I Want the Dominant Social Paradigm to be an Environmental One

I’ll tell you why, but first:

Watch this video.

Even if you know all about No DAPL and the masses of people standing at Standing Rock, watch this video because it is beautiful and your heart will break all over again.

When I watched this video, I learned a lot more about the No DAPL movement. It was important for me to see the water, the land that is being fought for, and the already carved and ravaged Earth. It was important for me to listen to their voices, see their faces. It was important for me to see the blatant violence of the police forces, and see the people in anguish and turmoil. I have heard about the crisis, obviously. I knew the basic facts, and I had heard about the hundreds of tribes from across America that had come together in a historical movement, but this footage further incensed me.

I am deeply empathetic to the indigenous peoples fighting with their entire hearts and souls. I feel so, so hurt for the earth there in Standing Rock where sons, daughters and loved ones have been buried. Especially, I am outraged and thoroughly confused — naively, I will admit — as to why the government is just ignoring them. Humanity is genuinely fucked if our government, our national and state leadership, cares more about oil and money than people, their water sources, and their sacred land. How has it become perfectly okay to go back on treaties, discriminate and disrespect just for the sake of exploiting a resource that damages everything in its path?

The dominant paradigm is to blame. Julia B. Corbett sums up this paradigm in her book Communicating Nature: “The dominant paradigm supports the anthropocentric ideology of unrestrained instrumentalism: hierarchical relationships and human dominion over nature, growth equated with progress, and resources having only instrumental value for humans (283).” We as humans have decided that we are in charge of nature. We can exploit it at our discretion. Our desires are what we consider when managing the land and resources. But of course, in the theme of hierarchy, the dominant social structure heeds the interests of the upper-class much more readily. In other words, the white man is who has ultimate control of nature. When there is a new economic investment ripe for the taking, there is no hesitation before the destruction of land begins. When the white man sees a chance to get richer, there is no question whether or not to lay pipe.

The dominant paradigm must be revolted against. This paradigm is unhealthy for all stakeholders involved; the land, the water, the wildlife, the humans, even the rich white men, whether they realize it or not. A paradigm shift is necessary, and the ideal replacement is the Environmental Paradigm. This mindset places much more value on diversity, harmony, and integrity. Humans are not the top of the pyramid, they are interdependent on nature. We must place value on the natural world and all of it’s elements, and place ourselves among them.

It will be an uphill battle to change anything in this society. One must consider the different ideologies of all people, and how to best communicate with them. Social movements take time, as they come from the bottom up, especially if they are beginning as grassroots groups, like many environmental movements do.

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things…mankind [does] not truly believe in anything new until they have have had an actual experience of it.” — Machiavelli

The real problem with switching the paradigm is that the environment is so separated from us today. Nature is not as real to us as it used to be, as Starhawk writes in Webs of Power: “I would have to admit that to most city dwellers, even most environmentalists, even most Pagans who claim to worship nature, in reality the environment is sort of unreal, something we visit from time to time, or appreciate aesthetically, without deeply grasping that our lives depend on it (161)”. We must realize that nature is a part of us, and we are a part of nature. Take time to go to a spot you love, bond with nature and wildlife. Sit out in your backyard and observe, not just what birds are flying by, but what varieties of birds there are throughout the seasons. Sit and open your five senses, track the insects and notice changes in the plants.

An exceptional example of this balance we can strive for between humans and nature can be found in Brazil’s Movimiento Sim Terre, the largest direct action movement in the world. Here are their inspiring guidelines:

Our Agreements with Earth and Life

1 . Human beings are precious because their intelligence, work and organization can protect and preserve all forms of life.

2. To love and preserve the earth and all natural things

3. To always improve our knowledge of nature and agriculture

4. To produce food to eliminate hunger in humanity. To avoid monoculture and the use of agricultural pesticides.

5. To preserve the already existing forest and to reforest new areas

5. To take care of the springs, rivers, wetlands, and lakes. To fight against the privatization of water

7. To make the camp and the community beautiful by planting flowers, medicinal herbs and trees.

8. To adequately treat the trash and to fight any threats of contamination and aggression of the environment

9. To practice solidarity and to revolt against any kind of injustice,
aggression, and exploitation against a person, a community, and nature

10. To fight against the large estates so that everyone can have land, bread, education and freedom

11. Never sell the land. The land is the supreme gift for the future generations.
Agrarian reform — for a Brazil without large estates”

“To love the earth, you must first know it, and by the time you do, we’ll be able to build a better world.”

We must reject the dominant anthropocentric paradigm and realize that as part of this earth, adopting the environmental paradigm will benefit us, and develop our future generations to be indigenous people; stewards and lovers of the Earth and all it’s creatures.

“It’s not about the color of your skin,” he said. “It’s not even about being raised in a traditional way. It’s about being a guardian of the common treasure of the land.” — An indigenous speaker at the first World Social Forum defines what it means to be indigenous.