Have we forgotten our role in cooperating with life?

Have we forgotten our role in cooperating with life?
Jacqui van Heerden

As Vandana Shiva says in her book, The Gift of Food, “If we take care of all the beautiful beings in our ecosystems, in our soils, we will be nourished in return.”

Scientists have proven that cooperation, not competition, between species has evolved and sustained life on this planet. We are all part of a local ecosystem – a geographical defined place comprising a multitude of species that interact with each other in complex and diverse ways to support the web of life in the ecosystem.

Well-functioning ecosystems have provided many human and other species needs with each element playing its part in contributing crucial nutrients, decomposition, energy flow and production. Ecosystems are full of biodiversity, from rivers, trees, plant medicines, food security, air, etc.

If we had to rely on our local ecosystem today, would we survive? In Kensington and North Melbourne, we have contaminated our rivers so we can’t drink from them, wash our clothes or water plants and trees. We have covered up land for food growing and habitat with cement and asphalt and contaminated it with leads and toxins.   

What is our contribution? We have not cared for our local ecosystem, so it can support our needs and the needs of biodiversity. We no longer even give back our human manure to the ecosystem.

Instead, we extract and take from other ecosystems through the global trade system, and continue to destroy other, mostly ecosystems in third world countries, to provide for our wants.

We no longer nourish ourselves, relying on others to grow our food and included in these others are the pollinators the bees, the butterflies, the soil including the earthworm, all play a part in providing us with the gift of food.

We have not returned this reciprocity; rather we have allowed and supported a food system that poisons billions of these creatures, destroys soils and ecosystems and exploits creatures and is cruel to them.

This continues out of our sight. As Tyson Yunkaporta says in his book Sand Talk, “we have outsourced our violence”. The chances are most of us spend little time nourishing nature.

Increasingly our western culture even though most affluent and educated (so called) suffers from ill health, disease, pain, mental illness, and isolation.  Our young people are losing hope and taking their lives. The violence of men against women is an epidemic and the latest research by Monash University shows young male misogyny in the school system is increasing. Wars are being staged against innocents, destroying land and ecosystems.

Those feeling powerless and fearful, focus on protecting themselves.

There is no simple solution, rather a small step in a direction. 

Vandana Shiva continues, “the only way to meet growing human needs is to protect biodiversity – because we are so linked together unless we are looking after the bird, the bee, the butterfly the soil we will not be able to look after the people either.” •

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