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The Media Has Missed A Crucial Message of the UN’s Biodiversity Report

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Earlier this month, the United Nations released a report warning of the imminent extinction of as many as one million species, the result of climate change, pollution, exploitation of land and sea, and other human-created assaults on the environment. The report has tragic significance but offers hope if “transformative change” occurs immediately. The problem is that the source of that transformative change has been largely ignored by most media; one must read the report’s summary—all that has been released so far—to realize that such transformative change is largely about Indigenizing our systems and institutions. It is about a worldview that connects us to nature.

It is no mere coincidence that the 5 percent of the global population that are Indigenous are responsible for 80 percent of Earth’s biodiversity. The summary of the report says as much. Throughout it are references to the importance of Indigenous “paradigms, goals and values” along with examples of the “wide diversity of practices” that help nurture biodiversity. There is no denying, the authors write, that the destructive extinction trends, so visible across the planet, “have been less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities…Nature managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities is under increasing pressure but is generally declining less rapidly than in other lands.”

Beyond these explicit nods, the report also telegraphs a more subtle, implicit message on the need to adopt indigenous models and approaches. In one section, it describes different views about our relationship to nature, such as “the material versus the spiritual domain” and “living well in balance and harmony with Mother Earth.” Under “Key Messages,” the authors write: “Nature embodies different concepts for different people, including biodiversity, ecosystems, Mother Earth and other analogous concepts.” Although they are careful not to alienate the public, such unprecedented language suggests that they are referring to the two core belief systems operating in our world today. One is essentially human-centered, hierarchal, patriarchal and materialistic. The other animistic, non- hierarchal, matriarchal, spiritual/aesthetic values. Considering that a “worldview” is the foundational lens through which we understand the world and is much more than a religion, culture, belief or ideology, we can assume the report is talking about the dominant worldview and the contrasting Indigenous one.

The degree to which the authors apparently have utilized Traditional Indigenous Knowledge (TEK)is unprecedented—a point the authors themselves acknowledge in the summary.

 Past scholarship has mostly dismissed Indigenous ways of understanding the world. Consider The Invented Indian, published as recently as 1990, by James Clifton, who writes that “acknowledging anything positive in the native past is an entirely wrongheaded proposition because no genuine Indian accomplishments have every really be substantiated.” Sick Societies: Challenging the Myth of Primitive Harmony, published in 1992 by UCLA anthropologist, Robert Edgerton, claims child abuse and other social maladies were far more pervasive in primitive societies, proving the superiority of Western culture. And as recently as 2000, in The Ecological Indian: Myth and History, Shepard Krech was asserting such falsities as the demise of the buffalo was the fault of the Indians themselves.





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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !