We Can Learn Sustainability from Traditional Communities

We have been dubbed storytelling animals and for good reason. The stories we tell shape our views of the world and influence our behaviors towards nature.

Many currently popular stories portray the earth as a commodity. Capitalism sees profit and economic growth as the ideals for a nation and if there is considerable demand for various products, it is considered to be a boon. Free trade, hand in hand with globalization, can be ecologically harmful, however, as the Earth’s natural resources are limited.

Many scholars and environmental activists believe that globalization is one of the major causes of environmental destruction. Environmental activist Vandana Shiva claims that “[t]he global economic crisis is arguably a result of the predominantly Western industrialized nations’ distorted conception of nature and humans’ relationship with the natural world.”

But there is another way.

Indigenous stories are part of the identity of a community’s members and these stories can make a significant impact on shaping a more positive cognitive framework related to nature. American cognitive linguist George Philip Lakoff argues that human beings utilize unconscious structures to conceptualize events. Consequently, these “schemas” or “frames” need to be chosen correctly to form a harmonious relationship with nature. Read more…

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