Environmental Stewardship Across Cultures and Communities

Environmental Stewardship Across Cultures and Communities

In honor of Earth day, we caught up with ethnobotanist @flowerblossomboogy to discuss the cross-cultural differences she’s observed in her research regarding human relationships with the environment. Swipe to learn about different cultures’ concepts for human-nature oneness, societal stewardship, and duty to the Earth. Molly breaks down these concepts and the key words to understand them.

As a company, our goal isn’t just to sell you something. It’s to further environmental education and make it accessible to all. After all, that’s what lead us to make Avasol, and inspires us to continue making a difference.

What are a few of your favorite cultural concepts for human-nature oneness that you’ve encountered in your studies? Words that may not exist in English but do exist in other cultures…

I think indigenous cultures naturally have connections to nature that don’t exist in the western world. Using the Māori as an example, I have learned about the importance of heritage. The Māori consider nature just as important as human life, because nature is inherently ingrained in their livelihoods and kinship structures. Without it, they cannot pass down their lineage. Māori have an innate belief in the interconnection of humans and the soul of nature. Their culture is deeply rooted in mythologies and spiritual beliefs that shape their kinship between humans and the natural world. They have always believed that atua, or gods, are found within nature, thus believing that all life is connected through both inanimate and animate life forces. Māori have always felt that life is a web of symbiotic relationships, believing that part of their purpose is to guard the nature and life around them. In fact, the Māori language is very hard to translate to english because there is so much depth behind their words. Kaitiakitanga translates loosely to “guardianship over nature”, but it has such deeper resonance in their culture.

Shinrin-yoku (森林浴) 〰 Forest bathing.

Komorebi (木漏れ日) 〰️ Sunlight filtering through the leaves of a tree.

Gensōteki (幻想的) 〰️ A calming, gentle, eerie beauty

Wabi-sabi (侘寂) 〰️ Find peace in imperfection.

What is an overarching take away from your studies of indigenous cultures and their relationships with the environment? 

I think this is still going on and evolving as I get older and deeper in my work. But, one thing is that many indigenous cultures have connections to the earth that stem from their spiritual, physical, and cultural relationships with nature. The western world has a tough time understanding this. Interconnection with nature should be the same as interconnection with society. We think of the earth as a hierarchy pyramid, whereas indigenous cultures see humans and every organism on the planet as a circular family of equals. Using taxonomy and linguistics, we have created an “other” that is separate from humans. But, we are just humble organisms, like the plankton in the sea to the lions in the savanna. I also have learned such amazing things about death and our ever expanding consciousness…

What role does environmental stewardship have in communities, economies, politics? What differences have you observed between America and the other places you’ve been in terms of environmental protection on the agenda?

So, I am going to throw a radical idea out there...but as a collective society, we must act in socially radical ways to find connection with nature again. We must improve our inner ecosystems to be able to improve all of society. We need to get rid of environmental racism, as all people of color, race or class should be involved in bringing earth together. We need human diversity in order to bring the biodiverse ecological movement to the mainstream. 

The truth is that politics, economics, technology and society are all based on the systems of nature. I mean think about it…politics are about governing the human and natural world. Economics are based on dividing resources. Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. Society and nature and essentially the same thing. 

So, this means that without a healthy earth, we would have none of the human derived systems that we have put value in. Without air to breathe, water to drink or food to eat, why should anyone care about these platforms? Perhaps shifting consciousness is the only way to radically improve the environmental movement? Or we need to overthrow these corrupt systems of oppression, power and greed, and bring it back to simple nature. 

Well when it comes to the USA vs other countries, the truth is colonization is what has screwed up the planet. We all want to pretend one government is doing a better job than the other, but it's not true. We could pick any country in the world and find a flaw in their environmental policies. For example, I have listed two countries who use propaganda to pretend they are forward thinking and environmentally friendly, but here's the truth. New Zealand has some of the most polluted waters in the world from the dairy industry. Sweden is home to some of the most powerful oil companies. There just isn’t one country doing it better. And then there is the USA, which has the most monoculture farming of any country in the world.

But, my dream is for environmental issues to be on the top of any political agenda. If we don’t have water, food, and air, humans won’t survive. So, I don’t understand why we don’t prioritize environmental degradation. Money means nothing if there are no resources for us to survive!

Ecotherapy, ecopsychology and ecoconsciousness… it’s easy to get mixed up with so many similar-sounding terms. Can you explain each of these “hot words” for our readers to understand these concepts and how they carry over into a mindful lifestyle?

Ecotherapy is an umbrella term for nature-based healing methods that encourage the interaction with nature as a form of therapy.

Ecopsychology is the study of the relationship between humans and the natural world. It dives into emotional expansion, sustainable lifestyles and remedying alienation from nature. 

Eco-consciousness is a state of mind where you make intentional environmentally friendly choices with an understanding of your impact on the earth.

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