Indigenous wisdom is human wisdom, which Native people have miraculously preserved. As indigenous people of the Earth, individuals emphasized a connection with the environment rooted in kinship, oriented on reciprocity. They permeated with respect for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. However, when confronted with the forces that continue to threaten to ruin this way of life, Indigenous knowledge keepers have persevered in their efforts to save this priceless heritage of humanity against insurmountable difficulties. The specialists who have kept the legacy of living in harmony with the Earth are the ones who are best capable of leading people through the transformation from misuse to regeneration. The paper examines how indigenous and ecological systems educate humans about being more “naturalized” — and hence less harmful — to human and non-human groups.
Indigenous knowledge is a collection of unique worldviews held by indigenous peoples from all over the globe. It presents a variety of perspectives on science and nature that, in general, diverge from typical Western scientific perspectives. Furthermore, it provides a variety of viewpoints on the environment and humanity’s role in nature. Ecological systems knowledge contributes to the enrichment of our planet and is essential for human wellness and success. It contributes to a new comprehension of the interconnectedness between the environment and humans, which is essential for food production, clean water, and air preservation, and biodiversity in the face of climate change. The study of ecology is crucial for the preservation of natural resources. Preserving various habitats is essential for maintaining a broad range of wildlife. Heathland, for example, is a highly prized ecosystem that is fast disappearing over much of Western Europe. However, scientists have been working to find methods to preserve its biological properties in the future.
Ecological knowledge on pests, animal, or insect that causes damage to crops, cattle, or food in a harmful manner enlightens individuals on how to control them, thus protecting plants. The use of pesticides, chemical substances that inhibits or kills pests, is one of the most common methods. However, these chemical substances could have adverse effects on human health. Therefore, there is a need to develop new methods of controlling pests other than pesticides. According to Jenkins et al., “Chemicals used as pesticides also cause ecology damage. “Roundup is the world’s most popular herbicide, and though there remains considerable debate about its toxicity to humans, its wide use on farms and suburban lawns alike is devastating to biodiversity” (25)
According to indigenous people, burning forests, according to indigenous people, is vital to forest health. Forests are burned on purpose to benefit the ecology. By doing this, the ground is cleared of leaves, twigs, and other “litter,” allowing for the replenishment of fresh soil and the growth of more vigorous new trees. The pine tree needs fire to open up its pinecones and release its seeds to grow. However, the burning of the forest contributes to deforestation, which could have future adverse effects such as desertification. Indigenous people also benefited from forest fires since they allowed them to hunt. Jenkins et al. described the importance of burning forests to nature:
Delaware’s indigenous people burn their forests because it is essential for the health of forests. The Lenape tribe of Delaware intentionally burns forests to help the ecosystem. Doing so clears leaves, twigs, “litter” off the ground; this is beneficial, so new soil gets replenished so new trees can grow stronger. The lodgepole pine tree requires fire, so the pinecones can open up and release seeds to reproduce. Burning forests was also beneficial to indigenous people so they could hunt. “…opened up hunters’ lines of sight, created foraging meadows for deer and other prey animals, and allowed sunlight to reach native berries as well as cultivated food crops” (18).
Invasive plants take nutrients, soil, sunlight, and water from native plants, which is why they are considered a threat to the environment. Plants native to a given area compete with invasive species for sunshine and water. Invasive plants, on the other hand, outcompete their natural counterparts. They alter soil hydrology, compete with native plants for resources, increase the frequency of forest fires, and hybridize with them, and harm aquatic ecosystems. It is also true that invasive plants have a competitive advantage over native plants since the diseases and animals that kept invading plants under control are no longer present in the new habitat, allowing them to grow out of control. This competitive factor has the effect of preventing the growth of native plants. Per Kimmerer, “Professor Don Leopold and his students have brought in wheelbarrows full of these missing native plants and conducted planting trials, watching their survival and growth with hopes of playing midwife to the recreation of a salt marsh” (335). These, therefore, are some examples of how invasive plants are detrimental to ecosystems.
Industrialization, on the other hand, provides essential products for humans. Concerning Kimmerer, “This industry fueled the growth of the whole region, and chemical processing expanded to include organic chemicals, dyes, and chlorine gas” ( 313). Nonetheless, automation has adverse effects on both humans and the non-human community. Regarding Jenkins et al., slavery supplied the raw ingredients for industrial transformation and expansion. Slavery seemed incompatible with the ideals of liberty, freedom, and happiness. Natural resources get severely polluted by industry. In addition to air pollution, water pollution, and noise pollution, industries contribute to environmental deterioration in four significant ways. The release of untreated chemical waste, such as dyes, acids, detergents, heavy metals like lead, fertilizers, pesticides, and polyethene from industries, into water bodies such as rivers and lakes, is a significant source of water pollution. Solid wastes such as phosphor gypsum, fly ash, and steel slag causes water pollution. With respect to Kimmerer, “Even when their habitats are safe from industry, their atmosphere may not be. Toxins in the air and water, acid rain, heavy metals, and synthetic hormones all end up in the water in which they gestate. Developmental abnormalities like six-legged frogs and twisted salamanders are found throughout the industrialized world” ( 354).
Oak trees are important because they consume large quantities of carbon and can live for centuries, implying that the carbon absorbed by the oaks retains in the tree itself. Oak trees are also essential keystone species because they provide habitat for insects, birds, plants and other animals, even if they do not directly sustain the biodiversity in their immediate vicinity. Decaying oak leaves also decompose slowly, resulting in habitats for insects and nematodes. According to Jenkins et al.:
Doug Tallamy is so evangelical about oak trees because they consume huge amounts of carbon, and the tree survives for hundreds of years, meaning the carbon the oaks absorb get locked within the tree. Oak trees are also an important keystone species. They support over 900 species of insects, birds and other plants/ animals, even if they are not directly supporting all the wildlife. Decaying oak leaves also break down slowly, creating homes for insects and nematodes. Doug is also evangelical about native bees because they pollinate. “They maintain a diverse plant base for terrestrial food webs” ( Jenkins et al.,174).
Agronomic monoculture disrupts the natural equilibrium of soils and ecosystems. Plants planted in large numbers of the same species in a single field strip the soil of its elements, diminishing the variety of microorganisms and bacteria necessary to maintain the soil’s fertility. Planting a single type of plant over a large area negatively influences soil structure and the surrounding ecosystem. One crop species means that just one kind of root is available to minimize soil erosion and tap precipitation, which generally need the use of a variety of different roots. Even though these valleys had pests and weeds back then, they thrived without chemical use. Pest outbreaks are less common in polycultures than in monocultures, consisting of a single plant type. Insects may find a wide variety of habitats because of the variety of plant shapes. Some pests, such as corn worms, bean beetles, and squash borers, have explicitly come to feed on the crops they find themselves in. Despite this, the variety of vegetation provides a home for insects that prey on crop-eating animals. Parasitic wasps and predatory beetles keep crop-eating pests in check in the garden. This garden provides food for many people, yet there is enough leftover (Kimmerer 139).
JENKINS, McKAY, and SUSAN BARTON, editors. Delaware Naturalist Handbook. University of Delaware Press, 2020, https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv1c29r1r.
Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Milkweed Editions, 2013.