The Japanese-American Plaza in Portland.
Image by Katy Langstaff.
The richness of life is in its immense diversity. The great diversity of languages and cultural groups in this bioregion — from Tlingt to Mattole, from Pomo to Haisla, has suffered grave damage for the last two centuries. Now these ancient voices are being supplemented by a dizzying range of new cultures taking root in the region. How can the wisdom of those who know this place well be blended with the vibrant voices and traditions of those who are just learning its ways?
A world rich with Cultural Diversity honors the unique qualities and contributions of many cultures. Different religions, ethnicities, languages, and cultural traditions create a human tapestry that greatly contributes to Social Capital. Honoring this diversity, turning it to advantage, is a fundamental aspect of Social Equity.
Ask yourself what specific communities or populations know about certain mountains, or wetlands, or farming a special crop, or wildcraft harvesting a rare medicinal plant. You will learn that a specific soil in just the right climate will grow certain plants well. People co-evolve with place similar to the way plants and animals co-evolved with their ecosystems. Cultural Diversity respects local knowledge and the role each culture has to play in creating A Conservation Economy.
The Columbia River tribes tend the salmon runs and with a salmon feast as the fish return. In honoring the life of the salmon, and the flesh they feed to people and dozens of other species, they honor the exquisite poetry of living systems in our bioregion. Mennonite farmers have their own way of honoring the land, and so do practitioners of Sustainable Forestry falling in love with the interconnectedness of life in the forest.
Cultures can grow and diversify in a place within a few decades if they are attentive. Media tied to a Sense of Place provide a twenty-first century fire circle, allowing hundreds of local communities a chance to witness and share their unique relationships to their beloved rivers, forests, and mountains.
In time, people grow into the contours of their place. People living in place have always acknowledged the practical skills of those who knew how to sew fishing nets, prepare an herbal poultice, or track animals. One role of Cultural Diversity in A Conservation Economy is to learn how to live well in place by putting the stories, songs, dances, and special knowledge of many cultures to appropriate use.
Celebrate the intrinsic worth and richness of cultural diversity in all its forms. Find ways to harness this diversity in the service of a conservation economy.
Examples of this pattern in action:
It was a ritual at once traditional and radical that drew 250 people to an ancient redwood grove ten miles from Northern California's Headwaters Forest on a stormy January day in 1997. Between rain squalls they were celebrating Tu B'shevat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees. But this ceremony was not just about spiritual connection with the plant kingdom, and included more than the usual ritual meal of fruits, nuts, and wine. The forestry chair of the local Sierra Club chapter gave an overview of the threat posed to the old-growth redwood forests by the Houston-based Maxxam Corporation. Another worshipper chanted the haunting Kaddish, or mourner's prayer, in memory of creatures displaced or killed by logging. Most radical of all, the ceremony set the stage for an act of civil disobedience: the planting of redwood seedlings on an eroding stream bank on Maxxam property to symbolize hope for the restoration of land already clearcut and creeks stripped of their tree cover. Maxxam had refused permission to plant, but the worshippers vowed they would break the law and trespass, seedlings and shovels in hand…
SAGE works with community-based organizations and networks primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also nationally and internationally, to develop greater understanding of the social, economic and environmental impacts of economic globalization on local communities and the region. SAGE also works to foster the development of sustainable alternatives to the global economy that promote multicultural community, ecological sustainability and justice. SAGE undertakes this work in three program areas: (1) Research and analysis (2) Issues articultation and education (3) Constituency building and advocacy
Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:
Aboriginal Mapping Network
Institute of Cultural Affairs
LaDuke, Winona. All Our Relations. South End Press. Cambridge, MA. 1999.
Nabhan, Gary Paul. Cultures of Habitat: On Nature, Culture, and Society. Counterpoint Press. Washington, DC. 1998.
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