by John Blumenstiel:
After the webinar on "EcoAction and Climate" sponsored by GPUS EcoAction Committee on October 11, 2021, it has become clear to this writer that a successful defense of a life-supporting sustainable environment requires an integrated two-track approach, one legal/political (Western/Euro orientation) and the other, spiritual/cultural (Indigenous Wisdom orientation). This communication is an effort to create a viable synthesis between these two seemingly differing paradigms.
I am most aware of how we Anglo-American citizens attempt to bring about change. It entails educating and/or pressuring others to accept OUR belief system and values and OUR desired outcome. It is either speaking truth to power, or mobilizing to influence power, or organizing to gain power.
We can point to many successes that have been achieved by these means (legal/political/educational efforts). These include civil rights of the '50s and '60s, anti-war activism of the '60s and '70s, the feminist movement of the same era and continuing, environmentalism and success of the earlier period labor movement, etc, etc. All brought us an expanding period of democracy--not perfect, but progress.
However, at this point, we see these advances being crushed by an oppressive political, economic and legal system that functions out of the values of elite exceptionalism. No longer do we have the institutional structures that promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for "we the people''. Nor do we have the ability, presently, to pressure/educate them to change our circumstances. We have instead a "winner take all" value that pits group against group, individual against individual and profit (materialism) against preservation and environmental survival. I use the term environmental survival as opposed to just human survival because this begins to move us towards the broader syntheses to which I have referred.
The survival of the human species is intrinsically dependent upon the survival of the environment in which it exists. From my limited understanding of indigenous culture and beliefs, this environmental survival is profoundly embedded in a deep sense of co-partnership with the environment, a familial relationship with "Mother Earth", as distinct from the Western notion of an intellectual/rational/scientific vessel in which humans reign supreme. Herein lies either a point of departure between two paradigms or, as I prefer, a necessary point of convergence.
Without any influencing factors, science can take us in almost any direction. Thus the need for syntheses: Modern science mediated by an underlying ethical/philosophical/moral system anchored in Indigenous Wisdom, respect for the earth, will provide us with a potential, life-sustaining direction forward. Science, disconnected from a reverent earth consciousness, will always be a mixed bag of progress and regression, too frequently driven by the profit motive. With such an un-tethered approach science can lead to the destruction of us all.
For decades now we have been witnessing an increasing convergence of Western thought and Indigenous Wisdom. Our task, as I see it, is to expand this effort, enhance and deepen our awareness and move ahead together to restore the world for all to participate and thrive.