Last year, I was fortunate to be part of a small group of women who got to spend a week with some Aboriginal elders on the land in Central Australia. Besides breaking down in Wolfe Creek and literally having a weirdo drive past, asking if we needed help (who, yes, was probably the kindest of kind gentleman, but at the time, clearly a mass murderer), the trip was incredible. It changed the way I see the world.
Every morning, we would wake up from a peaceful night’s sleep under a sky of stars. It was this time of day that there was no clear difference between the way the non-indigenous visitors and the elders approached life. We were all relatively quiet, taking in our surrounds while our minds slowly made their way up to full speed.
Just 20 minutes later, however, the differences became very apparent. The visitors would start to mingle around the fire, drinking coffee and chatting about this and that. Then that chatting would not stop for the rest of the day. Most of it came to be complaints about all the things annoying us – the flies, the heat, the ‘toilets’, and of course, the dirt that was making its way into every nook and cranny of our bodies.
This was in stark comparison to the elders. They continued to stay calm for the entire day, rarely talking while they observed the environment which supported them. No complaints were made.
While the visitors would pick and choose which food we felt like that day, often creating disgusting amounts of waste, the elders would take what was on offer in gratitude. Nothing was wasted by them.
This led me to realise one key thing about the elders – they saw themselves as part of the environment, not separate to it. They didn’t complain about the flies or the heat because those things were an extension of them. To complain about them would be to complain about themselves.
They didn’t waste a single thing that the earth had given them because they were aware of how sacred it was. How much effort had Mother Earth had gone into creating it, just like she had in creating them. In addition, they never took anything from the environment without giving something in return – that would be stealing from their family and friends.
Most people in the western world have forgotten that we are part of nature. That we evolved in nature, as natural beings. That we are nature – our bodies are ecosystems in themselves.
Most people forget that we interact with all the major natural systems of the planet every second of the day. We depend on the natural systems and cycles of the planet to survive. We need food from the ground, we need water from the sky, we need air from the trees. The very breath you are taking right now, you can thank nature for.
In modern society, we have become so disconnected from the natural world that we forget that we are very much part of it. We see ourselves as separate to it and above it. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to the fact that the Holy Bible, at one stage, stated that man had the rights to all animals and natural resources on the planet. (Now, I’m not a religious person, but I do know that the beliefs of Christianity are deeply ingrained in the subconscious of many people in the Western world. Even if we try for it not to be. That shit’s hard to get rid of).
If we really want to start helping this planet of ours, we need to shift the way we see ourselves in relation to our natural environment. We need to once again see ourselves as part of it. We need to love it and respect it as if it were our own family, because it is. It nurtures us and it needs us to nurture it.
So how do you start seeing yourself as part of nature? Start taking notice of where all the things you need to survive on a daily basis come from. The air, the food, the material for your clothing, the materials that have gone into your house and your office. Appreciate the energy the Earth has put into creating them for you.
Then be conscious of what you are putting back into the environment. Where is your waste going? Is it helping the environment or harming it? Is your waste being of use to other living creatures? Could you be doing things a better way?
This is real connection to the land, ladies and gentlemen. Being one with it. Until we get to that point, we will continue to take advantage of this planet and cause it harm. The time is now!
In what ways do you consider yourself to be part of the environment?