have lived with nature

We the Saami are a native people. We have lived with nature, not against it. — Mio Negga in these climate justice stories from 350.org

I would guess that Saami herders and hunters rely as much on motor power and mobile phones as the rest of us, but also that they’re more inclined to give Nature the benefit of the doubt in decisions small and large. The people who plan, approve and construct a hydroelectric dam,  on the other hand, are more inclined to privilege shareholder value, economic growth, personal career advancement, financial gain.  Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the dam-makers get their way.

When I was little and had my first carpentry kit, my Dad showed me how much easier it was to saw and shape with the grain of the wood rather than across it. People who live well seem to have that knack in life, and I suspect it’s true of cultures too. By this measure, our turbocharged fossil-fuelled industrial culture  does not live well. We have fought spectacularly against the grain of Nature for the past two centuries, and have equally spectacularly got our own way. But only in the short term. Our greatest victories over Nature have been Pyrrhic. We are now re-learning something that smaller, unnoticed cultures, like that of the Saami, never needed to forget.    

In the spirit of taking small steps, it’s a question we may ask in our daily choices:  is this with nature, or against it?

(photo credit: Abi King, Inside the TravelLab)

One Reply to “We have lived with nature”

  1. Reindeer – favorite steed of Siberian shaman-folk! I have a huge crush on reindeer cultures because they seem to be more conscious of their symbiosis with the reindeer than cattle cultures which tend to be, yup, cowboys. Reindeer cultures also seem to be more aware that the reindeer have an inner life of their own.
    And that is a very handsome reindeer! I see that his ears are notched probably to identify who his owner is. That is what we do with cattle anyway.
    Around my house with my daughter and friends we spend a lot of our time narrating what the animals are saying with their looks and expressions, which makes things quite hilarious, because animals are great and subtle at physical comedy. That reindeer definitely has an opinion about having his picture taken!

    To your larger point, it indeed has been an epic journey for me to go from identifying with conventional ideas of achievement, success, comfort, and prosperity to just simply allowing for the thought that other slower-paced, less economically competitive cultures might actually have something important to say to us, if we would or could just listen.

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