Earth Day 2019 – What Do You See? One’s Conception of How Human Behaviors Fit into the Natural World

Look! See. Explore your inner mindset. What do you see?

This question is meant to prompt an answer that taps into your inner being. You may be surprised with your initial answer; unaware that our surroundings are acting as outside influences imposing their values on our own. Politically, economically, and socially driven, these influences become cultural norms that in turn structure our everyday lives and way of thinking.

In the 1988 film, “The Great Outdoors” written by John Hughes, brother-in-law’s Roman and Chet exhibit a difference in opinion concerning their perception on the landscape they see before them, similar to the one exhibited above. Roman rants about seeing, “underdeveloped resources of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. A syndicated developed consortium exploiting over a billion-and-a-half dollars in forest products. A paper mill, and if the strategic metals are there, a mining operation! A greenbelt between the condos on the lake and a waste-management facility, focusing on the newest rage in toxic waste: medical refuse– infected bandages, body parts, I.V. tubing, contaminated glassware, entrails, fluid, blood, low grade radioactive wastes all ‘safely’ contained, sunken in the lake, and sealed for centuries.” Roman reintroduces the question, “What do you see?” to his brother-in-law who, with an awestricken look responds, “I uh– I just see trees”.

This exemplifies both extremes of the answer to the question, what do you see, when facing a scenic overlook. On the one side you have the concept that the natural world acts as a mere product for economic gain, a dumping ground for human waste, and useful to preserve for the elite who prefer a monoculture lawn manicured to weedless ‘perfection’, tranquil and serene for the inhabitants of a condominium. The other encapsulates a more holistic mind frame of it being an entity of its own accord, its purpose is to work in reciprocity with its surrounding, giving as much as it takes.

Where do you stand on the scale of where human behaviors fit into the natural world? Is the natural world at the disposal of human needs or are human needs at the mercy of the natural world?

Traditional Haudenosaunee are one of the few cultures that promote a spiritual connection between humans and the natural world. One of their oldest traditions is to recite the Thanksgiving Address; they are the words that come before all else.  According to Robin Kimmerer; mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation; it is a river of words that takes us to an orientation of gratitude. The first being to be thanked for doing the duties bestowed upon them during Creation are the people, followed by the Mother Earth, then the Waters and Aquatic Life, Grasses and Medicine Plants, Fruits and Berries, Food Bearing Plants, the Animals, Trees, and the Birds, the Four Winds, followed by the Thunder Beings; then the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, the Four Messengers, and lastly, the Creator. Each are linked together by the eldest mother the Mother Earth.

As my mom would say “every day is Mother’s Day” meaning, every day we should be thankful for the life nourishments our mother’s have provided to us. Mother Earth supports all life forms, her veins enriched with the waters that flow through them, providing life forms with the most basic of needs.  

The careless actions of mankind have put the entirety of Mother Earth’s inhabitants at risk. Some species have seen their last day while others are few in numbers, an aftermath of the imbalance in the fragile ecosystem for the sake of progress.

The Skä·noñh-Great Law of Peace Center encourages you on this Earth Day to self-reflect.

-Nicole Abrams