Knowledge, or Wisdom of a bee
Weaving sweet grass:Once upon a time, the Potawatomi Indians lived on lands near the Great Lakes. But at the beginning of the 19th century, their territories were appropriated by the American government. Most of the Potawatomi people were forcibly relocated west to Kansas and Oklahoma, and many died along the way. The rest of the Potawatomi lived under the yoke of the new culture for many years. Their traditions faded, and their language was forgotten. But, fortunately, it was not completely forgotten.
Robin Kimmerer is a professor of biology, author of numerous scientific articles and several books, but primarily a descendant of the Potawatomi. For many years she has been studying nature, its deep connection with man, and its impact on our daily lives. Sensitive attention to everything that lives and grows on earth, an understanding of the great wisdom of nature – all this, as Robin says, came to her from the ancient traditions of Potawatomi, which were passed on to her by her parents.
Potawatomi people highly value sweet grass, and sweetgrass, a fragrant plant from which Native American women used to weave mats and baskets, which they braided into braids, used in home consecration ceremonies. Sweetgrass is sacred, according to legend, it was the very first to appear on Earth. This book, like a braid of sweetgrass, is woven from three threads: Native American wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the experience of the person who was able to connect it all – Robin Kimmerer. Just as the Indian people used the sweet herbs to cleanse space, so this book can be a cure for our broken relationship with nature.
To people in Western culture, such attention to a single plant may seem strange. According to our familiar knowledge, in the hierarchy of beings, man is at the top of the pyramid of evolution, and plants are somewhere at its base. But the Indians call to man the younger brother of creation because he arose much later than other plants and animals and knows much less about the world than they do. Plants remember how to make food from light and water, and then they are ready to give it away free of charge, they are closer than anyone to the secret of life. Animals have entered into a secret alliance with plants, they carry their seeds and feed on them. We are just beginning to understand the complexity of these relationships. So who should learn from whom?
It was this idea of plants as mentors and companions that were central to Robin when she decided to become a biologist. At university, however, she discovered that no one knew how to ask plants the right questions. No one asks them, “What can you tell us?” but only, “How does it work?” Plants have been reduced to objects. When Robin, at the entrance test, began to talk about what she wanted to understand about the beauty of the aster and goldenrod growing together, the professors gently asked if she made a mistake with the faculty.
But she was not mistaken; on the contrary, she was quickly able to realize the merits of the scientific method. Science, like nature, teaches focused attention, but you cannot rely on it entirely. She may not answer all questions. She knows everything about structures and classifications, but she succumbs to the phenomenon of beauty. However, knowing how the human eye distinguishes colors with the help of cones and rods does not negate the understanding of the incredible beauty of the world. The union of aster and goldenrod attracts not only people, but also bees, which rarely pollinate these flowers separately. How do combine the wisdom of man and the wisdom of a bee?
And here the ancient knowledge of Indian tribes comes to the rescue
Language, or Living Verbs
While studying at the university, Robin comprehended the complex Latin – the dialect of botany. But she could never get rid of the thought that this language was suitable for the study of beings separately, in disassembled form. And what words to find for the power that makes plants rise from the earth and stretch towards the sun?
Such words can be found in the language of the ancestors. But deciding is easier than doing. There are only nine people in the world who are fluent in the Potawatomi language. Nine! The rest understand this language with a dictionary. Twice a week, at noon, Robin attends an online Native American language class. In the classroom, there are usually ten people from all over the country. Together they learn to count and say phrases like “Pass the salt, please.” It immediately turns out that there is no word for “please” in the Potawatomi language: food is meant to be shared, and no additional courtesy is required (European missionaries of the 19th century took this feature as another confirmation of the uncouthness of the natives).
You need verbs to speak, and here another linguistic surprise awaited Robin. The English language is based on nouns, there are only 30% of verbs in it. The Potawatomi language consists of 70% of verbs. There is no category of gender in it, but the category of animation is very important for both verbs and nouns. Robin was surprised to learn about verbs like “be a hill” or “be a stream.” In the English-speaking world, only a person is animated, animals are already it, not he/she. Of course, for pets or cases when it is necessary to clarify gender, the American will make an exception, but it will only confirm the rule: we do not perceive the world as living, animals, birds, and trees for us are not subjects, but objects, and if so, then with them you can do whatever you want, without thinking about the consequences. How lonely we are in such a world!
Potawatomi legends tell that once upon a time animals and humans spoke the same language and freely shared their experiences and intentions with each other. Then this gift disappeared, and the world became poorer. His story fell apart. Scientists are doing a lot to reconnect it. Unable to directly ask a salmon or a rose what they need, they come up with experiments with which they can get a piece of new knowledge. But scientists are locked in the prison of rationality.
Robin didn’t make much headway in her Indian language. In the end, she simply has no one to talk to, language is not only a set of words and grammar but also a plexus of meanings, songs, jokes. And yet, walking through the garden, Robin can learn over the grass and greet her in Potawatomi. At such moments, the world, albeit to the smallest extent, becomes more whole and meaningful.
House, or the history of the old pond
Translated from ancient Greek, “ecology” means “the science of the home”. How often do we perceive the surrounding space as a home, with a corresponding careful attitude towards it? Do we take care of our own apartments, houses, and cottages?
… It all started with the fact that Robin divorced her husband and left with two daughters. In the north of New York, a house was bought, near the house there was a “trout pond”, as the realtors said, a swamp overgrown with mud, as it turned out in reality. It would be great to splash around in the summer, the beach was great for picnics. But first, the pond had to be cleared of mud.
Ducks bought for this purpose did not want to live in a pond but on a warm back porch. In the end, they disappeared altogether, leaving only a few feathers on the shore. And by spring, the pond looked like a pot of thick algae soup. A pair of Canadian geese hatched under the willows. One afternoon, Robin went to the nest to look at the birds and heard a distressed quack. It turned out that the gosling that decided to swim got stuck in the algae. While Robin was thinking about how to save him, the chick got to the surface and began to pace through a thick layer of algae. This was the last straw. Something had to be done about the pond.
Robin, an environmentalist, understood perfectly well what was happening with the reservoir. Perennial deposits of leaves, water lilies, and apples falling into the water in the autumn form a nutrient layer that gradually turns the pond into a swamp, and in the long term into a meadow. Robin the housewife understood that there was no end to the work. Each stroke of the rake enlarged the wet, gleaming heap of seaweed on the shore. However, it was impossible to leave this pile near the pond – regular trips with a wheelbarrow towards the hill were added to the exercise with a rake …
Often, innocent tadpoles ended up in a heap: Robin, the ecologist, could not accept that they were victims of “optimization”, the tadpoles were carefully selected from the heap and released back into the pond, the work was delayed. On another occasion, when Robin was tending the willows by the pond, she nearly ruined a yellow warbler’s nest. The idea of nature as a home took on more and more distinct outlines. But tadpoles and warblers are simply more noticeable than numerous crustaceans, fish, and kelp. What did Robin do anyway: ennoble her own space or destroy someone else’s habitat?
Among the Potawatomi, women are considered the guardians of water. Being a good mother means taking care of water. Robin’s life and the life of the pond are intertwined. Birds chirping in the morning, mint for tea collected on the shore, willow baskets, pleasant fatigue in the muscles after a day’s work – all these were the gifts of the pond. And the idea of family picnics soon came to naught: Robin-mother was forced to part with her daughters – they left to study in the fall. On the last day of summer, yellow apples fell from a tree hanging over the water, the light reflected from their sides: balls of light floated on the dark surface of the pond. Being a good mother doesn’t mean creating a home where only your children can thrive, Robin realized. The work of a good mother does not end until a home for chicks, fish, seaweed is created. And, of course, for the tadpoles.
Love, or Our Garden
The Heavenly Woman, the ancestor of the Potawatomi people, had a beloved daughter. She died young, her mother buried her in the ground, and from her daughter’s body grew plants, especially valued by people: from the head – tobacco, from the hair – sweet grass, from the heart – strawberries, from the stomach – pumpkin. The daughter of the Heavenly Woman became a nursing mother for all people. The Indians never forget this legend, especially at harvest time. That’s why Robin taught her daughters how to garden: may they always have a loving mother, even after Robin herself is gone. A fruitful garden is the earth’s way of saying to man, “I love you.”
This is not easy to understand for scientists imbued with Western materialism. “How do you know it’s about love and not just well-fertilized soil? they might ask. How do measure this love? The same measure as a human. How do we understand that a mother loves her children? She protects them from harm, generously shares everything with them, and wants to be near them. But the earth also needs us, generously shares its gifts, and protects healing plants from harm. Why not say: “My garden loves me back”?
If you want to reconnect with the earth, plant a garden. Even without daring to say out loud to the earth “I love and appreciate you”, you will say it with your deeds – planting seeds, weeding the grass. And nature will surely answer – with a harvest.
This is the attitude Robin tries to convey to her students. Undoubtedly, young biologists respect nature and can confess their love for it. But they still get lost when Robin asks them at the seminars, “Do you feel like the earth loves you too?” What happens when people embrace the idea that the earth loves them back? They can’t hurt her, because it doesn’t occur to us to hurt someone who loves us. Our relationship with nature will evolve from a one-way street into a sacred bond.
Robin recalls a friend who lived all his life in the city, could not stand an hour in nature without Wi-Fi and considered his own car to be the most comfortable place in the world: “Here I manage everything and feel completely safe.” A few years later, he tried to commit suicide – in the same car.
Many students are inspired by their ideas of Robin: they not only study plants but also try to talk with them. Plants are very eloquent in their reactions to light, water, and environmental conditions. Often their answers contradict traditional botanical concepts. It is believed that harvesting harms the growth of the plant. Let’s take the sweet grass – the favorite of the Potawatomi, which the Indians actively collect. To what extent do their actions harm the ecosystem?
Observations by Robin’s graduate students showed that not at all: the grass that no one picked was clogged with weeds and grew much worse than the grass thinned during the harvest. People need grass, but grass needs people too.
The way in which a plant compensates for the loss of seedlings with rapid growth is not limited to sweetgrass. The Indians have long known that on a lawn where a herd of buffalo grazes, the grass grows faster, which allows the buffalo to return to the pasture later. What’s more, buffalo saliva contains an enzyme that stimulates grass growth. Of course, buffaloes never destroy the pasture to the root, they take only half of what nature offers and then move on.
Saving a species does not mean just leaving it alone, it means entering into a respectful relationship with it.
Of course, not all plants are the same, each has its own way of regeneration. Some are indeed easily damaged at harvest. But respect for nature also lies in seeing such differences.
Reciprocity, or “Three Sisters”
When the European missionaries first arrived in the Indian lands, they were surprised at how ridiculously they sowed their fields: useful crops do not grow separately but are mixed. A smooth trunk of corn is entwined with bean tendrils, and a pumpkin is spread below. In fact, it was precisely this method that was the most optimal: it corresponded to the maximum benefit of the plants that they communicate to each other. The corn shoot replaces the pole on which the beans should curl. Beans, like all legumes, provide much-needed nitrogen to plants. Pumpkin blocks the earth from sunlight and does not allow weeds to grow, and also retains moisture and repels pests. Together, they provide a balanced diet.
The Indians call this gardening method “three sisters”. The garden of “three sisters” provides many times more food than if you grew each of the “sisters” alone. The beauty of such a partnership is that by taking care of itself, first of all, each plant ennobles others. It is the same with people: communities and corporations thrive only if every member of the collective thrives. It is worth understanding what your unique gift is and cherishing it – then society will flourish.
Modern American fields are not like that. Corn trunks go in even rows into the distance – but these are orphaned corn. One cannot survive, and here fertilizers come to the rescue. Horse doses of ammonium nitrate replace the bean contribution. Herbicides suppress weeds instead of pumpkin leaves. Of course, pests were also found in the gardens of the “three sisters”, but still polycultures are much less susceptible to pest attacks than monocultures. Plant diversity creates a habitat for those insects that destroy crop eaters.
Robin often thinks of the “three sisters” method as the optimal method of modern knowledge, where the monoculture of scientific knowledge is replaced by a polyculture of complementary ancestral knowledge. Only such a culture is able to feed people with both material and spiritual food.
Victims, or Salamanders on a night highway
It takes a salamander 88 seconds to cross the track, and for hundreds of them, those are the most important seconds of their lives. Every spring, when the temperature rises above five degrees, in the American states, the migration of salamanders begins to the east – to breeding grounds, to ponds. Often the route runs through the tracks, and although the salamanders move at night, they still die under the wheels of cars.
That is why on such a night Robin and her henchmen are on the track. One after another, they carry the most clumsy individuals across the road and often glance into the distance: will the lights of the next car appear? Yes, it seems that the drivers are not to blame for the fact that they met a salamander on their way, they don’t notice them at all, and even if they did: who cares about cold creatures that have nothing to do with the human species? Nevertheless, this night Robin and her henchmen are on the track. They try to hurry, but there are so few people and so many salamanders.
At home, looking for a remote to turn off the TV before leaving, Robin heard the news: American troops began to bomb Iraq, dozens of houses were destroyed, and civilians were killed. Analysts evasively referred to these losses as collateral damage. Well, salamanders killed on the road are also collateral damage. Very handy wording. It’s not Robin’s fault that her country’s troops are bombing civilians. Drivers are not to blame for the fact that living beings die under the wheels of their cars.
A green dodge rushes past, Robin recognizes the car – this is one of her neighbors, the owner of a dairy farm. He didn’t even notice the people on the side of the road. His son is now in Iraq. Nice guy, helped his father on the tractor. What’s wrong with him now? A neighbor’s son, Iraqi civilians, and salamanders are more connected than you think. Nobody has anything against them personally. But the threat of sudden death hung over everyone.
In the distance, a whole string of headlights lights up, and Robin is frightened. Who is this company on a desert highway at midnight? What’s on their mind? Headlights increase in size and suddenly flash twice. This is a conventional sign: biology students have arrived, whose task is to conduct a census of salamanders in order to estimate the total number of animals and the number of those who die on the track. If they gather enough data, they could convince the state to install special newt tunnels at the site. True, for this they do not have to save the salamanders: the assessment of the dead must be objective. If a car passes by, they simply step aside. This is the moral dilemma of any scientist: save the few now or the many tomorrows?
Robin is embarrassed to think that even half a minute ago she suspected these people of the worst, but such is human nature: ignorance easily pushes to hasty conclusions. It is easy to blame others, even easier – not to pay attention to others at all, considering them strangers. It’s hard to imagine anyone more alien to the human species than cold, slippery salamanders. Being here and now on a cold night track is a good antidote to xenophobia. Do not consider the surrounding world alien and even more hostile to you, life is everywhere, and these creatures are crawling forward to give a future to their descendants. Do not consider people who profess a different religion as hostile to you. Yes, Robin feels helpless: she can not only stop the bombs falling on Iraq but even the cars passing on the highway. But she continues to save the salamanders.
Ritual, or morning coffee
The culture of the people is not only language but also rituals. One of Robin’s most vivid childhood memories is that every summer her family vacationed in the Adirondacks in northeastern New York. In the morning, children wake up, crawl out of sleeping bags and immediately smell coffee. A father in a red plaid shirt is standing by a cheerfully crackling fire, a coffee pot is boiling on the fire. Taking it off the fire, the father pours some coffee on the ground. Sunlight is reflected in an amber stream, and the earth soars. Turning towards the sun, the father says in silence: “For the gods of Tahavus.” Mount Marcy, on which they are located, is named after the governor, who, however, has never been on these slopes. Tahavus is the true name of the mountain.
Robin had never given much thought to the meaning of this ritual, it was just part of a morning hike. Years later, she asked her father how old this ritual was and what was known about it. It turned out that he never thought about the ceremony: he poured out coffee and said words of gratitude because he felt that it was right. A couple of days later, he said: “You know, the thing is that we brewed coffee in a simple coffee pot without any filters, so it was important to pour out the first thick so that it did not get into the cup. But one doesn’t interfere with the other, right? Every sacred ceremony once included mundane activities. This does not negate the gratitude to the gods that we felt like a family on those mornings. Really, though Robin, what more can we give to a land that has everything? What more can we offer than sincere gratitude?
Robin remembered this when she became a mother herself and one day her schoolgirl daughter refused to take an oath to the US flag, as all students in American schools do. She did not hooligan, did not swear with the teacher, but simply sat quietly in her place and did not join the general ceremony. Could Robin be judging her when it came to the flag planted on the spot where her ancestors had been expelled from? Is it right to swear allegiance to the political system, and not to the native land? How different from the school ritual on the Indian reservations, where children do not swear allegiance to the flag every morning, but give a Thanksgiving speech. They address it to the earth on which they walk, to the water that quenches the thirst of all living beings, to the plants that this water nourishes, to animals and birds… It is spoken in a language that is much older than English. Isn’t it strange to eat the gifts of earth and water and refuse to thank them for it?
The speech is long, and the schoolchildren pronounce its abbreviated version, but at meetings with businessmen and politicians who do not belong to the Indian people, and unadapted version is heard. Already in the first minutes, the guests begin to get nervous: they are used to quick messages and fragmentary texts. Ah, poor things! What a pity that we have so many reasons to thank the world!
And isn’t that the feeling we miss so much? Saying and listening to the Thanksgiving speech every day, we cannot help but feel rich and at the same time responsible for what we have been given. Alas, this idea contradicts the entire economic structure of our time: in today’s society, it is not the recognition of abundance that is cultivated, but the idea of scarcity. If you realize that you already have enough of everything, then you will cease to be an ideal consumer.
Economy or ecology? Why should we choose?
The further we are from nature, the more difficult it is to appreciate its gifts: to see plucked grapes in wine, a felled tree in paper napkins, grain in bread. Robin found a great mindfulness exercise: Looking at everyday objects, and imagining their origins. Grain, wood, metal, from which things are made, call us on a long journey, inviting us to look into the very bowels of the earth.
But not everything is so simple. What about the plastic that surrounds us everywhere: in furniture, packaging, gadgets? It is difficult to imagine something more distant from the living world. Yes, once upon a time, marine invertebrates lay down on the seabed in order to turn into oil over the centuries, and that gave rise to plastic. But the distance that separates us from the living world is increasing. Such an exercise in mindfulness requires too much imagination and mental strength even for the biologist Robin, to say nothing of the rest. You can’t meditate in the supermarket.
And yet, sometimes we must think about how bread came to our table, what does a piece of paper carelessly crumpled and sent to the trash can cost nature. 1 Living in cities, we are far from direct contact with the land, but it manifests itself in the form of commodity-money exchange. Do not shift the blame for environmental pollution only to manufacturers: each of us is responsible. Going to the store again, take a closer look at the composition of the goods you buy. Do not vote with the ruble for harm to nature.
When Robin asks the representatives of his people how their ancestors lived, keeping the world whole and clean, he hears one thing: they took only what they needed, and not a gram more. But this is bad advice for the modern Western world, where hourly advertising inspires more and more new needs. The rule needs to be adjusted: take only what nature gives itself, and do not act by force. Don’t worry, she’s wise and will give you enough if you’re careful with your resources.
In the end, this is the rule we teach children: when you come to visit your grandmother, take the treat that she offered you and thank you. It would never occur to a normal child to break into grandma’s pantry and devour everything that was left on the shelves. And it is unlikely that after that the grandmother would again invite such a granddaughter to visit. This rule works in the world of culture, but for some reason does not apply to the natural world.
Legend of the Children of the Corn
The legends of the Mayan people say that the gods created the first people from clay. Those people turned out to be weak and fragile, the gods destroyed them and created the next generation of people from wood. But the wooden people turned out to be clumsy and inept. They were also destroyed, and the gods created a new generation of people from the light. The people of the world were all good: good, beautiful, skillful, but … too arrogant. Mindful of the nature of their bodies, they considered themselves equal to the gods. Those didn’t like it, and the next generation of people was created from corn dough. Corn is a harmonious plant; it owes its existence to all four elements: fire, air, earth, and water. It was the people of the corn who inherited the earth.
The corncob is the epitome of nature’s bounty. It is easy to remove from the shell, it is packed with delicious, satisfying grains (much larger than other cereals). In this form, corn owes its existence entirely to man. In order for corn to grow, you need to manually separate the kernels from the cob, and then plant them at a sufficient distance from each other. Only humans can do this. Initially, corn was not so nutritious, moreover, the corn diet provoked the dangerous disease pellagra. To extract the necessary amino acids from it, it was necessary to process the seeds in a special alkaline solution. The Maya Indians learned to do this around 1500 BC and thus contributed to the development of the great corn culture of America. Out of this reciprocity emerges an important element that was missing in earlier versions of humanity but inherent in the children of the corn: gratitude.
The poetry of legends about ancient people and the poetry of scientific research about amino acids are easily combined into one common history of mankind. If we listen to their common music, and not swallow dry facts and vague legends separately, ecological thinking will cease to be something alien to us. Robin dreams of a world ruled by the discoveries of science but inspired by legends.
Another important detail: after their many experiments with the human race, the gods decided to endow the people of corn with humility. It is necessary to learn from the surrounding world, which is older and wiser than man. Humility is what modern scientists lack so much. Humility, not new facts! They know “how it works”, but don’t always think about “what it means”. What if botanists viewed plants, fungi, and lichens as their mentors rather than silent test subjects?
The creatures around us can do what we cannot: see at night, fly, and create food from light. But we humans have words. The ability to tell stories is both our gift and our responsibility. Responsibility to the living world. Realizing this, Robin thought of writing as reconnecting with her native land. Stories that connect the wisdom of the natives and the knowledge of scientists help to remember that we are all people of corn, humble and grateful.
Indian legends convey to us another image – sinister. When winter comes and the Indians hide in their homes, listening to the blizzard howl outside, in that howl they distinguish the voice of the Windigo, a creature ten feet tall, with snow-white hair hanging from its trembling head, with arms as thick as tree trunks. His fetid breath poisons the fresh air, rotten saliva drips onto clean snow, leaving vile traces in it, yellow fangs shine in his mouth …
Windigo is the personification of a mad winter hunger, a memory of those times when the Indians were left with nothing and died of exhaustion. Legends warned: Windigo lives in each of us, he comes to life when greed and selfishness wake up in the soul. Now we understand that the spirit of Windigo remained not only in Indian legends. He is found everywhere: drinking from rivers poisoned by chemical waste, looking into coal mines that are depleting the earth, eagerly looking around the fields not yet poisoned by pesticides. And he hides in our homes, filled with once bought from greed and quickly become unnecessary things. We are all accomplices of the Windigo. The modern economy itself embodies the spirit of the Windigo: buy more, eat more, stuff your gut, ravage the land.
How to curb Windigo? By forbidding ourselves to buy and save, sooner or later we get irritated and break our own rule. But if we listen to nature, we will understand that its lessons are not prohibitions, it is far from negative thinking. It does not prohibit anything, but it suggests a lot. Eat food grown with joy and celebrate every sip. Use technologies that reduce harm to nature to a minimum. Think about clean energy like solar and wind. Let the harvest and the intentions of the gatherer be worthy of each other.
On Thanksgiving, Americans remember the friendship between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans who helped them survive in the New World. However, this friendship was not easy and was often complicated by misunderstanding. It was reflected in the expression “Indian gift” that has survived to this day. We are talking about a gift that someone gives and then wants to get back: not too beautiful from the point of view of Europeans. But it is understandable from the point of view of the indigenous population of America, which was guided by completely different principles: the value of a gift is based on reciprocity, everything that is given to us should be perceived as the greatest value and sooner or later returned to relatives or mother nature.
The European economy is built on the idea of private property: a free gift is free because we receive it without any difficulty. But such an act of giving is fraught with indifference. We accept a thing without paying too much attention to it. Even if we give money for it in the store, we tend to treat the item we buy negligently. The currency of the Indian economy is reciprocity. Constantly observing nature, the Indians remembered that it was precisely such relationships that increased the fitness of both plants and animals. Creators are more likely to pass on their genes to their offspring than aggressive destroyers. Not surprisingly, such relationships have spread to the earth. For the colonists, the land meant rights; for the indigenous population, duties. It is human perception that makes the world a gift or just a product.
Lake dead and resurrected
Lake Onondaga lies in the heart of New York State. For many centuries, the lake and the area around it belonged to an Indian tribe, after which the lake was named. However, there was a civil war – and the Indians were expelled from these places. The lake came under the jurisdiction of the state government. Americans quickly appreciated the scenic views: at the end of the 19th century, many resorts arose on the shores of the lake.
But then industrialists came there: they were attracted by huge reserves of freshwater. Resorts were replaced by factories. Already in 1901, the authorities forbade using lake ice for cooling vegetable stores. In 1940, swimming in the waters of the lake was prohibited, and in 1970, fishing was prohibited. Onondaga was poisoned with mercury. Its waters have become poisonous. The Clean Water Act of 1973 and the closure of the largest industrial complex on the shores of the lake in 1986 did little to fix it: it remained one of the dirtiest lakes in America.
At the end of the 20th century, native Indians began to increasingly present territorial claims to the American government. Often the tribes demanded monetary compensation. The Onondaga people took a different path. They did not even call their lawsuit a land claim: the land is not property, but a gift, they do not have the right to demand it from invaders either. They are not going to insist that the Americans living in their territory be evicted from their homes: the Onondaga people remember the tragedy of the resettlement well. The Onondaga people want to achieve a healing relationship between people and nature. They need the legal right to this land in order to hasten its recovery.
In recent years, the actions of environmentalists look too aggressive, this gives people a feeling of resistance to noisy initiatives, no matter how good they are in essence. But despair and aggression are bad medicines. The Onondaga’s positive message is something very different. They do not threaten, but offer: we will act together. However, they do not underestimate their requirements. The restored nature should not only look acceptable – it should acquire its former inner integrity. We can see only capital on the earth, but we can also see support, a connection with our ancestors, and a pharmacy. The only good recovery plan is one that relies on many of these meanings. Restoring the relationship between people and the land is no less important than restoring the hydrology of the lake.
The Onondaga has secured the adoption of a 15-year multi-stage program for the operation, maintenance, and monitoring of the lake. Instead of industrial engineers, botanical engineers and hydrological engineers came to the coast. However, the Onondaga people understand that the decisive word in this matter is not with the people, but with the land. She knows how to recover herself. Many organisms also grow in bad soil. They are able to absorb chemicals while forming a dense herbaceous cover (therefore, when creating lawns on acidic soil with a high content of copper, plant fescue, and bentgrass; legumes grow well on calcareous soils with a high content of lead). Scientists are trying to plant on the restored shores those types of plants that grew there before: some wither away, but others bloom. Once Robin came to the lake to see how things were going. She made her way to where the freshly planted greens were in full bloom. At some point, Robin caught a whiff of the herbal scent she had known since childhood. Maybe she did. Or maybe not.
Top 10 Thoughts
- It is naive to think that we control nature. But we have the power to manage our relationship with the earth.
- If you want to reconnect with the earth, plant a garden. Without even daring to say out loud to the earth, “I love and appreciate you,” we say it by planting seeds and weeding grass. And nature necessarily answers – with a harvest.
- Practice gratitude to water, the sun, planets, and their fruits, to the whole living world. Moments like these help us realize how full our life is.
- Almost all of us are cut off from the earth, we eat its fruits indirectly, through supermarkets. But even there you can make a meaningful, environmentally friendly choice by voting with your ruble.
- Looking at everyday objects and products, imagine what way they are made for your table. This is the best exercise in environmental awareness.
- Understanding what your unique gift is and cherishing it is important both for your own and for the common good. Society flourishes only if every member of the collective flourishes. This is the law for plants, animals, and people.
- Take only what nature gives itself. Don’t worry: she is wise and gives enough.
- We can see only capital on the earth, but we can also see support, connection with ancestors, and a pharmacy. The only good plan for restoring nature is one that relies on many of these meanings.
- Despair and aggression are bad medicines. If you want to protect the world around you, offer and do.
- When studying nature, it is useful to ask the question “How does it work?”. But an even more useful question is “What does it all mean?”