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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
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The diverse and multi-faceted environmental justice movement is rooted in an understanding that the quest to preserve
and protect the natural environment is irrevocably united with the elimination of racism and colonialism from all
aspects of culture and society. “The widespread existence of degraded, hazardous physical environments in poor
communities and among people of color is apparent and indisputable” (Tyson et. al. p. 1784-5). Poor people, people of
colour and third-world people receive the displaced consequences of rich, white first-world peoples’ unsustainable
lives. The 20% of the world’s population that consumes 80% of the world’s resources barely registers the effects of the
environmental contaminants and climate change. Environmental degradation is a not-so-new colonialism dominating
and displacing indigenous populations around the world.

Rasmussen (2005) comments on the “rescuer” mythology through which Euro-American civilization assumes “the
mission of rescuing the rest of the world [with education and development], when, in fact, the rest of the world tends to
view Euro-America as the culprit who through them overboard to start with” (p. 116-117). He urges us to examine the
tools of rescue to see how they function not as life-preservers, but as life-eroders. The development paradigm means
massively restructuring previously nonmonetized economies so that all things of value–food, shelter, land, clothing,
medicine–are privatized, made scarce, and then sold back to individuals for money. The education paradigm means
eviscerating oral cultures with “Individualized, competitive, argument-oriented literacy...[that] tends to
cosmopolitanize and uproot civilizations; it breaks their multigenerational links and molds the atomized remnants into
human rental units” (p. 123). Euro-American rescuers need to heed Gary Snyder’s (1995) advice on how to save the
environment: ‘Stay Put.’….As long as our way of life is causing most of the problems that the world has to deal with,
the best thing we can do is deal with our own way of life.... Figure out how to clean it up, slow it down, stop it.” (p.

“All of the world’s big problems are in reality very small and local problems. They are
brought into force as realities only in the choices made every day and in many ways by
people who are enticed by certain incentives and disciplined by their fears. So, confronting
huge forces like colonialism is a personal and, in some ways, mundane process. This is not
to say that it is easy, but looking at it this way does give proper focus to the effort of

–Taiaiake Alfred(2005, p. 25)

Caffyn Kelley

Culturing Sustainability● page 97

127; 128). This will involve addressing the environmental contaminants that form the body burden of poor people,
people of colour and third-world people. It will involve challenging deep-rooted cultural paradigms–including
individuality, money, land-ownership, work–that are built into our experience of self and society. It will involve
making open space that invites the emergence of counter-narratives to the overwhelming colonial narrative– space for
telling innumerable stories that have been excised, repressed.

Gruenwald (2003b) describes decolonization and reinhabitation as two dimensions of the same task. Responding to
assaults on human and biotic diversity in particular local places is an approach that problematizes Western patterns of
uneven development, inviting scrutiny of overdeveloped cultures rather than problematizing the developing world.

Donna Haraway (1989) invites us to imagine, “What might a post-colonial reinvention of nature look like?” She
cautions, “Western forms of love and knowledge of nature have been profoundly colonial; [but] knowledge of how this
has been so cannot be allowed to degenerate into an excuse for losing an historical capacity to know, love and act in
relation to the strange and dynamic category still somehow able to be called ‘nature.’” (p. 274). She writes of
“negotiating the terms on which love of nature could be part of the solution to, rather than part of the imposition of,
colonial domination and environmental destruction” (p. 275).

Fostering Systems Thinking Culturing Sustainability● page 98

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