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Culturing Sustainability Cookbook

Culturing Sustainability Cookbook

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Published by Caffyn Jesse

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Published by: Caffyn Jesse on Jul 10, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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By cultivating the illusion of safety, we hold the world at arm’s length. But we cannot have life without death. There is
only a shriveled semblance of life, parched by withholding. So much of contemporary society seems intent upon
avoiding risk. Old age is approached as a disease to cure. Science intends to conquer disability. Children are confined
to playpens. We love nature by “preserving and protecting” it, instead of becoming it, or inviting its interlocutory
intervention into our politics. Culturing sustainability means using systems thinking to perceive and to practice our
unity, in time, with all that is other.

After eco-philosopher Val Plumwood barely survived a crocodile attack in 1985, she focused much of her subsequent
work on death and its part in nature. She writes (2007), “By understanding life as in circulation, as a gift from a
community of ancestors, we can see death as recycling, a flowing on into an ecological and ancestral community of
origins. In place of the western war of life against death whose battleground has been variously the spirit-identified
afterlife and the reduced, medicalised material life, the Indigenous imaginary sees death as part of life, partly through
narrative, and partly because death is a return to the (highly narrativised) land that nurtures life.

The great sea
Has set me adrift,
It moves me as a weed
in a great river,
Earth (Nuna) and the Great Weather (Sila)
Move me,
Have carried me away
And move my inward parts with joy.

– Song of the Igloolik female shaman, recorded in the 1920s
cited by Rachel Attituq Qitsualik (2004)

Fostering Systems Thinking Culturing Sustainability● page 80

“Such a vision of death fosters an imaginary of the land as a ‘nourishing terrain’, and of death as a nurturing,
material continuity with ecological others, especially the lives and landforms of country.”

With systems thinking, we see that life does not stand opposite death; aliveness is not resident in a different system
from dying. Rather, the ecological system of aliveness/dying in which we are materially embedded can be said to stand
opposite a psychic and cultural system of numbness or resistance to aliveness/dying.

“Listen more often to things than to being
Listen more often to things than to being
‘Tis the ancestor’s breath
When the fire his voice is heard
‘Tis the ancestors’ breath
In the voice of the water, now

– Birago Diop, (n.d.)

Caffyn Kelley

Culturing Sustainability● page 81

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