Questions for Conservation Organizations – How to Move Beyond The Current Boundaries to Include Humans

Forest in Eastham, Massachusetts – by Shaun Logan

I have a lot of confusion about this and maybe some of you can help me better understand. I want to preface this by saying this might seem like a bit of a rant, but I’m just questioning the way things are done, why they are done and how they can be better. 

I went through the frustration and anger stage of thinking humans just need to stay out and away – leave nature alone, but that’s impossible. Humans are nature, so for example, when humans bring a plant somewhere it is like a bird dropping a seed somewhere – it’s really no different (I wrote this about it – Humans Are Nature ).

I actually first wrote about this a few months ago and never shared it because I thought it was maybe too harsh, too intense. But then, as reading This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving, by David J. Silverman, the spark lit again. And as I was writing this, it evolved into an understanding that it is actually an extremely wide reaching issue that includes race and colonialism — it is and it does.

Prior to moving to Cape Cod I didn’t have much or any interaction with land conservation, trusts, environmental committees, and the like – but they are everywhere on the Cape. Unfortunately, I did not grow up or live in a place where people cared as much about the Earth. I did not live in a place or culture with as much awareness of indigenous peoples and culture (not that it’s perfect on the Cape, that’s just how bad it is elsewhere). This is a big reason why we moved to the Cape – to live with nature, with the Earth and see where the journey takes us.  Right now, this is where it takes me. So, I’m coming at this from a kind-of outside perspective, as well as someone fairly new to the “landscaping”/“permaculture” industry and gardening in general, but I have worked with humans for a long time and have been inquiring deeply for awhile now.

One main thing I am struggling to understand is how humans are included in the conservation of land. Allow me to further explain, as this is how I see it…

We, humans, determine that a piece of land would be good to conserve to a way it was when – the when being some arbitrary time. We decide that certain species of plants are invasive and others native, some are weeds and others perfect for the particular locations. We decide that a view is super important. We decide that this species of wildlife should continue to live or spend time here, but this species shouldn’t. A lot of that is determined by the human management of the plant life in that land.

We then determine that these parcels of land – from here to here and there to there – are off limits to human interaction BUT we also want to make these spaces educational and allow people to enjoy it somehow….so we’ll create a trail, put a bench in, maybe have some guided activities to teach, and try to make sure there is some kind of view. But that’s it. This land should have no other human interaction once it’s conserved back to the way we think it was in 1912 or 1953 or 1801 or 1621 or whenever.

It seems the idea is to have the land be as it was if humans didn’t exist – but humans do exist and have for 15,000+ years in the US and at least 10,000 years on Cape Cod. We are talking ancient civilizations on the Earth we now call the United States of America, which is never talked about (it did not start with the Pilgrims, that’s colonialism’s work to wipe out indigenous peoples).

I see this is a strong overcorrection due to the destructive ways of humans — over-doing and destroying everything we touch (on Cape Cod, this did start when colonizers arrived). Something definitely has to be done to keep the money grubbing people away from over developing and destroying all of life. I get that. I’m down with that, but we have to move beyond that. Because, building is still happening and as long as there is enough money, anything seems to be allowed. Money rules all, typically white money, and if you have it then you can get away with pretty much anything. The exclusion of indigenous and all people of color, and less financially “fortunate” has been a cornerstone of the US. People of color need to stop being ignored with attempts to silence, while white privilege needs to be addressed.

This is a food issue. This is a race issue. This is a power/ego issue. This is an environmental/climate/Earth issue. This is an idea of owning land issue. This is a community, or lack of community issue.

This is a disconnect from nature.

When colonizers came to the America’s, they sought to erase indigenous peoples from existence. They did everything they could including: genocide; slavery; slaughtering 60 million Buffalo in attempts to destroy food, clothing and shelter; falsifying holidays (Thanksgiving) and history books; brought deadly disease; removal from land for cash crop and animal agriculture; deforestation; mass segregation; creating laws and ideals that did not and do not recognize the indigenous people as people; constantly lying, cheating and stealing; providing the cheapest, most unhealthy foods, drinks and alcohol — preventing their way of life as much as possible. This is still ongoing today.

The acts carried out on indigenous peoples in the United States is one of the most heinous periods in the history of human beings that largely is never discussed — the plan of colonialism has mostly worked. Except, it didn’t, as we are now realizing that it was one of the worst things that we could have done for the entire human race. Indigenous peoples had a lot right and a very deep understanding of life. And indigenous peoples are so damn strong that they are still here, still passing along wisdom, still fighting, still living, still knowing better.

Meanwhile, on these conservation lands, invasive plants/weeds are removed – maybe using greenhouse gas emitting equipment and possible herbicides that poison our water, air, and food. Then right outside of the boundaries of this conservation there are boats, lawn mowers, planes, synthetic chemicals and so forth used in mass amounts on the regular. Just look around at the “perfectly” manicured lawns. The energy we use to power all of our devices, homes, food, all of our comforts and luxuries. Humans treat animals, fish, birds, plants, air, water like their lives don’t matter, like we are above them and don’t need them.

We “conserve” these lands back to a way for certain wildlife and certain plant life, when we try to take the power away from nature. What if we left things to be and observed for hundreds of years instead of a few years to a few decades? 

Why isn’t it simply expected that we are going to have to tend to the land on which we live to foster evolution and life. So much of landscaping is futile and about death.

When we “conserve” these lands we also exclude humans. We put forth the effort to conserve these parcels of  land, within these arbitrary boundaries, then drive off  in our fossil fuel powered vehicles to a grocery store or restaurant to eat food that was  shipped from somewhere else in the world, wrapped in plastic, probably some synthetic chemical used or processing used, and lacking its full nutrient potential.

Humans are the part of nature destroying all of nature, so for that reason alone, we have to account for us.

The Earth and all of life on it changes. We all adapt to figure out survival, but we have to do it together. In my understanding, burning of brush by Wompanoag made it easier to hunt, to find the smaller animals, which actually ended up increasing the amount of these smaller animals. This was done to survive, after all of the huge game vanished when glaciers melted. In the controlled burns, more of that particular kind of wildlife came. This was an evolution of life – not the way it always was and always must be. They adapted and learned.

“Native Americans also regularly used patch-burning on the plains and forest understory burning to regrow fresh grass and attract bison, deer, and elk, which they hunted. These small intentional burns increased plant diversity, reduced invasive plants, and increased the numbers of plants and animals. They also reduced the risk of megafires (which release a lot more carbon than low-intensity controlled burns).” – Does Regenerative Agriculture Have a Race Problem? – BY GOSIA WOZNIACKA

We do not have to preserve things so they always stay the same; but we do have to allow things to continue to live, migrate, and evolve – which we are not doing. We can learn so much from indigenous peoples, one being adapting and learning from the nature within us and with which we are in. This doesn’t mean we should go back to doing exactly what they were doing in all circumstances; though, we would be better suited living closer to that way of life — living in reverence and harmony with the Earth, with the energies of life.

How can we best work with the land, the Earth, to promote a thriving diverse harmony of life – including humans?

Animal farming is horrible for so many reasons and we should really go back to only eating animals that are hunted or fished on limited small local scales and on a more as-needed basis — not commercially. Animal agriculture arrived with colonialism. 

Plant based diets should be the norm, with local food sovereignty everywhere. That needs to change and we can do that by using the wisdom with food forests, agroforestry and silvopasture — better agriculture systems that include everyone, not just making white people rich. We must work with nature, not against it.

Since colonization, our food system has been based on money and death, not life. How can we grow as much as possible with as little as possible to make as much money as possible. 

“By the 1800s, the soil of the original colonies was so exhausted that it became unproductive and most farmers headed west to steal even more land.”

“Our relationship with farming in the U.S. has always been based on violence,” Rawal said. “No one alive today is directly responsible for the past, but there was the initial theft of land and that land has been passed from generation to generation.” – Does Regenerative Agriculture Have a Race Problem? – BY GOSIA WOZNIACKA

This is true, not only our food system but also our financial system — the two being inherently intertwined.

We, humans, cannot be excommunicated from nature because we are nature. I believe conservation work needs to acknowledge this in its planning and isn’t the best way to do that through food?

“Indigenous agriculture was far more effective because it was based on the concept of community, said Romero Briones, which allowed Native people to regenerate very large swaths of land over many generations.

“For us, the land is a resource the entire community depends on, so it’s the responsibility of the community to take care of it,” added Newman. “There was no market economy, no reason to abuse it, no reason to plant a monocrop or take all the fish out of the river.” – Does Regenerative Agriculture Have a Race Problem? – BY GOSIA WOZNIACKA

These days, we are so disconnected from the land, from the Earth, from ourselves as nature that we actually divide ourselves, as if it is even possible. It’s not possible – it’s in mind only.

A food system that mimics nature, brings people back to the Earth – in body and mind, and will establish high quality nutritious food sovereignty without destroying flora and fauna – actually providing for it – and cleaning our air and water.

Right now, it seems like we are trying to preserve land to a time stamp but that’s not the way it works. Things change, always have and always will. Creating arbitrary boundaries is a human idea, in mind only. Water, air, roots, mycelium, all plant life, wildlife, insects, and the like, do not care about our boundaries.

Humans are part of the diversity of nature – segregation only leads to further degradation.

So I guess my question is, why aren’t we doing this? 

Why aren’t we doing things to get people to better understand that they are, that we are all nature?

Why aren’t we creating spaces on a mass level that invite people to interact with other aspects of nature – to re-learn and gain reverence for the Earth? 

I am not pretending to know every aspect of this, I certainly don’t. But I do know that we can do all of this, pretty easily and extensively. It isn’t new, it’s indigenous wisdom, which is ancient wisdom, that we can learn from, work with and adapt to today. And indigenous peoples should be a huge part of it — on Cape Cod, we should be listening to, learning from, and working with the Wampanoag – something I hope to have the privilege to do.

“Native American communities did not use plows or till the land. They used agroforestry and silviculture to control the growth and quality of the forests, terraced the land to prevent erosion, planted riparian buffers to protect sensitive areas, and grew both wild and domesticated foods.

Intercropping was common, as was maximizing living roots, and many tribes planted the “Three Sisters” (maize, squash, and beans together), a system which descended from the Mesoamerican planting system called milpa. Native farmers also used wood ash and fish waste as fertilizer. Such practices clearly benefited the soil: There are places in Mesoamerica that have been continuously cultivated for four thousand years and are still productive.

Using ruminants to fertilize and aerate soil was also practiced before cattle set foot in the U.S. plains tribes, for example, moved buffalo herds to specific areas to regenerate the land.”

All quotes from: Does Regenerative Agriculture Have a Race Problem? – BY GOSIA WOZNIACKA


– Shaun✌️

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