Decolonize Your Mind

The session from the Decolonizing Nature Conference called Species, Place, Politics, was very interesting. I noticed a common theme that somehow tied into the word/concept of ‘borders’. Whether visible or imaginary, some of these borders were political which separates countries and/or environmental which separates habitats and communities through human activities.  These all separate or fragment the land which is affecting ecosystems and cultural diversity.

The first speaker named Michael Berman spoke about his experience walking through desert grasslands in Mexico right next to the border that separates Mexico and the United States. He comes across a car sitting right on the border with the word ‘America’ on it. He proceeded with questioning this obsession people have over non-existent lines that serve as barriers, even though there are no physical barriers present; such as fences or walls.

Further into his journey, Berman stumbled across three falcon nesting sites, but found out that two of the three were being transitioned into farming grounds.

Berman believes that language is one of the greatest gifts humans received, giving us the opportunity to spread knowledge through stories. These borders whether physical or invisible, are putting up barriers that are not only threatening the Earth, but the opportunity for humans to connect and share their stories and knowledge about their culture and the land.

In Lisa Nevada’s speech, she introduces her organization that helps break free from the barriers that hinder people from their connection and awareness to the land. Nevada choreographs dances in which her dancers perform outside in nature and embody the land and the hurt that may have been done to it.

The dancer then expresses how this makes them feel and release these emotions through their movements.

Rather than watching performances inside a theatre, she believes it’s important to immerse the viewers into a place to learn about the history, community, and environment of the place.

Nevada said that “there are no walls for dance or to be contained, but to be shared as a practice to communicate and provoke action.” This ties into Berman’s belief that language is a precious gift. Similar to language, body language and movement is another gift and just as effective when trying to spread awareness of the culture and land that embodies a community within it.

In Carlos Carrion’s section during the session, he indirectly mentioned two barriers; one being a political and the other human induced. Because of a political barrier, there are fast growing interests in exploiting the land in Yasuni National Park in Ecuador for oil.

This place is one of the most intact and biodiverse locations in the world. This is home to several Indigenous people, over 1000 species of trees, 500 species of freshwater fish, over 100,000 insects, 80 species of bats, and 150 species of amphibians. It also holds an anti-cancer fungus that can eat plastic waste.

These human induced barriers are cutting up the biodiversity hotspot into fragmented pieces, which as mentioned in the previous paragraphs, is affecting ecosystems. It is also affecting the Indigenous people of the land by changing their cultural vitality and self-sufficiency.

In the three required videos by Janine Benyus, she illustrates great examples of systems thinking strategies through the use of biomimicry. This method of design takes on a simpler approach to our very complicated linear system of design and building that is currently taking place. Rather than valuing nature for what we can domesticate, harvest, and extract; this approach takes a step back and observes nature. This focus is on what can be learned from nature’s patterns, shapes, ecosystem strategies, and processes to build and create things that require the least amount of energy and resources for its inputs while at the same time maximizing its out puts.

The first two videos were pretty similar and discussed how organisms are doing things very similar to the way we are, but the way they do it allows them to live graciously. Examples were provided with how nature solves the many problems that we stumble up such as repelling bacteria, flow without turbulence, gather energy, filter water, etc.

The third video focuses on how biomimicry could be applied to our economy to make it circular. Benyus’s suggestion is to research and develop additive manufacturing tools such as 3d printing, which can build things to shape; exactly how nature builds.

Rather than using multiple materials and layers to support the many functions of one object, computers can mimic nature and serve many functions from only one material. Computers can take one layer and add function, structure, and performance all with that one piece of material. She believes this can be our opportunity into a circular economy.

This reminds me of the phrase work harder not smarter. We live in a society where things are created or built with linear thinking in mind by just creating to deliver, no matter what it takes or is used to get to that point. This way tends to be the ‘harder’ choice because all systems are not being taken into account during this process. There will always be problems that arise and therefore more work will need to go into this design to continually solve these problems.

Take desalinization as an example. Rather than trying to read the landscape, work with it and understanding it, we are turning to the water in our oceans to supply our demand. If you ask me this is just a temporary fix and eventually we’ll not only fall right back into the same problems we had in the first place, but now additional new problems will be added to the mix.

Now thinking about what nature would do, she likes to work smarter not harder and would not approve of this option. Her suggestion would be to create systems that do more capturing and recycling, such as collecting gray water in your house, growing your own food, or building swales in your yard to further collect and absorb water into the ground.

I feel that based on the structure of how our society is designed, it is causing this barrier between us and nature to get larger and larger. If we want to keep thriving it is time we begin to acknowledge these barriers and break them down and allow the words spoken from nature to be heard so it can teach us how to live graciously as well.