Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Human Planet

Recently, my parents loaned me a DVD series called Human Planet, which was put out by the BBC.  It's a multi-part documentary series about different human communities that live  in various environments on planet Earth: deserts, jungles, oceans, rivers, arctic, etc.  So far, I've watched four of the episodes and each is completely mind-blowing.

Growing up and living in a modern, industrialized western society, we tend to forget that our particular way of living is only one of many, and it may actually not be the ideal way.  There are thousands of human communities around the world that live in ingenious and sustainable relationships with their natural environment.  Hunting, house-building, water-gathering, and family structures often have remained unchanged for centuries, sometimes millenia. 

There are the Bajau people, who live in the coral sea near Borneo.  They do not live on land, but in houses and boats on the ocean.

There are the Tubu women of Niger who travel 80 kilometers through the vast Saraha with no maps, to find a single water well, the same well that has sustained them for years.

There are the moisture farmers of the Atacama desert, who use large nets to collect water from the air.
There are the Inuit of northeastern Canada, who burrow under arctic ice to collect mussels.

There are the Korowai people of West Paupua, Indonesia, who build their houses in trees 35 meters above the ground.

Sadly, it is often the industrialized west that is encroaching on and sometimes causing harm to traditional, sustainable commmunities.  Often, quite arrogantly, we think that our industrialized, mechanized society is the "superior" or "first world" model.  But the Human Planet film series suggests quite the opposite.  As resources decline and pollution and climate change increase, we  in the "west" could learn a lot from these traditional communities.  The concept of "sustainable living" may be a new concept for us, but for millions of people in the world, sustainability is a very old concept, one woven into the very fabric of how they live in this world.

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