Erik van Lennep

Growing with Intention

December 10, 2019

What you people call your natural resources our people call our relatives Oren Lyons ![](/home/erik/Pictures/Podcast pics/Chief Oren Lyons.jpg)

First Nations, or Indigenous societies and peoples for the most part don’t get why members of industrial society dissociate ourselves from the rest of Nature. This comes up in numerous instances, significantly when comparing mainstream industrialised society with traditional Indigenous communities and their relationship to land management.

Historically, self-proclaimed conservationists, ecologists, eco-activists and others from the dominant culture maintain a conviction that so-called “nature” is distinct from human habitats. They are thus anxious to remove people from wild areas to preserve nature, and in pursuit of ecological restoration.

![](/home/erik/Pictures/Podcast pics/bison.jpg) Native nations on the other hand, have practiced ecological land management for so long, that in most cases the ecological balance we see in “undisturbed” natural habitats is in fact the result of centuries of skillful maintenance based upon deep local knowledge and experience. In fact, early European explorers in North America, Australia, and Amazonia (to name just a few) commonly mistook local peoples’ productive landscape management as wilderness.

What could we do if the rest of us learned to see our roles differently? How much of the torn ecological net could we stitch back together? Reports from the United Nations urgently state that we are losing the struggle to protect Earth’s biodiversity, with habitat loss high on the list of causes. “Biodiversity” like much of the vocabulary we use to discuss the network of relationships which keep us alive, is an abstract term, kept safely at a distance from our emotions and the immediacy of its impact. ![](/home/erik/Pictures/Podcast pics/biodiversity)

At some undetermined but critical point in the loss of species and earth systems, probably soon if we don’t drastically change our activities, the entire network of relationships will unravel and no longer be able to support humanity. That’s people. You, I, our cousins, neighbors, lovers and children will be the victims. When that happens, it may become obvious that we spent far too long distracted by things which don’t really matter. It will also be too late to do us much good. Already entire economies are faltering, our ability to feed ourselves and find water is imperlied, and the world is becoming a lot less beautiful. Trust me; we really do not want to go much further down that road. It’s time to mend the net, and for that, we need to change our game.

I don’t know if it’s really true, or simply a narcissistic conceit of our species, but we like to think that humankind is uniquely creative, adaptable, flexible and intelligent. Abundant evidence would certainly question the last assertion, but we might still find salvation through our creativity and adaptability. On a basic and pertinent level, our flexibility allows us to behave as plunderers or gardeners. Having pretty much exhausted the rewards of rape and pillage, it seems a good time to develop our potential as growers and restorers. This is as good a place as any for the rest of us to remember the perspectives and strategies still practiced by Indigenous land managers, and to learn from them how to behave as conscious and responsible participants in the management of natural habitats.

![](/home/erik/Pictures/Podcast pics/planting-tree-227x300.jpg) There’s more we can do both as individuals and in association. One of the few advantages of there being so many people on our planet is that pretty much everyplace a tree needs to be planted and cared for, there are people available to do it. When I say we need to exercise our potential as gardeners, I am being quite literal. The cultural shift required is a relatively short journey, it’s something we can easily move into and which could be facilitated by use of the same media now used to promote consumerism, by better information on the issues calling for action, and by use of our social networks. There is a continuum stretching from gardening through ecological conservation and regeneration to habitat repair and landscape participation. It’s a necessary and rewarding journey, and I have to say can be addictive (but in a very good way).

Erik van Lennep

Written by Erik van Lennep, Sustainable Innovation coach and consultant. Change Maker and Climate Innovator.
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