In an article written by Mohtar and Lawford (2016), they explain how a systems-thinking based approach is necessary to address the complexity and interconnectedness involved in addressing the growing global concern around water, energy, and food (WEF) resource security.
It’s interesting how closely the systems-thinking based approach aligns with the Indigenous world views and their traditional relationships with the land. After all these years, the western world view has finally recognized the importance of a simple fact, one that the Indigenous world views have always known, that our very “survival depends on how we interact with each other and everything around us” (p.4, Week 8 Reading: Sovereign Lands Course Notes).
For Indigenous peoples, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is dynamic, organic, and incorporates new learning. From this perspective, TEK is a “way of life, a way of being and doing” (p.6, Week 8 Reading: Sovereign Lands Course Notes). Many Indigenous peoples are still practicing their traditional subsistence lifestyle, particularly in the northern regions; therefore, are still adding to their traditional knowledge. The accumulation of this knowledge amongst the Indigenous populations can be compared to the process used in western scientific studies: (1) observations are made over time, (2) observations are verified through a peer-review process, and (3) knowledge is held by the most respected elders and hunters, those that are actually in the field.
Incorporating Indigenous knowledge is critical for the future of Canada and the world. Indigenous peoples have accumulated vast knowledge of land use and conservation. As the land has changed due to climate changes and resource development, Indigenous peoples have adopted new practices. Their intimate knowledge and ability to adapt would greatly contribute to viable solutions for global issues, such as WEF security.
In addition, Indigenous initiatives to preserve and protect specific areas of Canada are helping to ensure there is adequate land for wildlife and freshwater resources. For example, a cooperative management agreement between a First Nation and the Canadian government established the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve in B.C. These initiatives protect our precious resources for all Canadians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
After digesting the learning from Module 8, I was reminded of the Baha’i Faith’s perspective on the environment:
“Every man of discernment, while walking upon the earth, feeleth indeed abashed, inasmuch as he is fully aware that the thing which is the source of his prosperity, his wealth, his might, his exaltation, his advancement and power is, as ordained by God, the very earth which is trodden beneath the feet of all men.”
Perhaps it’s time for non-Indigenous peoples to develop this discernment that Indigenous peoples seem to intuitively understand.
Week 9’s lesson: Indigenous Women
You can access the MOOC through: https://www.coursera.org/learn/indigenous-canada#faq
To access Mohtar and Lawford’s (2016) article, Present and future of the water-energy-food nexus and the role of the community of practice in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 6(1), go to: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-016-0378-5