If you are a student of the environment, then you may have some idea of the reasons for our current ecological crises. Unprecedented human exploitation of Earth's natural resources is the overt culprit of environmental degradation, but not all use is bad. For generations, human and non-human beings have used Earth's resources for their benefit and improvement. The use of resources permitted life to evolve to our current states which is, by its very nature, an appropriate use. On the other hand, an improper use of resources is over-exploitation.
Since time immemorial, indigenous peoples from across the globe lived in relative harmony with the land and other natural resources. Many indigenous philosophies sustain the position and role of humans within the local ecosystem while also acknowledging human efforts to protect and steward the environment. The job is symbiotic and conservative, with a principle goal of protecting human life through honoring and respecting ecological interrelationships.
All living beings, human and non-human, are indigenous to some place. That indigeneity includes a culture that depends upon the reliance of natural systems, comprising a system of knowledge handed down from one generation to the next. In many European communities, indigenous populations were transformed with the beginning of two major phenomena: the rise of monotheistic religions and the advent of industrialization. These two conceptions introduced new modes of thinking, sparking a decline of indigenous thought. The descent from indigeneity seems to have conveyed a disconnected relationship with the natural environment. This essay explores the accession of industrialization as a reason for the human-environment interruption.
Industrialization began a process of removing the human from the ecosystem by progressively weakening human reliance of livelihood activities on the land. The transference to an industrial base in our economic system relieved many families from living a subsistence life. In doing so, the human-environment relationship was altered because it became unnecessary to hunt and farm in the same capacity. Industrialization also introduced new employment concepts that removed humans from the environment by erecting large factory buildings with little or no access to the natural environment. Furthermore, industrialization grew rapidly as a result of mineral and energy extraction and consumption, which includes the burning of non-renewable fossil fuels. To date, industrialization has promoted wholesale environmental degradation and natural resource exploitation.
We receive many benefits from industrialization as well, including but not limited to modern conveniences and advancement in science, technology, and medicine. We can use what we have learned through industrializing to promote human-environment restoration. One way we may be able to do that is through a convergence of indigenous ecological knowledge and modern science. Indigenous ecological knowledge references our earlier comments about dwelling and livelihood activities within the ecosystem, which is a more practical way to understand human-environment relationships. Modern science restyles outdated or misconceived ideas while also detecting new information in a variety of fields ranging from the biological sciences to the physical sciences. But, can such a convergence really exist when objectivity is so highly valued in the sciences?
The short answer is yes. Academic research employs many different approaches to answer many different questions about many different phenomena. Additionally, this convergence may provide a diverse array of solutions to help humans mitigate and adapt to environmental changes and crises. The knowledge of indigenous peoples has long been neglected, and mostly continues to the present day, yet that knowledge provides a framework for understanding human interactions with the ecosystem prior to contact with industrializing Europeans.
Industrialization did limit human relationships with the environment, but it by no means truly removed the human from the ecosystem. This is very clear from the combined social, economic, natural resources, and environmental issues we are facing today. I argue that the synthesis of indigenous ecological knowledge and modern science may provide a stronger and more diverse set of responses to these problems. But before we can plan for the future, we must build a strong foundation through the acknowledgement of past atrocities while cementing present relationships. This can be said both among humans and human relationships with non-human species.