The 20th century, three hundred years from now, is not going to be remembered for its wars or its technological innovations, but rather as the era in which we stood by, and either actively endorsed or passively accepted the massive destruction of both biological diversity and cultural diversity on the planet.
The problem isn’t change. All cultures throughout time have constantly engaged in a dance with new possibilities of life. And the problem is not technology itself. The Sioux Indians did not stop being Sioux when they gave up the bow and arrow any more than Americans stopped being American when they gave up the horse and buggy. It’s not change or technology that threatens the integrity of the ethnosphere…
It is power; The crude face of domination. And whenever you look around the world, you discover that these are not cultures destined to fade away. These are dynamic, living peoples being driven out of existence by a identifiable forces that are beyond their capacity to adapt to.
TED Talks: Cultures at The Far Edge of The World (Feb. 2003)
A child raised to believe that a mountain is the abode of a protective spirit will be a profoundly different human being from a youth brought up to believe that a mountain is simply a pile of inert ore ready to be mined. A child raised to revere the coastal rainforest as the realm of the divine will be a different person from a child taught to believe that such forests are destined to be logged.
-Wade Davis, from his 2009 Massey Lecture, The Wayfinders:Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
We are born of water…Compress our bones, ligaments and muscle sinew, extract the platelets and cells from our blood, and the rest of us, nearly two-thirds of our weight, would flow as easily as a river to the sea.
Introduction to Edward Burtynsky’s book
The other peoples of the world are not failed attempts at being you.
They’re unique answers to a fundamental question: ‘What does it mean to be human and alive?’
We answer that question in the seven billion voices of the world.
In the aboriginal universe there is no past, present, or future. In not one of the hundreds of dialects spoken at the moment of contact was there a word for time. There is no notion of linear progression, no goal of improvement, no idealization of the possibility of change.
A climbing friend of mine once told me that the most amazing thing about summiting Everast was the realization that there was a place on earth where you could get up in the morning, tie on your boots, and under your own power walk in a single day into a zone where the air was so thin that humans could not survive. It was for him a revelation, a completely new perspective on the delicacy of this thin veil of atmosphere that allows life to exist on earth.
Of all the peoples that I’ve ever been with, the most extraordinary are the Kogi of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta–descendants of the ancient Tairona civilization which once carpeted the Caribbean coastal plain of Colombia. In the wake of the conquest, these people retreated into an isolated volcanic massif that soars above the coastal plain. In a bloodstained continent, these people alone were never conquered by the Spanish.
To this day, they remain ruled by a ritual priesthood, and the training for the priesthood is rather extraordinary. The young acolytes are taken away from their families at the age of three and four, sequestered in a shadowy world of darkness in stone huts at the base of glaciers for 18 years. Two nine-year periods deliberately chosen to mimic the nine months of gestation they spend in their natural mother’s womb, and now as they are metaphorically in the womb of the great mother. And for this entire time, they are inculturated into the values of their society, values that maintain the proposition that their prayers and their prayers alone maintain the cosmic–or we might say the ecological–balance.
At the end of this amazing initiation, one day they’re suddenly taken out and for the first time in their lives. At the age of 18, they see a sunrise. And in that crystal moment of awareness of first light as the Sun begins to bathe the slopes of the stunningly beautiful landscape, suddenly everything they have learned in the abstract is affirmed in stunning glory. And the priest steps back and says, ‘You see? It’s really as I’ve told you. It is that beautiful. It is yours to protect.’
They call themselves the elder brothers and they say we, who are the younger brothers, are the ones responsible for destroying the world.