Partnering with the Natural World

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By Madronna Holden

In 1927 Chehalis elder Mary Heck testified on behalf of her people before the U.S. Court of Claims. She spoke in Chehalis, enumerating the things a non-Indian court might count in terms of value.

She listed the houses that had been destroyed by pioneers who wanted the cleared land on which they stood. She told how long it took her people to build each of those great cedar houses that stood for generations unless they were destroyed by fire – the white tool of choice in this matter. She spoke the names of villages erased from maps that set down straight lines over lands and waters that contemporary Chehalis elders told me were traditionally navigated by “streams of trees” and “fish trails.”

But Mary Heck had something else to say as well, something she deemed important to place on the record alongside the list of the destroyed homes of her people: the destroyed homes of the beaver, devastated by pioneers as they drained her people’s lands for their farms.

Even in translated court transcripts, her tone comes through. She is speaking up for the beaver who shared a partnership with Chehalis women in their root digging grounds. Mary Heck credits the beaver for sustaining the wetlands and fertile ground the Indian women favored for these crops. In relating the destruction of the beaver’s homes, Mary Heck mourned the loss of a friend.

Just as the otter is a keystone species in Pacific Ocean ecosystems, the beaver had a central role in ecosystems both east and west of the Cascades. Indeed, in taking beaver and otter, the early fur traders could hardly have picked two species whose depletion had more profound effects on local ecosystems. Beaver dams helped create and sustain the wetlands that are now ninety-nine per-cent gone along the Willamette River, wetlands which married the river to the land, providing habitat for a proliferation of plant and animal species, containing and filtering storm water, and keeping ground water tables charged.

Across the Cascades, along the Crooked River, for instance, innumerable springs dried up when the beaver dams were lost in the wake of the fur trade. Then the once fertile lands that spread out beside that river shrank as the formerly meandering waters stayed to a deeply cut bed. In this sense, the concerted policy of Hudson’s Bay Company administrators John McLoughlin and George Simpson to stymie competitors by creating a “fur desert” in the Pacific Northwest had an ironic ring. In accomplishing their goal of depleting the otter and beaver, they enlarged dry land areas throughout the Northwest.

We can set Mary Heck’s story of the beaver alongside the modern ecologist’s story of the sea otter in expressing the dynamic interplay of species in a resilient ecosystem. Her perception, in turn, derives from the “partnership” worldview in the indigenous Northwest. With this point, I want to take up where many natural resources managers, including innovative ones such as “resilience” thinker Brian Walker leave off.  I want to shift from questions about how we “manage” natural resources to how we manage ourselves to support nature’s resilience.

The issue of partnership takes up a theme in a paper I recently gave on resilience thinking, in which partnership was one of four strategies I proposed for managing human behavior in ways that support the resiliency of natural systems.

The first step in establishing a partnership is treating our partners with comparable respect to that with which we treat ourselves.  In their 10,000 years of sustainable living here, the Pacific Northwest’s diverse indigenous cultures did this by treating all natural life as their intimate kin, with standing comparable to that of humans. “All animals and inanimate objects possessed spirits,” as STOWW (Small Tribes of Western Washington) stated in their handout for their 1975 treaty rights workshop. Among the Sahaptin-speaking people on the mid-Columbia River, the term for “life” is waq’ádyšwit, the “animating principle or ‘soul’ possessed by people as well as animals, plants, and forces of nature”. Waq’ádyšwit indicates “intelligence, will, and consciousness,” and since it exists in all natural things, it is the moral basis of the reciprocal partnerships between humans and their land. [i]

Parallel recognition of personhood in nature is found in the traditions of the inland valleys as expressed by contemporary Coos-Kalapuya elder Esther Stutzman: “The earth is alive. It has a heart.” The indigenous peoples of Northern California likewise also perceived natural landscapes as comprised of persons alive with spirit. In the early 1900s, linguist Jaime de Angulo wrote of his frustration in trying to get a word for animals that contrasted with that for humans in the Pit River language. But there was no such word in their language, since there was no such distinction in Pit River culture.

A partnership worldview inherently promotes respect for diversity in its recognition that all natural life possesses spirit and personhood. In this sense, the partnership view envisions the most democratic of socio-ecological systems, embracing what Vandana Shiva terms “a democracy of all life”.

The radical equality between humans and other natural life in the partnership worldview goes hand in hand with the recognition that nature and humans are intertwined in the relational manner of Brian Walker’s “socio-ecological systems,” in which “changes in one domain of the system… inevitably impact the other.”

In this sense, both the partnership model and the resilience paradigm offer an alternative to the dualistic split of the worldview that sets humans apart from and above nature. Both concur with the modern science that tells us whatever we do to our natural environment, we do to ourselves. Thus, for instance, the pesticides and fire retardants released into our environment have become ubiquitous in U.S. breast milk.

In recognizing the dynamic reflexivity between ourselves and the natural world, indigenous Northwesterners developed an ethic of reciprocity, which entailed sharing the gifts of life with others, taking only as much as you could replace from natural systems, and treating natural life with respect in order to allow it to flourish – which in turn allowed humans to flourish. In such reciprocity, we find the intersection of ethics and practical outcomes in an interdependent world.

Take for instance, the case of the salmon in the Pacific Northwest.  Respecting the salmon as partners with humans, for instance, resulted in their abundance under native management, so that the indigenous peoples on the Columbia River harvested seven times the modern take without harming the sustainability of the runs.

Since all natural species were peoples in the partnership view, it followed that one should develop an ethics of consideration for the future generations of salmon and humans together. Drawing on this perspective Yurok elder Lucy Thompson observed in 1916 that non-Indian rules for protecting the salmon on the Klamath River were bound to fail, since they were based on the actions of individual fishermen – but their actions taken together created a gauntlet of barriers the salmon could not run.

Lucy Thompson’s insights stand beside those of all the indigenous peopled cited above in illustrating how the partnership view implements both intimate knowledge of natural systems and careful monitoring of the results of human actions on those systems. Thus is the alternative to the Not in my Backyard attitude which separates the consequences of environmental decisions from those who make them.  Ecofeminist Val Plumwood points out the fundamental irrationality of the modern global system in this respect, in which those who have the most power to make environmental decisions are the least likely to be visibly  and immediately affected by them. This broken feedback/ethical loop must be repaired by remedying a sense of “remoteness” from particular places (as the bioregional movement sets out to do), from the future (in the effects of our actions on future generations) and from those “others” which a hierarchical worldview renders invisible or inconsequential.

The ways in which the partnership model encouraged humans to manage themselves for the benefit of both their landscapes and themselves were not limited to the salmon. In Tending the Wild, Kat Anderson details the way that this worldview led to the exquisite bounty of root crops, wildfowl, and game recorded in hundreds of explorer records in native California. In like fashion, early explorers in the Willamette Valley termed it the “gourmand’s paradise” for the results of the specific management practices of the Kalapuya – and they would come to the Willamette Valley to stock up on provisions whenever they ran low.

The intersection of ethics and practical results in the partnership model is eloquently expressed by modern Nisqually leader Billy Frank, Jr., who has worked tirelessly both for Indian fishing rights and the care of the salmon and its habitat: “I don’t believe in magic. I believe in the sun and the stars, the water, the tides, the floods, the owls, the hawks flying, the river running, the wind talking. They’re measurements. They tell us how healthy things are. How healthy we are. Because we and they are the same thing.” [ii]

Modern Westerners cannot authentically or ethically take over the specific spiritual beliefs of other cultures. Nor can we return to the past. Yet as the Resilience Alliance’s workbook for resource managers observes, it is important to tell the story of ourselves and our land in ways that free us from the constraints of the ruling paradigm. In this context, the partnership worldview has much to show us about fostering a resilient world.

Indeed, the partnership worldview immunizes its holders against the paradox of domination. This paradox flows from the fact that the more one tries to control a thing, the less one sees it for what it is. One-way communication with natural life (we plant, you yield) subverts the knowledge we need to foster a resilient world. As a remedy for the dangers of such limited information gathering, the partnership model sensitizes humans to the ways in which natural life “talks back” to us.

This paradigm has important scientific potential, as expressed in geneticist Barbara McClintock‘s Nobel Prize-winning work she accomplished through “speaking with the corn,” getting to know each corn plant as an individual. It was not a popular method for any scientist, much less a woman beginning work in genetics several decades ago. For years McClintock struggled to continue her research without the support of her colleagues, finding ways to fund her own work.

This is the kind of leadership expressed by Siletz Takelma elder Agnes Pilgrim Baker in taking on her personal commitment as a “voice for the voiceless.” She does not say, “voice of the voiceless.” She is not subsuming or taking over the voice of the other. Instead she is expressing the central stance in the partnership worldview: speaking up for those we might otherwise leave out of our goals or visions, in the same way that Mary Heck called attention to the beaver.

Such leadership reminds us that in order to gear our behavior toward fostering a resilient natural world, we need to increase our listening skills-and thus expand our range of vision.

Key to the success of the partnership worldview is its attribution of agency to all in any socio-ecological system. Thus it helps us embrace a question as pressing in this era of increasing globalization as it was to cultures with 10,000 years of standing in the Pacific Northwest.

How do we share our world?


[i] “Western Columbia River Sahaptins,” Eugene Hunn and David H. French in Handbook of North American Indians v. 12.

[ii] Quoted in Charles Wilkinson, Messages from Frank’s Landing.

A slightly different version of this essay appears as “Partnership and Resilience” in Ecotrust’s online journal, People and Place.

973 Responses

  1. The partenrship worldview is becoming more accepted in American society. This is evidenced by the growning emphasis on things”green” in our culture. American culture seems to be acknowledging the partenrship worldview in its slow but continuous movement towards all that is more sustainable. In the past 50 years the efficiency with which humans are able to utilize the natural resources provided by nature has expanded exponentially. We are able to exhaust the planets vast resources in the foreseeable future. This applies to not just oil and minerals but also to the great numbers of animals and rangelands and forests. As a result of this, we must shift our mindset from one in which we harvest all that is available for the most profit now, to one in which we utilize the resources available, but with an eye to the future so that we do not destroy everything there is and harm everything irrieversibly.

    I do believe that the growing scientific data regarding the limited capacity of the plantes resources is opening many eyes to the partnership worldview. Science should be impartial and provide us the data to make our analyses of situations.
    Th concept that ” the partnership worldview immunizes its holders against the paradox of domination” set out above is not one I am comfortable with. I can see the partnership world view attempts to do exactly that, however I would say that once the ability to dominate is there and illustrated it is always there whether you try and protect against it ir not.
    Immunization against domination will only come when there is a change in the concept of profit. Maybe the partenrship worldview addresses this further elsewhere. The determination of what is a profit is what will drive resource usage. As long as society stresses financial profit over all else, the 24 hour news cycle that is the reality in todays world will push corporations to continue to exploit our natural resources without concern for sustainability.

    • I found many points of this article to be very interesting, including the idea of “resilience thinking” which is something that I have not encountered before. The line that caught my attention and caused me to reevaluate my current state of thought was:” I want to shift from questions about how we ‘manage’ natural resources to how we manage ourselves to support nature’s resilience.” I have continually encountered ideas and arguments concerning the management of wildlife. One practice that I have always found odd is the creation of artificial wetlands and marshes; why are the natural ones able to survive and prosper? I think that in our current state it is critical that we shift our train of thought to how we can live with the environment instead of forcing it to deal with our way of life. The article gives many examples of tribes whose way of life did not require being destructive toward the environment. The idea of resilience thinking hinges largely on respect. I think that if we think with greater respect from the world around us that we will consider our consequences more and our actions will alter greatly. This idea might even be able to be taken a step further and if we respect our environment more we might also respect one another more. Now that we recognize that there is a need to reevaluate how we interact with our world the question is whether or not we will take up and can handle the responsibility. In my opinion we have no choice and it is our innate responsibility to respect the environment and all those included within it. I think it is sad to think that cultures have been living in this same space for thousands of years without harming the environment and within a few centuries we have been able to destroy it.

      • Hi Ashley, thank for your comment. I think the value of respect is important here–and it is linked to reciprocity. That is,t he lives that we respect, we treat with reciprocity, returning in kind what they give us. The question about wetlands is an interesting one– “mitigation”– the idea that we can build on a natural wetland and replace it with a human-build wetland somewhere else is a problematic one. As you note, it entails the idea that nature must adapt to us rather than vice versa– there is ample time of testing to indicate which approach is more successful over the long haul.

    • We need to un-train ourselves to dominate nature. Nobody wants to be disturbed by anyone or anything. The same freedoms that protect us permit the NIMBY state of mind. If you have money and a lawyer you can make a case for why you should not have to make sacrifice for the greater good. This is not right, policy must help protect and repair the environment by using laws, yes laws! to promote change. If nothing changes nothing will ever change. We must consider those who were here before us to truly understand what the solution is to the drastic environmental problems at hand.

      • You have a very important point in the necessity to “unlearn” domination. Your point about freedom is interesting: It seems to me that it is not exactly democratic “freedom” when some have the power or right to undercut the well-being of others. And it is absolutely true that we can hardly expect a chance in our current environmental crises if we are not willing to make any changes ourselves.

  2. Thanks for your very thoughtful reply, Joe.
    Worldview is bound up (consciously or unconsciously) in all our decisions: thus societies based on a partnership worldview may have the ability to dominate but choose not to.This is indicated by many tales from oral traditions in these societies that illustrate the dangers of the attitude of domination. The results that flowed from such a worldview are indicated above.
    The partnership worldview robs humans of ways of seeing “earth others” as objects or “lower life forms” or backward peoples that can be used by those higher up in some hierarchy.
    The partnership worldview, in that it allocates agency to all earth others, inhibits reducing them to some usury value.
    This is where your point about changing current global market systems is an important one. There is much work done on how undemocratic current systems are in terms of the way they structure human interaction both between humans and between humans and the natural world. You might be interested in checking out some of the short audio pieces on the Tapestry of the Commons site on this point:
    http://www.tapestryofthecommons.org/commons/rights_for_nature.html.
    At the very least, we have an irrational system, from the standpoint of the majority of its users, since it rewards a few for the production of socially and ecological undesirable ends.
    Mark Sagoff is an ecological economist who addresses the need to change the idea of values and enlarge democratic participation in current global economies.
    Thanks again for your comments.

  3. Embracing the partnership worldview would help change mass views of what profit is. I feel that the partnership worldview would immunize against the paradox domination because when we are all equal partners there is nothing to be gained by taking from your partner; in hurting half, one only hurts the whole. I have recently read a book about the Aborigines in Australia and they share this same partnership worldview. It is clear that the worlds addiction to material abundance, and control is a blind attempt at accomplishment. It seems this partnership worldview, Resilience paradigm clears the eyes to what is factual; the pesticides we poison this planet with do poison us, with the very life-giving sustainance of contaminated breastmilk. The partnership worldview embraces a more conscious approach to living– one must be conscious of their actions and belief systems because they are directly affected by them– as opposed to the blind attempt at success, accomplishment, achievement that allows unconscious following of popular patterns, media encouraged obsessions and belief systems, and ultimately the loss of our health/sustenance, and the health and sustainability of this planet.

  4. In response to Professor Holden’s posting, and comments on the choice not to take advantage of the opportunity of dominance: many egalitarian societies, when one from the group attempts to dominate, group members simply do not comply. They do not make him wrong, punish him, or enforce their wishes upon him. They just live their life equally and when one chooses something that does not suit them they move on, one could alway join if he chose equality once more but he is also free to choose his own path. I wanted to point this out because it seems is often so easy to approach an issue with the intent to do good and bring equality but it often goes awry when one makes another wrong as opposed to leading by example– Interesting. I guess this concept would fit right into ecofeminism?

  5. I appreciate the idea of going beyond thinking of “natural resource management” to the concept that WE are the resource that we have to manage. We also cannot try to manage human activity from a perspective of isolation (that human activity exists outside of nature, but must consider that all of our actions have a “ripple effect” on our entire ecosystem.

  6. Hi Kelly, thanks for bringing up several important points here. It is obvious that you have some perceptions about the working of partnership societies. Your idea about leading by example rather than coercion is an important one.
    I like the way in which you used the example of breast milk contamination to indicate the interdependence of our world which the partnership paradigm shows us!
    This discussion brings to mind the remark of Nobel Laureate Chinua Achebe who wrote novels expressions the power of oral tradition in Igbo society. An interviewer once asked him if he thought his natal society was a “utopia”. He answered that there was no such thing as a utopian society: some societies just fought the “human instincts of self-destruction” better than others.
    Such societies recognized the dangers of greed and arrogance, for instance, and worked to create other social values. Not incidentally, these societies were also ones in which their members seemed to be relatively satisfied (perhaps because they allowed so much choice on the part of their members–and their members thus chose what made them happiest?)
    Much to think about here!

  7. Essential points, Rachel! This is also, as Kelly indicates, a part of the partnership paradigm: that we manage ourselves rather than coerce or use others as we recognize our interdependent world.

  8. I agree that we all need to be responsible for how we use our resources and that our actions do have consequences. If we do not take care of the resources that we have, eventually those resources will be consumed.

    I also agree that we can not force our beliefs on other people and the best way to initiate change is by setting an example.

    It is also important as the article states that we increase our listening skills in order to hear and learn of others views and beliefs. By doing this we may realize that our way may not be the best way or that there is a better or more efficient way of doing things than our own way.

    • Thank you for both a thoughtful and open-minded response, Pam. I also think it illustrates why ethics is pragmatic: as we listen to others, we increase our own knowledge of the consequences of our actions– and thus our possibility of survival.

  9. Despite different perspectives on the natural world, we as humans are beginning to listening to the interconnectedness of life by embracing a partnership worldview. The Not in My Backyard attitude is being replaced with the more realistic attitude, of what’s not in my backyard now will affect what’s in my backyard later. Both science and nature and nature can agree that we are part of the natural environment and what affects the natural environment will ultimately affect us. By adopting a partnership world view we can cease trying to control the natural world around us and instead focus on fostering a democracy among all living things. By fostering equality we can finally take pride in how we share our world.

  10. A partnering worldview is something so important to all of us, I am grateful for the thoughtful article and many examples you have provided for us. When we take the time to get out of ourselves and study what life was like before western influence we can see why our world is in such peril overall, and in local communities.
    The sense of entitlement and desire for profit has caused much of our society to disregard, or just stay blissfully ignorant to this partnering worldview that is best for the world, and all its inhabitants equally.
    As a resident of Astoria your example of the salmon issues definitely hit home. An ethics of consideration for both the salmon and the fisherman is absolutely needed to restore their numbers and continue to provide for the fisherman and their families. The consideration for the fish themselves was disregarded for so long that it will now be a major challenge to replenish the population to what it once was, if that is even possible.
    A changing of the guard in this country will hopefully lead to a greater understanding of the masses; that an expanded range of vision about our Earth is absolutely necessary to help ensure a healthy, thriving planet for future generations.

    • Hi Aaron,
      Thank you for a thoughtful and hopeful, as well as eloquent, response. I feel privileged to have worked with the elders who express such ideas–and to be able to teach and write on this topic.

  11. This was a real eye opener for me. I belive we have to take responsiblitly for the things we do to our earth, and we dont do it enough. There was a quote that i feel sums it up, ” The earth is alive, it has a heart”. I think that so many people mess with the ecosystem and dont understand its effect on us and everything around us. I feel that many people dont have these issue with the salmon, beavers around them so they dont worry about it. I appricate everyone that speaks out about these isssues and so many more because i dont think that enough people do it , including my slef. I know that i need to be more educated about these issues so that i can also too help make a difference. i really enjoyed this article.

  12. Hi Meagan, thanks for your kind and thoughtful comment. I appreciate your openness and sense of personal responsibility.

  13. It seems to me that the Native Americans have known what we are still learning, and that is the concept of sustainability. I hesitate to use the term “green” like one of the other posters did because it seems to be just a term that corporations stick on a product to make people feel like they are doing the right thing, but the notion behind the term is a good one. I think that this article touches on something that is missing in modern day society, and that is being connected to your land, food, resources, and natural world. Mary Heck’s testimony shows us how connected she was to the natural world that surrounded her. The fact that she mourned the loss of the beaver not only because of the benefit it provided her in food gathering, but because she regarded it as a friend or necessary part of her world. We as people need to be more in touch with our natural surroundings so that we may foster such reverence for the environment in ourselves and others that Mary Heck had for her natural surroundings. I believe that we need to get away from the concept that “We know best,” and realize that we don’t. Nature has been managing itself far longer than we have, its expirience far outweighs our “knowledge”. The concept of managing people is the correct one. All the natural resource managers in the world are not managing nature, they are managing our effects on nature.

    • A very perceptive reply, Andrew. The partnership stance implies that we think of natural life on its own terms (as our kin and comrade) rather than “raw material” or “natural resource” we can use as we wish. Thanks for the comments on managing ourselves as well.

  14. I really agree with Andrew– I feel we could learn much if we’d slow our “blind (lacking experience) actions and watch and learn from nature. I agree that the success of this planet is due to the intuitive nature of… nature– we should open our eyes to this. We are young to this world and its ways– we’ve much to learn.

  15. I found it interesting that this article speaks to the negative effects that the depletion of the beaver population has caused. It made me wonder about the extent of the recent flooding found in Northern Oregon and Washington. As the wetlands disappeared the land was conscripted for use and abuse by those not necessarily in sync with nature. Wetlands and flood planes may be built upon but there is no guarantee natural water pathways won’t return. It is a mystery to me that people express surprise when the water resurfaces in traditional waterways.

    It is also amazing and hard to comprehend how far away from the “partnership” worldview society has traveled, although the pendulum may be rebounding. Currently a large percentage of the population rely on means and avenues beyond their control for survival. Food and clothing are purchased through a profit driven system which may begin outside the U.S. It is no longer necessary to rely totally on locally made products, trade or natural resources. As far as the food supply is concerned this potentially introduces pesticides, preservatives, and additives that contain little or no nutritional value but may be detrimental to one’s health.

    The partnership model of a reciprocal relationship with the natural world would alleviate these negative consequences. Many indigenous cultures have modeled aspects of successful cohabitation with nature. It most definitely requires a different mindset than currently can be found within the confines of an instant gratification, fast paced, technological and consumer driven market society.

    • Thanks for your very thoughtful comment, Colleen. Very important observation about the wetlands. Wetlands helped control floodwaters as well as protecting our water table. Various storm water departments in Willamette Valley cities are encouraging the use of swales, etc. by developers to keep stormwater on the sites where it falls rather than flooding our rivers (and treatment facilities). We certainly need our wetlands: one man on the news (re the current flooding in Washington) remarked that he had seen two “500 year floods” (so large that previously happened only every 500 years) in the last two years. Of course, indigenous peoples did not build permanent dwellings on flood plains. Taking trees off the land doesn’t help either. When the tangle of roots that used to hold saturated soil on clay slopes are no longer there, landslides are more common. We certainly need to think more about what we are doing in terms of both working with nature and nurturing ourselves. Pointedly, all this rain and floodwater is also linked to drought– for there is less means for the land to keep its water. Hopefully, we wise up a bit flood cycles before we are experiencing in the Northwest echo what happened historically in the Middle East: https://holdenma.wordpress.com/2008/10/23/gilgamesh-and-other-pioneers-in-paradise/.

  16. Although I might be burned at the stake for this, but, I thought the essay was a little lofty in its goals. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big proponent of incorporating the life of the environment with the life of humans and having them as one and the same, but, I think that applying the partnership model and the resilience paradigm will absolutely take time to implement and will need statistics to prove their success in the dominance world. For this reason, I was really excited with the mention of Barbara McClintock’s work in genetics because this is a quantifiable science that can be presented to many and understood easily through mathematics. This, then, gets me to my next observation that much of the value of the environment is unquantifiable in mathematical terms. I mean, how does one quantify the value of a mountain lion in terms of an esoteric system, like cost-benefit analysis? Further, it may not be even possible to apply the two ways of life to the present working generation due to the idea that “this dominance worldview has worked for hundreds of years why change it”. But, I think there is a way out of this quantification barrier, in that, these environmental values, partnership and mutual respect for the environment specifically, can be implemented to the younger generation without need for much mathematics and statistics about how it works. I believe that incorporating these values, through cartoons, Sesame Street, etc., can have a lasting effect on these young people and can influence them when they become part of the working generation. The change would not need many statistics and may only take, optimistically, one or two generation’s time to incorporate. But, again, this is probably as lofty an application as the idea of incorporating the environmental life and human life are to be one. However, I do agree with the author that there needs to be a partnership with the natural world but to coin a cliché, “this may be easier said than done”.

    • No burning going on on this site: Except maybe here: https://holdenma.wordpress.com/?s=burning+down+the+house (!) Thanks for your comment, which leads to the opportunity to discuss this issue.
      The issue of quantitative versus qualitative method in science is an important one. In fact, many scientists do not believe that something has to be quantifiable in order to be valid. Quantification (a reductive representation of something — numerical values, that is, are not a given– they are ASSIGNED). Thus, for instance, the mathematician Kurt Goedel won the Nobel Prize for his elegant mathematical proof that we can only “prove” mathematically what we originally assume. That is, all quantification is based on a priori assumptions that we can never get beyond in a mathematical proof. This is true in statistics– which never actually predict something with certainty, but instead gives us probability and relationships (correlations), depending on what values are assigned to the things they are graphing. This is why it is so important to examine our assignments of value to particular things– whether or not that value is numerical. In this context, I’m not sure I would consider McClintock’s work quantitative, but qualitative.
      If you are looking for results, I cannot think of any more profound ones than the results of the environmental choices of native peoples in the Pacific Northwest.
      My guess, however, that you are also getting at a different idea: how can we replicate certain results in the short term in the modern era? There is (at least) a twofold issue here: one, how do we create a paradigm for thinking that matches the order of the world with which we are dealing? And are there things that are at base not quantifiable (in market terms, for instance): the latter is addressed in the idea of “intrinsic worth”.
      Do we really want to quantify a value of a human life, for instance– even though risk-benefit analysis has done this in many cases? What is most interesting to me here is the ways in which particular ethical systems coincide with pragmatic environmental results. History is certainly a way of examining such results.
      As for the ease of establishing such things: you might be interested in the work called Panarchy in which a number of natural resource managers are putting resilience thinking into practice. This model may not be more simple or convenient, but it gives more options– and allows us to discern more feedback from the natural world, both of which we are in sore need of today.
      Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

  17. I hate to lay this old line on all of you, but THINK OF THE CHILDREN! Seriously. They will be saddled with what have left behind. I feel very strongly that it is up to us, those who educate themselves with open minds, to promote ideas such as the partnership worldview as well as other ecologically sound ideas. We on this discussion board all clearly agree in principle about the partnership model, but the question remains: How do we get this idea of reciprocity with the natural world to ears that are clogged with greed, shortsightedness, and vanity? They’ll want to know what’s in it for them, and we can’t lose sight of that because they are the one’s who control things. So the question really is: How can we approach what many will surely view with skepticism (the partnership worldview) in a way that will satisfy ignorance’s need to save face?

    I am trying to make the point that the questions we face in regards to the effects of how humans interact with the natural world are philosophical ones, but the answers lie in psychology. It is people’s minds that must change. They must not only change, they must embrace ideas that promote a more clean, sound, and efficient eco-system. However, I have developed a cynicism over the years that makes me wonder how long this will take in light of our inability to treat other humans with respect, let alone the environment.

    This is where you, the future teachers and administrators, come in. The partnership worldview, or at least an introduction to it, needs to be included in childhood curriculum, as should other ideas and models that fit the broader topic of cultivating a more harmonious planet. I believe that the only way to introduce important ideas, especially those that have proven themselves over centuries, is to legitimize them through the education of those who will someday inherit our legacy.

    • Thank you for both your caring and thoughtful response, Mike. I agree with you about speaking to both the hearts and minds of others. And I certainly won’t argue with your idea about the importance of education. Having said as much, I might add that I think we are all teachers and learners– folks in positions like my own have a bit of status that we should use with care and responsibility. But I want to learn from my students as well–and you yourself, as your post indicates you understand, have some teaching to do as well, not least of all by what you model with your life choices.

  18. After reading this article, I began to wonder when and what made humankind more of a parasite to the environment than a partner. What it when large scale agriculture and farming started? Was it when weapons were created to kill other human beings instead of for hunting? (Just think of all of the natural resources militaries use: land, gas, metals, food…) Or was it when currency was created, giving value to something simply because other people find value in it, having no other purpose than to be valuable? Unfortunately, I don’t think that we will be able to become partners once again with nature anytime soon, at least not in my lifetime.

    One part of the article that really made me think was the paradox “the more one tries to control a thing, the less one sees it for what it is”. It made me think about not only how we try to control nature, but also how we try to control ourselves. We take medications to control our moods, we conform to what society expects of us, we get plastic surgery and so on. Then I starting thinking about human technology, and how much it has contributed to the overuse of natural resources, while at the same time we are using technology to repair and stabilize the very environment that technology helped destroy. At least now we seem to be on the right path with our growing use of reusable resources such as solar and wind power.

    • Hi Jessica, thanks for your response. You raise some important questions here: by understanding how our historical choices led to certain outcomes, we can gauge something of the consequences of our future choices.
      Your personal passion and care helps give me hope– I only hope you are wrong in one respect– that you do see this kind of change in your lifetime. I have seen a good deal of disaster, but also many, many changes and reasons to hope in my own life.

  19. I think that there are so many examples of this beaver effect in our environment. Our world used to be in harmony with the creatures that lived on it.

    Dinosaurs lived on this earth for 200 MILLION years, and something catastrophic killed them. Humans have been on this earth for 2.5 million, and ones like us for only approx 200,000 years. With more dramatic changes being in the last 1000 years, and the most dramatic for the environment in the last 100 years. How many more years will humans make it before we kill ourselves off? Everyone assumes that animals are not “as smart” as us, but we are heading for the destruction of ourselves in a fraction of the time. We think we are getting smarter… but are we?

    Here is a recent example. In Michael Pollen’s book Omnivore’s dilemma http://www.michaelpollan.com/omnivore.php He gives an example of how a good idea by humans has turned into something just short of a nightmare. It’s corn. He goes on for MANY chapters explaining how corn became a money making machine. How the government took extra postwar ammonium nitrate and made the corn grow faster, which made the corn cheaper, which meant we should grow more corn. In turn we gave up the pastures for corn to grow, and started feeding it to our animals and we no longer grazed them, in turn we they got sick, so we gave them antibiotics. Then our children consume antibiotics from a small age in their milk. In the 80’s we had too much corn, so we learned how to turn it into corn syrup and now it’s in everything you eat. There is corn in your cows, corn in your chickens, your eggs, your soda and your cheese. Is corn good for us? Nothing is good for us in such large qualities… and some believe it is a big culprit in our obesity health crisis.
    Any one who has ever had real free range chickens, or grass fed beef knows the difference in taste. There is some research that shows there is also a difference in nutritional value. Let’s take chickens for example…. Free range chickens eat a variety of things, but one big part of their diets are bugs and worms. Bugs and worms provide the chicken protein; in turn the chicken provides you protein in your eggs. There is no protein in corn.

    Now we want to make fuel out of corn? What about the water the energy it takes to make the corn. Is all those fertilizers and pesticides good for our environment? And how about the water it takes? Is all that really better than burning fossil fuels? I’m not convinced.

    Ummmmm…. I think I got off-topic.

    I started off with the thought of something that seems good turning into something with a much greater impact. The beaver fur for the clothes….

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Angie. It seems you are a bit off the topic here, though this is obviously something you care about. Did you know Michael Pollen sent a letter to Obama about the need to exercise leadership in farm policy. The problems with monocrops are also related to the technology that attempts to control the land– as in the case of the single crop of corn.

  20. I would like to add to the current discussion something I think that has an important place here but has not been mentioned too often, that is perspective and respect. In the article we hear of Mary Heck who mourned the loss of her beaver friend when the beavers homes had been destroyed. We hear of people “treating all natural life as their intimate kin, with standing comparable to that of humans” and we hear of fishermen who are “Respecting the salmon as partners with humans”. These perspectives are clearly lined with a solid respect for other living things, while they are beautiful they are not the common perspectives for the average American (at least as far as I have seen). It seems that cause and effect are ignored and problem solution are attended to. For example urban sprawl,
    problem: not enough space to build single family homes solution: spread out side city limits, clear land, build there.
    What is forgotten;
    cause: destruction of natural environment to build single family homes, strip malls, movie theatres, etc…
    effect: loss of natural habitat, land slides, erosion, endangered species

    How does a child who is born in an average middleclass home (or any home) grow up with the perspective of a partnership with all living things when they are surrounded by toys that think for them, food that they have never see grown and forests that they don’t even know exist let alone what is in them? How can one see past the inundations of modern commercialism and urban sprawl?
    While these questions may loom about I remain hopeful that the partnership worldview will soon be the common perspective

  21. Unfortunately we seem to be repeating the same mistakes over and over. From the initial settlers to the industrial revolution to today, we have held tight to the idea that everthing is a commodity to be bought/sold/consumed, and that supplies are inexaustible. We have had many opportunities to learn from our mistakes, and from other cultures with better understanding. Clearly we are all connected to the Natural World, but I think most people refuse to recognize it because it would mean they would have to admit to themselves their part in the irresponsible way we have treated our environmet.
    Adopting the “Partnership Worldview” would require a major philosophical change, and I believe future generations are our best hope of achieving that through focused education on these ideas. To affect change in todays population we need to promote other benefits as well. For example, the environmental benefits of renewable energy will appeal to some people, but when you add less dependancy on foreign oil, and increased national security to the argument, you engage a larger segment of the population.
    Creative thinking and broad vision will be needed to start us on the right path, and I hope that the next generation will be able to look back and say that we gave them that start.

  22. Thanks for your comment, John. It is certainly important to plan a way to get from where we are today to where we want to be. I agree that “creative thinking and broad vision” are needed: so are modeling changes for others in small everyday actions. As you indicate, change can come from sharing the benefits of environmentally positive changes. In a general sense, since our environmental actions tend to have so many self-destructive consequences, we have plenty of material to base this argument on.

  23. While I agree with virtually everything said about the article and its assertions from an ideologic standpoint, the issues are terribly complex from a practical standpoint. For example, Jessie made valid points about urban sprawl, but the reality is that people need habitat, too. I’ve had to live in apartments in the city with my three kids, and it was very unnatural and destructive in more ways than I’ll name here. While we certainly can do without the movie theatres, we need healthy homes. But the solution, I think, might be found in dialogue, compromise and respect for one anothers views, even though we might disagree. I liked the reference to the fact “that the more one tries to control a thing, the less one sees it for what it is.” Finding a balance that is practical and respectful is certainly a challenge worthy of our best efforts.

    • Nice perspective, Carol. In my own neighborhood association we are dealing with the complex developmental choices in terms of infill and limiting “vehicles miles traveled”, while honoring the need for protecting existing biodiverse habitat. One thing that is interesting is the fact that the size of US houses per person has almost doubled since the 1950s; we likely need to go back to more moderate living space and make the most of this. I like your point about balance.

  24. I love the use of the word partnership as a description for relationship with nature. I was recently reintroduced to the idea of synergy: that the sum of all parts is greater than the whole. I think that so often, our culture has a selfish outlook. In the past, our culture has allowed one to take without looking back at the consequences. Instead of reaping the substantial benefits that would come from a harmonious partnership with nature, one tries to benefit individually by taking (and destroying) the parts that seem profitable at the time. This article demonstrates that parts of nature have been destroyed, and the solution requires a synergetic partnership- where one does not take from individual parts, but benefits by contributing to the whole.
    On another note, I cannot help but apply the term partnership in our relationship with other human beings as well. Many of our struggles have stemmed from human conflict. Not unlike our relationship with nature, our relationships with other humans have been destroyed by our selfish outlook that looks to take instead of contribute. By viewing our relationships as partnerships, we can begin to mend and improve our personal relationships, just as we will begin to improve our relationship with the natural world.

    • Hi Katelyn, thanks for your comment. I certainly like the word partnership as well and concur with your basic idea that the way in which we treat the environment is linked to the way in which we treat other humans. Both of these relationship are in need of repair– as you indicate.

  25. I was impressed by Mary Heck for speaking up for the beaver, the beaver that has no voice. The beaver’s home is just important to it as anyone else’s to them. When Mary mourned a loss of a friend, she mourned the loss of the beaver. The beavers are a friend because they provided a better place for the women of the tribe. The beavers helped create wetlands that provide habitat for plant and animal life. People used to understand how important these things are but now people don’t see past what they are doing because our culture has taken us into a more modern and technological time with so many advances that aren’t good to Earth. Many humans are so out of touch with nature and what nature can do for us because now, bringing home the paycheck is more of a concern. Most modern jobs do not respect nature anymore. We need to learn how to manage ourselves so we do not disrupt nature’s course. We need to become more aware and conscious that all things exist together. Humans are parallel to nature. Changes in one domain of the system inevitably impact the other, Brian Walker says. We are all basically made up of the same molecules and atoms just in different ways to for different species. Natural life talks back to us and we need to listen. I would love to have been around to see the world before it was rearranged by man, for instance Celilo Falls before they put the damn in. I was told that it sounded like thunder; once the damn was built there was silence.

    • Hi Laura, thank you for your caring and thoughtful comment. We certainly become both destructive to the natural world and self-destructive when we forget, as you point out, that we are made of the same molecules as all life– and the least we can do is listen when it speaks to us– even is this is not in a “human” language.

  26. Everything living thing is valuable, the beaver, salmon or the wetlands. Each plays a major roll, without one the other will not thrive. In society today, people forget what is really important, as Esther Stutzman says,“The earth is alive. It has a heart”. This statement is true, through and through. In our society people are not listing, they don’t have the time or won’t make the time to take a step back and get back the connection with nature. Balance is the key to make everything work in harmony. If humans continue on this path they are our children’s won’t have the natural resources or quality of life as we do.

  27. I found this article to be very interesting. It’s not hard to imagine wetlands along the Willamette River or the wildlife that would have inhabited them. It never ceases to amaze me how a few shortsighted people can impact everyone and everything else. For instance, in my hometown the city planners decided to open up areas that were previously considered unbuildable and let ethically challenged land developers bend rules that were originally set up for the benefit of the city. For sixty years the city had maintained some areas as urban wetlands that filled up with water during the winter and spring and kept adjacent properties from flooding. Every year there were crickets, dragonflies, butterflies, frogs, raccoons, opossums and occasionally there were even ducks, skunks, hawks and an owl or two. After the city decided to let the builder cut down trees, level the land and build two-story monstrosities the homeowners started having flooding problems and losing their trees because the saturated ground can’t hold them. All and all a prime example of how a natural system of water collection was destroyed and in turn it obliterated the wildlife and plants that flourished there. The local high school, which has an environmental study program, would have benefitted if the city had stayed partnered with the natural world. This decision also affected the city sewer which now gets more run off and in times of heavy rains the sewer system gets overwhelmed and raw sewage is released into the Willamette which affects all organisms downstream. These shortsighted planners should have tried to understand why the city forefathers had left open areas in the city for so long but they couldn’t seem to see ahead anymore then early settlers could in regards to the benefits of beaver dams.

    • Hi Teresa, this is a striking example of the unplanned changes that “planners” allow for the sake of economic profit– when there are long term consequences as well as so many other kinds of profit to consider. Thanks for sharing it. I do hope we can learn from our mistakes…

  28. I think it is interesting that we so easily disregard how nature is our support system. We truly are the ones that need to be managed. I can only imagine how this poor woman was devastated to see not only her peoples land destroyed but the reciprocal relationship they had developed with the beaver.

  29. I find paradox and continuity in the information presented by Dr. Holden in her article “Partnering with the Natural World”. My primary observation is how doubt of innate anthropogenic accuracy fostered scientific research which simply proved ancient connective philosophy. The human need for comprehension fosters the inquiry which leads to research and innovation; ironically, the conclusion of past examinations has led to reaffirmations of instinctive forces obviously hard-wired into human existence.
    The current shift into ecosystem focused management is a common conclusion reached also by ancient tribal cultures. Nonetheless, the current execution of our knowledge is not comparable to the efficacy of ancient management strategies; our population and relatively recent discovery of anthropogenic impact has rendered great difficulty in implementing conservation and sustainability. Through our quest of improvement and control, we have discovered a path of destruction and submission.
    We have succeeded in detracting wholly from direct relationship with nature and have no reasonable means of willfully reverting to our ancient state. As a result, we have no choice but to integrate our current technological and industrial knowledge with the proven right of our connection with nature. I feel as though a complete reversal of time and space to the hunter-gatherer, tribal nations which recognized our natural kinship would lead only to a repetition of our current plight. Therefore, in order to maintain some degree of linear success, we must focus our energies toward recognition of ecological interdependence while accepting the need for certain creature comforts.
    Is there any way this discrepancy and waste could have been avoided? Probably not. As dictated in this article, humans are as much a part of the natural world as any other organism. Therefore, our motives, whether emotional, logical, economical, or physiological, are part of the whole and serve some ecological purpose. Even if we are parasitic, infectious or destructive in some other way, the subjective nature of our function is irrelevant if we truly appreciate the complexity and holistic nature of the Earth dynamic.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful response. You have raised some complex issues here, Jenna.It is not actually true that all human social evolution leads to the environmental destruction we are now recognizing in modern US society. It is true (at least I haven’t seen any counter-examples) that all colonial societies wind up this way. Indigenous societies are another matter. See the page on this site entitled “indigenous societies”: last year’s “expert’s gathering” of the UN indicated that indigenous societies actually show us an alternative to the assumptions that humans eventually either increase their populations and/or ravage their lands. We may also want to define what we mean by “creature comforts”–the San peoples of the Kalahari spent about 2 hours a day 2-3 days a week providing for subsistence and the rest of the time on creative and social pursuits. Industrialism raises the carrying capacity of the land in the short term, but it actually leads to more work, not more leisure, for individual humans. The advantage of a cross-cultural perspective is that we can see more options– we need all the creative ways we can think of to honor the “rights” of connection to nature (an interesting and I think, pointed way of putting this issue) and the ethical perspectives of past sustainable societies.
      There is another issue to assess here: whereas current industrial farming techniques (such as mono-cropping and till agriculture) may raise the level of production of single crops in the short run, they are having serious long term effects on the fertility of the land– which we cannot afford period– but certainly in the context of growing human populations. Check out the essay , “The Green Revolution– Whoops”– on this site. And keep thinking critically as you assimilate new information! Thanks again for your comment.

  30. I have always thought that most people do not have a clue when it comes to understand and respecting the natural world. Today, I do my best to reduce my carbon footprint and become more eco-friendly, but I do not think these acts really bring a person closer to nature. I think a person needs to feel nature by being immersed in it.

    Mary Heck pleaded for Beaver life because she loved and respected Beaver’s place in the world. I think this type of relationship is challenging for todays people to understand because the only exposure that some have had the natural world is through television. As we know television is not real life and the relationships that are formed are also not real. For example viewers can watch animals and habitat being mismanaged or mistreated, but when they turn off the TV set it is not affecting them any longer. They have no real attachment to the issues. This is a sad state of being to be in. People need to go outside and get involved in the world around them.

    I have always respected the teachings of the native people. I grew up in a community surrounded by four tribes on the coast of Washington. I learned a great deal from their stories and their conservation practices. In the future as a natural resource manager I hope to have a positive influence on people by helping them create better relationships with the natural world.

    • Hello, Ann, thank you for your comment. An interesting point about viewers assuming that problems go away after a TV set is turned off… it sounds like you have taken advantage of the opportunity to learn some things about our natural world in a very different way. I like what you said about Mary Heck. Congratulations on your future goals. One of the things we surely need most of all in the present day is the combination of science and ethics.

  31. It is interesting for me to think about what essential quality is missing in people that pursue the thoughtless course of modern, destructive, out of balance practices for short-sighted profits, when for others, it is so obvious that these practices will bring about the destruction of the earth which sustains us, and thus, the destruction of human beings. Why are people afraid of culture that respects the earth and when will they realize that all this materialism does not make them happy, neither does it nourish our mother earth? I don’t know, but it would be interesting to learn more about where and how that psychology comes about, and how maybe it can be healed. As Jessie pointed out above, how will we get these people to change their ways, and how will children raised in modern lifestyles gain the relationship with nature that causes a deep respect and care for the earth? Well, we do see that there has been some awakening in people, since the situation has become so out of hand. They want to know why they get cancer, why the sky is dirty, why they can’t swim in the river, and why they don’t feel happy. So they start to find out. Indigenous people are starting to take a stand against corporations that want to destroy their cultures, because there are organizations willing to help them; it can be shown that modern development has not helped any tribe in the past. It is time to stand up to the big lie of science and development. It seems that education and activism are the main things that will turn the tide. Each of us doing everything we can to live lighter and wiser on the earth, and making that awareness spread wherever we can, especially in our schools and with our farmers and ultimately law makers.

    • Thank you for your comment, Leslie. There are some very thoughtful and well taken points about both activism and education in your words-and an obvious personal commitment to the earth we share. It has always seemed to me that learning and acting are linked in the ways that you intimate. If we know something needs to change, we are honoring ourselves and our ideas by working to make that change. You have a point about problems with development: far too often it is what Vandana Shiva calls “mal-development”– a one-way extraction of resources from the land or people supposedly being developed. Neither our natural resources nor our human communities can survive this process for long.

  32. I believe there are consequences to our actions and the destruction of the only home we have is the biggest consequence. And it will result in the demise of humanity. We cannot live without the Earth so I would have to say we should start listening intensely. Future generations depends on us incorporating the partnership worldview into our daily lives. There is no going back but what we do today is important. So as long as there are voices speaking out such as these in this article, then nature will be heard.

    • Thank you for sharing your passion here, Tina. Our survival and that of future generations depends, as you indicate, on our listening to the words of the elders in this essay–and the “elders” in natural systems, which were here before us.

  33. We need more people like Mary Heck who will speak for the animals, the waters, the trees. We have become a culture of domination: a culture that thinks that human beings are the most important factor. This speaks of an overwhelming sense of entitlement. How can we, coming from a place of entitlement and domination, move to a partnership worldview and learn to share our world?

    Education seems to be the answer but when I think of the many millions or even billions of people whose worldview is one of domination and control over the natural world, it seems like the ethic of reciprocity is a long way from being common thinking. As mentioned in the essay, a crucial first step may indeed be to free ourselves “from the constraints of the ruling paradigm” and begin to tell a different story, begin to live a different story. My fear is that the world may not be able to wait for us to learn this lesson.

    • Hi Dazzia, thank you for your pointed comment. Well said! I take heart from all those who are working for change, as well as those who have lived in partnership with the natural world for so many generations–and those who, like yourself, obviously care deeply. I understand your sense of imperative here as well. I can only hope with you that we learn just how destructive the domination paradigm is to ourselves as well as to our world.

  34. I think it is very important that the notion of “Not in My Backyard” has been mentioned. There are so many people, often those in the more wealthy areas, that refuse to deal with environmental problems because they feel that they aren’t relevant to them or aren’t affecting their lives. We need to stop assuming that it is someone else’s problem. This is OUR earth. Not yours, not mine, not his, not hers, but OURS. We share it and need to take care of it together.
    Just because you can’t see a problem out of your kitchen window, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Many are blind to the issues that our environment is facing. We need to open the eyes of all humanity and create a partnership among all life so that we may succeed together. Our world is our future. Let’s take care of it.

  35. If animals such as beavers and salmons were able to speak out against the injustice humans committed to them, which testimony would they bear? I guess a devastating one. As a matter of fact, speaking out for those who are unable to protect their interests by themselves is a work of charity and humanity. This very common in a society, where humanism and democracy prevails. If we were all purely altruistic, we should speak out against the injustice committed to those animals, because it harms the existence of other beings on this planet and even whole ecosystems. But if we do not dare to speak out for the sake of altruism, let us speak out for the sake of egoism, because we are harming ourselves by harming those animals. After reading this article, I consider it to be a confirmation of all those views that I used to hold on this issue. By focusing solely on short-term benefits, we risk that important resources cease to exist and thus, we fail to leave some benefits of them to future generations.

    • Thanks for your comment, Nick. Your logic is flawless here: there is no reason NOT to speak out (and act) on behalf of those who share our world– for their sakes and for ours. Your words point out how irrational is a system that urges us to believe we are acting in our own self-interest when we are in fact undermining the systems that support our lives.

  36. As Chehalis elder Mary Heck saw the dramatic changes to the land by the relentless trapping of beavers and draining of wetlands for farming by the pioneers, it shows how land management is not at all like managing a business or other entity. As Coos-Kalapuya elder Esther Stutzman says ‘The earth is alive. It has a heart’ (Holden 2). Indigenous peoples see the land and all life in nature as being a person. So the partnership idea between nature and humans is a good way to relate and to show the need for sharing and consideration. The idea of doing something to nature to change it or control it causes our thinking to be removed from that personal connection where one sees nature as having spirit and personhood. So there is tremendous value in these concepts expressed by these elders.

    “Partnering with the Natural World” and the big effect the loss of beavers and otters have had, reminded me of the loss of wolves. It was previously thought that this dangerous predator should be eliminated and that would be a very good thing. It turns out that over hunting of wolves allowed elk to thrive in the western United States. As a result, the elk consumed young aspen tree shoots. With no predator to keep the elk populations in check, elks have been eating most of the new, tender aspen growth and in effect destroying the once large aspen forests which covered vast areas.

    http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2008/07/study-says-loss-wolves-damaging-olympic-national-parks-forest-ecosystem

    http://entomology.wisc.edu/~lindroth/PDFs/2008/Wooley%20et%20al%202008%20Rangelands.pdf

    Human actions have far reaching consequences. We must partner with nature and regain the sensitivity and listening skills that will foster a more resilient world and keep it safe for future generations.

    Jim Jarrad

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response, Jim. I understand that the presence of wolves in the Yellowstone is now allowing aspen groves to return where elk had overgrazed them. I like your link between the partnership idea and consideration for the others who share our world. Your point on wolves brings up the idea that in the development of natural systems over time, every creature has an essential part…and we have much to learn about their belonging and our own in these systems if we wish to make wise choices about our actions.

  37. Professor Holden says:

    “I want to shift from questions about how we “manage” natural resources to how we manage ourselves to support nature’s resilience.”

    and that

    “The first step in establishing a partnership is treating our partners with comparable respect to that with which we treat ourselves.”

    and then

    “In this sense, both the partnership model and the resilience paradigm offer an alternative to the dualistic split of the worldview that sets humans apart from and above nature. Both concur with the modern science that tells us whatever we do to our natural environment, we do to ourselves”

    I agree with all this, and wonder about her shift in emphasis from what we do to manage ourselves back to “what we do to nature we do to ourselves.” I wonder whether the alternate formulation “what we do to ourselves we do to nature” has a different kind of power, the power to act collectively by acting individually.

    Pleasure is a strong motivation. The Epicureans taught “eat, sleep, and be merry.” They were not gourmands; they were looking for ways to indulge in the simple life, a life made free of fear through knowledge of the nature of things. Perhaps we westerners have the makings of our own ethic buried in our cannon.

  38. Professor,

    I was wondering out loud when I responded, and have wondered some more since. I am not arguing against partnership. I am lingering on your first step to establishing a partnership: respecting ourselves. I’m thinking there’s power in the realization that the way we manage ourselves in partnership with nature is to respect ourselves. What if that is not only necessary but also sufficient.? Perhaps all we have to do to mange our relationship with nature is to respect ourselves.

    The rephrasing “whatever we do to ourselves we do to nature,” makes it clearer that to respect nature we must start with respecting ourselves; by respecting ourselves we respect nature.

    Pleasure may not be the same as self-interest but it would be a boon if respecting ourselves was pleasurable. The Epicureans point in that direction:

    It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly (agreeing “neither to harm nor be harmed),
    and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life

    Great damage is done to the environment by the disrespectful choices we make when we eat what we eat. What we eat kills our vitality. What better place to start a discussion about respect than with what is in our reach: ourselves.

    • Thanks for the response to my queries, Michael. Your elaboration on the Epicurean philosophy is interesting, and I think it certainly fits the “quote of the week”I posted on this site from Linda Hogan. I didn’t actually say that respecting ourselves is the first step in developing a partnership with the natural world; instead I said that the first step would be to give others the same respect as we give ourselves. Of course, you might well reason that this will be meaningless if we don’t respect ourselves: you have a thoughtful point there. It is true that in a top down worldview such as our own, where we see humans as presiding over the natural world, humans do not allocate the same respect to other life as to their own (not just their own species, but their own class, gender, culture, etc.) But it is also true (as your thoughtful response indicates) that the top down worldview that so undercuts the basis of our own survival does not do a very rational job of respecting ourselves in the long run.

  39. I am wondering, after reading this article, what it was that stopped the partnership worldview. This ideal seems so revolutionary now, but in reality, it was how the earth existed before we destroyed this mindset. Possibly the most definitive cause comes down to power and domination, and the fact that humans feel the need to destroy and take over, and cannot do this without ruining natural resources. In our culture, we are realizing how necessary the “Green” movement is, and how harmful we are, but we do it in such a way that we are still the most powerful creatures on earth, that we have the power to change and save the world around us, if we make the conscious decision to do so. While it is true that we are the most capable creatures to make important changes, our view is still that we need to retain our resources so that WE can enjoy it, and our future generations.

    Very rarely do we even think about other creatures, or worry about what we are doing to harm animals and land. When we do think about these, it is with a view that we are superior. It would be shocking to hear, in the media, that anything were as equal or powerful or deserving, in the world, as we humans are. In our culture, having power seems so crucial and we are unwilling to give that away to anybody else. I think we enjoy being the most powerful creatures on earth, and we refuse to believe any other part of the earth is as significant. As long as we do not have to admit this significance, we will not be able to accept the partnership worldview that others before us held.

    • Thanks for your comment Erin. You raise a key issue: we can’t change this destructive dominating behavior if we don’t know where it came from–and since the partnership view has pertained for the bulk of human history, we also want to ask what made us turn from this sustaining and democratic worldview to the dominating one that is now destroying our environment. Everywhere I have looked into this, I have seen colonialism involved.
      Still, yours is a complex question for which there is no one word answer–and which indicates why the analysis of cultural and historical context is so important.
      In fact, modern industrial society (capitalist society) is an aberration in the long span of human history– the problem is that it is a powerful one–and the dominating one in our current situation.
      Though the answer as to how this came about is complex, it is certainly bound into the misuse of power as power over others rather than power with or empowerment– thus one important step in righting this is to reassess and shift our use of power. In fact, the way we use power now has, I think, a built in self-destruct mechanism: a dominator paradox. The dominator assumes this stance for the sake of control, but in the end, attempting to stand outside the rules of natural systems will disempower us– robbing us of our own lives. And thus the dominating stance only leads to the ultimate disempowerment.

  40. To me, the partnership model and resilience paradigm are not opposite to many of the world-views that set humans apart from and above nature. Instead they are just different ideas on a spectrum of views. I happen to resonate with both concepts: because of my spiritual beliefs, I believe that we as humans are set apart from the rest of nature, however, this does not mean we are not 100% reliant upon, affected by, and existent within it. We must partner with it in a responsible and respectful way. Some call this idea “Creation Care” and I admit it is anthropocentric at its core, but the actions: the whats and hows, and thus the hoped for results encouraged by this view are in harmony with the partnership world-view even if they differ in their opinions as to why.
    I agree that those who make many of the decisions concerning the environment are not situated in a place so as to immediately comprehend or feel the effects of their decisions, but how does one get these decision makers closer while at the same time still allowing them the time to make all of the decisions that must make? It takes a long time to “listen” to nature, let alone to learn how to in the first place. When I think of agencies, I think of bureaucrats and red tape, which only further separate us from a true connection with nature and the effects we have on it and vise verse. So I too would like to know how we, and I personally, can better go about sharing our world. Hopefully, I will find some guidance to this in the next ten weeks.

    • You have raised a substantial question here indeed, Mark. I think that we do this by beginning, one step at a time, each in our own lives: we have some amazing models, such as those in the current lead essay on this site about planting a rose in wartime.
      On the point of anthropocentrism: I do agree with you that we (in fact all of life) has its own particular character–and we certainly need to understand ourselves, our potential, and our best “nature”, if you will, as we make our decisions. I don’t think we can leave our human perspective out of the equation as we care for and with our world. What we can do is assume a self-critical stance and a listening one–which, as you rightly indicate, takes much time and wisdom. But it is imperative, given the current crises we are facing, that we begin, each in our own ways. I think that it is not an all or nothing process– but that we learn to listen by beginning to do it, which gives us more tools to listen, etc.
      You raise an interesting point about perspective and distance– and time to plan. I do think you are right that we need some contemplative time in order to plan and think through our actions. Many current disasters are the result of acting without such forethought. On the other hand, I don’t think we need to be apart from our world to do such planning. As you indicate, it is important to understand the consequences of our actions–and certainly we cannot plan anything if we guard ourselves against experiencing those consequences.
      And as for what to do about agencies that already act– at a remove from the world of consequences, awareness of this issue is the first step– and some recombining of authority with responsibility. We live in a culture which has linked authority with privilege rather than responsibility and this is dangerous indeed. We cannot find too many ways to reconnect authority with service instead. On the most concrete level, we need to take away current monetary and social rewards for those corporations whose actions lead to consequences few want (pollution, poverty, etc.). And the lobbyist system in Washington has to be changed.
      Basically I think we need as many of us as are willing to do so acting creatively and responsibly in honoring and caring for our world and the gift of life within it.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  41. Partnering With The Natural World

    Paul Nash

    As I read this essay, I could hear the words of the the Pacific Northwest’s diverse indigenous cultures speaking loudly! They felt that they had been robbed by the pioneers who had come in behind them. You could see that they felt violated. I am not sure if you have ever been a victim of robbery or not. But, if you have, then, you know the feeling of being violated. Someone came into your own being and space and took and destroyed things that you had worked very hard for and things which belonged to you. It appeared, in the essay, that this was the case.

    Living in the NW of the United States in Montana and Wyoming, I remember hearing the cries of those people who had experienced very similar robberies as these people from the Pacific Northwest. And, now living in Mexico, I hear the cries of the indigenous culture here who remember well being robbed by the Spaniards who came in took claim of the things the Aztec Indians had worked so hard to preserve.

    As we partner with the natural world, we must keep before us the fact that this world is a gift. And, it is our responsibility to care for it even there may be those who wish to come in destroy and rob the resources of her beauty and resourcefulness.

    • Thank you for your comment, Paul. You might like to take a look at the the overview essay on indigenous peoples here: https://holdenma.wordpress.com/culture-and-environment/indigenous-peoples/
      It follows the recent UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and also cites the ways in which the results of indigenous management of their land for biodiversity has result in the fact that these peoples now steward eighty per cent of the world’s high biodiversity areas. Indeed, ninety-five per cent of all the world’s biodiversity currently resides on land claimed by indigenous peoples.
      Supporting the rights of indigenous peoples is a matter of justice– but it is also a matter of wise care for the earth we share.

  42. The idea of respecting the natural world by appreciating the rights of animals and plants to live as much as humans is helpful to allowing the world to survive. It resonates with the Native American view of subsistence. When they kill a fish or deer or whatever animal they use for survival, they thank the animal for the sacrifice that the animal has made for the human. Because of this respect for the animal, it is difficult to waste the lives of that being. If we can relate this respect for the other living beings in America and world for instance to all of the animals we displace with our strip malls and highways, we can begin to understand how we can sustain biodiversity here in the 21st century.

    • Thank you for your comment, Richard. You have an important point here. Sustaining biodiversity is key to honoring nature’s resilience in the face of climate change.

  43. Professor,

    We are getting closer but I still sense an important distinction.
    First of all, the statement of yours that triggered this is

    “The first step in establishing a partnership is treating our partners with comparable respect to that with which we treat ourselves.”

    I do not think one has to go to the long run to see that we abuse mother earth by not respecting ourselves. The Epicureans are saying that how we understand the nature of things is integral to how we live and the impact of abusing her by overindulging has an immediate impact on our well-being. There will be long term impacts for sure, but eating beef from a CAFO is an act of disrespect to ourselves in the here and now.

    Here’s the gedanken experiment: suppose harvesting grasses instead of corn were not better for the environment.; suppose raising grass-fed beef was not better for the environment that raising corn-fed CAPO beef. It would still be more respectful to ourselves to eat grass and grass fed beef. The food would taste better and make us feel more alive. Those are here-and-now benefits.

    The point of the gedanken experiment is to show that there are immediate benefits to respecting oneself independent of the impact on the environment. That what benefits per se and what benefits the environment are the same should not come as a surprise. We are evolutionary products shaped by nature. Knowing ourselves as individuals in that way will benefit the environment, just as knowing ourselves as a species with a long-term stake in the next generations will. Short-term respect for ourselves and long-term respect for the environment are in perfect concert. We need not sacrifice now for the sake of the future; acting in concert with nature is pleasurable immediately.

    • Thanks for your comment, Michael. I am not sure that you understand my answer, since the quote you cite is precisely the one I also cite in my response. I think there are two remaining issues with the Epicurean point of view as you present it. Firstly, it is not always clear to all humans that what is healthy is what is pleasurable– look at our own manipulated tastes in the current day. Secondly, it is not always true that what is pleasurable for humans is healthy for the environment. The thing about the partnership view (from my perspective) is that it makes us aware of the fact that there is more than just ourselves in the here and now to consider. We may have to agree to disagree on the way in which Epicurean philosophy is an answer to our current environmental crises.
      I appreciate your effort in continuing this conversation until you feel that your point is made–and in thinking critically about this important issue.

  44. Although, I believe the partnering world view to be an important step toward a conscious decision to work together and for the greater good of the earth and its inhabitants, too often cultural, political and religious views find its citizens without an innate sense of individual responsibility for their actions. I find that our relationship with the earth coincides greatly with our relationships with each other. For the most part we have little respect for other human beings and even less for the natural world. In order to achieve such a partnership with the earth, citizens must learn to take responsibility for their part in the greater order. Unfortunately, in the current fast paced technological environment of convenience, instant gratification, and self entitlement, individual responsibility gets lost in the shuffle.

    We see it in Western culture with the infinite number of frivolous law suits with preposterous claims such as that if I spill coffee on myself; someone should pay me millions of dollars for the burn. Or we forget that in trying to grow a crop, the earth has provided all that we need to stave off pests in an ecologically responsible manner and instead, we jump for the quick, easy fix of chemical pesticides that harm not only the insects we’re trying to illuminate but ourselves as the ultimate consumers of what we grow.

    We see it in 3rd world cultures like the Congo where superstitions rule over the conscious sense of right and wrong of men who claim that in order to reap success in battle they must brutally rape the women. Who are we to say that another’s culture or belief system is invalid or wrong? We may think it brutal and outrageous but to some of those rebel fighters in the Congo, they truly believe that it is what saves their lives on a daily basis. It is this sort of mindset that ecofeminism is struggling against. How are we to expect that people will care for a lowly beaver when they don’t even respect their own mothers and daughters? In the end, all of earth’s inhabitants become a commodity of some sort. We sell ourselves and each other out just as quickly as we sell the beaver and the otter and for most of us it’s too easy to turn a blind eye instead of acknowledging the devastation.

    Therefore, it is not until mankind as a whole takes responsibility for their actions and the consequences of those actions that we can truly embrace a partnering world view and become spiritually connected to all that the earth has provided us. It would be great to see humans respecting each other and the environment towards resilience and sustainability, but with the way the world is today, it is hard to imagine such a place.

    • A thoughtful and obviously deeply caring response, Allyson. It is true that the cultural systems which seek to dominate the earth also tend to divide humans into higher or lower groups–and in such dominating cultures there is little or no responsibility toward those who fall on the lower rung of the scale.
      If you haven’t already, take a look at this article here: https://holdenma.wordpress.com/culture-and-environment/indigenous-peoples/.
      I think that careful distinctions between particular cultures and historical contexts can give us the hope that we are capable of change when we address the root historical and cultural causes of destructive systems. In Africa, there was a range of social stratification in pre-contact times– ranging from the highly egalitarian San peoples of the Kalahari (and the egalitarian pygmies of the Congo forests) to those who took part in the slave trade with Europe and the US three centuries ago. You have an important point in speaking about rebel activity in the Congo. Whereas the legacy of colonialism and current poverty might be an ample cause for rebellion, they are no excuse for venting this kind of hostility on other humans. I also think you may be cheered by this essay about those who not only imagined such the world as such a place (of resilience and sustainability) , but made great strides toward creating it where they live: https://holdenma.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/how-can-you-not-plant-a-rose-in-wartime/.
      Thanks again for your thoughtfulness.

  45. Reading this essay is a sad reminder, to me, of how badly we have taken advantage of the natural resources that surround us. All you have to do is look at the riparian vegetation zone surrounding the Willamette River on the shores in Corvallis to see that we have not been treating the earth as it needs to be treated. Erosion and poor water quality are just a few clues that are plain to the naked eye! It seems that the human race (some peoples excluded, of course) has been so caught up in what they can get for free, that they forget that there really is an unseen cost in the end; and it’s a great cost, at that.

    The simple truth is that the Native Americans had it right: seeing the environment around them as a part of their family, and monitoring it as a test of health for the tribe. It seems that the farther we stray from the way things SHOULD be done, the worse our situation gets. This Salmon fishing season being declared a disaster should’ve been a big enough wake-up call for anyone, but it doesn’t seem like anything has been done to make any real long-standing change for future generations.

    Why not put what remains of the indigenous people of Oregon in charge of legislature that controls climate and environmental issues? If anyone has a clue of how to fix the damage that has been done, it is them: The people who learned to walk hand-in-hand with our forests without disturbing the tender ecosystem.

    • Thoughtful response, Josh. The Forest Service is using Siletz advice on controlled burning in the Coast Range. It is also true that much traditional knowledge has been lost with white settlement and land use practices. Given the sad history of native peoples with contact (such as forced boarding schools meant to wipe away any traces of traditional culture), we can’t say that today native peoples are automatically environmentally aware. However, many are in positions of leadership like Billy Frank jr. (since you mentioned the salmon, he has been active in restoring the runs). You might be interested to know that when the Washington State budget meant the cutting of many natural resource managers, the tribes of Washington State (as a whole) became the leading employers of such professionals.

  46. While reading Partnering with the Natural World it touched on how the rivers have changed due to the decline in the beaver numbers, I kept on thinking about Katrina. A few years ago I spent some time in New Orleans and saw with my own eyes the devastation that Katrina caused. When I was there I saw a documentary and it made the point that Katrina would not have been as bad as it was if the wet lands that use to be there were still there. Those wetlands served as a bumper and would decrease the impact the storm had on inner cities. Because of human impact those wet lands have decreased and that bumper that should have been there is now gone. To me this is just a big example of how humans can impact the natural world and cause more damage than we know.

    • Thoughtful comparison here, Katherine. It is also interesting that in the huge East Asian tsunami that took place a few years back, tribal peoples were virtually uninjured, while hundreds of thousands died on the nearby developed coastline. Partially this was because the mangrove swamps were still in tact to slow down the tsunami, and partially because they forecast it from other natural signs and moved inland before it hit.

  47. I completely agree that we must protect our natural resources by treating them the same way we like to be treated. But at the same time, I find it really difficult to treat the environment as if it had a soul (aside from animals). I think it’s in our nature as humans to classify things based on patterns we recognize. This may be one reason why it’s hard for us (or me at least) to treat animals, plants, humans, and any other distinct creatures/objects the same. Another reason may be the fact that, in my opinion, the bonds that we develop with other humans are much stronger than those we develop with the environment. Ironically, we depend on and use the environment more than we depend on humans, both directly (e.g. water, food from plants and animals, ..etc) and indirectly (like the beaver and otter examples). Given this dependency, I agree that one-way communication with the natural world does not work. I think the enviornment depends on us not to exhaust/abuse it. But how do we achieve this with the limited resources we have? (many – if not most – wars were fought over either land or water)

    • Hello Yousef, thanks for your comment. Very thoughtful considerations here. Obviously, it takes some human discipline and consciousness to “listen” to the natural world that does not speak a human language when we in the US seldom even learn a second human language. But we only expand our knowledge as well as the future of our children when we exercise this discipline. Those who see the hand of the Creator in natural life also feel they expand their sense of that holiness when they attend to the natural world as well.
      Very thoughtful point about dependency– we only ignore the dependency on other natural life at our peril.
      The issue about wars is a pointed one– especially in the present day, when increasing populations and environmental abuses cause inevitable pressure of this type. Actually, in ancient human history, natural resources were much more likely to be shared than fought over. Wars seem to fought, instead, over the exploitation of natural resources. You might be interested in the article overview on indigenous peoples on this site: https://holdenma.wordpress.com/culture-and-environment/indigenous-peoples/.

  48. The like concept of partnering with nature that is introduced in this post. Valuing nature and others’ as we would ourselves is a point that many don’t realize. “Human life” managing ourselves to support the resiliency of natural systems is also profound.

    The nature of humans seems to be “do as I say not as I do”. The partnership concept reverses this behavior by encouraging humans to “do” for natural life. The greater number of people that respect their resources by protecting and preserving become an active part of the story of partnership. Sustaining life becomes the message told in the story which becomes heard more and more. The history of the indigenous cultures valued sustaining natural life therefore actually did sustain natural life.

    Our modern culture has become swallowed up in the material life consuming more than sustaining including economically. Our current economic condition reveals this root problem of consuming vs. sustaining. It’s not all that shocking to see the residue of this mentality all around us including what was once thriving ecosystems all drying up. The consumption slowly deteriorates the life from atmosphere.

    I liked this quote, “in order to gear our behavior toward fostering a resilient natural world, we need to increase our listening skills-and thus expand our range of vision”.

    Just like any partnership, both sides must pay attention and listen to the other in order to interact in unity. There is nothing like a one-sided partner that is in it for themselves. In my opinion, a lasting partnership requires mutual understanding valuing the other with each offering them-self up for the benefit of the other, continually allowing the dynamic to become harmonious and mutually satisfying.

    • Thank you for another thoughtful comment, Kaaren. A culture based on consuming rather than sustaining the sources of its life, as you indicate, is headed for serious trouble. You have some articulate personal additions to the concept of partnership here.

  49. I think at the base of this discussion lies in the battle between dominance and husbandry; two ideas which to my way of thinking are very different. This subject was first introduced to me in the book, “Out of the Earth.” We do have the ability for responsible husbandry, but the idea of dominance is not one I’m comfortable with. At the beginning of this discussion, one person stated he wasn’t comfortable with something stated. Basically, someone is always dominating someone else and something else. I believe it is our carnal nature and one not easily squelched.

    The quote you used from Agnes Pilgrim-Baker about being a “voice for the voiceless,” made me literally gasp. Over spring break, I asked myself: “What is it that I want to do? What is it that I hope to accomplish with my NR Management degree with emphasis in policy and minor in Fish and Wildlife? Where do I want to work? What IS MY PURPOSE?” These are aggravating questions for me. But, I finally came up with, “I will go to speak for those not spoken for.” And, I always have–clear back to gradeschool. This was interesting to me because she is my Auntie Ag. I don’t mention this to throw around names; I know her very little. But, what a coincidence.

    As stated throughout this article I believe our dualistic nature needs to stop. We need to understand that we are tied with everything we use, consume, see, appreciate and worship….that everything has a soul. I feel something wrench at me when I pick a plant or cut down a tree, but do not feel it is wrong–only that I need to give thanks. You mention the broken feedback/ethical loop. Maybe our views need to include not only the partnership worldview, but a circle of the physical, emotional, and spiritual ties to our fellow beings in a circular manner instead of a taxonomic ladder.

    Very well written, and I thank you.

  50. I would definatly have to agree that we need to partner with the antural world. I have a ways believed that everything has a “spirit” in sense, and is derserving of respect. I could never imagine thinking that plants or non-human animals are inferior and not worthy of fair treatment. I really liked the point that “those who have the most power to make environmental decisions are the least likely to be visibly and immediately affected by them”. It’s no wonder how fast the Earth is declining. If they put people in charge that were directly affected by things then there would be better decisions made. And to think that pestcides show up in breastmilk, that is horrible! What have we humans done to the poor Earth.

    • Thanks for you comment, Kelli. Letting those who make decisions suffer their consequences is, I think, an appropriate recipe for change. And I certainly think your last question is one to ponder– it is not only what we have done to earth, but to our children with the pesticides in breastmilk. The good news is that Sweden has cleaned up their breastmilk supply by outlawing particular pesticides–and we could and should do that as well.

  51. Yes, I have seen some of these pictures. If you follow the link on her page, you can locate the old photos of 7 generations. In the second row down, 4 across my Dad and his brothers are pictured there with their Dad. He’s wearing glasses. Our speaking of this makes me wish to go and visit her and learn more of my biological family history. I was invited to learn from the whole family about regalia and family history. I think I should call her.

    Thank you. I was completely unaware of this site and can tell I’ll be learning a great deal of relevant and important information.

    • Wonderful, Tina. I know Aggie will be very pleased to hear from you! An invitation like this from our ancestors, no matter what our culture, is an important gift. Over my years of teaching, I have heard far too many stories of those who didn’t follow up such invitations and then they lost the chance when they passed on.

  52. Professor Holden’s (pg. 4) words, “Whatever we do to our natural environment, we do to ourselves,” rings loud and clear to me, but why is it so many people don’t get this? Or is it why do so many companies not care? I knew from the first time I used an oven cleaner that it had to be toxic. That was when I was 18 and I then decided it was elbow grease or nothing. I would not use anything like that in the air my children breathe or anyone else.

    We don’t seem to be getting any better at getting rid of what’s not good for us or our natural environment. Why does it take so long? We have been talking about the hazards of pesticides for decades. But they still produce it. We have been talking about the depletion of fossil fuels for decades and we do cut back for awhile, but then we revert right back to where we were. It feels like a yo-yo effect. It seems our government could take a strong stand by enforcing wind and solar power now, with no more nuclear sites. Then give everyone 3-5 years to convert. You can’t form a partnership without a partner. If our government did partner with us on this would they be able to take the first step (Holden, pg.3) in establishing a partnership, respect? Unfortunately, I don’t have the faith that they can fulfill that first step. Our government didn’t just do an injustice to the Native Americans; they are doing an injustice to us all.

    The question posed in “Partnering with the Natural World” is how do we share our world? We can learn much from the Native American lifeways. What is going on now with our world is not working. We need to look to the past and learn from it. To be able to share our world we must all respect it. Many are doing that, but many are not. It starts within your home, then your community, then your city, then next your state and finally your federal government. We must all work together if we are to share what we have left. The Native Americans had the right balance that is needed, but is that something that we can actually teach? It was innate in them. How do you possibly teach that to our government? I agree with Professor Holden (pg. 5) that our listening skills must increase, which is a good start for sharing our world. And by starting with that it should help as Holden stated, “expand our range of vision,” but what next?

    • Thanks for a very thoughtful comment, Pamela. These are hard issues– we obviously need to answer the question and remedy the situation in which we continue to allow the production of thing we know are toxic to all living things.
      I like your last paragraph about where we start to go to work to change things: this is the way I think movements for change our built.
      The question about vision is a legitimate one: I think we need such vision to guide us–and that vision may be a bit (or a lot) different for everyone. My hope is that we can build a common vision–and expand one another’s visions in the process.
      You likely saved both yourself and your children some health problems by avoiding those toxic household products– good for you in making this choice. If more consumers did likewise (with respect to pesticides as well) we would certainly have a healthier environment.

  53. The fact that Jaime de Angulo could not find a unique term for animal and human in the Pit River Culture is a great example of the culture and beliefs upheld by these people. Think about how this same concept could ripple positive benefits into our own society. If we did not differentiate between mankind and animals, the color of ones skin, or breathing vs photosynthesis, so much would change. We would treat all life as equal and discrimination would be non-existent.

    It amazes me that our own culture has evolved to what it is today. It’s obvious that the indigenous Northwesterners had a respect and appreciation for the balances in nature, and reaped the benefits of this. We need to realize these beliefs our culture today is missing and the harmful impact we have on our surroundings.

  54. “You might be interested to know that when the Washington State budget meant the cutting of many natural resource managers, the tribes of Washington State (as a whole) became the leading employers of such professionals.”

    Thank you, I AM interested to know. That’s good news!

  55. How do we share our world, this is a very interesting question in this day and age. It seems that the world that we live in now is always for itself, its a cutthroat time period. So the aspect of sharing the world is almost kind of a funny concept. The fact that we have been in another country for the last 8 or so years taking oil isnt exactly my idea of sharing.
    Our values it seems have for a long time never been to better the environment. We do not take the same care for our surrounding as the indigenous people do. Though it might be the extreme by thinking that all things have a sole and you must treat it like a person. such as they thinks plants do. But because of this love of nature they lived in lush land and abundant environments for centuries, and it took us just a little over 100 years to destroy it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christian.
      The rapidity with which humans can destroy a landscape is daunting– but I think there is still resilience left in some natural systems in the Northwest if we act quickly to manage our own behavior in order to foster this resilience.
      An interesting thing about the “cutthroat” approach to things is that it is showing many self-destructive results in what I call the “dominator paradox”, which I outlined in these words in response to another comment (from Tina Barker) on this site:
      The dominator hopes to control, manage, overtake nature (and others of all species), but in the end winds up more powerless than those with partnership views. Partly because in an interdependent world the consequences of our actions come back to us (or sadly, to our children or grandchildren). But also because knowledge is power and the dominator stance refuses to look fully at the world (to learn from those they “conquer”, for instance, as you point out).
      Ultimately, as well, the dominator stance is wracked by wrenching loneliness– for we can only control those who actually do not exist for us in their own right. We only think we control the world, that is, if we behave as if we are the only ones in it.

  56. Many of us have become so accustomed to our “creature comforts” that it will require a drastic change before we can make any significant progress in curtailing the devestating damage to our environment. Many of these modern conveniences are produced in third world countries who have little disregard for the environment. As consumers of these products were are, in effect, encouraging the irresponsible behavior that is rapidly destroying our environment.

    I am encouraged by the efforts of people and companies to go “green,” but this is only the first on many, many steps that need to be taken. I hate to sound so pessimistic, but we have a long road ahead, and unless more people and businesses buy into the idea that the Earth is the only home we have at the moment, it is going to be a long, uphill battle. This is a good starting point, though…

    • Thanks for your comment, Allison. I think you are right that we have many changes to make. Of course, a basic “creature comfort” is staying alive and healthy–and perhaps the knowledge that our current actions are undermining these things will motivate change. Also, as you indicate with your mention of third world countries, not everyone share in these “creature comforts” that inhibit some from making the changes we need to care for our shared earth.

  57. As usual this was a very interesting and informative article. I would like to say that a true partnership view of the Earth and the environment is a bit of an idealistic goal for modern western culture. Unfortunately we are too dependent on our conveniences to ever give them up. Although this sounds terribly pessimistic, I do think we have come a long way in improving the way we live in the environment. More and more people are demanding that companies they support make improvements to the way they manufacture their products. This is a great step in the right direction, but we still have a very long way to go and it seems almost unachievable.

    • Thanks for the comment, Tim. My own sense is that we shouldn’t give up on our best vision, just because it a ways away. Indeed, in the current environmental crises, seems like we need to begin to move (even if this is a step by step process) toward our best vision of ethical relationships to the world that sustains us.

  58. I concur that “Mordern Westerners cannot authentically or ethically take over the specific spiritual beliefs of other cultures. Nor can we return to the past.” We need to find ways to communicate the deeper understanding of humanities ties to all creation, but not necessarily subscribe to the spiritual beliefs of native american cultures. Shared appreciation and understanding of Native American belief systems can help to bring about a stronger awareness of the unified nature of all things.

    Beyond “Partnership” as described in this article, I believe there are many alternatives to the “Not in my Backyard” attitude and all opportunities should be explored to raise our ecological awareness. For example, adapting the root concerns of interdependent ecosystems and relating them to ones personal experience and health seems more likely to move the U.S. culture, wherein consumption occurs predominantly on the basis of personal gratification and convenience. In fact, Not in my Backyard may take on new meaning as our global society continues to recognize that the entire earth including it’s atmosphere and orbital space is our backyard. To extend the analogy, the moon is only across the street, so we should probably protect it too. Of course we will have to extend this to the solar system and the universe, but first things first, let’s focus on giving our children some time to make that leap.

    • Thank you for a perceptive comment, David. I like the way you integrated revising the NIMBY concept with more consciousness of our over-consumption. Perhaps awareness of our interconnected natural world also models awareness of the interconnections of our ideas and values. I was very touched by your last statement!

  59. How have we disconnected ourselves from Nature – from the production point? Our understanding of Nature has radically changed as modern man sees milk as coming from the grocery store and not from a cow. This disconnect with Nature has allowed us to alleviate our responsibility for the decisions we make and has allowed people with high influence over environmental decisions to maintain a low involvement in their ramifications.

    In 1927, Mary Heck understood this interdependence with Nature and attempted to convey this to a non-Indian court as she clarified how the destruction of the beaver impacted not only her people, but also all people. The interdependence of the beaver and the surrounding environment is an example of the disconnect between man and the production point in nature. The Indian culture understood that one could not be disconnected from Nature. To protect Nature one needs to view it as a partnership. As with any partnership one needs to view the rights on both sides of the table – kind of like the Golden Rule.

    This ideal of reciprocity is simple to understand but not so easy to put in practice when one does not view the environment as biocentric The ability to distance ourselves from Nature has allowed us to look at our decisions and the consequences of those decisions from an antiseptic viewpoint which encourages the “not in my backyard’ syndrome. Which could mean that my right as a consumer is as important as the rights of the environmentalist. How does one treat each with respect to answer the question “How do we share our world”?

    On another note, I found it interesting that already by 1927 the destruction of the wetlands had occurred – My view of the rivers I grew up around in the 1950s are very different than the rivers my mother grew up around in the 1920s and different than my grandmother’s who came to the West in the late 1800s. So much has changed so quickly. I wonder if the wetlands have begun to come back as we began to understand and appreciate the beaver and the impact it had on the ecosystem. Just a thought

    • There is much to ponder in your comment, Elizabeth. I think that a key to putting reciprocity in action is shifting away from the competitive worldview. Take the instance of the consumer’s rights versus environmental rights (as we often see it in our culture and economy). What we are finding more and more if we look at the situation in its holistic sense– is that these two perspectives are inter-related. The site links under “consumer information” on this website make that point with their work. Protecting health and justice IS also protecting the consumer. In fact, consumers have been kept in the dark in terms of the real costs of “cheap” products that we will all have to pay some day. From the holistic perspective (rather than the NIMBY attitude) , my backyard is the whole world’s backyard: and thus I cannot (in the long term) defend my rights without defending yours. What we need to understand that reciprocity is not about giving things away we might cling to in a competitive situation, but passing things on so that the gifts we receive multiply and return.
      One thing that I think is on our side in facing current environmental crises is the resiliency of the natural world– if we don’t put such a load on it as to undermine this resilience. It would be hopeful to see wetlands come back, given how important they are to a functioning ecosystem. My understanding is that we have about one per cent of the original wetlands that used to frame the Willamette River.
      You obviously have some personal historical perspective in terms of your family’s experience.
      And you certainly have a point that it is difficult to become an intimate partner with the natural world that we seldom directly experience as provider of our needs.

  60. I find it very interesting that much of Native American culture observes such beauty in a natural habitat that many Westerners do not see. They view that every tree, animal, person, or object has a spirit no matter if they have a voice or not as stated by a Siletz Takelma elder (Agnes Pilgrim Baker). I agree that a partnership worldview seems to be one of the least dominant worldviews in which one or a group of persons can abuse their power and rule over other beings or natural life. A quote I think defines this view and the motives of all those who practice it is the following: “ The partnership view envisions the most democratic of socio-ecological systems, embracing what Vandana Shiva terms “a democracy of all life”. This view not only takes into account a theory of fair treatment and representation for all persons that feminists and sociologists work so hard to promote, but also a theory that nature and the animalistic populations also have a spirit and therefore a right to be represented in the democracy .
    From this article, it seems that the more modern and Western societies’ practices become, the less we connect with other beings around us such as nature. Oregon such as in Corvallis, however, is developing a small part of this view by taking a concern for the preservation of nature’s remoteness, popularizing diversified world views, and allowing wildlife to roam at its outskirts.

    • Hello Kristen, thank you for your comment. I aprpeciate the way you joined a number of ideas in this response. Let us hope that we expand our Western worldviews in something that is more earth-centered in the ways you indicate. I like your points about including more than human life in our ethical concerns as well.

  61. “This paradox flows from the fact that the more one tries to control a thing, the less one sees it for what it is.”
    I think that the farther we are removed from this thing the less we understand it. My family has a cabin on a lake that supplies water for the surrounding farmland. The farmers own a certain acreage of the water that is pumped out for the crops. Years when the lake is up to the high water mark no one really notices or complains. But drought years when the lake is down and is then further reduced by pumping, you hear a lot more complaints. One of our neighbors at out cabin is also a farmer in the area. Drought years already have quite a negative impact on his crops and the water pumped out is a much needed scarcity to keep his crops alive. It is amazing to hear people upset at the long walk they must take from their cabin to reach the waters edge or the swampy reed patched that lie between the beach and the now low water line. These people have no understanding of the purpose of the water other than its entertainment value. The farther removed we are from the environment, the less we understand it, the more we appropriate and places values on it and the more we misuse it. Back to the quote I started with “… the more one tries to control a thing, the less one sees it for what it is.”

  62. I read this essay a couple weeks ago and then again today and there are a couple points that stood out to me. I spent a great deal of time thinking about the statement: “whatever we do to our natural environment, we do to ourselves.” It is the unfortunate truth, as evidence would suggest – plain and simple. I can see how this statement could be carried over into all environmental concerns either as a result of individual, collective or industrial carelessness.

    The other point that stood out to me was the side by side approach the Native Americans took with the ecosystem. It wasn’t a case of human superiority or perceived rights over the animals and land but rather they worked in harmony. By sharing the abundance nature provided and only taking what they needed to survive they were able to sustain their communities. The beavers were an essential element to the success of the Native Americans. However; due to the disastrous effect the fur trade had on our ecosystem the wetlands began to disappear.
    Today there are efforts to preserve wetlands in Oregon and protection councils and agencies have sprung up all over the state. While this is good progress, I fear that development will still take precedence over the preservation of natural habitats. This is most evident to me when I think about all of the hillsides and land that have been cleared of any trees or wildlife to make room for housing developments.

    • Hello, Anedra. The fact that what we do to the environment, we do to ourselves could be a postiive thing if we treated it differently in the modern Western world. You are right about the fur trade– careless land development in the decades that followed added to further ravaging of the wetlands. You have a good point that we are making some progress– but also sliding backwards at the same time. I would say that we need more than regs– thouigh we need those also. We need a change in worldview that would allow us to truly partner with the natural world. Thanks for your comment!

  63. The author points out, “Modern Westerners cannot authentically or ethically take over the specific spiritual beliefs of other cultures.” I don’t even think it is a matter of ethics. It is more a matter of the willingness to listen and apply “new” knowledge. It’s a matter of what has always been there…a sustainable management approach Native Americans have had for years and years. I say “new” because this knowledge is new to the western culture, not the Native Americans. Gee…it worked before, why not try it again. With that said, natural resource managers, commercial fisherman, sport fisherman, and the Native Americans are getting together and holding productive meetings that are leading to sustainable conservation efforts. After all we all want the same thing….sustainable salmon populations.

    The Native Americans certainly have been managing salmon in partnership with the natural world…not only in the past, but presently as well. As I mentioned above, it’s good to see that our agencies, such as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are beginning to implement management plans that incorporate the Native American management approach. This is something I would like to become a part of.

    • Thanks for pointing out the cooperation–and its positive results– among those working to restore and sustain salmon runs. In terms of ethics, I was referring to the danger of co-opting the beliefs of others rather than finding authentic ones of one’s own. This does not mean we should not listen (or learn to listen) to others. Good point here. I’m glad you want to become a part of the important move to use what worked (as you aptly point out) for so many thousands of years, Patrick!

  64. I first want to respond to some people who say that the partnership view is being embraced in our culture. I agree it is, but to a very small extent and only be niche groups, so far. For the most part, all the ‘green’ movements we see are hardly that (but still small steps in the right direction). Things like purchasing co2 offsets and buying recycled products; these are not within the partnership worldview, but still within the traditional Western view. To embrace the partnership attitude a drastic reworking of our systems would have to be enacted, something that will not happen soon, but the steps in that direction can continue to happen.

    This article reminds me of my conflict resolution psychology course. Viewing animals and nature as partners puts them within our moral circle, so we are thoughtful of them and see them as equals in considering impacts. In human conflict, especially in the terrible extremes such as genocide, the aggressors have separated the victims from themselves in their own mind. They have pushed the victims outside of their moral circle, so that they are objectified and the morals the aggressors hold themselves to no longer apply to those victims. — If we see ourselves, as humans, as separate and above the natural world all around us, than committing harmful acts against the natural world is easy and of no consequence to our conscience. Embracing nature as partners will be quite difficult when we cannot even do this with all people.

    • A key point about including our true partners within our moral circle, Michael. Your point about our difficulties including humans within our moral circle brings up the fact that the ways in which cultures treat other humans echoes the ways in which they treat all “earth others”. The license that the dualism/dominator paradigm yields is not only outside conscience but outside practical perceptions–the blindness that leads us to undercut the means of our own survival.

  65. Ok…makes sense, and I’m not saying having ethics is bad…I’m just saying that ethics, in some cases, is a matter of cultural opinion. In other words, modern society/culture can get so wrapped up in what the “right ethics” to have is, when in reality ethics is usually a “right vs. right issue” based on values. I just think that another cultures knowledge could possibly be more valuable in getting us where we want to be.

    I remembered a statement I heard sometime ago and I’m not sure who said it, but “just because you don’t like someone’s behavior, doesn’t mean the behavior is wrong.” I think of this in how it relates to different cultures and within our own when someone acts, say’s something, or makes a decision different than our own. I’m sure this is nothing profound, but thought it worthy of stating.

    • Thoughtful point, Patrick. Opening ourselves to the practical result–and expansion of our sense of humanity– that flows from other cultural systems may facilitate gaining a critical perspective on our choices. Ethics have served humans as a means of survival throughout history: that is, teaching children, as traditional Chehalis elders put it “how to get along with one another” is linked to learning “how to take care of yourself.”
      I do also think we can assess ethics– or lack of them– as to their consequences on others. The way I have heard your statement is that we should assess an action without developing a rejection on the person who committed it: that is, we can hate the action and love the person who commits it.

  66. The idea of balance and a partnership of equality is something that needs to be adapted. Several people mentioned ‘managing’ ourselves, I completely agree, I think too often we try to control everything in our lives if we are out of control of ourselves. Would our country be in the financial crisis it is in if we managed ourselves better? The possibilities of bettering ourselves are endless, but most importantly we would be in balance with everything around.
    We need to set the example for each others, if we create an atmosphere of peace and balance, it will encourage people to emulate. The article mentions that by allowing nature to flourish we are allowing ourselves to flourish if we are in balance with nature. We as a human race see power is amassing large quantities of items, more than we actually need, and yet instead of happiness we have a very high depression and anxiety rate. If we can learn to live in balance with nature, thereby learning to live in balance with ourselves, we can be free of many these types problems.

    • Good point on controlling other when we aren’t take responsibility for controlling our own actions, Becah. Given the consequences of human actions on our environment, managing ourselves can bring many benefits–as well as acting as a model (as you indicate) both for others within our society and developing nations.
      The sense of balance, as you note, is very important! That is what reciprocity is all about– we should only take from life systems what we can put back in some other way. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

  67. Part of the problem in recreating the lost partnership with nature is the fact that so many people have become disconnected with nature. While there are environmentalists, scientists, ecologists, etc. that have greatly increased our knowledge of how ecosystems and nature in general functions, reading a book is by no means a substitute for first hand experience. At times it seems like all of our best laid plans and knowledge about the natural world is a waste because salmon are still on the decline, whole forests are going up in flames, and our waters, despite the Clean Water Act, are still polluted. It is the paradox of dominance in real life, since the more we know about these systems and attempt to control them, the less we actually understand them and the more we end up harming them.

    The NIMBY attitude also works against a partnership with nature since it is yet another means of disconnection with the natural world. If people were forced to see how much garbage piled up in their back yard, had to find a way to protect their children from mine tailings in the water, or live in the middle of a clear cut, the NIMBY attitudes would soon be replaced by NIABY attitudes. It could be said that the native peoples had a NIABY attitude since they understood that everything action had a reaction and what was taken must be replaced or allowed to regenerate before taking more. The native tribes could not just care for themselves since it was the land that cared for them, which is what fostered their partnership.

    In the face of undeniable global climate change, many people have begun changing the way they consume and treat the earth. It’s been said that Portland is one of the easiest cities to be green in, but with more and more companies reducing their impact on the environment, I like to think that it extends much farther than the PNW. The Waxman-Markey Bill is also a step forward in changing how we treat the earth and with the advent of renewable energy, could help reestablish some of our partnerships with the earth. However, the greatest changes come from individuals since the power of the dollar tends to create more change than votes. I believe that if we want to be good stewards, we must have a NIABY attitude and consume responsibly.

    • Thoughtful integration of ideas here, Bekah. All these worldview attitudes and values are interlinked–and as you say, if we could but be linked to the natural world in experience and understanding, we would have a serious platform for change– as would be the case if we practiced any of these values — not in anyone’s backyard, reciprocity, intimacy with the natural world, and partnership itself. Thanks for your comment!

  68. I am already feeling somewhat guilty for the way I consume so much. It isn’t often that I stop to think about what exactly has happened to the product I am using, where it has been and what has been lost. I do believe it is important for people who have a calling for a certain realm in life to speak up, just as the woman did with the beavers. I know there is an ethical perspective that states that we should treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves, I don’t think our environment should be any different. I have always believed that our surroundings have spirit and life also.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lorena. Good consideration about the entire life cycle of what we consume. I like your last thought about acknowledging the life of the environment around us by extending our ethic to it: treating it as we would like to be treated.

  69. I’m curious, how much of an effect did the Hudson Bay Company think they were having on the environment with their fur trading policies? They obviously knew that it was a limited resource if they thought they could create a “fur desert” and dominate the supply. Did they think that the beaver and otter population would just restore itself if they stopped killing them, or was a concept to be put off worrying about it until later?

    With regard to environmental regulation (which, admittedly, I know a lot less about it than I probably should), it seems like the only effective way to really protect the environment from things like overfishing would be if *every* person had a personal stake in the effect of their actions. Meaning that everyone involved would need to be raised with a lot more respect for nature, such as the native Americans typically were. Is this too lofty of a goal to manage, or are there other ways to encourage more people to be responsible on their own?

    • Good question, Daniel. The Hudson’s Bay folks weren’t considering the future of the beaver, only their short-term economic gain. In fact, it was the concerted policy to wipe out the beaver so that they would not be faced with future competition from other fur traders– that is what creating the “fur desert” was all about. We see then as well as now what effects a myopic short-term economic gain perspective has on long term well being of the natural systems that support us. I think you are right that personal responsibility (based on a change in worldview in our case) is the best remedy for over-fishing, for instance. At the same time, it is also true that regulation models ways to change our worldview–as in the case of the cooperative programs hashed out by multiple stakeholders in the Pacific Northwest Power Council. Take the Civil Rights Voting Act, for instance: it modeled a moral high standard and helped move us away from racism, changing the worldview of many in that regard. Of course, in order for regs or laws to have this kind of effect, they must enforce a high moral (or environmental) standard and not a minimum one such as the World Trade Organization is currently enforcing.
      Thanks for bringing up this issue.

  70. I will begin by saying that I disagree with a lot of the thoughts and ideas expressed in this essay. However, I do agree that we need to be more sustainable in our use of natural resources. We as a world need to move closer to a point where we are “taking only as much as [we] could replace from natural systems.” We need to use the practices and techniques of the native people who hold to the Partnership Worldview in order to sustain our own resources. I also believe that we need to do this in order to save what we have enjoyed in our time on earth for our children and future generations. It would be highly irresponsible and immature of us to take all that we want without regard to the harm of nature that we’d be causing. On that point, I agree with Val Plumwood when she talks about how the problem with our society today is that the people who have the most power to make the big environmental decisions are the ones who are least likely to be affected by them. I think that our society should figure out ways in order to relay the information of harmful environmental acts to those who perform those acts.

    I do not believe in the other side of the Partnership Worldview: the side that believes that animals have spirits; nature and humans are equal. I think that people like Stutzman, Shiva, and especially Billy Frank, Jr. have it all wrong. The reason that Mary Heck had to speak for the beaver was because the beaver can’t logically defend its reason to live, even if it spoke English. Humans are the dominant species on this earth. We use animals and nature for our benefit. Not the other way around. If humans and animals become equal, the status of human gets brought down significantly and the status of animals gets brought up to meet them. Humans that unfortunately go homeless now share the same drinking water out of ponds and fountains that stray dogs and wandering cows are now drinking out of.

    I can see that the idea that man should respect nature and share the earth with it helped the indigenous tribes of the Willamette Valley survive and sustain their resources, but putting nature on the same level as humans isn’t something that should be done.

    • Thoughtful personal response in terms of your own values, Christopher. I don’t quite understand your example of the pond: as it now stands, humans have seriously polluted water resources around the globe (lack of potable water is an escalating crisis we are already facing). I don’t see that sharing partnership with earth others would bring humans down– though it might make us more humble, this might allow us to know the processes of the earth that sustains us in such a way that we have clean water for all, for instance, in the generations that come.
      I appreciate your personal stance: I personally don’t feel that bringing others up means bringing ourselves. Instead, in a world of reciprocity (which is a fundamental biblical ethic), bringing others up raises our own moral plane– and in the case of the environment, gives us more practical knowledge. This does ask for more discipline from humans: we much consider the life of creation more seriously as we make our own choices. According to the indigenous worldview, the beaver need human spokespersons in human society not because they have no language of their own (a metaphor, if you will, for their own place and meaning in creation) but because humans do not always see this.
      Thanks for your comment.

  71. The ideas posted here are very interesting and call for a broader understanding of our impact on nature. The part most intriguing is about the paradox of control. Where by striving for a partnership with nature we manage nature to the extent that we loose appreciation or understanding of it. This is a difficult situation, and it must take a cultural shift for things to change. The native tribes of our nation have in this mentality in their heritage and their entire lives were shaped ny the land and nature. Our present day lives are shaped by the dollar or by the individual drive for something. In most cases this drive is not for the preservation of nature. We will need a shift in culture, or a reawakening to the partnership idea to make headway in the future.

    • Thank you for your comment, Ross. I certainly agree that the drive for money does not coincide with the care for natural systems: it would be great if we had a system which actually rewarded those things which the majority of society wants (such as clean water and a decent future for our children).
      I’m not quite sure what you mean about the paradox of control as related to partnership. Partnership seems to me to avoid the loss of appreciation for others that domination creates.

  72. I think that the domination worldview is the leading cause of the destruction of our natural world. The idea that humans are the dominant species and must have control over everything else has not only negatively affected our environment but also ourselves. I completely agree that “whatever we do to our natural environment, we do to ourselves”. Whether it’s the destruction of a keystone species or releasing pesticides into our environment, the results will come back to us. Through partnership with our environment we can not only improve the health and vitality of plant and animal species, but we can improve our own health because of our many interactions with these other life forms. I especially enjoyed the quote by Billy Frank, Jr. that natural life forms and processes are “measurements. They tell us how healthy things are. How healthy we are. Because we and they are the same thing.” If our environment is healthy then inevitably we are too and so we have a responsibility to respect that environment as an equal being, which is the principle of reciprocity.

    However, I don’t feel that the partnership view is likely to become evident in much of the world very soon. It is becoming more clear to me that the way that we treat our environment with a dominant view parallels the sexism and racism in our society that is still evident today. The discussion of female elders and priests and other women in positions of power within indigenous communities definitely stands out to me. I realize that, when people create a partnership and equality with their surroundings, this also includes the equality of all people. In my opinion, we cannot create a partnership worldview until all humans are truly equal and respected as such.

    • I think that you have not stated too strongly the point about the destruction caused to nature (and to other humans as well) by the dominator worldview. I agree Lauren, that the partnership worldview will only be achieved when we also treat one another with true mutuality and justice. It is a tall order– but all such projects begin with small steps.

  73. From what I understood of this article, since we pioneered these lands we have destroyed ecosystems and disrupted more than just the Indians and animals. We have been blinded by our greed and selfishness and are taking more from the earth than it can replenish. We need to go back to the old ways like the Indians and the salmon, and allow nature to replenish itself. Obviously we can not go back, but we can do our best to help conserve, rebuild, and replant.

    • Thanks for your comment, Erik. I think you are right about the destructive consequences to the environment in the last two hundred years in the Pacific Northwest: I do not think it was entirely malicious (greed and selfishness), but there was a good deal of denial, close-mindedness and ignorance involved. Time to change that, as you indicate.

  74. It is 8:40 p.m. pacific time.

    The “partnership” worldview of the indigenous people of the Northwest has more wisdom than the humans of Old World decent could ever give them credit for. I believe that the travelers from the Old World were used to a culture that was based upon an industrial monarchy. The world that they knew so well was based upon mass production and an all out sprint to gain the most power though resources and upper cognitive functioning. Obtaining human power, comfort, and order was about manipulating the earth to obtain value from it. That is where, I believe, they were (and are) at fault. The author of the essay says that she wants to “shift from questions about how we ‘manage’ natural resources to how we manage ourselves to support nature’s resilience.” The author begins to give examples of and to explain how “whatever we do to our natural environment, we do to ourselves.” All around the world this is true. When the Europeans took over the Americas, they banned the production and sale of quinoa. This was a staple grain for many of the indigenous people of the northwest. The Europeans banned this grain in hopes that it would further destroy the indigenous lifestyle. However, they did not know that is one of the only non-meat foods that contains all of the essential amino acids (amongst many other health benefits). The lack of trust for the natives “partnership” worldview has partially led to the obesity and coronary problems of the many Americans. A resilient world cannot be fostered if a “dominant” viewpoint is taken on our natural world. From the many examples in the essay, it is easy to see that if one alters an part of the eco-system for their own gain and does not consider all other life, it usually ends in the destruction of the alterer. A socio-ecological system has a cyclical nature, just as any eco-system does. It must not be forgotten that we, as humans, are subject to the same cycle as all other organisms.

    • Thanks for your comment, Shamon. I know that this website runs on global mean time rather than local NW time– don’t worry, I take that into consideration. I never heard that quinoa was grown in the Pacific Northwest. My understanding is that it originated in Peru. On the score of outlawing traditional indigenous products, you are, sadly, right on– Vandana Shiva’s Stolen Harvest indicates the ways in which this denigration of traditional products today.
      It only harms us to forget that we are indeed, as you put it, a part of the same natural cycle as are all natural creatures.

  75. One of the things I found interesting in this article is the idea of the applicability of ethics to the natural world. Holden spoke about an “ethic of reciprocity” in which there is a ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ philosophy. Coming from an ecology back ground where we study and understand feedback loops and the deep rooted relationships between ecological communities, I understand the ‘partnership’ with nature which is derived from this ethic. However this ethic of reflexivity concept was only applied to human interactions when I was taught the concept in Sunday school. It was never applied to the natural world. I am wondering how then I (personally) extended the boundaries to include the natural world on my own, without being taught. What experiences, influences, values, emotions, and knowledge allowed me to expand the ‘ethic of reciprocity’ to the natural world? And how can I use similar experiences/emotions to foster or trigger this expansion of a ‘worldview’ in others? Or how can I help to “increase our listening skills and expand our range of vision” as you so poetically state it. Clearly this can only come from positive experiences, emotions and values. You stated that we “cannot authentically or ethically take over the specific spiritual beliefs of other cultures,” is understanding (and firstly being open to understanding) enough to create this broadening of worldviews? Did my positive experiences create a curiosity that allowed me to open up and listen?

    I also found your notion of the “intersection of ethics and practical outcomes” very interesting. I feel that creating practical relationships is an extremely beneficial thing, but it is only a first step (well … moving backwards towards a ‘partnership’ with the natural environment as we are now trying to do because we have tried to move beyond nature). This can be seen in the green building movement. Many ethical actions (such as restoring a watershed, using native plants, installing a green roof or wall) have very practical outcomes such as treating stormwater, saving money, or improving indoor air quality and productivity. However, I believe we have a long way to go before these measures are done with a deep ecology philosophy; for the benefit of nature and not simply the benefit of humans.

    • Thanks for this response, Chess. You outline the idea of partnership well in terms of an eco-centered view. How did you come to extending your sense of reciprocity to all life? And how might we encourage others to grasp this same extension (and the ethics that allows us to implement our own survival on this planet)? It is a question as complex as each of our personal experiences–and as simple as being alive in a live world within which we have been given bodies tuned to this world. That is, I think we only do NOT feel what you feel if we shut ourselves off to our own presence here.

  76. This essay shows just how sad the current western worldview is, especially in the fact that 99% of the wetlands around the Willamette have been destroyed. I really mulled over the statement that we need to decide how to manage ourselves in order to support nature’s resilience. I think this is truly the only way we will ever be able to learn to adequately manage natural resources, all change starts from within and spreads outwardly, we need to change how we see the world as materials for us to take and use for our own good, without considering any of the other billions of living creatures on this earth from whom we are taking homes away. The “green movement” is a good start but I am afraid that it is much too little and probably too late. Recycling helps, but we shouldn’t be wasting resources producing bottled water. I’m proud that Corvallis–through the sustainability coalition–will most likely be banning bottled water, and possibly other bottled drinks in the coming years. Another interesting point in this article is the statement that “whatever we do to our natural environment, we do to ourselves.” We are killing our natural environment, as well as our kin, and thus we are killing ourselves. The occurrence of cancer in our society is astounding, the San Francisco bay area has been getting sprayed with a pesticide to kill a certain type of fruit fly for a while now, and to me it’s no surprise that it has the biggest cancer rate in America. The partnership worldview is likely the only one that could help us get back in touch with nature, through which we can restore our nature’s beauty and health to a certain degree, and with that hopefully we can restore our own.

    • Thank you for the many excellent points here, Paul. It is great about the bottled water sustainability initiative. Bottled water is not only an environmental disaster with all that plastic, but it is the reason for the ravaging of particular indigenous environments–as in the case of a water bottling corporation that wants to draw down the traditional river of the Wintu, in Northern California–they are fighting this in court. I certainly agree that we are facing an imperative situation in which doing “too little too late” will not save us-but we must do all we can–and any action anyone is willing to contribute is, I think, important. I very much like your assessment of the partnership view. The “cancer clusters” that are rising up throughout the US have each been linked to environmental degradation as soon as serious research is done there.

  77. This idea of partnership reminds me of something I recently read about Charles Darwin and his contempt for the “Social Darwinists,” whom he viewed as distorting his theories in order to justify the ruthlessness of social stratification and the domination of Empire. In that usage, his well known phrase “survival of the fittest” was used to reinforce class distinctions, when his original meaning was something much closer to “survival of the cooperative.” Darwin recognized quite early on that the only way to survive yourself, and protect your offspring, was through the recognition of worth in others and subsequent cooperation with them, in order to work towards a greater good for all. The Native American idea of partnership with everything, from roots to beavers, demonstrates this idea perfectly, and is evidenced by the generations of abundance they enjoyed in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. With all of this evidence to the contrary from both our own respected scientists and the wisdom of thousands of years of indigenous tribes, it’s absolutely amazing to me that our ethnocentric approach to domination of the environment continues to be the dominant paradigm!

  78. “The earth is alive, it has a hearth,” This sentence was really powerful, and in my opinion is the best way of describing and seeing earth as part of the natural life we live in. We are all responsible for taking care of our earth and the natural resources that nature produce for us. It’s important to pay attention to what nature needs, if we continue to ignore it then there will be consequences that eventually will grow in a big pile, and later will be too late to fix them. If we want the earth to stay in good conditions than lets take care of its hearth. It is important to learn, communicate, teach and be aware of the big issues that our nature is confronting. Educating our future generation is a very important key but we should also be an example to them. I truly admire those people who live in partnership with the nature and I also respect the people who care to make a difference on this earth. Great article!

  79. This essay has brought up some ideas that have circulating in my head for awhile. Specifically, the story about the Hudson Bay company purposely creating a ‘fur desert’ in the Pacific Northwest to eliminate competitors of the fur trade which in turn led to the degradation of wetlands. Besides showing the nature dominating and discrete worldview, it brings up how our economy serves to eradicate renewable resources for short-term profit.
    There is speculation that including the true costs of harvesting resources – environmental degradation and pollution – in products that we might pass to the consumer may help promote sustainability. The question that must is asked is, “can the free-market adequately account for these costs?” I don’t think it can in its current state. Not until the members of free market economies have developed a more encompassing partnership worldview would exploitations – human or nature – end. Certainly, including these costs now would be devastating to economy, but it is necessary that we move in this direction as a civilization.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful analysis concerning the “fur desert”, Joseph. There are real issues with the supposed “free” market– given the WTO, for instance, which specifies a nation cannot “discriminate” against a product based on its “means of production”– that is, it cannot specify social and environmental standards in its production–lest it be sued as some have been. Another central issue is whether the market is actually “free”, given the influence of those with money on it. Certainly it doesn’t reflect human preferences for food among those too poor to buy it, for instance.

  80. This essay makes a lot of sense to me because my grandma lives on the Zig Zag River on Mt. Hood. She sees all kinds of wildlife including beavers and deer. Over the last fifteen years since she moved up there, she has noticed a decrease in the amount of wildlife, and it really does make her upset to see the forests diminish and the water become less populated with wild salmon.

    • It sounds like your grandma has a wonderful place to live–and you to visit. It is sad to see those who share this earth with us diminishing– a sadness we can only remedy, I think, by changing the aspects of our lives that contribute to this.

  81. As we learned and shared in our course, partnering with the natural world is one of the most essential values that we need to learn from indigenous people and keep in mind when we live through our life, I think.

    The paragraph quoting Lucy Thomps idea, all the indigenous peopled cited above in illustrating how the partnership view implements both intimate knowledge of natural systems and careful monitoring of the results of human actions on those systems, were strongly sounded to my brain and heart, and I really agreed with it.

    I think partnership with nature is an essential but also it is easily forgotten in busy daily life; by reading this article, I felt I would like to keep it my mind more carefully everyday.

    • Thanks for your personal response entailing both brain and heart, as you put it, Miki. I think we very much need decisions based on the intersection of both of these in the modern day.

  82. The NIMBY mentality has an enormous effect on the nature of our planet. I think we need to increase awareness with early education in order for people to understand the value and importance of our natural environment. It can be as simple as teaching our children not to pour chemicals down the drain or as difficult as having current industries devise a plan to cut back or eliminate dangerous waste and pollutants. It is imperative that we listen to the land. Money is very motivating to many people, and industries all over tend to overlook the possibilites of polluting our land or harming our wildlife. Having a mentality that we share the earth with plants and animals can benefit ourselves and surroundings. We need to do business with mother nature as well as the industrial market and our backyards. We not only live for ourselves but for our children and future generations to come. Early education can foster a goal of healthier living.

    • Hi Michelle, thanks for your comment. I like the image of “doing business with the earth”– after all, isn’t nature the true bottom line– for we cannot live without it? Living for future generations and teaching children (and thus enriching their quality of life as well as responsibility) are also important points.

  83. The question regarding “how do we share our world?” is one worth considering and one that deserves an answer. The problem is that not enough people see the need to share, yet. The ‘green’ movement is certainly gaining momentum, but it seems like our culture still lags behind that of the Sahaptin speaking people who lived by the Columbia River who thought all things from nature had a soul. If we could begin to think in terms of the things around us in more equal terms we are bound to take better care of them.

    Our lives our so fast paced and hectic that it is so easy to take the easy way out of things. We are accustomed to quick fixes and that has been what has lead to problems like toxins in breast milk, which clearly illustrates how our actions to change nature end up hurting us in the long run. By trying to eradicate something in nature, we have ended up harming the most innocent among us.

    I think the ‘green’ movement is helping people to move in the direction of a partnership worldview; I just hope that it doesn’t just end up like some fad movement that is soon replaced by something else. We also seem to live in a society that has ADD. After a while we tend to get bored with things and move on to something else; abandoning our early passions for something else entirely.

    • Hi Sandy, thanks for your comment. Interesting-and not inappropriate– to think of modern industrial culture as a society with ADD! I also find it heartening that folks like the Columbia Intertribal Fishing Commission are leading the way in restoration of the local habitat for salmon–and thus for other creatures that not only share human lives– but support the cycle of life on which all our lives depend. The links between treating nature as a partner — rather than something we think we can control of dominate– and facilitating the resilience of natural systems are important to consider.

  84. I relate most things in terms of my children, simply because I am surrounded by them all day. I often tell my daughter the “Do unto others as you would want done unto you.” It’s so ironic that as parents and adults, we often think that we are immune to these simple rules for how to treat others: the “Do as I say, and not as I do” mentality. Many of us have that same mentality in terms of nature, Earth, plants, and animals. We want plants to yield “our” plentiful crops, even if we don’t let them rest or have the proper nutrients that could be added to the soil naturally. We want our animals to treat us politely, bears cannot come into a housing community, lest we take it out in a cage, yet we are able to go camping in the mountains and get upset if a bear eats our food. At least he didn’t put us in a cage and kick us back to our suburbs. Perhaps if we treated others the way we want to be treated, they would treat us more satisfactorily and we wouldn’t have so many concerning environmental repercussions. The way that many of us relate to our world puts us, humans, ahead of anything and everything else. We should look outside of ourselves and see the big picture, and not just our small part in it. We learn to share our world, by realizing we are not the center of it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. Reciprocity is a central element of the partnership worldview–and an idea we will take up in more detail in lesson three of our worldviews class.
      Children are important not only for what we teach them–and they teach us– but to remind us of our responsible to the generations that follow us.

    • Jennifer, I just wanted to say that I really liked your comment on the article because, coincidentally, I had EXACTLY the same thought as you did about my children and teaching them the golden rule! I actively try to teach them to treat other people how they would like to be treated, but have never thought before about including the environment in that same category. As I was reading the article, I had a shift in perception where the earth became a living being on the same level with all of us. About halfway through, I thought, “We need to treat the earth with all the respect and consideration that we would like to be treated with. Hey–that sounds like the golden rule.” I really enjoyed your comment, and I agree wholeheartedly!

  85. I think there are many people out there that really treat themselves well, the people around them well, and try to treat the world well. These are the people fighting for a better world and a better understanding that we need to do something now to help repair, or lessen, some of the scars humans have laid upon the world and the creatures in it. That being said, I feel that there are so many people that don’t treat themselves well, so they are definately not going to treat the earth well. This article is filled with great examples of people that really knew that by treating the things around them with respect, they were treating themselves with respect because we are all connected. Unfortulately, as we make steps, I think we are so far away from a balanced earth and a balanced society. In our modern world, people do things that are done the easiest; why put forth extra effort when we can do the minimum? So, those of us who undertand more about what can be done need to show others how easily it can be done. For example, I recently filled in at a local school. They just started recycling paper (yes, just started, its 2009!!). The boxes were placed right next to the garbage cans, and guess what? Paper still in the garbage! I guess it was the easiest thing to do for them. I just couldn’t believe it personally, but they don’t know any better. While many of us have very open ears to change, many people are still stubborn and don’t want to hear about it, and, sadly, I think this remains a large portion of the population. There needs to be a huge effort to educate children at a young age about the proper way to treat the earth. Like with the paper issue, if you never know better, how can you change?

    • Thanks for your comment, Matt. I certainly think you have something in the emphasis on educating children– though I don’t think adults are lost as far as change goes. Understanding the consequences of our actions is central to choosing them wisely–and habits (flowing from worldviews especially) take some work to change. But I have seen such changes over the last thirty years– I just hope we accept this change fast enough.

      • I hope so as well. I am only 29 years old, so I cannot speak to the changes over the years. I do know that even 10 years ago such a thing as recycling probably was not in small communities, so to have it now is a good step towards something bigger. Every step counts I guess, just need to make more!

        • My hope is that you will be able to look back in thirty years and see this as a time when we decided to do something about the environmental crises we face, Matt. We will know how very foolish we were for that period before we changed. And I just saw another bit of news that engenders hope for change. The new head of the EPA is asking for a change in chemical regulation authority that is more comparable to the European Union standard– she may have a fight ahead from the chemical industry who has been used to coasting along releasing 80,000 chems into the environment with virtually no oversight. I think we need to do all we can to support her!
          And this as, Clackamas County is considering banning urban clear cuts:
          http://www.portlandtribune.com/news/story.php?story_id=125424492355203800

  86. The problem with trying to measure culture as a part of cost benefit analysis is what value to assign it. It is incomprehensible to put a cost on the cultural value of a stream or forest; likewise to neglect the cultural value of something is to leave out a major consideration in resource management. The problem comes that everyone one values culture differently. It seems that the culture of resources management by the native northwest is highly glorified while the imperialist west is vilified.
    History is full of civilizations that develop at different rates. Many cultures were interrupted in their developmental period (while others such as some New Guinea tribes still exist). I argue that the “culture” of resources management is at least partially a product of a society’s developmental stage. To farm and domesticate animals begins to negate the need to hunt and gather, and affects the way resources are viewed.
    I am not arguing against a wise use policy or that resources should not be managed but that using a cultural argument is a difficult argument. The cultural argument is at present an appeal to our emotion. Our emotion is what makes us human. Culture then is that thing guides us to limit our use of resources if for no other reason than to ensure the interconnectedness of everything is maintained.

    • Hello Patrick, thanks for your comment. I am not quite sure what you mean by “it seems the imperialist west is vilified”– do you mean in this essay? I think it is not (only) about emotion when one speaks to the issue of sustainability that lasted 10,000 years and the values/actions that led to this success.
      You might want to take a look at the essay on “indigenous cultures” here: https://holdenma.wordpress.com/culture-and-environment/indigenous-peoples/. Actually there is no clear dividing line between hunting and gathering and agriculture– since all hunting and gathering peoples appear to have practiced some form of what we might call agriculture. The distinction comes in terms of industrial agriculture or “monoculture” (plowing and emphasis on a single crop). Unfortunately, the developmental stages we allot to ourselves as opposed to indigenous peoples have often been based on stereotypical notions of our own stance of “progress” rather than real data of the kind we are finally collecting now.
      However, if you are making the point that there is a connection between the type of subsistence practiced by a given society and their worldview, that is certainly true: there is a definite interaction here– which we can also see in the difference between industrial and indigenous societies.
      Is the “at present” of the cultural argument as emotion in this essay or how you see it in mainstream society? I can’t tell if you are agreeing or disagreeing with the idea that a critical assessment of worldview as it is linked to environmental practices is important and pragmatic.
      If I have misunderstood your points, you might help me by pointing out particular statements in this essay that you are responding to.

      • I am pointing out that I believe that management concept mentioned in the essay is one that is based on a cultural group. I think it is miss-leading to say that this management concept guided their society in sustainable resource management. Rather I think that the methods used by the original cultures were based more in resource competition. That given the opportunity a society tends to grow when resources are plenty and shrink when limited. This also depends on a society’s ability to manipulate resources for its own survival.
        I do agree that western expansion over-consumed resources in an unsustainable way and that we now face a culture of over-consumption. We face the issue of how to manipulate the limited resources left and trying to change of our behavior. I do agree that the before mentioned culture group can act as a belief system that serves as an interesting study in resources and human interaction, but is not a practical resource management policy.

        • I appreciate the follow up, Patrick. It helps us to enter into dialogue when I can see where you are coming from.
          Do you believe that the only culture that chooses or has chosen its environmental strategy is modern industrial society? I think that we can give humans more credit than that, as new and well documented studies that concentrate on the combination of choice and knowledge in indigenous situations points out. You might be interested in looking at Salmon without Rivers, Tending the Wild and the recent UNESCO studies on indigenous knowledge if you are interested in looking in detail at management strategies carried out by indigenous peoples. Jared Diamond’s most recent work (Diamond’s previous work tends to indicate that given a certain environment, humans will simply evolve a certain way) takes a turn by concentrating on the issue of choice– indicating the success of particular indigenous management strategies. (See his book Collapse).
          Salmon without Rivers–which traces the history of NW salmon from pre-human times to the present, goes so far as to assert that the indigenous peoples on the Columbia River had the technological capacity to make salmon extinct but chose to moderate themselves instead because of their partnership ethic. And today the Columbia Intertribal Fishing Commission is doing an outstanding job of managing salmon resources– and employs more research scientists than either the states of Washington or Oregon in the process. They are guided in their motivation by their ancestral worldview.
          Thanks for you comment–and allowing me to share more information.

  87. I really enjoyed this article. I had a big shift in perception when I read that, in the context of the partnership model, instead of managing our natural resources, we need to manage OURSELVES with the goal of supporting our natural resources, “nature’s resilience.” The partnership environmental model places the natural world on the same plane as everything else/humanity in respect to importance and priority. Thinking of humanity’s relationship with the natural world, then, as a partnership rather then a dictatorship, many principles of partnership become important. For example, as explained in the article, we need to have as much respect for our partner, our natural world, as we would have for ourselves. We need to recognize that those things that we do to our partner, the natural world, we also do to ourselves because we are a part of the natural world. And we need to remember to listen to our partner just as we want to be listened to in a partnership relationship. We need to hear the needs of the natural world before we can effectively support them. I think the idea of reciprocity and respect are so important here! If we expect nature to support us, we must also support nature. If we don’t, eventually we will lose the support that we so desperately need to survive. No one, especially including our most important partner, nature, can be an everlasting well of giving without eventually running dry.

    • Hello Jennifer,
      Thanks for your comment. You have hit the central points of a partnership model. I like your key point that if we wish nature to support us, we must also support nature. Reciprocity and respect ARE key values here– and our the results of our actions in an interdependent world will come back to us– or to our children.

  88. This essay really gets to the heart of the how we think about our natural world. We, “people” can not separate ourselves from the environment. We are as the essay states Partners. This essay uses references from multiple ideas and how the indigenous people perceived the relationship between people and nature. There perception is not one of separate entities but one of an intertwined relationship. The actions of one closely affect the other. In modern times it is easy for us not to notice the impacts that we have in the world around us as individuals. We get our food from the store and we through our waste in a can and it conveniently disappears the next day. The essay gives and example that the indigenous people of the Columbia River used to harvest more salmon than are harvested today. I think that is because of their close relationship to the river. They saw the river first hand and they could see the population of fish each year and how they were affection it. We are so far removed form our food chain that we rarely know where it comes from and what the conditions of the yearly populations are. I am not saying that the answer is for all of us to grow our own food or catch our own fish I just think that we must become more aware where our food comes from and the methods used to produce them. We must insist that all these methods enable nature to be “resilient” like stated in the essay

    • Hi Zane, thanks for your comment. You make an important point that we must understand the ways in which we rely on the natural world– and perceive our intimacy with it. Otherwise, our ignorance of the ways in which we depend on nature leads to foolhardy choices that may seem easy or convenient in the short run but have devastating consequences in the long run.

  89. The thesis of this essay is easily the most important topic for our generation to emmulate, if we have any hope of progress alongside Nature. Not in My Backyard defines the conciousness of the majority of our population. By believing that if we just route natural tributaries or create our own dams, and expect the natural world to carry on as if nothing ever happened, only retards our progression as a species. The truth is that the natural world will find a way, but that could take decades or centuries of healing. Technological and industrial advances are necessary to our own existance, but turning a blind eye to the very essence of life that we build upon and smother, is not the type of progress that helps move our species ahead. If we could apply the partnership of animal and man to our innovations, becoming forever self-sustaining would not only be a dream. If we allowed our natural world to thrive alongside our industrial one, that would not only mean the beasts in the wild survive w/ dignity and habitat in tact, but we would gain the conciousness to not let our own species, i.e. Native tribes and floundering American families, be forgotten.

    • Hi Jessica, thanks for your comment. Some wonderful vision here: I like the idea of a both/and rather than either/or solution to our current crises. I do think that we will need a very different type of industrial technology in order to have it and the natural world it depends on thrive together.

  90. The first part of this article that really stuck with me was the portion about Mary Heck and her testimony on behalf of her own Chehalis people. Even though I have been quite aware of the catastrophic damage that was done by settlers over the years, it still remains an eye-opener for me with each new story that I am told. The significance of the beaver was really important to me because it represented so much more than the loss that had taken place during that particular time. Obviously what happened to the beavers then was a horrible thing, but I believe that it represented every creature of the natural world that was and is being wiped out by the carelessness of human beings. It is interesting to me to see the varying difference of respect by all kinds of cultures toward the natural world. Some cultures take as much as they need, while others take what they want without any regard for the consequences. One great example in the essay was the part about how the Northwestern Indigenous peoples would only take what they needed from the natural world and in turn respect natural life so that it could continue to grow and everything and everyone could prosper. If we could all partake in such an act–giving the natural world the respect it deserves we would certainly find ourselves in a much better world. I think what really gets to me is how our world just keeps on giving and all we can think to do is take. How hard could it possibly be to balance out that level of give, take, and respect?

    I really enjoyed reading this article because it brought a great sense of awareness for me and really increases my motivation to make a difference. Now we just need to get everyone to understand this issue!

    • Thanks for your comment, Erin. Your response shows much compassion for the suffering of other cultures and non-human beings caused by unthinking historical actions. You bring up an important perspective in your treatment of balance and only taking what we need versus gorging and hording material wealth.
      I appreciate your own motivation to make a difference– your actions of this kind serve the world we all share.

  91. Partnership worldview is a great idea, but is it a realistic goal in the time we have? By this I mean, can enough people’s values and fundamentals be changed in enough time to save what we (society) has already thrown out of balance? I’ve often wondered why humans have the ability to destroy so much. After reading this article, I realize it’s not humans, but mainstream society and that makes more sense. I believe many of our values come from our religion. Mainstream is male dominated. (This isn’t to say ALL our values come from religion and ALL religions are male dominated, but mainstream religion is.) Many I know, I’m guilty myself, want to “tame” nature. What I have come to realize is nature isn’t tame, nor is it supposed to be. But it is balanced. That’s something I’m not sure mainstream society understands.

    Two key parts of this article struck a chord with me. The first was managing ourselves and not our natural resources. I feel if we take the time to educate ourselves, use the education and spread that knowledge on, we have a much better chance of managing ourselves than any other resource out there. By education, I mean using ALL resources. My late father-in-law was a font of common sense knowledge. He knew when to plant, harvest, prune, animal husbandry, mechanic- you name it. He was a great engineer. The entire neighborhood went to him to figure out how to build something. He also never made it through the 6th grade. He had to quit school and work to help support his family in the coal mines. There isn’t a school out there that can teach 80 years of knowledge like that. I don’t think we respect our elders and the knowledge they have enough- but that’s a different subject.

    The second was “Earth is alive. It has a heart.” from Esther Stutzman. The Earth IS alive. How else does it spin and nurture life as it has for billions of years? It (I prefer she) even talks, as studies have revealed low frequency sounds emitted from the Earth. It’s not her fault we can’t hear what she is saying. Maybe we should listen, as the indigenous people have been trying to tell the non-natives for years.

    • Thoughtful responses here, Christy. There are many other examples upcoming in this class and on this website that indicate how the partnership view has been put into practice– partnership not only between humans and nature but humans and humans in working out restoration of rivers in the Northwest, for instance.
      For myself, I think that our most profound vision is necessary as we face the greatest crises. Your father-in-law’s story is a great one– if a definition is being able to learn from the past, that certainly means learning from the experience of our elders as well.
      I very much like your point of listening to the earth!

  92. A native plant enthusiast, I had a discussion with a “natural resources” officer in another state about promoting the value of native plant conservation and restoration in the land around people’s houses. He mentioned that until we place a monetary value on undisturbed native habitat, it will continue to be destroyed. Such “monetary value” might appear as asking a higher price for one’s home because the native habitat was intact … and maybe even enhanced with additional biodiversity. This view would be guaranteed to be laughed at in the real estate offices across housing-crazed Arizona. Why is the health of the economy expressed in terms of new housing starts? Indeed, being a voice for the voiceless is an enormous uphill battle. How, for instance, would big box stores that decide to raze pristine desert in a community that does not need yet another one, be monetarily compensated for NOT moving into a locale? Would being seen as a “good guy” (“green” company) through media exposure fuel their profit margin more than the sales in the locale? It is a thorny problem trying to figure out how to shift the capitalism model toward the resilience paradigm to end “paving paradise to put up a parking lot.” In a capitalist world, it is money that is the foundation of decision-making. Yet another thorny problem is how to wage war without destroying natural habitat and the wildlife that inhabits it (that sounds absurd, doesn’t it?). Yet, do we, for instance, also learn on our nightly news of death tolls of non-human life and habitat destruction in these war-torn areas? If the feedback/ethical loop were repaired and humanity practiced the partnership model, would we also … perhaps … have no war? If so, it would be a glorious and peaceful world.

    • Thanks for your comment– a very thoughtful post. I certainly would love to see your last statement come true. You take up a key issue– which is how the health of our economy is based on growth–but this runs counter to the resilience of natural systems. Such growth uses up natural resources and cannot go on indefinitely. We need to develop a healthier standard than our current GNP assessment– as the economists Daly and Cobb have done in their For the Common Good.
      As for native plants– this is especially important in a state such as Arizona, where the water table has been drawn down from human use since the 1950s– native plants can survive on the rains that nature provides. They don’t take herbicides and pesticides to maintain. Also, they provide a library of knowledge about the local ecology from which we still have much to learn.

  93. To look at the immensity of what must be done is disheartening. Success requires participation by more than just our champions, or if you will, we must reach beyond ‘preaching to the choir’. Some of us are already ‘there’ and willing to buy responsibly, live more simply, and even act now and then. Imagining how to reach everyone else, though, now there’s the trick. Simplifying the message has its own risks, but inundating the average American family with facts and good ideas tends to make people back off, as we fear what we don’t understand. And if the bottom line for a family is “You’re telling me that I need to pay more for my _____” just to support local farmers,” then we need sensible, easy and persuasive things to say. Talking points, if you will.
    I want to share my world. I want water to flow nearby, and clean air to sing through the trees. I still would enjoy remaining an omnivore, but like those who were here long before me, I respect the gifts that I’m given and try to use them wisely. I am glad to give back, in appreciation and labor and planting and rebuilding. I just don’t wish to be alone in doing it. I want the everyday fella or gal to ‘get it’.

    Hmm. Maybe that can be my mission. ‘The Lorax’ did a lot for the environment by reminding kids that it’s worth protecting. ‘Telling the story of our land’.

    That just might be it. Thank you!

    • Hi Patrick, thanks for your comment. Yes, there is much to do–and it takes some emotional as well as intellectual courage to face that. We will discuss a good deal about the ways pricing things do and and don’t work– one real “bottom line” (if not a monetary one) is indeed reminding ourselves and others what is worth protecting (and may be intrinsically priceless).
      And telling stories of the land is an essential way to do this– it is my sense that this is reciprocal– that just as we keep the stories of the land, it keeps the stories of us.

  94. I can understand our modern adversity here in the U.S. to the partnership worldview when the emphasis on our global position is taken into account. We have arrived in the 21st century with a strong sense of individualism which is supported by our capitalist ideals and dependence on a national military to carry us to a greater level of world domination. Our sense of the natural world holds a backseat to any area in which we feel we excel, and our stance on our environmental responsibilities have only recently become a concern as it relates to our economic malfunctions. As the old adage goes, “No man is an island” – yet, our national philosophy has long been that we are neither absolutely in need of our global counterparts nor absolutely dependent on the natural world because we have the capacity to control and manipulate.
    Perhaps this ethical dilemma is improving among those who find reason in the “green” movement and particularly in younger generations who have vivid reminders of their tiny presence in an ever-growing global village. The larger of the ethical challenges for them and for all of us may be to overcome our sense of entitlement to things we neither produce nor responsibly obtain and to improve upon our vice of living beyond our means. Of course, this applies financially, but more importantly has an environmental impact when one considers the resources that are essentially hoarded or wasted for the sake of convenience. I can walk through enormous supermarkets where aisle after aisle holds an overwhelming amount of food which could feed a community for months if not years at a time, yet it sits and waits to be purchased at the discretion of its ignorant consumers. (Of course, many people have a heightened sense of awareness on the matter, but I am referring to a general population.) We no longer know the Milkman so to speak, let alone the Dairy Farmer who raises and milks the cows. Our preference remains on the side of mass production for the sake of convenience, rather than close involvement with the origin of our food and how, where, and by what means it is produced.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kristen. We do need a sense of community (as opposed to competitive individualism) to enact a partnership view–as well the knowledge of the natural “others” with whom we partner. Without this, it is like trying to develop any relationship with no knowledge of one’s partner– it just won’t work. My sense is that there IS a cooperative strain in our society– if not among many or even most of us– but that this is growing stronger as we understand the interdependence you refer to. In this context, it in our self-interest–and certainly that of our children– to partner with the natural world that sustains us. My hope is that the environmental crises we face may teach us something more about the necessity of working together.

  95. “How do we share our world?” That is a good question! Very insightful article! I think it is imperative for more people to become more in-tune to the world in general. Many of these native cultures/people seem to understand the inter-relationship between all things of this world. Our culture in general these days cannot even seem to “hear” each other, let alone what the animals, trees, or rocks are telling us. And our idea of “sharing” means taking more-or-less taking with no regards to anyone or anything else.
    While there seems to be an increase in the “green” movement, sometimes I wonder if more or less corporations do it as more of a PR move, than truly caring about what they do. We still have a long way to go, and even I will admit that it is a hard transition.
    While”recycling” seems like a good idea, why do we even get to that point? My company often encourages our clients to go even further to reimagine, redesign, re-use, and reduce before even considering recycling and even more so, land-filling an item.
    But, in general, corporations will only do as much as it is profitable to them, or at least as close to cost-neutral as possible.
    Even myself, I find it hard to change the way I live to “share” this world. It would mean a drastic change… but as we become increasingly knowledgeable and more options are available to us, the better. I try to support companies that do choose to be greener, even it if is not “profitable” for them. For example, I can choose a Lands-end coat, or something from Patagonia, which is a more sustainable corporation. While it still may not be the BEST option, it is a better option, and I am willing to pay for it. I understand the principle. During the summers, we grow our own vegetables, and give plentily to our neighbors. For the items we do not grow, we try to support our local farmers and fisheries. It usually is more costly, but the cost is well worth it. This lends to another issue of the “true cost” of items, such as how much of an affect it has on the environment, etc, which often is not parlayed into the cost to consumers… but that is a whole story in and of itself!

    • Thank you for the comment, Danielle. Thoughtful point about the need to listen both to the natural world and to one another–and about planning differently so that there is no waste to recycle. The concept of “true cost” is an important one as well– and you apparently get many returns on growing your own in the way of your family’s health and the strengthening of community by giving to your neighbors.
      Sharing our world is something we do not do easily in this culture. Seems we need some practice as this!

  96. Mary Heck’s comments on her sadness at the loss of the beaver seem to be sadness about the loss of the connection of the Chehalis women with an important part of the ecosystem that sustained them. She realizes what pioneers and many people today don’t understand. She knows that humans are connected with our ecosystems and they provide important services for us both directly and indirectly. The beaver provided a service, creating wetlands, which directly provided food for the Chehalis people.

    I like the worldview that the natural world is our partner. What a refreshing look at things when I am so used the western idea that we dominate nature and can change things to work the way humans want them to work. I think it is a good reminder that what we do affects other creatures and what other creates or parts of the ecosystem do effects humans. I think humans can be so disconnected from the natural world that they don’t know that we are a part of a bigger system.

    The partnership worldview is just what the western world needs, and I think that we are starting to consider it more since we have started taking about global climate change and looking at the effects of what we have been that is changing our earth in negative ways. We have been a society that believes in ruling nature and changing it to meet our needs and desires. I think it will take a very long time for the western world to consider the natural world as a partner and an equal, if it ever does

    • Thanks for your comment, Christina. Very true about the things that were lost along with the beaver. I agree with you that the partnership worldview is something much needed in modern Western culture. I hope that we can learn this view before we hit the full results of the domination attitude toward the natural world.

  97. The fact that indigenous people demonstrated a willingness to monitor themselves with regard to their use of natural resources like salmon and beaver gives me hope that we ‘civilized’ Westerners will do the same. Along those lines, we are making strides, slowly, here in the U.S. There are concerted efforts in our elementary schools to teach children at an early age to recycle, honor the environment and respect themselves, each other and the world we live in. The question is, will it ever be enough? We are still killing our planet and as a result, ourselves. While there are regulations regarding pollution, land use and hunting in developed countries, Third world countries, are forced to make a choice between protecting their environment and feeding their people. Western corporations build plants, dump garbage and export hazardous waste to these countries where there are few regulations against polluting. These corporations may pay a fee for dumping but the real price is paid by the environment. No amount of education or ambition in the U.S. will save our environment if we don’t also alleviate poverty and hunger in Third world countries so desperate they are willing to ignore their own history with the resources in their area. Corporate regulations will only go so far.

    • Great perspective concerning the monitoring of our actions– if indigenous people did this so well, we certainly ought to be able to, as you point out, Susan. It is very important to monitor our actions as consumers, as you indicate. I agree both that we have made steps in the right direction, but we need to do more. Voting with our dollars is one way to do this: check out some of the links under “consumer info” here for ways to do this (and protect your own health along with that of the environment).

  98. The statement “whatever we do to our natural environment, we do to ourselves” really made an impact on me because it summarized so many of the problems we seem to be facing today. From the example stated in the article breast milk being tainted with pesticides and fire retardants to other examples that come to mind such as cancers linked to chemical carcinogens, stronger storms due to climate change, floods due to lack of wetlands. The list could go on and possibly be endless. From what I have learned and keep learning it seems so obvious that our past and current way of “seeing” and interacting with nature is not working.

    A partnership with nature seems to make more sense and allows for a system where feedback (from nature) can be interpreted and (human) behavior can be changed or modified. This partnership with the natural world would require such a grand scale shift in human mentality and behavior that it simply seems overwhelming .

    • Thanks for your comment, Yensi. Your point about the interdependence between ourselves and the natural world is an important one. We would not have so many environmental crises if, as you indicate, our way of looking at (and thus treating) the natural world were in fact working.
      I think you are right on in terms of the pragmatic effects of the partnership model in providing us with the proper feedback to assess and choose our actions.
      A grand shift in worldview all at once seems overwhelming. But small changes add up–and I have seen a good many changes in the years I have been teaching this subject.

  99. While the partnership model is a thoughtful and profound idea of creating a sustainable environment, we have to be aware of some limitations that will require some altering to the general idea. I definitely agree that we have much to learn from our past mistakes to help enable us to never repeat them again. We as a people need to take a more considerate and unselfish approach to coexisting with our environment rather than taking all that we can without any return. The peoples that originally existed while maintaining those balances have so much information that can be of great value to our future understandings of equal sharing among all things living.

    This article makes a clear outline of the path that could preserve nature as well as allowing us to exist within it. My only concern is that we live in a society that is much more populated than the number of indigenous peoples that originally inhabited this world. That notion alone, concerns me that changes in the approach will need to be altered. I would also like to point out that there are many aspects of the partnership approach that are and have been implemented as we speak. At least in specific areas of the world we have begun to educate ourselves to better foster a beneficial relationship with nature and ourselves.

    • Hi Emily, thanks for your comment. I wasn’t quite clear about the limitations you speak of– limitations in modern Western culture that need shifting or limitations in the partnership model?
      If we don’t the approach you suggest , we will soon be without the means to our own survival. You might be interested in some of the studies now done on industrial versus other types of agriculture that indicate that industrial agriculture is not actually the most productive, especially in the long run. Our stereotypes lead us to assume that we can produce more this way, but the data states otherwise- there are some examples on this site (e.g. the case of the New Agricultural Movement in Bangladesh); Becoming Native to this Place indicates how must MORE indigenous subsistence produced in the Midwest than modern agriculture does.
      There are indeed many aspects of the partnership model currently employed–as in the work of the Intertribal Columbia River Fishing Commission–and other examples in the essay here on legal rights for nature– look for more as the quarter unfolds
      Thoughtful and important issues that need bringing up!

      • The specific limitations I am referring to are those in modern western culture and the partnership model as well. We have created a society and culture that is dependent upon a specific way of life and is not aware of their capabilities to function more simplistically. Also it concerns me that the world population is so much denser than when the indigenous people occupied it. We cannot deny that indigenous people had a healthy relationship with nature, but we must also acknowledge that they had practices within their cultures which would not be quite so accepted in today’s society. So while some things can be observed and implemented from our original inhabitants, changes will need to be made to make them applicable. I agree that the idea of existing as a partner with nature is essential, I just don’t know if as a culture it is completely feasible.

        • Thanks for taking the time to clarify this, Emily. It is certainly true that we cannot make a simple return to the past– for one thing, a substantial portion of the topsoil in the Midwest that supported our original growth as a nation now rests under the Mississippi River (and is laden with agricultural chemicals as well). What I do not wish to conclude– since the data does not support it and it is a dangerous tact to take- is that we cannot implement this mutual relationship between ourselves and the natural world because of our population. In fact, I think our current status makes this change all the more imperative. We cannot afford to be careless with the land in any way. And there is new research that indicates industrial agriculture is NOT more productive than other methods such as permaculture or traditional diversity of farm crops–and especially in the long run.
          Yours is an excellent question to ask, given the argument that is out there about our need to compromise our environmental care because of things like our modern population. But you may have noticed I have a new “quote” up on this site from a journalist who has done an award-winning book on climate science: her point is that if we continue as we have, we will undermine our ability to continue on with human civilization period (you can read an essay based on that book here

  100. Perhaps the question “How do we share our world?” should instead be “How do we share the world?”. The world belongs to no one but itself. Life forms are only borrowing from it for a short amount of time. Each human should treat it with respect and return it in a condition which is better than when we entered. We should do so for the sake of all life forms, not just for our children. Humans seem to think of themselves before any other life form. If a pet was saved in a flood while the child was left to drown then our society would intervene to tell us which life is more valuable. We can even put a value on one human life over the another.! I do not know if humans are capable of a partnership with nature when we are not even capable of a partnership with other humans. From the time of recorded history it has been one religion, political view or philosophy against the other. Human lives are sacrificed over such matters yet we know that killing others will not solve our differences. We need to switch from the worldview of controlling each other and each thing to a different worldview of a partnership with one another and all living things. Can we live in harmony with mankind and/or nature? We need to try. No harm will be done if we at least give it a try!

    • Thanks for your comment, Kelly. Very thoughtful point! For me, all earth is alive–and therefore the “our” (in my terms) refers to all life, human or not. Very thoughtful point about the hierarchical world. Perhaps in a partnership worldview, we would not worry about sacrificing one life for another (which is a competitive view) and find an both/and rather than an either/or answer to which life is the most valuable (and deserves “saving”). I do think that it is true that the way we treat other humans (dominating or mastery) reflects the attitude we have toward nature.

  101. How we share out world? Wow! After reading this article and then thinking about the material presented my mind began to race and think of all the things I could say or wanted to say. But, first and foremost, it is important for us to actually “love” and “cherish” the world we live in before we can share it. In order to share the world one needs to realize the effects we as humans can have on the world. What I took away from this article is that not caring means no sharing. Poor choices in the environment can have an adverse affect on our world as a whole. I see it as the “butterfly effect.” For example a person poor something harmful down the drain, the drain leads outside, and it drains into a local body of water, polluting the fish/animals in and around the area of water. Those fish/animals are polluted with toxins, which then in-turn get eaten by a bear, a bear is then killed by a hunter, that hunter feeds his family the meat, the meat is bad because of the toxins and the humans get sick. It is a vicious cycle and it comes back to haunt you. Another example of this is I know a person that their family owns a logging company, and this past summer a person decided that they would dump their garbage (including an old microwave) off in the middle of the forest. During a hot day the garbage and the microwave became combustible, starting fire that burned over 100 acres of land, destroying, trees, vegetation, animals habitats, killing animals, polluting the air with smoke, and making peopr sick from smoke inhalation from fighting the fire. This was act of selfishness could have been prevented, if that one person would have loved their natural earth enough to respect it. I think the bottom line is we can share our natural earth if and only if we respect, care and love it in its entirety.

    • Great point about the importance of caring as a prerequisite to sharing, Jose– the bottom line is that we won’t have anything to share if we don’t care for it. And of course, there is sharing with more than humans… they are not the only lives that we depend on in ecosystems. Certainly, as you indicate, cherishing our earth creates strong motivation to care for it.
      Thanks for your comment.

  102. I think that the biggest point for me in this article was the idea of mutual respect. There should be a mutual respect and understanding between people and the environment around us. The ideas behind a partnership worldview resonates very deeply with me personally. I’m not sure why, but I highly respect people who respect the environment.

    I think that the first place that I remember seeing this idea being roughly addressed was in Disney’s Pocahontas. I remember having my whole idea about the rocks and trees around me change. I saw them as living things all of a sudden. This may seem like a “new age” kind of idea, but believing that there was a spirit that ran through all living things really changed my young views about the environment and how I treat it. And I do still try to treat it with the respect that I tried to give it when I was younger.

    But I don’t think that these issues about environmental awareness and respect are being addressed early enough with children. In elementary schools we teach kids to recycle, but we don’t always teach them why. I asked my little niece why she thinks we should recycle and she told me “because it saves the world.” When I asked her why she wanted to save the world, she couldn’t really tell me why. I feel like if we were to help people have an emotional connection to the earth, like so many of the Native American tribes do, they would have a reason to want to save it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sarah. Mutual respect is certainly a key aspect of the partnership worldview. Your point about teaching children early is a good one. This is the basis of the best selling book, Last Child in the Woods.

  103. I think that Americans have a lot to learn from the views of indigenous people that occupied this land thousands of years before us. There are many lessons that are essential to the survival of humans that have been cornerstones of the spiritual beliefs of these people, many of which stress the importance of the unity of the environment and people. I think that in recent years, the words of the indigenous people have come closer to the hearts of many people as we have come to realize that our actions are not going without vast implications: in our own selfishness, we are tearing apart the environment and the fragile ecosystems that exist in it. As the article states, many people do not realize how important a single species can be to the functioning of the environment: for example, the beavers created ecosystems—wetlands—where plants and animals flourished, but also helped the indigenous people irrigate their farms and provided clean water, eliminating toxins by filtering it through expansive dam systems. Even though so many of these beliefs seem so ancient and basic when we read them, they were true to the lives of indigenous peoples thousands of years ago and remain true today. The word “partnership” is often used in this article because it is so simple and true to the relationships between plants, animals, and humans—by denying this overtly obvious relationship between each of the participants in life and the environment, we either purposefully or inadvertently harm the world around us. By simply keeping the ideas of indigenous American people in our minds, we will make choices that benefit not only ourselves, but keep the ecosystems around us intact and our world in balance.

    • Hi Lauren, thanks for your comment. Thoughtful perspective about the lessons that modern industrial society has yet to learn– lessons that may seem simple (self-evident?) as you note– but take much knowledge (and respect for the ways in which all life is interconnected) to put into practice.

  104. I believe there is much we can learn from the indigenous populations that have existed on these lands for far longer than the Westernized/Industrialized civilizations. We can especially benefit by adopting a partnership worldview not only with regard to our natural resources, but with respect to all of humanity as well. The key to the partnership worldview is mutual respect for all life, human ot otherwise. When we partner (with humans, the natural world, etc.) we are inherently showing that the partner has value to us and thus is worth not only of our respect, but our protection as well.
    As of late, the global consciousness has been raised about protecting the environment and becoming “green,” and the once prevalent attitude of “Not in My Backyard” is slowly being replaced with…”It may not be in my backyard now, but it will be.” This shift in perception is moving us closer to adopting a partnership worldview as we begin to understand how interconnected all life on this planet is.
    We are beginning to comprehend that our actions have direct and indirect consequences. It is very important for us to understand that we are free to make our own choices, but know that we are not free to choose the consequences associated with those choices. Those are out of our control and will be determined for us.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kathleen. A hopeful assessment of what we are starting to learn! Key points that that I agree we need to learn and learn very quickly! As you note, our actions have indirect consequences (or consequences we may try to hide from ourselves) as well as direct ones-and we cannot act wisely without understand these consequences. I like your phrasing in terms of a shift from NIMBY– to if it’s not in my backyard now, it will be. “

  105. If humankind, and ultimately the earth, is to survive, we must recognize that without a paradigm shift, we will only continue down the path toward our demise. I was moved by the way Chehalis Elder Mary Heck spoke of the beaver as a friend and mourned the loss not only for the beaver but for her own people who had relied on the beaver for so much. And, ideally, I would love to see all humankind make this connection. But sadly, while the partnership worldview might take us in the right direction, not everyone will be able to reconcile their own beliefs and values to encompass it as such. Rather I think it might be worthwhile to ask for support of a partnership model, wherein those who cannot justify all the beliefs of the worldview could, at the very least, help sustain the model of it.

    Unfortunately, the mental health of the entire world community is affecting whether we could reasonably adopt this model. The essay notes that “a first step in establishing a partnership is treating partners with comparable respect to that with which we treat ourselves.” Sadly, I believe if we treated our partners on this planet with the same respect we gave ourselves, we might realize we are hardly expecting much. If one looks at where we are globally, we barely respect ourselves, let alone our fellow human beings. Beyond that is a steep climb toward respecting those whom we deem less worthy (animals, rivers, mountains, etc.). At this juncture, maybe we need to leave behind this quest to reconcile this moral dilemma, lest we spend an eternity running in circles, never going anywhere.

    The question, then, must not be which worldview is right and which is wrong. Belief systems have been in conflict since the beginning of humanity. I believe it more effecient and strategic to ask how each one is working. Where is each one taking us? And, ultimately, depending on which path we take, do we like where we’re headed? If we can see it as such, it no longer becomes an attack on or debate about our personal beliefs. It becomes more like a collaboration of great wisdom that can be extracted from many worldviews to run the great machine that will enable us to sustain what we have and build an even better contraption for the future.

    • Hello Staci. Thanks for your very thoughtful comment here. I appreciate your observation that we are not doing very well in our standards of treating one another– especially those whom we designate as “other” than ourselves. I do think there is a positive feedback loop here: those earth-centered indigenous cultures who used the partnership model to allow them to both respect and learn from the natural world treated one another with respect and equality- it would be great to take any small steps we might back in this direction. The first step is dropping the idea of dominating, mastering, and controlling the world around us– which certainly gets us nowhere in terms of learning.
      You have a great point that we should assess what is working/has worked– and assess whether or not our strategies are getting us where we want to go. I do think that our perceptions (based on our beliefs) influence our choices– they influence even what we believe is possible to try. And one of the benefits of modern globalization is our ability to assess a range of worldviews and their interrelationships. The collaborative attitude you mention at the end (rather than I am right/you are wrong) is a key component of the partnership stance.
      I appreciate your critical analysis here!

  106. How do we share our world? It is a question everyone should consider. Growing up in the pacific northwest there has always been an urgent drive to buy a house and to buy land before someone else comes and buys it or the prices go up. This drive to buy up the world so that one can have a place within it seems so harmful and fear-driven. At times it can seem downright absurd to me that within human society we buy and own the earth. That we even consider the Earth a commodity to be bought and sold seems greedy. And if one doesn’t have the money to buy a piece of the Earth, they are homeless….
    Just like the beaver and otter, being born on earth gives us the privilege of calling it home. It does not mean we should buy, sell, fence it off and own it. To see ourselves as equals with our human sisters and brothers as well as the animals and resources on Earth is one way we can share our world. Not one of us is more entitled to own a piece of this planet than the other.

    • Hi Jessica, thanks for your comment. Great perspective on a natural sense of home and belonging that is beyond buying it up. I like your last paragraph in expressing the sense of equality and justice here. In most indigenous societies, to be born is to be born to rights to share food, shelter and clothing–and humans belong to the land rather than land belonging to individual humans.
      I have seen some good uses of ownership– more and more gardens and native landscaping. I don’t think the problem is caring for a place, but fear-based (as you say) hording of the earth we share. There are those who buy up land specifically to conserve it (as does the Nature Conservancy). The problem comes when folks ownership gives them the right to treat “their” land in any way they want– to use it up and move on, treating it, as Wendell Berry has remarked, like a “one night stand”.

  107. I find it fascinating that the salmon thrived under a “respect” regime. Its very anti-instinctual for me with a natural resource background that focuses on stream quality for fisheries management.

    • Thanks for the observation, Coral. I wonder why water quality should not be connected to respect for the salmon (that is, caring for its habitat). They seem to me very connected. And you might check out the website of the Columbia River Intertribal Fishing Commission in terms of some amazing work they are doing. You might also be interested to know that the tribes of Washington and Oregon each hire more natural resource professionals than do either state…their traditional respect for the salmon motivates them to help them in whatever way they can.

  108. “How do we share our world?” What a question, and a rather bothersome one at that, given the fact that I see more about how we do NOT share our world rather than how we DO share her. I can name off numerous ways we do not share our world. But, to share it? Why, such a concept it uncommon amidst the human race, which has evolved into a solely selfish, narrow-minded, indolent, and avaricious species.

    I absolutely admire individuals like Mary Heck. They are surely few and far between, but when I read or hear of such people and their selfless passions, it lifts my heart, and I feel myself become somewhat inspired and less hopeless. Due to their efforts and their recognition that “the earth is alive. It has a heart” and that all natural species are “peoples” too, and that we must “expand our range of vision” considering the natural world, I am lead out of that shroud of darkness with which I perhaps cloaked myself upon seeing the ugliness of the whole of mankind when it comes to their carelessness and ignorance to the natural world, and even their indifference towards her. They just take from the land what they desire, without regard to the other species with whom we should be sharing this land, and without regard to the ultimate consequences.

    It has irked and deeply saddened me to the point where I find I do not even know how or where to begin to reach out a hand and help; to the point where I just turn to pity, and to writing by which I can vent my anger in my own kind, my disappointment in my species; and by which I can express, the best way I know how, my respect for the wilderness and my sorrow for how she has been treated.

    “How do we share our world?” We should first begin by recognizing that she is not “OUR” world to claim. Chief Seattle once wrote, “The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.” That is something I shall stick by. And we should then continue by recognizing what exactly she is, and how she has served us, and how we thus need to return her favors and respect, rather than take for granted all that she has given us to thrive… for without her, we could not exist… and thus, how could we possibly perceive our existence as being above her’s and the other species’ with whom we should be sharing this land?

    We have absolutely no right to perceive ourselves as being a dominant or superior race to all other living things or natural things, each on which our existence relies! It IS sad that we only begin to aid their existence when we realize our own is threatened due to our careless and selfish behavior.

    • Heartfelt as well as thoughtful points, here, Cherisse. Thanks for sharing them. Good point that it is not “our” world to exploit– only ours in the sense that we all (including future generations) must share a life here.
      And in the circle of life we are indeed hurting ourselves when we destroy habitats upon which human and more than human life depends.

  109. We all seem to be very passionate about the fate of our Earth, and I think these discussions are absolutely key to shifting awareness towards a better path. A partnership worldview is completely what we need to shift towards if we want to honor our planet and survive. We have become so disconnected from the core meaning of a shared community, a collective with many interconnected relationships that depend on one another, that we have isolated ourselves in the Western world and created a sense of loneliness and discord that is palpable in the air and obvious on people’s faces.

    Solar panels and composting are fabulous, and each ‘green’ tool or technology that contributes to the overall shift will always hold my favor, but we need to get to the root of the issue, which is, our worldview. Our spirituality. Our way of thinking- WHAT we think- which is essentially, ourselves. How do we do this? Or- for those of us who DO ‘get it’- how do we influence and inspire others?
    Having been raised in a private Christian school in California, I’m particularly interested in how to mold this to the Christian mindset. At this point, with some of the people I’ve tried to engage in debate with, it feels almost impossible. There is no way I can even convince SOME that evolution is actually how we came to be, and YES, we did evolve from apes. The Bible is the WORD, hands down. So, the best way forward then, is to find scriptures that all ready exist and frame them to fit our purpose. That God made the Earth (in 7 days or millions of years, whatever!) and that his creations are sacred, and should be treated with the utmost respect and reverence. That by abusing his creation, we are abusing God. That by trying to build a ‘Tower of Babel’ with our current capitalist system, we will only be struck down. I would be so incredibly happy if suddenly all the Christians in America took up the environmental cause. Think about how much influence and (finally!) POSITIVE energy from them the earth could benefit from.

    • You have a very important issue there, Natalie–and with so many Christians in the world today, a very important one. Thanks for joining a discussion about worldview that I also believe is an essential one. You might be interested in taking a look at the recent responses I made to comments about Thomas Berry’s work to see if they are pertinent to your own thinking.

  110. This is such a wonderful essay. I really enjoyed reading about the way connection with animals and people should continue on. I also believe that this connection should be allowed to continue, because if it doesn’t then our world could crumble in front of us. I think that more people should think about animals more like they are humans, rather than something they can take from and don’t need to return anything back.

  111. Madronna, I think the question that you pose in this essay about how we can shift from how “we ‘manage’ natural resources to how we manage ourselves to support nature’s resilience” is a poignant one. Our modern world is based all too much in anthropocentric worldviews that tell us that humans are the most important species on the planet. However, we are not even a keystone species. Meaning, if humans went extinct (some would say when), the rest of the planet would not suffer for it, in fact, it would probably improve. If the beaver or the otter, as mentioned above, go extinct, we will see vast consequences beginning with our wetlands and imbalances in the ocean. So, given the fact that we are so replaceable, why do we think that it is for us to manage the rest of the world? Because we can?

    Actually, we’ve proven that we can’t. After so many failing attempts to manage the natural world, isn’t it time to move on and try something different? Perhaps it is time to look at our own species and learn to manage ourselves and in the process learn to be a part of nature– not separate from.

    • Thanks for your comment, Dazzia. I certainly agree that it is time to learn this lesson of self-management, which is also the lesson of survival. After all, it was such learning from the past that gave us human culture itself. It is only arrogance and it results in ultimate self-destruction to assume we have nothing to learn from our own past– and certainly, from the exquisitely detailed past over which the lives in natural systems learned to adapt to and work in balance with one another.

  112. I really enjoyed reading this article (in fact, I read it twice!) because it really put into perspective for me that other civilizations treat and see the world much differently than what I have been exposed to. The idea of reciprocity is a value that most Americans don’t incorporate into their lives. Our culture uses, uses, and uses the environment without thinking about giving back. The idea of “taking only as much as you could replace from natural systems, and treating natural life with respect in order to allow it to flourish – which in turn allowed humans to flourish” should be embraced more today within our culture. If we don’t start to give back, our resources will be gone and we’ll be left in ruin.

    I do feel that the changes our president is starting to make will improve our environment in America, but I don’t think (sadly) that we will ever be able to even halfway revert back to the way the early Indian tribes were able to manage themselves alongside nature. We no longer possess that kind of respect in our culture today, but I believe that we have started to expand our “listening skills and range of vision” more-so than during the previous years when our government turned a relatively blind eye to what was happening to our land.

    • Thank you for the comment, Katy. I’m glad you enjoyed this essay! Reciprocity is an important value to enact if we hope to pass on a vital world to our children. I agree with you that there are heartening changes in process and that is hopeful indeed. And from this post, it seems you are part of these changes!

  113. I appreciate the level of detail this essay chooses to communicate. It hits home very hard here in Oregon, and at Oregon State University with the forests and wetlands so nearby, yet many haven’t taken the time to ever look at their true worth. As Americans and capitalist adventurers we can lose sight of how much of a system our world is. As a whole the system looks endless and limitless, but when the tiniest pieces begin to disappear we realize how connected everything truly is. The biosphere is so dynamic and unstable, we fail to realize that punctuated natural selection is going to include us humans if we don’t watch our giant proverbial steps.

    • Thanks for your comment, Anthony. You have some very good points about realizing that in dealing with nature we are dealing with a system– which leads to the question of choice as to how we treat that system. From my perspective, partnership is the choice to go with. And I think the system only looks limitless when we have little true intimacy with its interworkings– as was the case with the pioneers who had such a short terms perspective on things like the salmon runs.

  114. This article eloquently summarizes the idea of a partnership worldview, which, in my mind, is a perspective that must be adopted in order to sustain a balanced and healthy eco-system. I don’t understand how human beings, as a whole, have strayed so far from this partnership, which appears to be inherent in all of natural life. I fear that for many people acceptance of the partnership worldview will be challenging because so many communities in which we live are so far separated from nature that it is difficult to directly hear nature’s response to our actions. Indigenous people developed a kinship with nature because they had direct interactions with natural resources, where as many modern communities no longer have the benefit of direct daily communion with the soul of the land. I suppose these concerns are related to the “not in my backyard” attitude that is immensely detrimental to our planet, and has contributed to the hierarchal worldview. To combat the hierarchal worldview, and convince it’s proponents of the interconnectedness of life, individuals must be willing to listen to “the river running” and “the wind talking”, and make the necessary changes to support the resiliency of our natural world. I am hopeful that we as a species can repair our broken relationship with the natural world and once again live in harmony with our environment. The indigenous peoples have showed us that a partnership with the natural world is the only way for life to flourish, and we must follow their leadership.

    • Thank you for your own eloquent response here, Jordan. You have an excellent point that humans will not be motivated to care for that with which they have no connection or understanding. I feel the same hope you do. But if humans lived this way for thousands upon thousands of years, we can certainly take up these values once again. This does not mean a return to the past– which of course is impossible. But we will need to decide how to evaluate our choices based on values that succeed in restoring, as you put it, our “broken relationship” with nature. I think this goes hand in hand in restoring our broken relationship with one another–indeed, with all of life. And this will mean, as you also indicate, that we will need to develop our listening skills once again.

  115. When I read about the partnership model and how it encourages humans to manage themselves it reminded me of how we must each individually make the changes that are necessary to make our Earth a better place to live. Such changes could be walking, biking or using public transport. It could be reusing plastic bags for bulk items, or buying only locally made products and locally, organic produce. It could be buying what we need used, or just making due with what we have and not falling prey to the desire to update our things. Managing ourselves reminds me that I must take matters into my own hands and not wait for legislation to tell me what is best. Managing ourselves means holding oneself responsible and acting in an ethical way because one believes that it is right to do so, for the Earth and all its many inhabitants.

    • Hi Jessica, thanks for your comment. Great point about the assumption of personal responsibility here– with some suggestions of how to do this. Managing ourselves also means we honor ourselves by putting our values into action. This is, as you indicate, very different from saying someone else will do it– instead it is knowing how important and meaningful each of us it.

  116. The article really brings home the idea that we can not live in a ‘me’ world, that all our actions have an effect somewhere on something. Once we begin to see that we are responsible for our own actions and that those actions have consequences far ranging, we may begin to take better care of what we do. Just as in a relationship with a spouse, communication is vital. It must be communication in both directions and on equal terms. If one partner dominates, then the other will not flourish and the whole relationship will suffer. As we try to improve our surroundings we must look to the long term effects not just the immediate results. Such work must also have open communication will all involved, and that those present do not lose sight of those that may not be able to express their needs openly. In the end we must improve our own understanding and knowledge, so that we are better equipped to help the future effects of our present actions.

    • Thanks for your comment, Adeena. Good point about our inability to live in a “me” world– certainly we cannot live this way for the long term without the self-destructive consequences of destroying the sources of our own sustenance. I think your analogy of partnership with a spouse (or a close friend for that matter) is an apt one in pointing out the importance of communication and balance in the relationship we must also develop with the natural world. And ignoring the fact that our actions have consequences furthers neither knowledge, ethics– or survival.

  117. I feel that the idea of having a partnership with nature can be very beneficial. Similar to a partnership with a friend you want both yourself and your partner to succeed. If one takes advantage of the other and abuses what the partner has to offer than obviously the partnership will fail. In the same sense if we are not using resources and respecting nature it will slowly begin to fade. If people implement this idea into their own lives then they will be benefiting both themselves and nature. However, I think this concept would be hard for most people to put into action, because of the times we live in and our desire for material things.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughtful perspective here, Travis. I agree that this is a change from the more general values in our culture today. I wonder if you see hope that as we realize the consequences of our actions (if we realize these!) it gives us an impetus to reevaluate our choices. After all, the most basic “material thing” I can think of is survival, and this is what we are undercutting with our present course.

  118. Only when humans recognize the wisdom of treating our partners (nature), with comparable respect of how we treat ourselves, will we truly find a healthy balance. The worldview strives to create the intertwined relationship between humans and other natural life. As stated in the article, “whatever we do to our natural environment, we do to ourselves.” Lucy Thompson’s insights, I think, state it well “partnership view implements both intimate knowledge of natural systems and careful monitoring of the results of human actions on those systems.”

    Worldview partnership does not naturally immunize us from domination. However, it does start by transferring knowledge for humans to use responsibly. I do believe, as the article stated, “the more one tries to control a thing, the less one sees if for what is.” This statement should be the forefront reminding all that trying to dominate only places humans at a disadvantage for appreciating the real value upon its source. Humans need to continue to listen, learn, and use knowledge for the betterment of a partnership with nature.

    • Thanks for this thoughtful comment, Marla. Your well taken points underscore your insight as to the fact that trying to dominate nature ultimately places humans at a disadvantage– as we are currently seeing in our environmental crises. It is time to do better for our sake and sakes of our children. And yes, no matter how much we practice the partnership mode, domination could seep in– I think this is something we need to watch for and correct in ourselves if we hope to do well by this beautiful gift of a world we find ourselves in.

  119. The idea of partnering with the natural world in order to sustain the flora and fauna which we are so quickly depeleting, is one in which I can strongly agree with. We live in a society that, for the most part, views the natural world in terms of resources rather than for their intrinsic value. I strongly agree with the quote from the article, the more we try to control the more we lost sight of the value in the natural world. We rarely consider the impact we have on the resources we do infact exploit. It isn’t until the ripple effect impacts us in some way that we realize the ramifications of our actions. I appreciated the example of the sea otter as a keystone species. When populations began to decline, urchin populations began to increase, which in turn devestated kelp forests. These keystone species played an ecosystem role that wasn’t considered or anticipated when humans began wiping them out for their fur. One of the many downsides to not considering and respecting the possible roles that different species play in out environment, is that we often do not find them out until it is too late.

    I think that being in tuned with nature and all species within in, seeing them for thier intrisic value as opposed to utilization as profit, allows us the opportunity to anticipate negative effects which might incur as a result of our actions. Disconnection leads to disregard, and I feel that is a perspective on the natural world which we can no longer afford to have.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful and caring comment, Cori. You bring up an essential point about viewing more than human life according to intrinsic value– rather than its value for human use.
      The attempt to control the world around us has brought us some short term convenience and wealth for some humans, but long term environmental devastation–and I don’t think we are doing particularly well in relating to one another either.
      Intrinsic value allows us to honor species that act as keystones in the natural environment we depend upon– which we might well not, as you note, notice until after we devastate them.
      Anticipating negative consequences of our actions is certainly a key to survival. It is wise statement you make that “disconnection leads to disregard”.

  120. It’s interesting that was once common sense and part of everyday life now makes for the backbone of several college majors if not several departments. It’s amazing the breadth of knowledge that was lost during the European settlement of America. In hindsight and when stated so plainly the idea that man is a part of nature seems so obvious. Yet it’s take us hundreds of years and the idea is only just now beginning to take root in our culture again.

    We may not be able to adopt past cultures as our own or turn back the clock, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from them. One of the aspects of anthropology that I find most intriguing is the simple question of “why”. Once you understand that you can separate the wisdom from the superstition. Then there is no need to adopt that superstition falsely, you can take the wisdom and honestly make it a part of your own world view.

    • Hi Peter, interesting indeed! See my previous response for the idea that native wisdom is interlinked in “superstition”. A most astute discussion that points this out is Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’ discussion of indigenous knowledge among the Kalahari bushmen in The Old Way- based on her life among these people for many years as a child and young woman.
      We certainly cannot turn back the clock– but the model of “partnership” is an idea whose time has hopefully come. I myself find hope in the fact that the article you are responding to here has been re-posted not only on environmental but also on community and community change sites (including union sites), religious sites and business sites.
      My only added hope is that the shift from attempted domination of the natural world and other humans comes quickly enough.
      And I absolutely agree that we cannot return to the past– what we can do is reclaim the wisdom of the past. After all, passing wisdom between generations is what made human culture in the first. To throw out learning from the past is tantamount to attempting to learn how to be human all over again at birth.

  121. I found this article resonant with the teachings of the nearby Ute, Navajo, and Hopi tribes. There were many times in grade school that we would participate in the re-creation of some of their rituals and ceremonies, and I was always impressed that nothing went to waste and how everything was thanking the earth for what it provides. Sometimes, I wonder what happened, but, then I know, convienence happened. The idea that the lawmakers are usually the least effected by a new ruling is also something that I believe. Living in rural Colorado, this is also true in rural Oregon, the lawmakers live in Denver or Portland where things aren’t always the same. Sometimes this can really effect the other people and the way they live life in a negative way.

    I think that the Native Americans had it right, we are all just animals and a distinctions does not need to be made between humans and other animals. It is important for us to be able to share the world with all the plants and animals that inhabit it. We are not necessary for the future survival of the world, but we are doing a pretty good job of interfering with much of earth’s life while we are here.

    • Thanks for your comment, Hannah.
      I just want to add a note, not to you by any means– but to clarify a key issue. I think it is important to re-enact native ceremonies ONLY through the tribes involved, since these ceremonies belong to them–and not to us to re-use. Native peoples are very concerned about this. Learning from others does not mean co-opting their cultures (generally in our own terms rather than terms faithful to them).
      The worst offenders are folks who offer to teach native religion in a weekend to all takers who have the money to pay them. Modern native peoples are struggling with environmental and social choices leftover from a history of colonialism and should not be romanticized. I wanted to make this statement so that readers don’t get a misconception from this site.
      I appreciate your respect for these ways of life–and for your expanding your thinking beyond human dominance. I agree that the world does not need us as much as we need it– something we might well keep in mind!

  122. This article brings to light many of the same issues that face those of us living here in Hawaii. The partnership worldview was the standard in ancient Hawaii, and the Hawaiian people had lived in virtual harmony with their environment for almost 2000 years. Sustainable ecosystems were the norm and the idea that certain resources were expendable was a very foreign concept to the natives. Food supplies and fish populations were valued and treated with respect, as overfishing would undoubtedly lead to starvation of Hawaiians in later years.
    Here on Kauai we have a river valley called the Hanalei valley. It is estimated that taro fields in Hanalei have existed since approximately the year 300AD. This valley is pristine and looks virtually untouched. This is a perfect example of the Hawaiian partnership view and its effects on sustainability. The Hanalei valley looks as native today as it ever did, even though it has been used in continual food production for nearly 2000 years. However, contrasting that with the condition of the land on Kauai farmed by large American bio-tech corn production companies and sugar cane companies, most people would be shocked at the difference of the two approaches. Our modern agricultural practices have increased yield, but nearly turned the farming areas into landfills in the process. Fertilizers seep into the ocean causing reef death, killing fish, and generating plumes of eutrophication. Plastic drip hose and garbage litter the once beautiful flat lands of Kekaha and approach right up to the boundaries of the ancient burial grounds of the kings at Polihale.
    Western culture’s lack of a partnership worldview emphasizing the interconnectedness of all forms of life has lead to the serious decline of nearly every ecosystem in Hawaii over the last 200 years. After nearly 2000 years of Hawaiian sustainable living, Western practices have nearly undone all the work at preservation previously practiced. However, most ironically perhaps is the fact that the population on Kauai is now nearly identical to what it was before its discovery by Westerners. Yet, now instead of seeing Poipu’s lush valleys of Hawaiian taro fields, we see the Grand Hyatt Resort Kauai. Instead of pristine villages in the foothills at the base of the mountains in Lihue, we see Costco and Home Depot.
    Overfishing and pollution have proved to be devastating to the local wildlife, and especially considering that most of that native wildlife has virtually no inherited resistance to any kind of foreign disease or virus. Much like Chehalis elder Mary Heck, you can hear he native Hawaiians regularly decrying the abuses to the environment currently being perpetrated and urging a return to the partnership worldview as our only means of recovering from this tragic and self-inflicted decline in our tropical ecosystem.

    • Hi Joshua, there is great information here. Thanks for giving us this historical and cultural perspective on the failure of partnership with industrial farming. Two central issues you illustrate (among others) here. One is the ways which our manufacturing processes have created and used materials– especially plastics– that place themselves outside the waste equals food cycle in the natural world. The second is the way in which we measure “production” in terms of the short term for a single crop. I find it more than a bit harrowing that CORN is now being raised in this valley– I assume as a result of the ethanol push that is dislocating Mexican farmers from their own subsistence crops. Corn production for fuel is not a sustainable practice, as you likely know, since it takes more energy to produce the corn than it itself produces as fuel. We cannot afford to run our production systems on such losses for very long.
      Thanks for putting this together and sharing it.

  123. It’s hard to believe that John McLoughlin and George Simpson seemed to think that the fur supply was endless. They didn’t seem to be aware that once the fur is gone, so are the profits, until it’s too late and the damage is done to the ego system. The damage done to the environment may take generations to recover, if it can be recovered. We have learned a lot about the environment since those days with more and more people caring about the future of our lands. It’s still a fight since it is much more profitable to destroy the environment for profit than to respect it and preserve it for future generations. But I feel that profits can be made while preserving the planet. Tax breaks are helpful and these days more people are choosing to buy more products from companies who are using green practices.
    It’s also fascinating that modern technologies can also work with the ways of the tribal elders to preserve the earth. The work of Barbara McClintock’s work is fascinating since she saw the corn as an individual, such as the indigenous people treated all living things as individuals with a purpose and to only take what you need to survive, not for a profit. With such a huge population in today’s world, we need to use our modern technology to support our earth, but to also preserve it. We’ll never be able get away from the greed of others, but if we can make it profitable to corporations to be green, we may have a chance to preserve what is left of our world for future generations.

    • Interestingly, they did not think the fur supply was endless but that they should take out as many beaver as possible to make the area unattractive to fur traders who would otherwise be tempted to come into this territory. Still, you logic applies in that once you have destroyed the resource you depend upon, it is gone– for whatever reason. I think it is only profitable to destroy the environment in the very short term–and more usually the profit involved belongs only to a few, since it entails those few using up the “commons” upon which the whole community of humans and more than human life relies on for survival.
      I agree with you about green incentives: we certainly have a dangerously irrational system that rewards actions that result in consequences (such as pollution) that few of us desire.
      Thanks for you comment, Judilyn.

  124. (I have not read the entire comment section, so I apologize if this has been asked/answered before.)

    While I care and respect the natural world that surrounds us, and I think the partnership worldview is a great idea, I can’t help but think about the future of our ever expanding race.

    Having respect for diversity in a recognition that all natural life possesses spirit and personhood is a fantastic way to help remind us humans that we need the natural world to survive. Let’s say we take on this respect. We see the salmon as partners again. The otter and beaver population are growing. Now what? With populations on the rise and a better fostering of waq’ádyšwit, doesn’t that mean the human population needs to slow down? There’s only so much space on Earth. Where will we all go?

    Humans are expanding at an uncontrollable rate: we need more space to live, more food to eat, more resources to survive. I know you ask that we not focus on how we manage our resources, but that’s the next logical step, is it not? Where can we obtain these necessities without taking more and more from our natural world? I’m not saying that our current methods of pillaging this Earth are correct by any means. I suppose I’m asking what you suggest we do.

    Are you saying we humans, as beings with self-awareness, need to “take one for the team” for the natural world? Find better ways to manage our consumption of resources? Slow the rate at which we populate?

    Maybe I’m missing the point. Maybe with this newfound respect, the answers to all my questions will begin to appear naturally. At this stage in the process, the point is to begin nurturing this partnership so that future generations are born and instilled with this idea, and can act accordingly. However, I’m still concerned that it may be too late to just ask for a respect of waq’ádyšwit. Action needs to be taken before we completely decimate our natural world. Can we afford to wait another generation or two? The beaver, otter, and salmon may be extinct by then. What else can we do now?

    • Hi Lincoln, thanks for your comment. Whereas you might do well to look into a few of the comments so that you get a sense of the dialogue here, I can hardly expect you to read all 245 of the ones that came before yours!
      You raise a very important issue. A competitive worldview (like our own) sees the well being of humans in competition with those of more than human life, so that we would have to “take one for the home team”, as you put it, in order to allow others to survive, much less thrive. But let’s take a different scenario: the one in which all natural life actually IS interdependent and so to act in partnership is to act in concert with natural systems– and our own best biological interests, the ones that further our survival. We WILL need to change our practices of consumption and our use of technology so that we no longer create wastes that cannot be assimilated into natural systems as food. We will need to stem the release of toxins into our environment. But none of those things are particularly good for humans either–though advertising would like us to believe that we need to consume more. We will need to develop an economy based on sustainability rather than growth–or at least, growth of things like human knowledge rather than grow based on using up natural resources that cannot be replaced in the time frame in which we are using them up. In short, we will need to stop ravaging natural systems, including the climate homoestasis that has allowed humans to flourish for the past several thousand years. This means much change, and quickly, but there is much being done, as we can see on this site. I cannot guarantee we will be able to pull this off– to create a human way of life that once more fits with natural systems in which we grew to be human. But I know we are creative and nature is resilient and what we need is each of us doing what we can. Several assessments have concluded that we have the technology to halt climate change, for instance (see the latest issue of YES magazine): what we need is the collective will to use those resources. In a world of increasing human population, it is all the more imperative we stop ravaging the sources of our sustenance. And perhaps, just perhaps we will together learn how to manage our populations in such a way that, as Paul Hawken has put it, we will be able to welcome every human baby into our shared world.

  125. It seems to me that some of the ideas of the Partnership worldview are becoming more and more incorporated into real world practices. Ideas such as sustainability and conservationism are growing in popularity and such ideas are in line with a worldview in which one does not seek to conquer the environment but to live within it. Conservationism seeks to responsibly manage natural environments in such a way that resources can be extracted without unnecessary waste and the environment preserved for future generations. This may not go as far the Partnership worldview in which our place in the world is on an equal footing alongside that of forests or salmon but it is a policy more in tune with nature than the policy of the industrial revolution where everything was seen as a resource to be extracted without thought to consequences 15 or 30 or more years into the future. I think the Partnership worldview would help us see ourselves for what we are – members within an ecosystem, not standing outside of it or lording above it. And an ecosystem is nothing more than a community. It can be as small as a forest pond or as large as one of the great lakes. If we hope to have a healthy and nourishing ecosystem (community) then we must learn how best to live within this system.

    • Hi Jeff, thanks for your comment. It is hopeful to me that, as you say, the partnership worldview is becoming more incorporated into our real world practices. I very much like your definition of an ecosystem as essentially a community. And as you indicate, it is time we rejoined the community of life in which a healthy and nourishing (great word) ecosystem thrives because it is nourished by all of its members– especially ourselves.

  126. Society as a whole is disconnected from nature seeing the human race as somehow separate, often completely unaware of how inextricably linked we are. Most children as well as many adults are totally unaware of where our food comes from let alone having any comprehension of the environmental impact its growth has on the balance of nature. Unfortunately many people trust politicians to make important environmental decisions. Val Plumwood stated, “Those who have the most power to make environmental decisions are the least likely to be visibly and immediately affected by them.” That statement alone clearly reiterates the separation from nature felt in Western society. The partnership model of a reciprocal relationship with the natural world has without question been successfully achieved by indigenous cultures throughout the world. The problem is that those making the decisions have blinders on when it comes to these cultures. Where I feel overwhelmed by this essay is in my own awareness and actions. It is one thing to be aware of the necessary changes that must be made to sustain reciprocity with nature, but a completely different thing when the only answer comes from actually doing MORE about it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Stacie. As you point out, it is a sign of our personal authenticity (and honoring our own values) that we ACT what we believe– especially if we also believe a change is truly necessary. And that can seem overwhelming indeed. But we don’t have to do this alone. Look how many like-minded (and like-acting) persons join you on this site. And look how many links there are to small and large networks that express the same values. I believe this: that your values influence how you see the world. And if you see the world in terms of partnership you will see chances to act differently and be motivated to do so.
      It those at the top have blinders on, it is time for us to remove our own blinders and join the movement that, as the Muckleshoot elder put it, “goes on the side of life.”
      There are times when it takes courage to care–and these are, precisely, the times when it is most important to do so.

  127. I am an atheist. Not always, but often times, people view atheists as soulless creatures that have nothing to live for. To the contrary, I view this life as the only life I have, so I want to make the most of it. I deeply desire to ensure that when I do die, I have improved the world, increased the base of human knowledge, and have not consumed more natural resources than was absolutely necessary.
    It is important to learn from the elders and to embrace what they have to teach. Often times the western thought is to kill and conquer. It is unfortunate that education is lacking in the western culture where the “not in my backyard” phenomenon has bred. To learn from the elders the necessity to live with the earth and all of its beings is a crucial idea that must be spread throughout our society. No matter what we destroy or alter we will suffer the consequences. We are in a state of suffering right now where the idea of mass consumption is wide spread and our destruction is imminent. The people’s ethic of reciprocity is one that should have been embraced when we intruded on their world and stole everything from them. In an ideal world we would encompass that ethic into our daily lives. A Yurok elder once told me as I was admiring the beauty of his work and detail on his eel hooks, “The white man has taken all of this from us. They stole our lands and poisoned our waters. We used to have so many eel where are they now, it is your job to find them and to bring them back to us.” We are responsible for our future and it is about time that people started thinking consciously about their effect on the land before it is too late. There have always been people who worked for the land and tried to open our eyes as to the dangers we are creating, from Rachel Carson to Vandana Shiva we are surrounded by amazing fighters that have dedicated their lives to overcome the ignorance we have bred. It is encouraging to see a changing attitude but we have destroyed so much that we need to kick it into high gear to fix what our past generations have destroyed. It is amazing how we have alienated ourselves from the ‘spirit’ of the earth. We are so disconnected with nature that this partnership with nature would be a key to change our view. What impressed me about this paper is that the people lived sustainably with the earth for 10,000 years and I see that in a fraction of that time we have destroyed everything that they have lived for. I also was impressed by Madronna Holden’s comment that the partnership worldview is one that, even though it recognizes that it has the ability to dominate, it chooses not to. Like a child, we are a young ‘people’, a young society that must first make mistakes before learning how to live. Some of us are on a path of recognizing the importance of the partnership worldview and trying to incorporate it into our lives. Hopefully from us, others will learn and let go of their destructive and wasteful ways so that we can all benefit. That we never look down on others for what they can do for us but look at them with eyes of how we can help each other to grow and become a better world.
    I’m just curious about other atheists and how they view the world. I know I cannot be the only atheist that feels the urgency in preserving the natural world.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful post, Lance. This is obviously something about which you have been doing much thinking. There are many profound points here in terms of values we need to bring back, such as reciprocity and our imperative to act now–as well as the sense of respect with which we should view and act toward other lives, human and more than human.
      As to the question of atheism: it seems to me more authentic a personal stance to be an atheist who has done some critical thinking on these issues and lives accordingly, rather than a theist who sees his/her God as licensing the power to act thoughtlessly and destructively.

  128. Humans are differen’t than animals when it comes to giving and taking equalibrium. Humans are able to manipulate their natural carrying capacity which throws off the natural balace. We do need to manage have better vission when it comes to visualizing natures resiliance. The only outcome of going over our carrying capacity is the depletion of our resources followed by the depletion or our own species. The word will always be around; species are coming and going constantly. Eventually we will have a closer relationship with our natural resources because we will have to, to survive. This is why cultures such as the Chehalis put nature higher up on a pedistol, because they need too, And we will too eventually. The problem is that “loss of feedback”, which is essential in keeping balance of life. Our bodies use feedback for nearly every process. When the feedback takes more time to hit the people making these natural resource decisions, the feedback loop looses the information in the people that are directly affected by it. Eventually the decision makers will greater effects, but will it be too late for our particular species?

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Benji. I think we must all answer your important final question with our own critical thinking and action. Will it be too late? It will if we fail to act–or to pay attention to the feedback that you point out is so important to our survival.

  129. I really believe in the philosophy of humans partnering with the natural world. I think with the human population growing so rapidly that it is now a necessity and no longer a luxury for us to do so. That said I do think that it is somewhat unfair to assume that early settlers had malicious intent to destroy the natural world as they passed through and settled into new lands. Were some of the things the pioneers did destructive both to indigenous people and to the natural world? Undoubtedly, yes, but I think that it is important to realize that their worldview at the time did not include a concept of the natural world as being something that could be depleted. It was vast and seemed unending to them. Pioneers depended on the environment as much as they destroyed it, they were trying to survive in a new and unfamiliar place and made many mistakes in their treatment of the environment as they were trying to figure out how to live in it. In many instances, it can be argued that it was their ignorance as to how they were affecting the environment that was the most destructive. For that reason I feel that education about the natural world and how we as humans affect it is the greatest resource we have to protect the environment we live in.

    • Thanks for your comment, Katy. I agree that the increase in human population makes it all the more imperative that we assume a partnership stance with respect to the natural world. I also think you are right that we need to learn from our past. I do think there was ignorance involved in many destructive decisions on the part of many (though not all) pioneers, but there was more: the dominating stance they assumed as a result of their worldview made them unable to see clearly either native peoples or the natural environment. If we must right such ignorance, we must also deny such domination a place in our hearts.
      We are fortunate indeed to be able to have the perspective to make such choices. I appreciate your compassion in this response.

  130. This is only the first reading of the term and, already, I am learning to view the world through different lenses. Even my perception of the beaver, our official state animal and OSU mascot, has changed. I had no inkling of its ecological importance on both sides of the Cascades! Another conceptual shift was to realize that resource management is not the answer to our environmental problems. Instead, we must manage human behavior. That is, we must ” shift from how we ‘manage’ natural resources to how we manage ourselves to support nature’s resilience.” This essay outlines the behavior required to support that resiliency, admonishing us to treat natural life as “intimate kin” and ascribe “personhood” to animals, plants, and even the land. Vandana Shiva is quoted as calling this “the democracy of all life.”

    The overarching concept of the essay is reciprocity. My favorite quotation is, “In such reciprocity, we find the intersection of ethics and practical outcomes in our interdependent world.” Rachel Carson would agree. We are only beginning to study the toxic chemical load that we each carry in our tissue and bodily fluids. From what I’ve heard, the findings regarding breast milk are just the tip of the iceberg. We are truly in a partnership with the natural world. As the essay states, “The partnership model sensitizes humans to the ways in which natural life ‘talks back’ to us.” Now we just need to listen.

    • I appreciate the sensitivity and careful reading in your response, Taylor. There is good reason for us to honor the beaver (inadvertently?) as our mascot, as you point out!
      I’m glad you agree about the importance of managing ourselves– we have made rather a bad attempt at managing nature for our benefit.
      I very much like your emphasis on reciprocity and your last sentence about learning to listen.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  131. It’s interesting that the vast majority of those who have a desire to understand and accept the connection between nature and our (human) interactions with her, are those who arein a position that makes their voices more difficult to be heard. The issues that are at stake go far back to long before humans were in existence; however, the acknowledement of the disastrous affects of our careless interaction with nature, our environment and the soul of all that surrounds us is looked upon as if it were “new news” so to speak. Is this simply because it has taken this much time for us to be slapped in the face with the consequences of our actions? For example, are people just now (meaning within the past three decades) being forced to see the consequences of ridding themselves of the inconvenience of “pests” such as the otters and beavers because we’re are seeing the rapidly declining resources? It’s a frightening statement that we are so easily able to hide our heads until we feel the physical consequences of our actions.

    • Hi Maria, you have an important point: that those most in a position to see the consequences of our actions often have the least power to respond to it. This is a result of the colonial legacy of domination of other peoples (and hierarchy throughout society) lived by contemporary industrial societies. I don’t think, fortunately, that it is human “nature” to “hide our heads in the sand”. But particular worldviews do encourage this– to the detriment of their societies and the natural world. Time to change that!

  132. I agree that enhancing our relationship with the nature can gives us a better way of living. As you give and respect other partners (nature), you get benefits from them which is considered as a symbiosis relationship.
    We can see how our ancestors lived a healthy and happy life because they appreciated the nature and were very thankful for it, so the nature gave them the pleasure.
    We should try to learn how to manage ourselves to the nature by respecting the nature to provide us with good and healthy natural resources.

    • Thanks for your comment Duaa. As you point out, not only our health but our joy in life comes from reclaiming our connection with the natural world-“managing” ourselves in this way.

  133. I agree that respecting the nature would benefit people. We should start to improve the way in how we treat the nature, which is the partner of the human beings, because the best way you treat your partner with, the best you receiver from it. The relationship between the nature and us is symbiosis relationship that benefits both partners.
    We can see how our ancestors lived a happy and healthy life because they appreciated the nature. Thus, respecting our nature will help us the most to get the pleasure.

  134. The idea of “partnership” seems so common sense to those of us who understand the ecological interconnectedness of all species, including human, and the integral role that every species plays within their ecosystem. Taking this idea even a bit further, the Gaiaist in me understands how vital each individual ecosystem is in sustaining the health and vitality of the “whole,” the Earth biosphere.

    The ecological understanding of Indigenous America was extraordinary, allowing them to live comparatively harmoniously within their natural environment for ~10,000 years. Europeans brought the idea of dominion and domination to this land, which had, and has, no bounds. The idea of human dominion had no regard for the land or species that help sustain it, and because Native Americans saw no distinction between the land, other species, and themselves, they too had to be dominated, their culture abolished. This anthropocentric worldview has fostered little to no consideration for anything aside from short-term human livelihood, and most generally is still limited to only a relative few. In my opinion, the direction taken by modern science has exasperated our disconnection to the land by breaking everything down to its smallest part and particle. The manner in which we manage resources and species is just now beginning to take into account the broader perspective of the whole; everything within an ecosystem has a role, a single specie cannot be managed effectively without taking into account everything that it is dependant on and which depends on it.

    The example given of pesticides and other chemicals being traced in human breast milk is a perfect example of how “we all live downstream.” It seems that the Western worldview caused us to devolve in terms of understanding ecology, and sustaining our place within the web of existence. I remain hopeful, though, as more people are reverting back to a more holistic understanding of the planet. I agree that we cannot, and perhaps should not, turn back the clock, but we must acknowledge and learn from our mistakes, and integrate what we know, what we have learned, with what has worked. I think that 10,000 years of living amongst the land, while sustaining that in which sustained them, is a great example of “what worked.”

    • Hi Harriet, thanks for the comment from the Gaiaist as well the ecologist! You have an excellent assessment in pointing out the problems of breaking things down to understand them–and losing holistic analysis–which was the analysis necessary for survival– in the process.
      As you point, everything in any ecosystem has a role, a role supported by years of history– or it would not be there. It is not so easy as removing the parts that are inconvenient to us as if they were mere puzzle pieces we could lift at will (as we think we can do with genetic engineering).
      I think that the dominator view indeed caused us to “devolve”: as Murray Bookchin points out in his analysis of natural systems, evolution produces more diversity–thus when we have a globalization process that favors mono-cultures and species, we are indeed devolving.
      I agree that it is time to learn from our mistakes-and to tack up the conceptual perspectives that worked.
      I appreciate the thoughtful comment.

  135. This article really made me rethink the current buzzword sustainability. The most commonly accepted definition of sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. That is all good and well, and something many people are familiar with. However, this article made me question whom we include in the phrase future generations. It was always an assumption of mine that when talking about sustainability, we were talking about using our natural resources in a way that future generations of humans will be able to do the same. That is the impression I have always been given in my classes, and even though no one made the distinction that we mean humans, nor did anyone make the distinction that we mean all natural species either. The partnership view discussed in this article, on the other hand, does make this distinction—all natural species are peoples, thus one’s ethics should consider the future generations of all natural things. We not only preserve the rivers so that our children and their children can interact with the rivers, but we also preserve the rivers for the future generations of beavers, for the salmon, for all things connected. When we start to see the natural world as part of ourselves, then we will see a change in the way we treat the world and all that inhabits it.

    • Great thought about whom we need to include in our definition of sustainability, Kirsten. I very much like the conclusion of your reasoning, here, that we will automatically change our definition of sustainability to include all the life with whom we share our natural world when we “start to see the natural world as part of ourselves”. Thanks for your perceptive comment.

  136. I was touched by the ideas put forth in this essay. The majority of people can only see how ecological decisions bring about material loss. When I read about how Mary Heck cared enough about the home of the beavers that she placed their worth among that of her own people’s houses, I was deeply moved. The destructive tendencies of the “manifest destiny” ideal are felt strongly by people who care about the land, especially First Peoples who have cared for this land since before colonization, burning the land when appropriate, collecting only what was needed, etc.

    I especially like how you pointed out that the people making decisions about the environment are those who are least likely to feel the effects of these changes. Many native peoples are finding it harder and harder to partner with the earth. The sedge roots used for basketry are becoming harder to attain, as traditional digging areas have become “state parks” or have been tainted with pesticides. Traditional methods of burning the land for crop management have been frowned upon or even outlawed. It is sad that First People who have studied this land for centuries and who know its intricacies and how to care for it have been overshadowed by corporations and politicians who have no idea about how to take care of the land and partner with it, and don’t even care.

    I very much liked this essay. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Amanda, thanks for your feedback. I appreciate your comment and your sharing details about the difficulty First Peoples are facing in maintaining the ceremonial and material aspects of their traditions. I think we must certainly care for those who care for the land if we hope to re-create the natural and social partnerships we need to address our current problems.

  137. Great essay! I feel that that It’s not that we need to develop a partnership with the natural world. It’s that we need to realize we are partnered with the natural world. This explains why no matter how much we try to separate ourselves from the natural world (dualism), we simply can’t because we are connected. Everything we do has an effect on nature and our environment. Brian Walker says it himself. “Changes in one domain of the system… inevitably impact the other”. I think once we realize this then we can move forward on establishing a better relationship with nature. The indigenous peoples realized this partnership and their culture flourished. So why can’t we? Do you think it’s possible though that we Americans won’t adopt such a principle because when we first settled the land we thought Indigenous peoples were using the land the wrong way and we don’t want admit that we were wrong? It seems silly but maybe it’s not far from the truth.

  138. I can see where it is still possible to develop a partnership worldview in areas such as the United States, Canada, the jungles and forests of South America and Europe, etc but what about areas such as India that has WAY too many people for the land to feed either through traditional methods or any form of partnership. What about other areas such as Africa where time is of the essence and famine already exists in huge measure. How can they hope to establish a partnership with nature when all that is natural is unforgiving, arid land which can no longer feed its people? I think a partnership worldview sounds awesome and can see its possibilities for many regions, I just wonder what the peoples of regions which no longer have that as a viable option are supposed to do?

    • You have a thoughtful point, Cendi; however, I think more research might indicate that the ONLY way to feed such populations is by conservation and care for the land. The more pressure on such land, the more we need to care for it,. You might be interested in the work of Wangari Maathai in Africa and Vandana Shiva in India– both of whom have led massive reclamation work in their respective countries. Shiva is an ecofeminist who believes profoundly in the partnership stance that contrasts with what she has analyzed as global “mal-development”. Thanks for your comment.

  139. The overall message of your article is a good one and the importance of getting this message across to people is great. It’s interesting how the past cultures in the Pacific Northwest adapted to living “with” the environment as opposed to “from” the environment. I am guessing it depends on what point of view one comes from and what reasons this may be the case.
    It is common to use the arrival of the western cultures as the scapegoats which we blamed the end of the Indian culture’s dominant reciprocity with nature. I believe this is the case, but I would like to ask the question “would the “reciprocity” still exist if the Native American Culture was never forcefully removed?” The reason for this question is point out the importance of our impact on this plant just by existing (which also means that we are consuming and multiplying). Who is to say that just by social and cultural evolution and adaptation, the natives wouldn’t be digging up the ground, cutting the trees down and harvesting what can be harvested to improve their immediate lives?…Just like most of us on this planet are doing now.
    I also believe we are ALL guilty of the “not in my backyard” mentality and not just the powerful. Every time we take an action, whether is getting plastic over paper or driving when we don’t have to, we are running a “deficit” on the future generations and the current people who receive what is left of our consumption. This type of thinking may motivate more people to think about their actions than some sort of “spiritual” connection or abundant knowledge of our natural world because it is not so abstract. In today’s society, I believe quantifying our decisions impacts and making them more tangible is the best way to change behavior and views of the world.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Zach. I think that history indicates that most indigenous societies did NOT evolve (or perhaps we might better say devolve?) out of the partnership stance with respect to the natural world. In our dualistic (not just Western) worldview, we tend to believe that nature can be divided into wilderness without humans and landscapes ravaged (in smaller or larger ways) by human presence. (See the essay here entitled “Indigenous peoples”) ,
      Note that research on the salmon culture of the indigenous peoples of the Northwest indicates that salmon evolved in concert with humans–and even though the humans had the technology to deplete the runs, they consciously chose not to.
      I do agree with you that it is important to account for all the “costs” of human activities: such as the 1800 plus gallons of water it takes to produce a pound of beef. But I also think that particular worldviews and values predispose us to particular choices — and therefore a critical analysis of the values we hold is of the utmost importance, as they determine our perspectives and what we choose to “count”. Siletz Takelma elder “Grandma Aggie”, for instance, has a decided reverence for clean water which has motivated a good many of her personal actions and perspectives– and if we had all held her view, so many of us would not think of our precious water supplies as resources to use carelessly.

  140. The part about managing ourselves (humans) instead of managing a landscape, ecosystem or natural resource really stood out to me. In working toward a partnership worldview, I think that way of thinking is crucial. Since the American story is deeply rooted in an ethnocentric way of thinking, getting over that hurdle and coming to understand that humans are not the most important, but an equally important part of an interconnected network in which each part depends on the others. Since humans have actually caused the massive degradation of our ecosystems, managing ourselves seems like a no-brainer, but after all these years, we, as a society just don’t get it. I just read a report that Greenpeace just published about Koch Industries. Here is a quote from that report, “From 2005 to 2008, ExxonMobil spent $8.9 million while the Koch Industries controlled foundations contributed $24.9 million in funding to organizations of the ‘climate denial machine’.” This is something that I worry about every day and it fits with the above essay by Professor Holden. How will people ever understand the truth and value in a partnership worldview if companies are spending millions of dollars to confuse people?

    • Hi Molly, thanks for your reminder on managing ourselves. It just does not make sense (except perhaps in protecting profits) to put this kind of funding into what is rightly called a “denial machine”. We will obviosly have to infrom ourselves and our communities, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court decision letting corporations spend unlimited amounts of money on campaign funding.

  141. This article provides a view that many busy Americans overlook and have forgotten about in recent years. During this time of ecological change, we as a human population need to be reminded that our earth is a living, thriving ecosystem–and our manipulation of it will ultimately affect us. I thought the partnership world view is one that should be discussed more widely. Treating our environment with respect and having a respect for diversity (a “democracy of all life” as Vandana Shiva stated) is essential to survival on this planet, and in time we will see and continue to understand that our relationship with our resources involves give and take–if you poison the soil you garden in, you will surely be hurting yourself in the long run. Sometimes it’s hard for individuals to look at the big picture and forecast the future; the partnership world view is something that is construed as simple yet important in maintaining our life here on earth. Additionally, I found the examples given from the indigenous tribes of the Pacific Northwest to be very helpful in conveying the message that we are connected to our earth; we live together, use eachother, and are one entity.

  142. How do we share our world? Billy Frank Jr. in my opinion stood his ground and has obviously become a great example of his teaching others to share!
    He was fighting not only for tribal rights, but also for the rights of the salmon, and as his article reads, he drew non-indians in to his reasoning and understanding – thus gaining their support. It is often difficult for tribal members to educate non-indians in an “indian” way of sharing with nature, instead of sharing nature. Billy’s comment when speaking of natural resources and animals, “They tell us how healthy things are. How healthy we are.” struck a chord with me. In 1989 when the EXXON Valdez oil spill impacted my hometown greatly, my tribal members were instructed to respond to the Federal dictations of how “clean up” should be done. The methods used to clean beaches and animals were literally done with blue, absorbant shop towels. As expected, it did not work, and the loss of ocean life, the use of beaches, and the overwhelming loss of land mammals and birds was devastating to the seven surrounding villages. Our elders were greatly saddened but knew that the life and health would return. We waited, and cleaned with shop towels for one year, and three years later, in 1992, the evidence of a healthy island returned. The beaches are still “sick” but land animals and birds have returned in great abundance. In that small part of our world, the youth that had for quite some time been disrespectful of their surroundings and taken nature for granted, have changed their way of interacting with their resources and natural life.
    I think we share our world by example and patience. Someone is always watching and ready to change the way they think and move with the world, most often because they have come to realize that their way doesn’t work. With the example of my hometown elders and Billy Frank Jr. the world will continue to gain its supporters a little at a time.

    • Thanks for sharing this information about the tribal knowledge and leadership of elders (and learning of young people) in your part of the world, Mary. There is much to be learned from your experience and your comment.
      The Exxon spill was a great tragedy– it is sad indeed when other lives must suffer for human mistakes. But your response shows the resilience of your community, just as you honored the resilience of nature in your actions.

  143. It is extremely important to start looking at other world-views and models for living as it becomes more and more apparent that the current model for society and the world has caused so much pain and upheaval and ultimately must be replaced with something that promotes greater peace and a sustainable way of living. As time goes on it becomes more and more apparent that we will either perish massively from a depleted environment and continued warfare or we will find another way to live that respects the earth and all of its inhabitants as, if not one thing (which it is), then at least as an intimately connected and inseparable network of being. The partnership model is, therefore, a very good one. I also enjoyed this quote: ““I don’t believe in magic. I believe in the sun and the stars, the water, the tides, the floods, the owls, the hawks flying, the river running, the wind talking. They’re measurements. They tell us how healthy things are. How healthy we are. Because we and they are the same thing.” Excellent.

    • You have a wise central point here, Michele. We need to change what is not working in terms of our survival tactics if we hope to honor a vibrant world–and leave the same to those who follow us. And we have a model of what has worked whose values we can emulate.

  144. The idea that we need to co-exist needs to be extended to all living things, including air, water and dirt. It seems silly to talk of it so, but it needs to be thought of in that way. This idea is not new. The Wump World, by Bill Peet, and The Lorax, by Dr Seuss, have been trying to share this message with children for years. Agnes Pilgram is right- we need to include ALL others in our goals. What we do affects others, even those others that cannot speak for themselves. Those things that provide for everyone.
    There is a misconception that dominating others, having control equals power. In turn, not wanting or having dominance or control is a sign of weakness. Mutual respect is more empowering. I have been wondering lately if the reason so many people do not have enough: enough money, enough space, enough food, enough stuff, enough control over their future, is because we are not meant to live in the way that our culture does. The goals that most people have have to do with material gain. This cannot go one forever–it just isn’t possible. The means by which our culture measures success has to do with greed and dominating others, placing oneself as more important than others, like animals or the water. We have so many statements to justify our actions. Our society values things that are not important. Some day, there will be nothing left to fight for. If our environment cannot support other species, such as the beaver or otter, it will not be able to support us.
    This idea of resillience: the ability to recover or adjust after change or “misfortune” is a key to finding a better balance, to finding a way to co-exist with all living beings, even those that cannot fight for their own existence.

    • It is great that these writers of children’s books are expressing this message, Erin.
      You have a profound point that mutual respect is more empowering (all things considered) than domination. This to me is the dominator paradox: dominators think to gain power but in the end, as you point out, they will have nothing left to fight over.
      We are blessed that nature is resilience, since we need her health to survive.

  145. Madronna Holden wrote “I want to shift from questions about how we ‘manage’ natural resources to how we manage ourselves to support nature’s resilience.” This sentence describes the entire foundation of the partnership view between humans and environment. To see ourselves as one of practically infinite equal parts of the earth, it is essential to focus on our own actions and how they impact others. By attempting to change or monitor the actions of other environmental processes or objects we are implying dominance that is contrary to a partnership. We have to make our own sacrifices in response to those that are made for us (for example regulating the number of salmon taken in a season in exchange for a healthy population in the future). The ability of earth to continuously thrive (including everything from the birth and death of single organisms to slow geologic and evolutionary processes) is the ultimate example of nature’s resilience. By interrupting these natural processes, we compromise the environment’s elasticity and ability to cope.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughtful perspective, Kate. An excellent way of expressing what true partnership consists of– such things as responsibility, reciprocity and humility.
      And we certainly need to honor nature’s resilience if we are to survive (and help others to survive) the current environmental crisis.

  146. The philosophy of a worldview partnership is clearly an essential perception for sustainability.. Our earth, which we remain totally dependent on, is losing its creatures, plants and animals. It seems to me we have gotten caught in our own greed, desires, conceits and arrogance. The real root of these issues, both cause and cure, lies not in our science and technology but in our own intellectual and spiritual poverty-or more hopefully, in our own spiritual and intellectual resources.
    I found this quote from Mary Evelyn Tucker who is a Confucianism scholar that sums it up:
    “Nature is seen as a ‘resource’ to be used rather than a ‘source’ of all life to be respected.” She says that our sense that spirit is superior to matter, “has given rise to a crisis in culture, a crisis of the environment, and a crisis of the spirit”.
    There’s simply not much point in talking about sustainable agriculture if you don’t have a sustainable culture to back it up, and America doesn’t. We are so consumer oriented that we are destroying ourselves, and literally eating ourselves out of house and home. Education and awareness are key in bringing about balance, change and preservation of our natural resources.

    • You are absolutely right that we “there is not much point in talking about sustainable agriculture if you don’t have the sustainable culture to back it up”, Kim. We need to change our values and choices through, as you put it, education and awareness. Thanks for sharing a quote by Mary Tucker as well– she is not alone in this idea, which is an apt one in assessing the problems with the current industrial worldview.

  147. Mary Heck shared her memories with the non-indian court rather than her vision of what could be. It had been, and could be again the way she remembered – the compatibility between nature and humans. Sharing is something most every child is taught, but then forgets or becomes a valueless behavior. As we grow older we feel the need to possess or own things we desire. Why don’t most people want to share something that nature supplies willingly and continuously if it is nourished? In Madronna Holden’s essay, “Gourmand’s Paradise” : The Once and Future Wilamette Valley? Dan Armstrong’s comment, “our land sustains us only when we care for it. Enacting time-honored values such as respect and reciprocity that resulted in thousands of years of sustainability is certainly a tradition worth reviving.” It certainly is a tradition worth reviving. I feel the world is taking baby steps in that direction: more and more community gardens are being developed (not single family gardens – community ones!), community decision groups are gathering and planning together how to ensure clean air and water, energy efficient methods, and the importance of safer foods. The fact that communties are once again gathering to compare their similar concerns affects our environment in a positive way and begins a cycle that was waiting to be oiled.

    • A hopeful vision eloquently expressed here, Mary. There is no reason that we cannot duplicate the successes of history rather than continuing current mistakes. As you so aptly put it, the fact that communities “are gathering to compare their similar concerns… begins a cycle that was waiting to be oiled.”

  148. There is a Seminole Indian reservation very near where we live in South Florida. Therefore my children and I have come a lot closer to the Native American culture than a lot of people. When talking to them they will tell you stories about the relationship between humans, the land, the earth and the other being that “share” the earth with us. I had not until starting this class heard it referred to as the “partnership worlkview”. But now that I have it sums up what I have heard totally. When Native Americans speak of animals or plants they speak with respect just as if they were talking to or about another human being. We as humans have assumed a superior role. We feel that we are the owners and keepers of this planet to do with as we wish with not repercussions. The story of the beaver as spoken by Mary Heck gave an example of how the interaction between humans and the other inhabitants of this planet is inevitable and necessary. The beavers kept the land fertile for the Native American women to use to plant their crops. When the beavers started to disappear the value and condition of the land started to dwindle. I agree with the partnership wordview. It’s just that up until now I did not have a brief way, as you know we are always in a hurry, to describe what my feelings were. Of course just as it is with the land, the animals and the plants that have changed to to human intervention, so has some of the Native Americans. Here we find some of them that have adopted the ways of the colonists(us) and are straying farther and farther away from the ways of their ancestors. The actions and norms of our society have begun to change and destroy their ancestorial ways just as we as humans are destroying the earth. And to imagine the majority of the destruction that we cause is not due to what we need but rather due to greed and the desire to be in control and to possess more than the next person.

    • Greed has some tragic repercussions indeed, Mildred. I appreciate your thoughtful assessment of your experience with the Seminole here and the ways in which it is linked with the partnership view.

  149. The end result of the partnership idea is obviously very desirable. However, I wonder at its feasibility. The one thing I noticed to be lacking in the above essay was the assertion of difficulty in reinstating this type of partnership paradigm. It was pointed out that we cannot “authentically or ethically” take over the specific spiritual beliefs of other cultures, meaning that we cannot simply adopt an existing belief system and adapt it as necessary, but must instead develop one completely our own that is only similar in its basis of partnership. Once developed, I would ask, how do you encourage and spread this idea to enough people to make it common practice. These things were hinted at, if not directly pointed out, and though difficult, I think they can be overcome.
    However, what I am really curious about is the feasibility of creating this paradigm shift in a time frame that will make a difference. Native Americans from the North West were able to live in harmony with the environment for 10,000 years, but, depending upon which estimates you value, there were between one and fifteen million indigenous inhabitants of the North American continent (at the time of Christopher Columbus). Now, we have broken the three hundred million population barrier in the United States and this number will only continue to grow in the forseeable future. Is it possible to create a partnership with the environment with the overpopulation that is estimated to occur in the coming decades? For, as was said in the above article, an effective partnership is “taking only as much as you could replace from natural systems, and treating natural life with respect in order to allow it to flourish – which in turn allowed humans to flourish.” And if humans continue to flourish, how much can our environment truly support, given the amount of destruction we have already wrought?
    However, I guess that this question is irrelevant. You wouldn’t refuse to put out a candle fire because you know that eventually the flame will engulf your home. We must make the best of the situation in which we find ourselves and try to change our view before it truly becomes too late and we do not have enough of an environment to try to sustain.

  150. This article is bursting with information to consider, digest, and hopefully integrate into my thinking. It is so easy to continue our lives without thinking about how our actions have consequences to our environment. I believe the dominant society has been intentionally designed that way for the profit, control and power of some. We are bombarded through the media to consume, consume and thoughtlessly dispose. Things are changing certainly as the green movement gains momentum but what has spurred us to wake from our consumer madness or, as I sometimes think of my own participation, lazyness of thought? The planet is in crisis and most of us understand that now. We are waking to the fact that our actions have consequences. This is a life lesson that we try to impart to our children but have missed it when translated to the environment. What I mean by that is the dominant society gives us our worldview and values from a very young age through acceptance of norms, media messages, and behavioral imitation of what is around us. It is a part of our socialization. As a society, deviance from those norms is often mocked and spurned. Conforming is expected, made easy, and rewarded by acceptance. That is what makes those who have been sounding a warning bell about the environment in the face of so much distain and lack of acceptance, so heroic in my mind. I recently had a class in Ethnic Studies and we discussed the thinking behind ‘manifest destiny’ and the havoc it has wreaked for so long. I don’t know that we would invoke that terminology but it seems that the thinking is still a huge factor. Conquer, dominate, destroy and use whatever is available for profit are the values that I see are linked to the dominant societal worldview. None of those values will lead to sustainability. Now we know that our resources can and are being depleted at an alarming rate. This worldview is no longer viable but, as I see it, is being clung to because loss of power is unacceptable. Reciprocity means being responsible for our actions. That is powerful and scary. What we do, think, and say matters. It always has but individual responsibility has been subverted for a very long time.

    As I see it Mary Heck was a very, very wise woman coming from a very wise society. She was wise enough to try to communicate effectively with the court she was addressing. She started with explaining what they had lost using things she knew the court could relate to, would see as valuable. She was presenting invaluable insights and wisdom by finding common ground from which to start. My guess is that the court stopped listening when she moved from what had value to them. I’ve been giving this a great deal of thought and one of the most powerful messages that I’m bringing from this is that communication is essential. Real communication, the kind of communication that embraces respect. Listening and really hearing another person is one of the ultimate ways to show respect, I think. It’s hard to do. Hearing without judgements, preconceived notions, etc. is an art. I see worldviews based on reciprocity as excelling in communication. How can a society that listens to the earth so closely not have amazing communication? I have hopes that communication based on respect and reciprocity will spread and that people will start rejecting values that the society at large has deemed reasonable. We have to be more mindful of what we accept and where our belief system has come from. We have to learn to really listen to each other with respect. Respect breeds respect and acceptance and tolerance. This needs to be expanded to our environment and all that surrounds us. This is part of managing ourselves. Could we indiscriminantly kill or maim animals or the earth if our thinking was based in respect of all things? As I see it, wisdom has to be more a part of our scientific advances. Science is wonderful and has brought so much to our society, but advancements without wisdom can wreak havoc (ie DDT). It’s imperative that we learn to listen to each other and value wisdom passed down through generations at least as much as scientific progress. The interconnectedness of wise thinking brings invaluable insight. I keep coming back to feeling that our society has to have a major overhaul to our thought processes. What we value most (money, power, consumerism) are empty and not really fulfilling because we can’t ever seem to get enough. We are frenetic anymore, so busy that taking time to ‘smell the roses’ has to be scheduled in. Really, is that of real value? Managing ourselves and our behavior means being more mindful of our actions and the consequences of them. Wouldn’t that lead to a more mindful existence which would lead to a more fulfilling existence? What would happen if being in touch with the rythm of the earth became more valuable than power? That would be available to all of us. How rich would we all feel? Why is that so hard to accept into our daily thinking? It’s a choice we need to consider.

    Mary Heck and all others like her, past and present, are heroes to me. She was wise and in tune to the heartbeat of the earth and she tried to educate an unwilling group of people about the consequences of what they were doing. I think those who have and are trying to change the dominant views and values of our society are truly courageous. They must possess boundless determination, patience, and hope. I am so grateful to be able to challenge my thinking by being educated and exposed to new and, what I consider, much healthier worldviews.

    • And you are obviously bursting with responses, Sue. We may not call it “manifest destiny” but as you point out, the underlying assumptions behind this view are still with us in the notion that the conquerors have “progress” (unanalyzed and undefined) on their side. This may lead to short term gains for a few of those in charge, but leads to overall disaster for most of us and for the planet. Mary Heck was indeed a wise woman and you have an excellent point in your stress on the importance of communication in creating the changes in thinking and action we need. Respect and reciprocity are, as you point out, key aspects in effective communication. Thanks for your comment. It is time indeed for us to critically define what we mean by such things as wealth and success.
      And you are joining the ranks of those who have the courage (as you put it) to take on such tasks.

  151. In light of the points made in this article it is hard to reconcile my own notions of what that relationship of humans is with its environment. In modern society, from the time we are young were are taught the difference between the “civilized” world and the “uncivilized” world. From a sociological stand point even the most uncivilized human in modern society considers him/herself to be positioned above the animals. The idea of possessing a kinship with animals to most people seems to be a bizarre concept, as we conditioned to disassociate ourselves from animals and view them primarily as a food source. Yet, while many people have pets and are comfortable inviting them into their home, and in many cases consider them a member of the family. It is equally typical to put food animals in a totally different category and to attribute no sense of empathy toward them. However in many cases, the pig being turned into sausage may be both more genetically and intellectually comparable to a human than our canine and feline housemates. This dominance over nature has proven to be an innate part of our heritage in modern society and any identification of kinship with anything other than other humans is generally regarded as a very foreign concept. The partnership worldview expressed by Chehalis elder Mary Heck, to me seems to be a healthier and more sustainable way of viewing our relationship with animals and nature. Her concepts of the lives of human’s being intimately connected to the beaver’s seem to be more reasonable than our current mentality of dominating nature and ruling over it with tyrannical indifference.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful analysis of the predominant Western worldview, Joshua. I agree that the partnership view (though many raised with the Western worldview may have trouble understanding this) is a more reasonable one– certainly it is a more pragmatic one from the standpoint of historical sustainability.

  152. Often I believe many forget that we are sharing our world. A large part of the human population is consumed in bringing home the bacon. Money becomes the main focus of the business world and it isn’t until later that problems such as the destruction of the ozone layer or the continuation of logging that is leading to less and less forestation every day comes to notice. It also becomes more palpable when the area affected, the Willamette River, is in such close proximity.

    I also wanted to touch on the parallel that the pioneers were pushing the Chehalis out of their homes which closely relates to the Trail of Tears. Also the beaver living on the same grounds of the Chehalis can represent the buffalo that the Indians use to create substance for themselves, but like the beavers, the buffalo were living with the people in respect of partnership, taking only what they needed allowing the natural world to continue to flourish instead of depriving the land of everything it’s worth. It seems to be a circling effect.

    Planting more trees when we pluck them or the simple practice of biking instead of driving to eliminate toxicity are small steps to respecting the natural world the way we respect ourselves.

    • Thoughtful connections between the removal of peoples (including more than human lives) from their lands in the Northwest and the Southwest, Angela. In the interdependent natural world which sustains us the way in which we treat other humans and those more than human lives that share are world are indeed interrelated: that is a part of the “circle” of life in which such “small steps” are important.

  153. I like the quote by Billy Frank in which he states, “I don’t believe in magic. I believe in the sun and the stars, the water, the tides, the floods, the owls, the hawks flying, the river running, the wind talking. They’re measurements. They tell us how healthy things are. How healthy we are. Because we and they are the same thing.” As humans, I think as a whole. we believe what we see. If the natural world is in turmoil so are we. We live in our homes and watch and hear what the media states, and again tend to believe what we see. America is just getting into understanding that we need to change the way we think about the natural world. Even though I still think that large corporations are a serious deterent to protecting our natural resources. However there does seems to be a turning of thought in ‘hollywood’ and others such as ‘Disney’ to make people understand that our world is hurting. We see the floods, the landslides, the earthquakes that keeping coming at a rapid rate and the accountability is upon us as humans. However, I just hope that we as humans can set aside cultural differences so as to understand each other as well as our world.

    • Thoughtful visionary perspective, Tina. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did put aside our differences to face the environmental crises that currently threaten us all?

  154. Before I really get into the bulk of my response for this essay, I would just like to apologize in advance if any of this sounds a little reptitive. I read through most of the previous comments, but there are alot of them and I couldn’t really keep track of what I said to myself and then read on the screen.

    I feel like the term “partnership” describes the desirable relationship between nature and humans quite well. Ever since most of us were little kids we have been preached to about the golden rule; “do unto others as you wish to have done unto you” (or something similar). I don’t understand when this changed into “do unto others as you wish to have done unto you— unless that other is a plant, animal, or other part of nature because they are below us”.
    I think that in order to be able to fix a mistake we have made in the past it is crucial to be able to understand where we went wrong, then trace those steps to try and fix our errors. I know it was stated in a previous comment that this mostly has to do with colonialism, but why? And as for fixing our previous errors, I agree with others that have said that the moajority of today’s society has started to drift so far away from the idea of a respectful partnership with our natural environments, that it will be very difficult to go back to having those feelings of mutual respect. However, I don’t think it’s entirely impossible. It didn’t take just a week to nearly demolish the salmon or beaver populations, and it will certainly take more than a week to regain our stance with nature. I believe that with the aid of time we can teach our future generations to respect their surroundings and only “take what they can replace” from nature. We have already begun (although it’s only a small start) this transition with the widespread use of the ideals behind living “green” (for lack of a better term).

    Alot has also been said about respect. That we need to respect ourselves and respect the beautiful nature around us. I think it’s also important to remember the ways in which we should respect other humans. It’s too often that I see the media poking fun at people who are trying to raise environmental awareness, and often times these people are written off as being “tree huggers” or other ridiculous names instead of being respectfully listened to and considered.
    It makes me sad to know that I may never be able to see some of the natural wonders that originally inhabited this region, and that this is because of choices made instead of unavoidable circumstances. However, it brings me hope to know that we can all prevent these things from further damaging the living being known as Earth, by making alternative choices.

    • I didn’t expect you to read through all 287 comments before yours, Amy! It is great that you took the time to read as many others as you did– and to develop a response that is authentic to you. I like your emphasis on a long term perspective– this is important both in terms of fixing our past errors and in terms of looking to the future with responsibility and hope. It also makes me sad that some young people might not be able to enjoy the same natural world I grew up– and it is also unacceptable. I hope that we share a goal between generations so that we can change that.

  155. The interconnectedness of all natural things has taken the human race quite some time to understand and fully comprehend; the majority of the world’s people still haven’t grasped the concept. American Indians lived in concert with the natural world as conveyed by Mary Heck in her sorrow for the decimated beaver. Our little green planet has taken a great toll during our steep learning curve. The earth is a closed system where resources are finite with renewal uncommon. This is similar for all natural resources; whether it is an extinct species or a river that no longer flows naturally. There is an expense for every action whether it is positive or negative. I strongly agree with the idea, what we do to the earth, we do to ourselves.

    A partnership with the earth is a wonderful concept where humans only use the resources that they can consume, leaving the earth to replenish itself for the future. This idea of becoming one with the natural world results in an interactive relationship where a watchful eye over the natural processes leads to sustainability and a replenished ecosystem. Unfortunately, money is the major driving factor behind the majority of natural resource depletion. I enjoyed the Val Plumwood comment about “those who have the most power to make environmental decisions are the least likely to be visibly and immediately affected by them.” This seems to be the case consistently across the world. Those making the money are able to be removed from the devastation and live their lives in paradise. Only until all people realize that by hurting the earth they are hurting themselves will the disconnectedness be unraveled and resolved.

    • Thanks for sharing this perspective, Renea. It does seem that as long as we have a society that reward those who can insulate themselves from the impact of their decisions on the rest of life, we will have a skewed system in terms of responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

  156. Mary Heck obviously could teach many of us lessons. She taught me one by reading this. No matter what stage you are on it is important to speak your true feelings. Many people act different and stray from their beliefs even when a camera is on them, let alone being in a courtroom. I do understand that that the value of the beaver to her and her people is of tremendous importance to the Chehalis way of life. The message she conveys to a non-Indian court is that the beaver’s life is of importance to us all. While many non-Indians were most likely not wanting to hear this I bet it made them think. In my life it seems many people do not think of aspects such as the beaver human partnership.

    I am not ignorant, rather just new to opening my mind to information and thoughts such as this. I am also not extremely knowledgeable about Native American history, but have always been intrigued by it. Honestly I never took a second to realize what happened to the wildlife when pioneers settled. I have always felt sorry for how the Native Americans were treated when pioneers settled and took over their land. Not once in my life till now have I even thought of the effects the non-natives had on the wildlife. The Native Americans depended so much on the land and animals that that is how they lived and sustained their existence. It is just really depressing what happened.

    I briefly skimmed some of the comments and Madronna your response to Amy is words right out of my mouth. You said “It also makes me sad that some young people might not be able to enjoy the same natural world I grew up– and it is also unacceptable.” How true. My kids are the fuel to my life, and almost everything I think or do has them in mind. I often worry about what they will miss out on in their life that I got to experience in mine. Most the time it’s the positive experiences that I think about, and want them to have the opportunity to experience also. It doesn’t only make me sad and feel that it is also unacceptable, but it frustrates me that the world they will experience will have key elements missing. It makes me think that I need to do more positive earth friendly actions. I have never felt this way more than right now, it’s just an eye opener.

    • Hi Jon, thanks for sharing your father’s heart with us here. If we all considered our place in the line of generations: learning from the past and honoring our children and their children, our relationship to the environment would be very different. And that change begins with each of us.

  157. The idea of a partnership with the world and its other inhabitants is so useful and constructive. I wish we were beginning to teach our children this philosophy on a grand scale. I think children now are taught how to consume, and how to “check out” with t.v., cell phones, and computers at a time when they are so hungry for knowledge and purpose. Of course there are exceptions, but I worry about the next generation we are raising. I believe that if we adopted more of a partnership mentality, not only would it improve the health of the planet, but would result in a happier population. We are taught from a young age that nice cars, houses, clothes and gadgets are the measurements of success and happiness. If we applied the concept of a partnership with the world, we would consume less, which would mean working less, and focusing on what really matters: healthy relationships with one another and our environment.

    The problem I have is that i don’t know how we are going to make a dramatic enough shift in time. Is it possible?

    This essay also brought to mind the Tragedy of the Commons: people operating on their own self interest will consume a shared resource until it is gone, even when they rationally know that it will end in destruction. The concept that one has to “get theirs” before someone else does is so destructive. It seems that most of what people do is influenced by this concept. We need desperately to listen to people like Mary Heck, and start gauging or happiness and health by the health and happiness of our environment and all its inhabitants.

    • Hi Laida, thanks for your comment. I agree with your response toward the partnership view–and its benefits for changing our current society for the better in terms of the ethical consideration of our choices. What a great vision it is to imagine teaching our children “what really matters”, as you aptly put it, instead of success by consuming.
      In terms of the tragedy of the commons, it is an important historical note that as long as this commons (in English history) was actually “common”– that it, belonged to the community as a whole to graze, it was kept in tact and vital for a thousand years. We need to learn it is NOT in our ultimate self-interest to ravage the environment for personal gain– as was clear before the “enclosure laws” made private property out of the site of the “tragedy of the commons”.

  158. Mary Heck equated the loss of their homes with the loss of homes of the beaver and she mourned the loss as she would mourn the loss of a friend.
    Unfortunately, the Europeans could not understand the relationships the First Nations people had with the natural world. Destroying these beaver dams took away 99 percent of the wetlands here in our Willamette Valley. Those wetlands connected the river to the land and provided invaluable ecosystem services.

    I am sort of bias since my heritage is that of an indigenous people, but I really agree with Mary Heck’s “partnership” worldview that is so ingrained in the native peoples. The Europeans did not understand the partnership nor did they believe that such were important. We need to re-establish this partnership and indeed, the first step is to treat our partners with comparable respect to that with which we treat ourselves.

    Not only do northwest indigenous cultures treat all natural life as their intimate kin and believed that all animals and inanimate objects possessed spirits but I believe one would find that this ethic would be universal among all native peoples.

    I have found that my intersection of ethics and practicality is summed up very well by Billy Frank Jr.
    “I don’t believe in magic. I believe in the sun and the stars, the water, the tides, the floods, the owls, the hawks flying, the river running, the wind talking. They
    are measurements. They tell us how healthy things are. How healthy we are. Because we and they are the same thing.”

  159. Adopting an ethical value of reciprocity, as illustrated by the examples in this article, seems to be the best way to share our world. Of course, there are many ways to adopt and incorporate this value in our culture.

    On a personal level, sharing the world means being in partnership with the world. It means acknowledging that what I do to the earth and those who inhabit it alongside me – any other living being – affects me. We are all a part of a whole entity, and in relationship with each other. It also means adapting to the view of long-term viability (as per the example of natives taking into account the growth of both generations of other humans alongside the growth & well-being of salmon) versus short term gratification.

    The use of language is especially interesting to me as a feminist, and I think that this article brought up how the use of language alone will affect how we view other living beings. Such examples as advocating for the voiceless, versus adopting the voice “of” the voiceless (exemplifying partnership vs. ownership), and the Pit River language that had no contrasting word for animals and humans, remind me that by simply changing the way we talk about the earth, ourselves, and its inhabitants (both plant and animal) we may effectively change how we think about the natural world. And if we can change how we think about this world, then we will be on the right track towards a healthy partnership with all living things.

    I am still a bit confused about how to change the way others think about the world, though. In the US, it seems that our predominate culture can be very difficult to penetrate with alternative ethical values. Unfortunately, because we do live in a culture full of “isms” and the fact that the subjugation of nature protects sexism and classism, it seems like the dominant culture has a lot of short-term reasons to protect itself from ‘sharing the world.’ How do we show the dominant culture what it means to share the world on a long-term basis?

    • I very much like your approach concerning reciprocity and connection, Lauren–and your point about the use of language. How to accomplish the changes we need? That is a very large question that must be answered by as many of us as possible in each of our lives. That is, we need to combat those “isms” with our own choices; I hope that you will find that you are not alone as you see the actions initiated by so many others on behalf of our embattled earth.

  160. I enjoyed the specific examples from the Pacific Northwest in this article, since that is where I live. I was struck most by the idea from Brian Walker regarding the socio-ecological systems and the intertwining of humans and the natural environment.

    What I find discouraging is that many Americans, influenced by Western religious ideas, seem to cling to the idea that man is created to have dominion over the natural world, rather than living in partnership with all of the diverse species and creatures and natural resources. Once humankind realizes that our survival is dependent on the planet’s ability to support us, great steps can be made to act responsibly.

    I am hopeful that the shift in thinking from “master of the world” to ideas of stewardship that have become more common in the last decade will eventually prevail. The idea of partnership, and acting responsibly for all of the earth rather than taking and using what we want for our own benefit without regard for the consequences, seems to be the most practical way to stop the travesties occurring and hopefully begin to reverse the centuries of damage humans have created, especially since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

    While it may seem odd to some to consider themselves a partner with other species, it is the only way we can manage the huge amount of stress humans place on this planet. Again going back to Brian walker; we must recognize the inevitable impact our actions have on every living and organic matter on this planet before we can make changes in our actions.

    • Thanks for your comment in support of the resilience approach that takes responsibility for the human effects on other natural lives, Gail. Can you see a difference between the stewardship and partnership approaches?

  161. This essay starts out by Mary Heck explaining what the pioneers did to the indigenous peoples of the Northwest. This is the same story of other Native American groups ever since the Euro American movement west. The Native Americans had and still do have the right worldviews. It is really too bad the others that control decisions of land management don’t take up the partnership worldview. There is much that we can learn from the Native Americans. We are costing ourselves our natural resources by not living this worldview. What really makes the animal, the tree, the tides and the wind different from humans? We are all in this together. Native Americans had enough resources for a healthy life for its people. They did not overuse. They developed the ethic of reciprocity. Native Americans lives and land flourished until they both were exploited. All humans need to develop this ethic if we want our world’s resources to be available for future generations. We can do this by education that we are lucky enough to receive. We can teach others that we don’t live above nature. We live in it. We need to not only enact the partnership worldview; we need to teach the value of it.

    • Hi Scott, thanks for your comment. We are indeed “all in this together”–and as alive ourselves, as you indicate, as the living world of which we are a part. I believe that actions flow from our values–and thus it is important indeed, to teach the partnership ethic in order to give our children a world to inherit.

  162. Reading this a second time has made me focus more on what could happen if we as a society embraced such a viewpoint when dealing with nature. How would our management of resources change if we viewed nature with the same level of respect as we give ourselves? How would our management of ourselves change? How would the health of the land and its inhabitants be affected? I love Billy Frank Jr.’s insight about how nature tells “us how healthy things are. How healthy we are. Because we and they are the same thing.” Hasn’t this same idea been used to argue different races be treated with the same respect one gives their own race? Certainly “we (one color of people) and they (other colors) are the same thing (human beings)?” I believe most people today would think it barbaric to believe otherwise. So why can’t that same concept be applied to nature? Why is it not seen as barbaric to see ourselves as different from and above nature and worthy of more respect? I would argue that if society underwent such a shift of ideas that the state of nature (which includes humans) would greatly improve. We take care of that which we respect. We love and sacrifice for that which we see as our kin. Respecting nature as our kin would no doubt have implications that extend far beyond the realm of thought. We would experience a sort of cognitive dissonance if we adopted such a belief and did not act on it. So maybe before we act we must evolve our thinking; but actions seem to be inevitable.

    • Excellent idea, Kirsten: an important analogy in terms of our developing a sense of ethical consciousness in terms of our treatment of other lives. I think that not only can we base this on our respect for those same lives– but our self-concept enlarges with such respect, since we no longer feel it necessary to separate ourselves or withdraw from the larger cycle of life.

  163. I believe that, across the world, but speaking specifically of the United States, humanity would be very wise to adopt a stance toward the natural world that considers it as an equal instead of a subservient entity. Many of the environmental issue we have today could have easily been avoided by having this mindset guide us.

    The damage that has been done can not be taken back, but that does not mean that the future can be surrendered as easily as we squandered the past. With dwindling resources and growing environmental issues, there is no better time to return to a Partnership view on Ecology and work both with and for the Earth for the betterment of us all.

    Obviously with the advances and technological necessities of today’s world, an ideal partnership with nature similar to the relationship Native Americans once held is unrealistic. However, it is upon this framework that we should build upon, using the lessons from our own pasts to build a sustainable future.

    • Hi Rick, thanks for your comment. I very much like your wise statement that the damage done cannot be taken back, “but that does not mean that the future can be surrendered as easily as we squandered the past.” I agree with you that there is no better time than the present to return to a partnership view of place in the natural world.
      Partnership values can guide whatever technology we use–and hope to develop.

  164. How DO we share our world? How do we reclaim ways that have been cast so far from modern western civilization?

    Our American society often fails to recognize “give and take.” We constantly and consistently take, but rarely give. It seems that the understanding of limited resources does not sink in. It shows in every avenue of our lives, whether it’s money, cars, marriages, children, jobs…the list goes on. Unfortunately, our way of constantly taking is destroying the very earth we live on.

    I was struck by one of your comments: “Instead of managing natural resources, how do we manage ourselves?”

    How do we teach a selfish society/world to reciprocate selflessly?

    How do we find balance?

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Karen. By replying to questions with more questions, you raise some issues to answer for yourself. And give us more to think about in terms of our daily decisions– which I think is part of the answer here: the daily decisions we each make.

  165. Unfortunately, most of society does not believe we share “our” world. Most people believe the world belongs to humans. I hate to admit it but for most of my life I’ve believed the same thing. I can’t say that I’m a huge “nature girl” because I’m not. I have always preferred city life because of the convenience. I never stopped to think about what happened to the land and animals around me when the city was built or expanded. I think that most people are the same. After reading the essay, I have been given a lot to think about. I believe that it is important that we as a society adopt the partnership view in order to right the wrongs we’ve done to the planet, not just for animals and plant life but for us as well. I believe it is going to take a massive amount of education in order to do so. For example, look how long it has taken us to get into the act of recycling. It is not the norm for most people to think of animals or plants as anything more than sustenance. It has not been a part of our culture to think of them as “owning” the world along with us. In order for us to continue “owning” the planet we have to start sharing it with the other natural life forms because without them we wouldn’t be here. We have to educate ourselves and educate the people around us. I think some of the steps being taken are in the right direction, but I believe it’s going to take a long time to get us on the right track.

    • Good point about “our” world, Tiffany-that can mean something we belong to or something that we assume (as you point out) belongs to us. This is a thoughtful response. I appreciate your process in thinking about these issues: I hope the shift will not take such a long time, but it IS a complex issue. Though perhaps at base we might simplify it by indicating the ways in which we are talking about supporting the long term survival of our children.

  166. As a Christian, I hold some varying beliefs to those stated in this article. However, where the details may differ, the overall paradigm is, I believe, quite similar. While I do not believe that we as humans are on the same level as animals, I do believe that we share the same plight. We both long for restoration. As humans, we have done what is generally specific only to our species, we have over-consumed and over-polluted. Principles that are contrary to the way we were created. We were created to be in perfect union with nature, however, that union was broken at the Fall. As a Christian, I believe we are held to be good stewards of what we have been given here on earth. Therefore, a partnership paradigm would be a highly effective starting point in getting that message across. As was pointed out in the essay, “it is important to tell the story of ourselves and our land in ways that free us from the constraints of the ruling paradigm. In this context, the partnership worldview has much to show us about fostering a resilient world.” It must be made clear to the ruling paradigm that while we cannot FORCE change on nature, we can FOSTER it by changing ourselves. As we focus our efforts at restoring nature, or letting nature restore itself, I think that we are reenacting a story of spiritual restoration that our souls long for so much.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christopher. I appreciate the bridges you offer in your perspective here. I think you have a central point in the fact that we cannot FORCE change on the natural world (as we have been trying to do) but we CAN change ourselves and honor the magnificent world the Creator has given us to care for.
      I also think you have an important point in the longing we assuage when we express such care.
      And I wonder what you think of the work of Thomas Berry (outlined in another post here).

  167. PHL 443 Student Comment: The partnership worldview to me shows humans taking an active role in their responsibilities as a member of the environment. Just as the beaver and otter are keystone species, so are we, with the ability to add to or deplete our resources. Some key ideas to learn and take away from the partnership worldview are accountability and the importance of compassion and empathy for all living creatures and things. If someone takes on this worldview, he/she would feel a sense of obligation not to diminish the environment and in turn only take what is needed for survival. And if the idea of interconnectedness is placed with importance, then harm would not be done to animals, plants and other members of the environment because it would be implied that by harming them, you are only harming yourself.

  168. While I have already commented on this essay for another class, I wanted to share my thoughts on it the second time around. One sentence in particular jumped out at me. “The first step in establishing a partnership is treating our partners with comparable respect to that with which we treat ourselves.” Our society seems to be treating the earth JUST the same as we treat ourselves. We dump chemicals into ourselves without thinking about the consequences just as we pollute the earth without considering the long-term effects. We don’t seem to show respect for the bodies we are given or the earth that we live on. We don’t have an attitude of reciprocity and thankfulness. We are not grateful that our heart continues to beat, we simply expect it to. We are not grateful to the earth for providing for us, we simply expect it to. Most therapists will tell you that it is difficult for you to love somebody else until you love and care for yourself. In the same ilk, it is impossible for us to partner with the earth while we continue to disregard our bodies and our own wellbeing. This is my two cents on the issue.

    • Hi Amanda, I always appreciate your comments. You have an essential point in our equal disrespect for the natural environment and the bodies that both make us a part of nature and give us life. As you note, we should be grateful to them for all they do for us–and if we were, we might treat neither them nor our shared earth so carelessly and thoughtlessly.

  169. The partnership worldview holds several great premises. The idea that we have to consider far reaching impacts of decisions made, due to the interconnectedness of ecosystems, is key to effectively managing our resources. Additionally, the idea that humans must manage themselves is extremely important. Without looking at the impacts that all organisms are making, including humans, we miss important pieces in decision making.

    As great as I feel these ideas are, I have concerns with this worldview as well. The most glaring to me is the idea that humans are equal to other life on earth. Though fundamentally true to me (we are all created beings), the fact that humans have the ability and means to impact the earth in ways other life cannot, puts us in a different category. For example, the beaver mentioned in the essay has a profound effect on the entire ecosytem in the Pacific Northwest. But, it does not know that it does. It is simply living the life it was created for. If, suddenly, there were too many/few dams, the beaver would not be able to work together with other species or individuals to help correct the problem. Humans have been given the ability and responsibility to manage and work with creation at a higher level.

    I enjoyed this essay and learning about a worldview that is somewhat different than my own. It was also interesting to see how much I have in common with this view as well.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response, Clayton. Actually, the beaver is likely more adaptive in the example you give than we tend to give him credit for. If there are too many of him or his effects, he stops reproducing. This happens with other species as well. I have seen that an old apple tree (and other older trees) in my yard bloom later in cold years than do the younger trees that burst out in spring and whose blossoms are more likely to be hit by frost. My kiwis seem to have adapted in the same way. Sandra Steingraber has an interesting essay in a reason Orion about epigenetics– which allow species to adapt to their environment during their lifetime AND pass on that adaptation to their young. Partnership-based indigenous societies increased such adaptation by traditional stories that told lessons on such things as how to treat the salmon (for instance, a Skokomish tale in which humans are instructed to release salmon eggs back into the rivers after they catch the salmon) or warning stories about why not to take too much– giving example of what has happened in the past in this respect.
      The point you make is an important one in that we have a particular power and responsibility as a species: being equally honored in the cycle of life does not mean being the same. This is a confusion sometimes made in issues regarding human diversity. To say that we want equality for all in society does not imply (far from it!) that we wish all people, cultures, or genders to be the SAME. We do wish them to have comparable rights and insofar as we allocate power to them within our human systems, to have equal power in this regard. Thus those who work to honor human diversity also lobby for things like equal pay for equal work.
      I think Thomas Berry’s point plays in well here: the rights of some species or natural processes such as water, for instance, do not compete with others. For humans do not want the same rights as a river (though they can and have destroyed the rights of the river to flow).
      Nor does the partnership stance does not obliterate human responsibility in concert with our power. In indigenous societies that hold it, in fact, by tradition in many indigenous cultures humans have responsibility given them by Creator to care for their particular land. From what I know of history, it is my sense that the best way to take up such a charge is in the context of a worldview that teaches us proper humility in the cycle of life: in the partnership view, we must honor other lives and not try to remake the world for our betterment (or in terms of our hubris).
      Thanks for asking an excellent question!

  170. I think the thing that struck me the most about this piece is one of the very first sentences. Professor Holden, you describe Mary Heck as “enumerating the things a non-Indian court might count in terms of value.” That is a very powerful and emotionally loaded statement. It definitely grips the reader and lays some beautiful framework for your argument.

    The concept of Waq’ádyšwit you mentioned reminds me a lot of the Chinese concept of qi. Everything has its own qi or lifeforce. The two cultures have similar reverence for nature.

    I believe there is definitely a shift happening- people are becoming more aware and/or responsible with the environment around us. We call it “going green” and to most Americans, it seems like a new development. As your article illustrates, it’s noting new. Respecting nature has been a part of the oldest of partnerships between man and earth. I think people will regard it more as a realization of the impact that Brian Walker discusses and less of a return to the ways of the Indigenous people that inhabited this land before us. Recognizing the origins of this way of life is important but what’s more important is that people are actually changing.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tiffany. I see hope in this as well–I have seen a good many changes in my years of teaching. I also agree that we need not just to speak about “going green” but to change the way we treat the world in concert with seeing it differently.

  171. Hi Julie, thanks for your comment.
    Thoughtful points that warrant a substantial response.
    I have reference in the statement of taking over the culture of another to the ravaging of indigenous cultures by non-native peoples. It is bad enough to take a people’s land without usurping their belief system, which by rights belongs to them. The parallel here is not conversion to say, Catholicism, but declaring oneself an authority on indigenous religion– assuming one just has a “right” to it.
    When Chehalis grandmothers told me to “go to your own people” as well, they were expressing the wisdom that those who do not own their own past can hardly authentically understand how to honor the past of another. I have on this site an adoption story in which a white baby was taken in by an Indian grandmother. This was common place in the frontier era. This is not, however, the same as so many young people fleeing to Hopi land in the 1960s to “help” that the Hopi had to declare their land off limits to visitors.
    Sharing with other cultures on a one to one basis is vastly differently from deciding that we can “own” (take over, as I said) their beliefs and traditions. I don’t think taking over the sacred rituals of others is any better than taking over their lands because we think we “need” either of them.
    Here is an illustration of the difference between sharing values and inappropriately entering the sacred arena of another tradition. Grandma Aggie openly solicits the help of others–especially grandmothers– in working for the environmental and social justice she sees we so desperately need. To that effect she leads an open community-wide ceremony that is announced on this site. On the other hands, the sacred salmon ceremony she has re-instituted in Takelma territory is only open to those of indigenous descent. She has every right to set that boundary according to the traditions which her community shared for thousands of years.
    I don’t know where you get your information on what tribes continue to focus on in terms of the Boldt decision, but this is hardly so generalizable. I have seen tribes use this power to leverage protection for salmon and habit restoration throughout the Columbia River basin. Check out the work of the Columbia Inter-tribal Fishing Commission, who are using the knowledge of elders to entirely re-design hatcheries after natural systems in areas where wild salmon stocks have disappeared– or the alliance brokered by Billy Frank to protect all natural species. What I can add is that after the State of Washington let many natural resource managers go, the tribes of the state took up the slack so that they are the largest employers of such professionals in the state.
    The salmon are mysteriously returning the the rivers where Grandma Aggie’s leads ceremony at Takelma and scientists have not quite been able to tell why.
    As for Casinos– this could be a lengthy discussion, but I refer you to Charles Wilkerson’s Blood Struggle for an overview of the ways in which these are run in Indian country as opposed to the way they are run in say, Reno.
    I am not saying that everything the tribes do is environmentally sound; nor that all tribal peoples agree with what some elders communicated to me. Many suffer extreme poverty and internal colonialism in the face of the near loss of their entire peoples.
    I understand your sense of imperative in tackling our current environmental crises.
    But I think that we only sidetrack ourselves and repeat a dominating mindset when we focus on what we think these people are doing wrong rather than cleaning up our own act.

  172. I also think there is a good definition of “peoples”– taking the model of species, for instance, in which we can see partnership between such groups rather than between individuals alone.

  173. “The first step in establishing a partnership is treating our partners with comparable respect to that with which we treat ourselves.”
    This seems to be a “well duh” concept, and yet it is one that American’s have struggled with thoughout the course of this country’s history.
    I do not think that a partnership with the natural world will be possible until people can have partnerships with each other. When the religious and political differences can be accepted and respected, then I think that the human population will be at a point where they are ready to accept the natural world as a living, breathing entity and respect it as such.

    • Hi Kristen, thanks for your comment. I not sure one or the other of these–treating other humans or treating the natural world in a partnership fashion– is prior: I think that both of these are intertwined. What is often the historical case is that cultures that objectify and have a usury attitude toward the natural environment have the same response to other humans.

  174. Nisqually leader Billy Frank Jr. says “I don’t believe in magic……They tell us how healthy things are. How healthy we are. Because we and they are the same thing.” I agree with this entirely. We have alienated ourselves to from the animals of the world. The spirits and personalities they have. It started 10,000 years ago when we killed off the mammoths. Recent times show what we did to the beavers and other sustainers of the world. Man never truly had a partnership with the natural world, but now we need to develop one. The Natives probably developed the closest relationship with the natural world. As they dwindled so did parts of the natural world. We definitely need to start listening to the environment because we can see it with our own eyes that it’s suffering. Smog is very clear. How do we share the world? Partner up with the natural world quit taking so much from it.

    • The information on the mammoths is ambiguous as to whether humans were responsible. One issue is timing; in some cases humans were around several thousand years before the extinction and in other cases they were not around at all; new archeological data is thus indicating that we may not be at all sure of what we previously assumed in this regard.
      There is firmer data for the disappearance of large non-flying birds from certain islands with the coming of humans.
      In terms of the Pacific Northwest, there is research that indicates that the salmon evolved in partnership with humans for several thousand years; in Northern California, Kat Anderson’s work indicates the same thing with regard to certain plants and habitats. I think that we can certainly say that humans HAVE had a partnership with their environments in such instances. What is interesting to me is the traditional stories of such peoples that indicate there was a time humans didn’t know what they were doing– were destructive and therefore needed to change their behavior. It would be great if we had the same kinds of stories-and the wisdom and actions that came with them.
      I agree that we must see (rather than deny) the obvious consequences of our activities.

  175. The idea of giving a voice to the voiceless stands out to me as something very important. If applied to the field of Public Policy in the United States, we encounter similar issues in healthcare and immigration policies. Those making the decisions are usually not the ones affected by them. Environmentally speaking, this can be applied to people, plants and animals. It is easy for a decision to be made when dollars are the only consideration and those making the decisions won’t be the ones seeing the effects. But what about the people who live near factories and chemical plants? What about the species who will be wiped out and the plants that will die because of decisions made for the sake of money?

    It seems that in the case of humans, there are more people to speak up for those without a voice. There is an advocate for infants and children, for mothers on welfare, for those with disabilities. Humans are more readily taken care of by humans because it is easier to put ourselves in their positions. What people don’t stop to consider is the interconnectedness of all living things. Just because we can’t personally related to the life of a plant or animal doesn’t mean that our life isn’t affect by or connected to it. It is naive of us to operate under the assumption that humans are the only species that should be taken care of. ALL species depend on each other. Though the roles of smaller species may not be apparent, they have roles and habitats and an overall effect on the ecosystem in which we live.

    The example of Mary Heck giving a voice to the beaver did not seem silly at all. To me it made perfect sense. I think it very right that those species that cannot speak for themselves be spoken for. For no one to stand up for any species beside our own is to assume that humans are the only species that matter and that we stand superior to all living things, which is certainly not accurate.

    • Thanks for your comment on giving voice to the voiceless, Ellen. This is certainly something very important in a culture like ours that needs to attend to so many human and non-human voices that are unheard because they are at the bottom of a hierarchical power scale. I think that we do indeed need to recognize our interdependence in the circle of life– and that is survival knowledge.

  176. I agree that natural resource management needs a better approach, most of society today is concerned with maximizing profit unfortunately, which makes this challenging.
    It’s important to remember that most of society today isn’t concerned with having a spiritual relationship with nature like past indigenous cultures. I’m not sure if taking this approach would be as successful as working from within the system. I would think most of today’s society has a strong interest in protecting the environment, for some people it’s because they value nature like past indigenous cultures, for others it is because they don’t want to exhaust natural resources, or other reasons. Although having a spiritual connection or a different kind of strong partnership with nature would be most beneficial to nature, and then ourselves, it is almost asking the impossible. Most of society is urbanized and as a result detached from nature. I think the best approach is capitalizing on people’s interests in being “green” as I saw in some of the responses. In the United Kingdom you can purchase “carbon credits” which reduce your “carbon footprint”. Basically you are spending extra money to purchase renewable energy instead of energy generated from coal, or spending money to develop renewable energy sources, or fund environmental protection initiatives. Sometimes it can be difficult for people to see how connected everything is, maybe this could be an approach that could be productive. By helping people understand how connected humanity is with nature, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

    • Indeed, managing resources to maximize profit is often precisely the opposite of managing for sustainability–and honoring the resilience of natural life. I agree that the partnership ethic may seem a far cry from our predominant mode today, but I think there are many more people enacting this approach that we might tend to think. I also think that the movement to honor green space in urban areas is growing- in the urban gardening movement, for instance. That does NOT mean that we development is sometimes moving in the opposite direction all too often. I agree that any way that we can get humans to see their connection to the natural world is all for the good. Thanks for your comment, Ellen.

  177. I think what the big point here is the need to return to a worldview in which we work alongside those we share the environment with. Perhaps if we learn to pay attentions to the clues that plants give us, rather then throwing pesticides at them, or bio-engineering them to be “better” plants, then maybe the clues to what is going on in our environment might be more evident. If we were to step back, and plant crops natural to the area, then we would be dealing less with what we consider invasive species and having to fight those from killing off the very indigenous species we are trying to save.

    Find more productive ways to generate energy, that dont require dams, allow nature to take care of herself, and learn from her how to possibly heal some of the damage that we have done.

    We have spent so much time trying to take over the world, that we have ignored all the signs of the damage we have done. Nature and those around us have been tyring to show us, time to learn how to listen and work together. Then perhaps maybe we will have better luck working with each other.

    • Good points, Sam– when we are busy trying to “take over the world”, we indeed aren’t aware of the damage we are doing–nor can we listen to it and observe the models that might allow us to work with the natural world–and with other humans as well.

  178. After reading the lessons and postings in this class, I believe the only way for human beings and the natural world to co-exist is through reciprocity. Without the need to give to the natural world the way we would give to our children we cannot expect to receive its gifts in return. Many cultures over thousands of years of ancestry have learned this and practiced it, and have been able to sustain a life of equality with nature. They live happily amongst those they love and have an abundance of what they need that is delivered through this exchange of respect with their land. If we can learn this we can change the path we are on today. I think change may be the hardest part of this. For humans change is never easy. We are not as good at adapting as other living creatures are and this can be a large issue as to why people prefer to keep the status quo even if it is not working.

    • Interesting perspective on the difficulties of human adaptation, Aimee. Seems we are a bit stubborn when it comes to defending our own convenience– at the same time that we are so resourceful in other ways. Perhaps it is time to take a good look at what is at stake here.

  179. While I agree that humans are part of the natural ecosystem and not the rulers, I do not think today’s society allows for us to not be involved in monitoring, managing, and altering environments. It is sad this is the case, but we have spread our toxins and altered every landscape in some form or fashion that requires us to “repair” what we have done.
    I like how it’s noted that most people making the decisions on how to manage ecosystems is usually done by people who are not directly affected by it or even notice it. For example, I live on the Gulf Coast and with the oil spill, have seen this directly. Politicians and environmentalists have come from all over the country to survey the damage and develop a plan for “fixing” the problem. Then they fly home and leave others to implement the plan. The voice of us locals, those directly affected, is heard but whether it is honestly taken into consideration is still to be seen.
    So how do we share our world with all species? I believe this can only be accomplished if all people gain a love, respect, and admiration for the land, as Aldo Leopold wrote in his essay, the Land Ethic.

    • Thanks for your perspective, Megan. The Gulf Coast is certainly a tragic example of the need to “repair” the mistakes we have made. You have a valid point in this: I do not think that partnership implies failing to be responsible for our own actions–and their repercussions. Just how much we attempt to manipulate the natural world rather than follow it as a model is, I think, the issue. A thoughtful response and a pragmatic one.

    • I agree with your frustration about the efforts to “fix” the problem of the Gulf oil spill. My frustration is with the human arrogance that makes people think that we will always be able to invent a technological solution to an environmental problem. Instead of deciding that the potential for devastation outweighs the benefits of deep-water drilling, I’m sure that engineers will come up with some new “fail-safe” technology and just continue on as before. This mindset explains why we have large amounts of spent radioactive material that we have no idea how to make safe. No community wants this stuff, and they have good reasons to mistrust the authorities who assure them that it will remain perfectly safe and isolated underground.

  180. I appreciate the discussion of ethics, as well as the ideas of reciprocity and managing ourselves rather than “managing” the environment. I think there is a growing awareness of how our actions are affecting the environment, which in turn affects us, to judge by stories about pharmaceuticals in drinking water and various chemicals or toxins appearing in breast milk (and elsewhere in our bodies). However, I do think we still have a tendency to think about how we can further manipulate natural resources to address our concerns (i.e. carbon sequestration) rather than adjusting our own actions to deal with such issues (i.e. reducing/removing the need/source of carbon emissions). It just tends to be more convenient to think of things as “outside” us so we don’t have to change our habits. Despite the growing awareness of reciprocity, it seems to me that it is still rather easy for many people to overlook how our effects on the environment affect the people and places we care about (i.e. it’s all happening “somewhere else”). I do wonder how we can, as a society, develop or encourage something like an “ethics of consideration” in considering how we impact future lives, as well as our own. I find Lucy Thompson’s observation about how individual actions collectively add up to a great deal of harm quite interesting. It makes me think about how people ask what good it will do for them to make small changes (i.e. drive less, recycle, turn out a light, what-have-you)–what difference can one person make? Thompson’s observation is a reminder that the actions of individuals (even ‘small’ actions) can add up to a lot, whether good or bad.

    • You make a very important observation on the importance of small effects, Crystal. They not only add up but model actions for others. And on the point on how to urge a society with an “ethics of consideration”– I don’t think there is any one answer. I think that each of us has to model and share with as many people as we are able in as many ways as we can the knowledge we have about actions that secure our future and the future of other lives. Thanks for your obvious care as well as insight here.

  181. It seems to me that the biggest problem here is simple ignorance. There is something fundamentally illogical about avoiding a system that would benefit current and future generations of humanity while simultaneously helping the adorable critters that accompany us on this planet. If you were to show a businessman the statistics and figures that illustrated how native modes of salmon catching lead to a harvest “seven times the modern take without harming the sustainability of the runs,” how could he possibly look the other way? Even if one were to disregard the obvious benefits to the salmon population and look at it from a purely selfish standpoint, the benefits still stand: more fish, less effort.

    Personally, I was always under the (ignorant) impression that the only way to help the environment was to somehow sacrifice a large part of your own life. However, if one were to adopt the partnership model, it seems that the benefits to both parties (you and nature) would drastically outweigh any negative sacrifices one would have to make in the process. In fact, adopting this system has lead many in the past to encounter a “bounty of root crops, wildfowl, and game.”

    It just seems ignorant, and extremely impractical, to separate oneself from nature and dominate over it. Those who don’t care about hurting the various animal populations in their region can at least appreciate the vast benefits to humanity.

    • Thanks for your comment, Eric. You have an important perception in analyzing the practicality of the partnership approach. Given this, then, we must ask– who profits such that an “ignorant” system stays in place instead. A few do profit from our system, while many (including future generations) lose. The other thing that happens is that in a system in which there is scarcity and those who profit are held up as a model for those who are struggling to make it, our worldview predisposes us to think in one way only–and thus be ignorant, as you rightly perceive, of other possibilities. In a complex system such as us there is inertia that can hold up needed change. But we can no longer afford such inertia– or such ignorance.

  182. I first must comment on the fact that where I live we typically don’t see a lot of action respecting the rights of things we have partnerships with. The native Miami and Potawatomi tribes suffered greatly in the past and were simply pushed off their land like the article mentions with the Chehalis and Coos-Kalapuya tribes, yet it was nice to see the respect that the tribes have for their environment. Now onto another example, Indiana is one of the least green states across the US, and as other communities change we seem to be falling behind. To me it’s sad we aren’t respecting and partnering with members of other species.

    Overall, to me the article pointed out the diversity of ecosystems and how there should be some balance. I think in a way it is hard to share at times and we can see this all over the world. Another example I have seen in my life, is over farming the land and not giving back to it what we take. I think this one is similar to how the Natives really assumed that new settlers would fail in their laws protecting species of salmon in the Pacific Northwest, because I think the natives here figured we would almost over farm eventually.

    Overall, I admired the elders courage in that they spoke up for those who we often take for granted in the world. To me this shows while yes we can’t orally communicate with these species but we can somehow know how they feel.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful points here, Christopher. It is certainly true that the way in which we treat “others”- -both indigenous others and other species indicates a dominating rather than partnership stance. It is, as you note, time to change that, since this stance is not only leading to the abuse of those others, but cutting off our own means of subsistence (we only have so much land to ruin by overfarming). In this context, there are some that offer hope and change. Wes Jackson’s work in reclaiming midwestern farm and prairie land is exemplary (see his book, Becoming Native to this Place)– check out the Land Institute online for a view of his work.

  183. I feel the question of “How do we share our world?” can actually be overshadowed in this day and age by “Will we share our world?” It seems that Western world views, which are still very strong today, have remained strong due to the pleasure of continued development at the cost of loosing focus on the partnership we have with our actions. To answer the question of “Will we?” I look at the moves the people of the United States are beginning to make in this new “green” era. Much of it seems to be brought about by the sudden realization that we are actually all part of the web of life and we have punctured a deep hole in our place which is beginning unsteady the balance of our environment. We hear about climate change, we worry about health impacts from the environments we inhabit, we see the damage from our misuse of materials both organic and inorganic. However, I question if change is occurring because of our sudden realization that we have lost our partnership with the environment. I wonder if we are seeing change come about because of people’s reaction to the loss of convenience.

    The use of resources is a prime example. Native cultures who understood the balance generated by the resilience of nature knew when enough was enough and change was needed to preserve their environment from danger. Resources are running out for the large demand existent today, therefore prices are climbing. Is it possible then that peoples response and thereby change are based upon reacting to a second web that is far from natural. Our economies would comprise this web and stand as a completely man-made entity. I believe that we will at some point learn to share our world. The old saying of “ripping the rug out from under our feet” is likely to happen at our current rates of growth, but I feel we have developed such a large and sustaining structure as mankind that we have lost touch with truly following the partnership with our one and only home, earth.

    • Hello Matthew, thanks for your comment. You raise an important issue–and as you indicate, NOT sharing the world actually harms us, as we can see by viewing our own place in the web of live. Trying to dominate the world makes us forget we actually rely on it for our survival, which licenses us to the ignorant actions that, as you say, “pull the rug out from under our feet”.

  184. I completely agree with this. We need to become more in sync with the nature around us. The earth is alive and it is keeping us alive, if we dont have the earth we dont have a place to live. Each being placed here on here was placed here for a reason, if we remove even one being it throws off a whole balance of systems. Even something so small as the beaver dams. There is a reason beavers feel the need to make their dams and they need to be respected.
    Maybe if humans focused more on taking care of the enviroment we would yeild a lot more profit/ happiness out of our own lives just like the salmon fishers mentoned above.

    • Thanks for your comment, Briana. I agree that we are lacking not only pragmatic results but personal satisfactions in enacting a system that ravages those who share our world. And in the web of life, such creatures as beavers are not so small after all when one considers their connection to all else.

  185. I find it so fascinating to read how progressive Native Americans were in comparison to the white settlers at the time. The Partnership worldview and the rejection that humans are better than and should control nature was clearly a result of hundreds of years of living harmoniously with the land. The disregard of this viewpoint by settlers at the time is such a tragedy. What is even more tragic, however, is the fact that so many still reject the Partnership worldview and see humanity as separate from the rest of the world’s ecosystem.

    The story of the beaver reminds me of an article I saw this week in the news about the poaching of the last female rhino in a national park in South Africa (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/southafrica/7896363/Rhino-poaching-on-the-rise-in-South-Africa.html). It is so sad to watch humanity wreak havoc on nature. With the world so interconnected today, how is it that we still allow such crimes to happen?

    • Thanks for your comment, Hannah. It is tragedy whenever an attitude of domination– of humans over nature and over one another replaces the ancient partnership value that was prominent over much of human history.
      You have a good point about learning this from nature: we could certainly use more observation of the natural world to bring us back to our place within it.
      How can we allow such crimes to happen and how we can stop them are both very important questions to explore. You might be interested in the work of the Owens Foundation (there is a link under the links page here), who have enlisted indigenous peoples to stop poaching– not only taking advantage of local leadership, but also working to transform the economic pressures and international markets that combine to create this.

  186. This essay really got me thinking about human interactions with our surrouding environments, and how it has changed durastically over time. The Native Americans were very aware of how they affected the environment, and treated every living organism as if it had feelings, and is if it were human. The part in the essay talking about how the Natives only took what they needed and always replenished what they took, really stood out to me. Centuries ago humans had it figured out, how to keep all kinds of life flourishing, and in today’s time we struggle with this concept. Only a few decades ago we as humans, ravished the earth for all the raw materials we wanted, without thinking of the consequences. In today’s world, we are more aware of what is going on, but continue to take resources that we know are hurting our environment, and inturn eventually hurting us.
    The question of how do we share our world seems simple enough, if hundreds of years ago we knew how to share, and life flourished, why can’t we do that now? It is much more complicated than it used to be i am afraid. Our dependancy on natural resources goes deeper than our actual needs. It has a lot to do with money, and the small percentage of people making a ridiculous amount of money off of the resources. We have the technology to use other resources for our needs, but still slow change or no change is occuring. I believe it is just a matter of time before we are forced to be more aware, and more conscience about how we interact with nature. We as humans must also learn not to be so selfish, and realize we are just one organism in a world of millions and millions of organisms.

    • The answer to the question of how we share our world is indeed much more complicated (or perhaps much more difficult– I am not sure it was ever really simple) today, Brandon. It certainly has to do with inequities in the distribution of the money to which we allot so much power in the current global community. But in the end (as I hope we will learn quickly enough) money will neither buy us survival if we ravage the natural world–nor will it gain us true satisfaction and meaning in our lives. This latter is the reason that progressive business leaders like Jeffrey Hollender are working to design different goals and meaning for their work, as in his recent essay (http://csrwiretalkback.tumblr.com/post/829265255/regulations-id-love-to-see) calling for sound regulation of business. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  187. This essay spoke particularly clearly to me right at the end when the notion of being a ‘voice for the voiceless.’ As far back as the indigenous cultures in the Pacific Northwest, to the Ecuadorian Constitution which recognizes the rights of the natural world (http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1494/1/) the partnership model seems to see the world as it really is, chipping away at human hubris. The ‘voice for the voiceless’ is a step away from thinking about how human activity destroys ‘my’ land, or my property and instead seems to look as how the convergent nature of nature really does put us all in the same basket.

    The problem of domination certainly still exists, as mentioned in the article. Human domination over the earth and human domination over peoples who believe in the importance of partnership, will certainly be an ongoing issue, and a barrier to our collective ability to work together towards a better existence.

    I enjoyed this article and I found a greater appreciation for solidarity with the natural world as a necessity and a jumping off (or in my case a jumping on to a movement that certainly exists) point for tactical activism.

    • Hi Thomas, thanks for your thoughtful comment and the link to the Ecuadoran Constitution– it is also outlined in the essay here on the “rights of nature”. Indeed, a “voice for the voiceless” is a stance that sees the world in terms of dialogue (and empathy) rather than domination. Unfortunately, the problem of domination does not only still exist, but is all too prevalent — along with its tragic results for both the human and more than human world in the contemporary age. “A voice for the voiceless” indicates, instead, that we should care even for life that is not like us, as well as human others. I am glad you took this as a “jumping off place” for activism, since, for me, ideas and actions are intertwined.

  188. Although the partnership paradigm and the worldviews expressed by other environmentally beneficial cultures can be shown to be inherently better for our lives and the lives of our children (and further generations to come), there is something much more malignant in western culture than the ruler paradigm: the drive to consume and the quasi-christian concern and obsession with the end of days. As stated in the article, the remoteness of those whom cause such damage to the actual damage has become part of our lordship over the land, which allows for rationalized systematic exploitation of the land. We reap the benefits without any damage. We exploit to feed our consuming cultures, but because we dont relate to the ill effects of our indulgences, our culture continues on mainly unaffected. It actually seems that some people might even choose to have the power to consume (i.e. have a job) over a clean environment as there are already locals in the gulf coast that want drilling to start up again. Of course i think that something that stands in the way of our ethical embracement of partnership, at least in our country, is the obsession with the quasi-christian armageddon and the excusing of using up what we can for today for tomorrow we’ll be dead. A large part of me does believe that the hyper fear of the cold war combined with the christian fear of an apocalypse and the exploitative nature of our unethical capitalism to combine into this ultimate apathetic machine, but i can take solace in understanding that we’re all humans and all connected and perhaps before it is too late we can remember that.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christopher. I absolutely agree with you in terms of the destructive aspects of greed–and a sense that we don’t need to consider our ethical responsibility toward this world since we will be leaving it anyway– see what you think of the essay I just posted with a different kind of transcendence (“the eyes of the world…”). I think that both of these are entangled in domination as expressed in hierarchy and dualism.
      I think you rightly call this “quasi-Christian”– since it is an unfortunate entanglement with a dominating culture rather than Christianity per se that is the problem here. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some dogmatic self-styled Christians who use these ideas as a destructive and ironic license to ignore our ethics. I too place hope in the sense that we are all connected– and perhaps the fact that we currently face things like climate change (if we ever stop allowing corporations to twist the truth on this to protect their profits– see desmog.com) together will allow us to transcend our differences.

  189. Embracing this idea of partnering with the natural world would obviously benefit the human race as a whole, giving our race a longevity to continue living with the earth. This idea is slowly being adopted, at least from my experience in the U.S. If you get information from almost any media, there will be articles and stories on some form of “green.” It may be green energy sources, how to live a more “green life” and so on. I believe people realize the repercussions of destroying the natural environment as we continue to progress our research on how all life lives among each other. Billy Frank Jr. brings up the excellent point that, “I don’t believe in magic. I believe in the sun and the stars, the water, the tides, the floods, the owls, the hawks flying, the river running, the wind talking. They’re measurements. They tell us how healthy things are. How healthy we are. Because we and they are the same thing.”
    This is the right line of thinking in my opinion, that we must live alongside the earth. Natives to North America allowed life to flourish and took only as much as they needed, and ecosystems were able to easily recover from this. This took place because we ARE part of the ecosystem, and in the end we have almost total control of how much it may prosper or diminish.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kyle. I appreciate your upbeat response and the reminder that we are, indeed, a part of our ecosystems. I also see a change in the right direction, and I also think we much be active and vigilant given such things as the recent Supreme Court finding that allows unlimited spending by corporations on political campaigns.

  190. As far as I am aware, for the most part, the native tribes of the New World are really one of the few cultural groups to have ever embraced an idea of living within the ecosystem of their surroundings. The ancient Egyptians diverted the Nile to create irrigation, English farmers cleared forests except those protected by the Crown for more farm land, Chinese farmers caused floods to allow for more rice paddies are just a few examples I can think of. None of this I guess could be viewed as “partnering” with the natural ecosystem or taking into account the indigenous habitats of wildlife. It has just never seemed to be a priority for any other cultures to preserve their surroundings, instead it was to extract as much value from the land as possible before moving on and doing it again to new land, which is why so many wars were fought. More land meant more resources which meant more growth, power, wealth.

    I never really thought about that before, but it makes sense now why there was such a radical difference between the settlers of America and the Native population, it just seemed natural to expand and grow to the settlers, and was the total antithesis to the Native population.

    • Thoughtful point, Kamran. When “expand and grow” means to take over the lands of others, this is not a goal of indigenous peoples. But if “expand and grow” means to learn more about ourselves and ways in which we might assume our place humbly, caringly and wisely in the circle of life, it seems that we need as much of this kind of growth as we can get.

  191. Our culture nowdays is the way it is because we as a people are comfortable living in a way that makes us sheep. We would rather follow the popular way of living that be the radical that lives on his/her own out in the undeveloped wilderness. If people stopped relying on monetary compensation and started giving back to their fellow human beings in more productiver ways than alot of our current culture would vanish, and we could return to the ways of now almost extinct indigenious cultures.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kyle. I think that many indigenous people would disagree that they are becoming extinct– though their ways of life are certainly assaulted by modern industrialism. Getting back to values other than monetary ones is an important goal that might allow us to define-and work for– what we really care about.

  192. How should we share our world?

    We often think that we deserve certain things, such as taking long breaks, shopping expensive goods, eating delicious food and etc.. This is the idea of free market; as long as you worked hard for it, you deserve it. What kind of theory or context made us to come to the conclusion that we deserve somethings, and drew the line of “deserve-ness”? There are 5 percent of world population live in the U.S currently, and we spend 25 percent of world energy resources that are being produced each year. Why do people in the U.S. deserve 25 percent of annual world energy production? Because we worked hard for it? Or is it because we are powerful enough to steal some of the energy resources we don’t actually deserve. I cannot say much if the “power” and “skills to steal” are being considered to be the parts of a country’s ability to make things deserve to them. From my point of view, in order to be fair and share this world in a just way, our life style and our mind set of today need some major reforms. We need to realize that we do not deserve anything. We do not deserve to drive SUV with just the driver him or her self in the car for hours, we do not deserve to harvest more that the land can yield, and we do not deserve to cut down the forests just for our own good. This is not fair for the people who will not benefit or who will be harmed from the acts we do, and this is not fair for the land that we leave off of.

    • You raise some important points on the idea of justice here, YunJi. In fact, the rich and poor are growing further apart in the US as well–and the wealthiest people have not, in fact, worked for their wealth, but earned it through things like investing.
      And yet those who slave away at their jobs are told that they “earn” the rewards you speak of. I think we need a different type of system in the sense that we should stop rewarding those who make money by damaging other human lives as well as the environment we share.
      Perhaps what we really need is a different view of rewards and values: it turns out the majority of workers in the US say they would trade a smaller salary for things like personal security or doing meaningful work.
      It is indeed not just that such a small portion of the world’s population uses such a percentage of its resources–and changing that will require lifestyle changes, but hopefully these may ultimately be for the better. For instance, if we had better planning, instead of dispersed communities where we drive distances from work to home, we might have communities where we are closer to one another as well as to jobs and work. We might produce our food locally (already happening with the burgeoning urban gardens movement). For that matter, we might produce more power locally– since we lose vast amounts in transmission lines.

      • I agree with you 100 percent. I agree that we need different kind of rewarding system other than competition. What have we done through the free market system and unlimited competition? We have made the concept of stock market, we have created the idea of credit and interest which have resulted in the modern slavery.
        I do really think that we all need a major mind set reform, too- which may change our life style into a sustainable way.

        Cheers!

        • Good points: there has been some disagreement as to whether we even have a “free market”– or have one in name only, since the majority of the world’s population don’t have the first requirement to participate in it– enough money!
          And I do agree that we will need to change our lifestyles in thoughtful and disciplined ways– we can’t continue on this runaway train and expect to have a future for our own children, much less the children of other species and the rest of the world.

  193. I was moved by how Billy Frank, Jr. summed it up by basically saying the health of the natural world is a measurement in and of itself. A measurement of us as people, and of the world we live in. We have to understand that how we treat the Earth is a direct reflection of how we are treating ourselves. By not taking care of the living and nonliving aspects of the Earth we are not taking care of our own selves. This rings very true for me. Just look at how obesity, disease, hunger, and mental illness are all on the rise in our world today. Is this a direct reflection of how we have treated our home? Of how we have ignored our own impact on our environment? I believe that awareness of our own impact is the first step in the right direction. We have to live within our world, not at odds with it. We have to find a way to be apart of the bigger picture instead of seeing ourselves as the only thing in the image.

    • I very much like this measurement of our health in echoing environmental health as well, Julie. I agree that awareness is the first step. We do indeed have to “live within our world, not at odds with it”. And I think, further, that we may regain much we are missing in our lives by bringing ourselves back to intimacy with the natural world in this way.

  194. I hope to believe that the world as a whole is starting to return to our old mindset, and see nature for what it really is. Like it was stated above, the more one tries to dominate something, the less they see it for what it is. Now we have many incentives for people to be environmentally friendly, and show their respect for nature. This means that the ideas of reducing, reusing, and recycling our waste has reached people on every class level from the homeless, all the way to the guy in the white house. Hopefully in the coming years, this will lead to us re-partnering with our natural world, and coming to once again respect it for what it is, as opposed to simply using it to reap the benefits for our luxuries. Americans have supersized their lives with big cars, big cities, big roads, and big houses. The efficiency of life is gone, and we have all turned into consumers looking towards the latest and greatest technology. What I think we should be doing is looking backwards to what nature has accomplished in it’s millions of years. Look at the insects, reptiles, mammals, that have been here for centuries, and who have survived for centuries despite previous catastrophes. Nature didn’t get it perfect on the first try, but after several million years, she’s getting pretty close, and we should look at the technology that has survived for all these years. Every part of an animals body serves a purpose, there is nothing extra, the insects don’t use cars, the mammals don’t have blenders, and the reptiles don’t have traffic lights. Every other creature lives out of necessity for survival, not the luxury that humans have grown accustomed to.

    • Thoughtful perspective, Imada– it is definitely time to evaluate what we really “need” and in the most basic sense, what contributes to our survival and flourishing as human animals living in and sustained by the web of life–and what does not.

  195. I really connected to the paragraph about Val Plumwood’s analysis of gobal consumerism: The arenas of manufacure and industry are separated from those of consumption, which makes it appear that consumer goods and throw-away products have no environmental or social consequences. Most of us don’t have to deal firsthand with the problems created by the creation or disposal of manufactured goods, so these problems are easy to ignore. Much of the negative impact is to people in poorer countries, non-white countries, and to the poor and vulnerable in our communities. They don’t bulid factories out in the suburbs, they build where the property values are low, and the people living there suffer.
    Local movements try to stitch together the divide between producer and consumer, but I find it disheartening that not everyone realizes the importance of making some sort of effort. Here in Oregon, we have a lot of liberal communities that regard basic environmental stewardship as a responsibility. However, when I visted family in Florida a few years ago, their community didn’t offer recycling. Even here, some people don’t want to take even smalls steps toward sustainability. Thinking about the global picture is overwhelming, because there is so much damage being done to the animals, the forests, and the water. I try to focus on what I can to make a positive impact, and quietly support people like Baker who are willing to make a public stand for the common good.

    • The separation between the places the richer classes live and the factories that produce the goods they consume work indicates the intersection between environmental ethics and human justice. Congratulations on your personal stance, Tivey., The more we know about just how the products we consume are produced, the wiser choices we can make.
      My hope is that those who have a bit to learn in Florida will come to understand how their actions reflect on future generations.

  196. I like this idea of partnership but I worry that this is not the type of solution which will be accepted by much of the Western culture. Not in my Backyard is a very readily available and easy to understand principle that we already believe in. Being able to to shake this is not something that will be easy despite its necessity.

    I think if we are going to try we need a core of teachers such as Mary Heck to not necessarily lead the way down a different path, but teach us how to tailor a proper path to our current culture. Certainly there are going to be major shocks, but I think that it is possible. I might just be really optimistic though.

    • This is not the way most Westerners either view or treat the land, it is true, David. But I am heartened by the large number of organizations, including small businesses that have begin using this model of interaction in the last few decades. It also seems to me that the further we are from the thousands of years old stance that allowed us to care for this land, the more we ought to be motivated to work to get there.

  197. The partnership worldview expressed by the indigenous northwesterners seems to have been extremely effective. It makes sense too, how feeling connection to your surroundings would lead to caring more deeply about the impact you are making. I like how Billy Frank jr. expressed it, saying that the life we see around us is a measurement of our health. If we are surrounded by none, we could not survive. We rely on living plants and animals and its important to see that connection.

    • Thanks for your response, Frank. I like your reminder that natural life supports us– its health gauges ours–and if we try to live in a dead (or deadened) world, our own days are numbered.
      The historical effectiveness to this approach of relating to the natural world speaks for itself.

  198. I agree that the idea of a reciprocal partnership between humans and the rest of the natural world is required if we want to start to turn around the degeneration that is happening throughout the natural organisms of the world. We can create millions upon millions of green products to promote the decline of pollutants, and we can teach people ways to recycle and resuse the non-green products, but in the end if people don’t view nature differently than they do now, much of the natural world will still be suffering. In order to change the way we react to other natural systems and beings, we have to change the way we see them.

    • You have an important point, Jessika. If we want to move from mere remediation to living in a resilient and vital natural world, we need to behave differently– which begins with sees the natural life that sustains us with respect and thus treating it with reciprocity.

  199. It is striking to examine the contrast of the European/Western view of life with that of peoples who had no concept of owning the land. How can one own something that one is simply an integral part of. This article illustrates the calm beauty of peoples who belonged in their environment. It presents a view of the world where communication is beyond the words and based on intimate relationships with all that surrounds us. Yes, all creation is our family, we need to feel at home in our environment and not isolated from it. All creation is alive and we can become sensitized to the needs of everything around us, if we cease seeing through our egocentric views of superiority. We each have a role to play in the web of life.

    • Thank you for an articulate response, Dean: I very much like your phrase, “calm beauty”, and the powerful point that we each have a part to play in the web of life– if, as you indicate, we first understand our place within it.

  200. This article is fascinating; it put many thoughts I have had before into words. Especially since taking ecology classes, I can see myriad ways that “nature and humans are intertwined.” Growing up in Montana in an outdoors family gave me a great appreciation for nature, and I feel that I grew up with much more of a “partnership” viewpoint than most Americans have. I think that the minority within our capitalistic society that views nature and humans as irrevocably connected is growing. More and more Americans are beginning to realize that oil really is running out, and that water is a limited resource that doesn’t just materialize in a faucet. Fortunately, those who are able to keep an open mind are able to start making a difference and to protect our environment. Overall however, I feel that it is hard for a culture that couldn’t treat human beings with a different skin color as equals to be able to treat “lesser” organisms with respect.

    To me, the partnership worldview seems like a very scientific outlook. Studying biology has shown me just how many surprising ways things can be connected, and I don’t think there are many scientists that do not feel the same way. Science back up this viewpoint completely, and I personally am one to believe only what I have seen for myself. This article makes me wonder how much indigenous knew about scientific processes and cycles. It seems that they would make excellent ecologists and conservationists. What struck me most about this article was that Jaime de Angulo could not find a way to distinguish animals and humans to the Pit River people, since the concept did not even exist. I wish we lived in a country where all people had this outlook, but clearly everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

    • Hi Allison, thanks for your perceptive comment. It is hopeful indeed to see the partnership view growing–as you point out, good science certainly supports it, though it is also true, as you also note, that in society with a worldview that divides the world into hierarchies between rich and poor as well as male and female and people of color and others, the partnership relationship between humans and other species has trouble being accepted, even with science on its side. And time is running out in terms of caring for the natural commons that sustains us–and all life. I think the work of the Union of Concerned Scientists is exemplary in its public education campaign. It is unfortunate that oil companies are pouring so much into a disinformation campaign on global climate change. Imagine what they might accomplish if they put that money into developing nature-friendly products instead.

  201. I was particularly struck by Jaime de Angulo’s experience with the Pit River language and not being able find a word that distinguished humans and animals. Our language is so powerful in its contribution to how we see the world, that, even though there may be more understanding of such diversity in language and perspective today, it can still give a shock that a culture would not be able to speak about a clear distinction between people and animals.

    For myself, the distinction is important, but it becomes unhealthy when that sense of partnership is lost; that we as humans are here together with the whole of the world. There can be much that our culture could learn from the Pit River people, even if it were this one small aspect of their language.

    • Hi Andy, thanks for your comment on the importance of language. Linguists Edward Sapir and Edmund Whorf some years ago analyzed the Hopi language and came to the conclusion that we would have come to quantum physics much sooner had we been speaking Hopi. Language develops in conjunction with culture–but sometimes there are important deviations. Jerome Rothenberg has argued that modern poetry is a way of returning to the active world that our language otherwise predisposes us to ignore (in its focus on subject/object rather than verbs).

    • I agree that the language distinction is a very crucial point, and that language must have a powerful subliminal impact on our worldview. English doesn’t assign gender to objects, but the Romance languages do, and I read something recently about how speakers of those languages do assign “feminine” and “masculine” attributes to objects depending on which gender their language uses. For example, in one language a bridge is feminine, and in another it is masculine (I don’t remember which languages). The speakers of the first language thought of a bridge as “elegant” or “graceful” while the speakers of the second language thought of a bridge as “strong”. After all, language is a cultural construct – and it is interesting to think of the many ways in which it informs our views.

  202. You mention that in order to achieve a partnership worldview, we must treat our partners how we treat ourselves. I think that this is such an important thing. As a child, my father taught me to “treat others as you would like them to treat you.” Of course, this is known as the “Golden Rule” which is almost identical to this idea here. However, when one says “golden rule,” most people think about just PEOPLE, not other natural living things. As a child, the golden rule that I learned revolved around people, as opposed to all living things as well. However, being raised to love all creatures and all living things, I was able to adjust that rule and apply it to all living things.

    I think this concept is so important and that learning that the golden rule applies to much, much more than just other people is crucial. It really is the first step in having a partnership worldview. How could you have a partnership worldview without acknowledging your partners as ALL natural living things (not just people and the empires we build). And not only acknowledging them, but like you said, treating them as you would treat yourself. Or as the golden rule would say: “as you would like to be treated.”

    • Hi Jana, thanks for your comment. It sounds like your father had sound values that certainly fit into the partnership worldview. The extension of such values to all lives is an essential thing underlying the long-term sustainability of many indigenous peoples. It is great that you took on this value for yourself as well.

    • I had not made the connection between the “golden rule” and all living things. However, when I think about it I apply it to living things anyway. My friends always laugh at me when I take spiders and insects in my house outside instead of just squishing them, but I wouldn’t want to be stepped on! It seems pretty common sense to me. I don’t enjoy being in pain, why would anything else?

  203. You cannot withdraw water from a plant and expect the plant to live. Likewise, humankind cannot withdraw itself from nature and survive. Nature is our sustenance; without it, like the plant without water, we would perish.

    Thus our sense of entitlement to own, rule or separate from that which we are intrinsically a part of has proven to be one of the most fundamentally damaging ideas in all of modern Western philosophy. This article clarifies that by comparing the animistic beliefs held by the indigenous American populations – a people who for centuries understood the necessary balance of nature and inseparability of humans from their surroundings – to those of a people clouded by the dark aged belief that nature was created separately from man, and for man, so that he may act as its steward.

    Like Andy, I was struck by the absence of division between humans and animals in the language of the people of Pit River. Although I’ve always understood the indigenous tribes maintaining a special bond with their fellow neighbors – plants and animals – I never thought that they considered them to also be “human”! Very interesting perspective.

    CoosKalapuya elder Esther Stutzman states: “The earth is alive. It has a heart.”. As simple as Stutzman’s words may be the wisdom he intends to convey to us is vastly important. If you cannot separate all the components of life’s circle does it not make sense that the earth – all life – is a single living, breathing organic entity? In this sense the wisdom of Stutzman and his people cannot be counted as “primitive superstition” since we are just beginning to see, and understand, that the damage we cause to even the tiniest segment of nature through our actions is enough to harm the rest of the ecosystem, including ourselves. The tribal wisdom of the indigenous Americans therefore has much to teach us if only we would open our minds and ears to listen.

    • Thanks for this comment. I absolutely agree with you that a culture that attempts to separate itself from the natural world is trying for the impossible– not to mention, likely following a destructive course. We have seen the results in the current decline of the vitality of ecosystems upon which we depend as a result of human actions. By contrast, those who recognize themselves as immersed in the organic and vital circle of life tend to act to preserve it–as have many indigenous peoples for so many thousands of years. We could do worse than emulate this perspective. I appreciate your points here.

  204. Partnering with the natural world or the partnership worldview is as stated here in this article, nothing new but is only coming to light because of the “Green” generation. I was very ignorant of the partnership worldview since I was under the belief that humans were superior to the environment but through knowledge, it enabled me to understand and see that if if we don’t change our thinking and our perspective on nature, nature will not exist in which we will cease to exist. As this article states, “nature and humanity are one and the same.”The natural world is dying and humanity is responsible. The worldview of human domination is a threat and if people continue to think that we can treat the natural world however we wish, then we get what we give out which is eventual extinction. It means changing the way we treat the land and actually listen to how the indigenous people care and protect nature.. It’s start with me and every human being who cares enough to want their children to have a future on this planet.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tina. There are some powerful points that you make from the standpoint of a mother, there. Two are that we get what we give–and as we are dishing out distinction for other lives, we will wind up with a returning extinction (or radical diminishing of the quality) of human life. The second point is caring enough to want our children “to have a future on this planet.” I appreciate the personal change you have made– a model for the ways in which all of us might extend ourselves to other views (which also allows us to stand outside our own worldview so that we might gain perspective and learn from our mistakes).

  205. As I read this article, I could not help but think of the current issues ongoing along the California and Oregon Coast with the establishment of new “Marine Life Protection Act ” no fishing zones. The Department Of Fish and Game has been charged with enforcing no recreational fishing in multiple new restoration and protection zones that have been accessed by indigenous peoples as well as anglers, free divers and scuba divers for years, and for the former, generations upon generations.
    As an active free diver and scuba diver; which are activities my husband and I participate in for recreation as well as for food supply, I am incensed that the State of California, with funding from special interest group with direct ties to the Governors wife has passed this legislation which denies indigenous people and recreational fishermen alike, the freedom to hunt and gather in a manner to which they are accustomed.
    Form an environmental standpoint, it is far better for our local as well as the world environment to provide for one self in this manner, as you are cutting out much of the GHG production associated with all phases of the commercial process for catching, preparing, packing, packaging, delivering, unpacking, stocking, and the selling of seafood and sea plants.
    In July, a group of Northern California Indigenous people spoke before the California Fish and Game Board to provide their thoughts about what is being taken away, how the direction is miss-guided as commercial fisheries impact the local environment 1,000 times more than any angler or free diver.
    Additionally when the tribal grandmother was speaking, she reminded the board that she rode her horse to the meeting, that she does not own a car, and that the rest of her tribal representatives either walked or carpooled. She then mentioned that the board members all had very nice cars, and their travel to the meeting alone did more harm to the local environment than fishing by their tribe would do over decades. Then, she said, you could have at least gotten a van or a bus and carpooled.
    I find the statement in the article about regulating the environment resulting in our distancing ourselves from understanding what we are to the local environment and therefore not being able to actually manage it because we have disconnected from it as a result to very accurate and astute.
    Most notably in this case, where certain areas have been cordoned off to recreational use, with the purpose of protecting fish populations; in some cases pelagic fish populations that may spend a week or so in these areas annually at the most. Not to mention, if there is no focus on the true offenders, the commercial fisheries that pollute, rape the ocean floor, disturb the natural balance and have no conscience about these acts, we will lose these precious resources more quickly than we can imagine

    • This is obviously a complex situation that effects you personally. You may be interested to know (see the essay on biodiversity here) that when salmon runs were sparse in a particular year, indigenous northwesterners voluntarily stopped taking that particular resource for a time.
      It seems likely that the issue here is related to enforcement ability: the inability to enforce ocean fishing limits on the part of larger commercial fishing industries–and to assure that recreational fishermen only take certain fish with certain limits– or none at all, in the case of scuba diving for pleasure rather than food.
      As I understand it, the reserves result from the fact that nursery areas have become depleted so that fish are not restoring themselves. And those nursery areas lie off the coast. One solution I have heard is to allow the taking ONLY of smaller fish– since it is the larger ones that reproduce.
      The issue of commercial fishing or factory farming versus local subsistence is a related issue. In a seminal article on protecting “ecosystem services” (a post is coming on this soon here), the authors recommend that care for such services be regulated by local communities within particular ecosystems–which would address the issues of concern that you raise.
      They also note that their idea of common property law would take substantial change in our way of looking at things. Meanwhile, we need a good (emergency, if you will) way to address depletion of ocean stores that are on the verge of collapse.
      I will be interested to see what you think of my upcoming post.
      We need a holistic perspective that tells us which of our actions most effect our environment positively or negatively–and which of our actions have consequences in the larger arena.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Lizzy. I wonder if you see any way in which the partnership ethic might be applied in the social arena to develop a better way of caring for depleted ocean stocks?

    • This is an extremely interesting topic to me as well. I am a scuba diver and I am hoping to study marine ecology. Last year I took a marine ecology class here at OSU, and I think you’re absolutely right that the commercial fishing industry is the one doing damage to our fisheries; they are the ones that need to have strict regulations and boundaries. I think your point, and the point of the tribal grandmother, make a lot of sense. Gathering one’s own food is much more cost effective, and much less wasteful. Thanks for bringing this topic up! I also feel it’s important that people are educated about our fisheries.

  206. In speaking for the beaver, Mary Heck reminds me of the Lorax (who spoke for the trees), a very important movie in my estimation, one that helped form my worldview. I like the phrase “married the river to the land” that describes the relationship between the beaver, river, wetlands, and uplands. It crystallizes the tight interrelationship between the different elements of the ecosystem. In the domination view of the settlers, they could not have foreseen that trapping beaver would result in desertification. In this worldview, water management is the province of engineers and therefore has nothing to do with understanding beaver.

    In addition to the domination worldview, the value that was reflected by the overharvesting of beaver, otter, and fish (among other things) was individualism. Settlers had no community or cultural standards that put a constraint on individual actions. Each person, acting independently in their own interest, underpins the free market system and is supposed be the most brilliant economic strategy that ever was. But all around me I see ways in which this value, taken too far, has brought harm and destruction. I am not saying we should reject it out of hand – obviously that isn’t going to happen anyway. Like this article points out, we cannot fix our problems by returning to the past or taking on certain spiritual beliefs. However, we can listen and learn from those who have something different to say.

    • Thanks for your comment, Brenda. Good contrast between the management-engineering point of view and the one which considers all “earth others” — and their relationship to us as we share an ecosystem.
      Good perspective about the “free market” system– whose problem is also that I don’t think we actually have one. See what you think of my last response to a comment for my post, “Money doesn’t need a bill of rights…” There have been a number of studies that indicate that the incentives we now have in our economic system guarantee the degradation of the environment. Hardly the result we would wish, I think.
      I like your last point as well: I think we need as many ways of thinking about these things (and valuing what we truly care about) as we can muster.

    • Brenda,

      I liked your statement regarding how settlers each acted independently in regards to overharvest. I see this same idea replaying almost daily now. Fisherman in my local area harvest their legal limit of salmon and steelhead each day without regards to the decreasing numbers of both of these fish. They feel it is their right to get the legal limit that is allowed to them. One problem I see with this is that if each and every person collects their limit every day, the numbers of these fish will inevitably decline, partly due to overharvest, but also due to a number of other environmental issues. We need to think of our inpact on nature as a whole, and not just individually. All of the individual hits on our resources add up, leaving rapidly depleting natural resources all over the planet.

      • Thanks for your response, Jamie. We really do need to gain a perspective of the whole–and act accordingly.

      • Thanks Jamie, and the answer doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario of individualism/socialism as some make it out to be. In one of my other classes I did a report on Japanese coastal fisheries. Surprisingly, many (83% is the statistic I found) vessels are still run by small operators instead of big companies. The reason for this is the “common rights” system that is in place – authority is given to the local cooperative associations to run their own fisheries, and ownership rights in the cooperative are not easily transferred to outsiders. The members of the cooperative are answerable to one another; it is not “every man for himself” as it is in many other places.

  207. Billy Frank, Jr.’s point that “we and they are the same thing” is something that we, as both individuals and as a society, seem to have forgotten. Our discussions often seem to revolve around humans and the natural world as though these are separate, and conflicting, entities, when we are really just another animal in the natural system (albeit one that has found the means to dramatically alter, and harm, that same system we live within). After all, all of our resources come from nature, including ones better left alone, such as coal and oil. Despite all our technology, we are not producing anything out of thin air, so to speak–our ‘creations’ are simply manipulations of what we find in the natural world, whether for good or ill. Of course, it is this desire to separate ourselves from the natural world (as if we’re somehow above it) that perpetuates the belief that we can control it, that we are the most dominant force in the world–at least until some natural disaster sets us straight on the matter. I tend to believe that the most elemental step in addressing environmental issues (or social ones, for that matter) would be to regain some perspective on just where we truly stand in the larger system, and not “get too big for our britches,” as my mom would say.

    • Hi Crystal, it is so nice to have you class again! To be at war with nature is to battle that we lose by winning–for if nature is “defeated”, so is our subsistence base. I agree with you on the points of oil and coal for energy– if we didn’t think out (or perhaps have enough information to think out) their problematic use at first, we do now. And given that, it is time to change course.
      It is something to remember as you point out, that we are not “producing anything out of thin air”– every kind of technology depends on some natural source. It is my hope that the tragic disasters we have been facing recently (I am not sure it is appropriate to call them “natural” disasters since they may not have occurred in the absence of human activity– like draining the mangrove swamps outside New Orleans which tend to slow down hurricane force and also keep the water at a less volatile temperature when it makes its way inland. Not to mention, there is the matter of the dikes and their lack of holding power.
      I like your point about assessing where we stand: reminds me once again of Thomas Berry’s reminder that nothing in nature nourishes itself– so that, as an indigenous grandmother recently put it, “we must care for the sources of our nourishment or we will die. “

      • Good point about using the term “natural” disasters; I appreciate the reminder to be careful in how we use certain terms, particularly ones that could potentially be seen to abdicate any sense of responsibility we may have.

  208. I found this article very interesting. It never ceases to amaze me how little regard some human beings have for life. They seem to only value humans as being necessary to society or worthy of protection, while other living creatures are merely resources for us to utilize.

    The beaver in the article made me think of another keystone species, the wolf. In Wyoming and Montana officials have reintroduced these animals after we nearly eradicated them. The situation regarding wolves is complicated and tense on all sides, but officials are now staying that they have made some mistakes in the reintroduction and wolves now need to be hunted once more. It seems that the entire program was mismanaged from the beginning and now the wolves have to be the ones to pay for mistakes people made. We fail to see the importance of keystone species, such as wolves and beavers, and keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

    • A very thoughtful point, Jamie. I would only change your statement about humans to “humans in particular cultural situations”, since all humans did not behave without regard for natural life–or I don’t think you and I would be here to have this conversation. Species– or cultures– that destroy their natural subsistence basis don’t last very long.
      Thanks for adding another example of a keystone species in the wolf. I understand that where the wolf was introduced in Yellowstone, the elk AND the hardwood forest and many plant species came back, since the wolf’s piece in population control of the elk allowed the trees formerly overbrowsed by elk to regrow.
      It is sad when an animal species must suffer because of our mistakes: yet another reason why we should learn from our mistakes and be responsible for addressing them.

  209. The rationale you present in this article for practicing the partnership model make a tremendous amount of sense, but also fly in the face of the Christian doctrine that established man as having dominion over nature. Although I try to practice tolerance for all religious beliefs, I am frustrated when confronting dogma that (in my opinion) has served as the basis for much of the destruction of our natural habitats.

    I was also reminded while reading your article of one I just read for another class, From Shallow To Deep Ecological Philosophy, by Stan Rowe, in which he embraces the partnership model when he states, “… the purpose of people is to keep Earth healthy, sustaining life at the global level,” and which dovetails perfectly with your statement that “Northwesterners … treat[ed] natural life with respect in order to allow it to flourish – which in turn allowed humans to flourish”.

    I’m sure this will be a recurring theme in my continuing education – how to bridge the divide between the diametrically opposed doctrines of dominion and partnership.

    • I wish there was an “edit comment” button on this blog 🙂

      I meant to say that “The rationale you present in this article for practicing the partnership model MAKES a tremendous amount of sense, but also FLIES in the face of Christine doctrine,” etc.

      Sorry 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment, Barbara. Whereas there are many who argue for the dominator point of view, there are many Christians today that argue for “creation care”– you will find evidence of this divergence in the essay on Thomas Berry here and the readings on the FORE forum. I understand your frustration and find it hopeful that there are so many Christians who are committed to “citizenship” and “stewardship” environmental values.
      You indicate a goal that is central one for many of us in Western society today.

  210. Yes, I agree that a “Partnership worldview” is something that is desperately needed in our “modern” society. The question is “How do we make it happen?”

    In order for our society, as a whole, to adopt a respectful, nurturing, partnership relationship worldview we would need to overcome thousands of years of culturally embedded egocentrism, greed, dominance and arrogance. No easy task, I think.

    An example of this “modern” worldview of dominance and unfettered use of nature for our (human) good is currently ongoing in my region. The issue of drilling in the Marcellus Shale geologic formation in order to extract natural gas for use as fuel is a hot topic in our State and in neighboring New York State.

    As with every venture of this sort, there are pro’s and con’s associated with the drilling and extraction operations of the gas from the target shale formations. Rhetoric aside, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that these activities will have a long lasting negative impact on the environments surrounding these gas fields.

    I was fortunate to be able to view a public hearing during which a few of the various sides of this issue expressed their points of view.

    As expected, the gas company representative stated that extraction processes in use were “completely safe” and would have no negative impact on the environment or the surrounding communities.

    The politicians were quick to point out that although the gas fields would occupy “a very small foot print” and have “only minimal impact” upon the surrounding communities and environment… these operations would provide much needed jobs for local workers.

    Citizens groups were more concerned that the somewhat hazardous waste material which is produced by the fracting and extraction processes were not going to be dumped in “their back yard” so to speak. They also wanted to know that they were going to be paid a fair price for drilling rights on their lands and that the increased construction and industrial activity was not going to impinge on their regular daily lives.

    Not one person at the hearing expressed a concern for the wildlife and the “nature” of the areas involved. Not one person expressed concern about the resultant lowering and possible contamination of the underlying aquifer and surface water supplies. Not a single person even mentioned the long term effects that this activity will have on the environment in this area.

    In essence, no one who spoke at this hearing spoke for the “other ones” who live in the in the impacted environment. No one spoke out for the loss of natural habitats and wildlife and the long term impact this would have. In fact, one of our public officials, who also happens to favor the Marcellus Shale gas extraction program, stated that although the process does create some “environmental issues” that’s no reason why we should not allow the work to continue. He stated that given the choice between cutting down “a few trees” and relocating “a few animals” and a project that would boost the states’ economy and create hundreds of jobs over the next few years… he would support the latter.

    Conspicuously absent from this hearing were representatives from environmental advocacy groups and from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

    Coincidentally to this “public hearing” there has been a regular and fairly intense media campaign touting the “economic benefits” and “absolute safety” of this program and associated activities.”

    So I say again: I agree that a “Partnership worldview” is something that is desperately needed in our modern society.

    And I ask again: “How do we make it happen?”

    My life experiences have shown me that the answer to the question is not an easy one to live with. As I see it, there are two possibilities, two “paths” by which the Partnership Worldview can come to be adopted by our modern society:

    – There is the first option (the Slow Path) which will likely take many generations. This is the path which I feel that we are traveling now. It is accomplished by the methodical chipping away of the current “dominion” paradigm by means of education, education and more education (and by any means). Not only education of the politicians, industrialists, CEO’s, etc… But also, and more importantly, the education of our young. We humans did not develop and adopt this current
    dominion mindset over night and it is not likely to change over night. I believe that the secret to this approach is going to be persistence and consistency.

    However, the afore mentioned approach will take time. And upon looking at the state of the world environment, the question begs to be asked “do we have that kind of time?” This leads me to the option number two (the Fast Path).

    – In the course of human history there examples of whole societies that have collapsed and virtually vanished from the world because they could not come to terms with the concept of living “with” their natural surroundings. Evidence suggests that in some cases, complete deforestation and unsustainable agricultural practices caused the collapse of the environment on a regional scale. This caused the dominant society to collapse and the people to vacate the area. After a time, natural succession took over and the area began to restore balance again. The end result being – society engaging in destructive practices vanishes. Problem solved.

    This second option, the Fast Path, might seem a bit harsh. Some might even say that it could never happen in this modern day and age. But I say “Look around” it’s happening in varying degrees all over the planet.

    Our World Environment is changing. To what degree our (human) actions are affecting the change is a subject of much debate. I have no doubt that “change” has been the one constant thing this world has endured throughout its existence.

    Yes, our environment is changing and probably will continue to change. Most evidence suggests that it is not changing for the better. In fact, some evidence suggests that our “human” activities are having a strong causative effect to these changes. Perhaps if we would just stop “beating up on the planet” and learn to live with it instead of trying to control it, then we would all be the better for our efforts.

    I believe that the continued success and survival, of our species will rest upon our ability to adopt a partnership with “all others” in nature. We must learn to live “with” our environment, and stop trying to control it.

    I think that life is amazingly resilient. Life is flexible and can adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions. Life can even survive in waters that reach near boiling temperatures and in the depths of the oceans that are completely devoid of sunshine. Granted, these are seemingly mindless microbes (producers) and the small critters (consumers) that feed on them for survival, yet they survive.

    If some mindless microbes could find a way to survive at the dark depths of the oceans where no sunlight ever shines, and if wild animals and plants can find a way to survive in seemingly impossibly harsh environmental conditions, then how much more can we (Homo sapiens) learn to do, in terms of surviving and living within (and as part of) our environment. Perhaps we need to take a few lessons from (the others) in nature. Perhaps the plants and animals can teach us some very important and valuable lessons. Perhaps we (humans) need to learn, once again, how to listen to what our (natural others) are telling us.

    • Thank you for an eloquent and insightful response, Ronald, from your example of the lack of representation on the part of earth’s others at an environmental decision-making instance (gas drilling) to your overview of the “fast track” and “slow track” of change away from a dominion to a partnership worldview to the sense of hope we might gain both from seeing the model of nature’s resilience–and learning from it.
      It is indeed time to live up to the potential you lay out for us here. I also am hopeful that the natural reminders we are currently receiving about the effects of our actions have the potential to unify and motivate us to creative change. Perhaps the central lesson we need to learn is that our self-interest is bound up with the caring for so many others–and that it is only self-destructive to pursue a course of domination in an interdependent world in which, as Thomas Berry has pointed out, not a single life nourishes itself without the aid of other lives.

  211. I agree with the concept of partnering with the natural world and all the benefits it presents for the environment. I feel it needs to be presented in a way that a majority of people can see how it will affect them. I think it might sound to people that actually have the power to influence industries to work under a moral and ethical code in the treatment of all natural things to be an animal rights campaign or just one of many “go green” crusades that doesn’t present any true benefits besides feeling good about yourself. I view this to be an extremely important concept for the world to accept for the sake of health of our environment.

    • Hi Emily, thanks for your comment. Thoughtful point about highlighting the connection between partnership and its pragmatic benefits–and the power (and thus responsibility each of us has) in an interdependent system.

  212. I agree that the parallel partnership worldview was a large factor in allowing the indigenous peoples of the Northwest to maintain sustainable symbiotic ecosystems that benefit both humans and the environment as a whole. It is evident that treating other living things as our equals yields greater respect for the connectivity that we all share, and this in turn creates better environmental decision making practices. However, I agree with Barbara Edwards (above) that this view conflicts with many American’s interpretation of the Bible and the belief that humans are the dominant stewards of the planet. Therefore, it will be a hard idea to sell, at least in the US and unfortunately, the US is responsible for a disproportionate share of environmental damage.

    As much as I think that we should have respect for all living things and the natural balance of the ecosystems, I also do not think that this is a feasible way to mitigate the damage occurring in the environment today. I think that there are many instances where humans have already created systemic environmental destruction that cannot be undone even if we all had greater parallel recognition for the needed balance in the environment. For example, many of the poor in Haiti know that they are hurting their environment by cutting the forests down for fuel. In an interview with NPR one Haitian woman, who collects and sells wood, reported feeling terrible that she is participating in a practice that is decreasing the quality of safe drinking water and soil quality for future generations. However, she stated that she would not be able to feed her children without selling the wood she collects from the forest, so she will continue to participate in the destruction of the little remaining Haitian forest lands.

    On another aspect of the above essay, I was intrigued after following the link on Val Plumwood (above), that the EU countries were so quick to take action, compared to the US, when it became evident that women’s breast milk contained such high levels of toxic chemicals.
    Val Plumwood points out that the percentage of women who breast-feed in the EU is much more than in the US and this lead to the EU instituting strict limits on the use of the toxic chemicals found in breast milk. I am amazed that this information is not common knowledge in the US, after all, if these toxic chemicals are found in breast milk they are also found in our own bodies. This just confirms Val Plumwood’s ideas stated in the above essay that the people making the poor environmental decisions are not likely to be as affected by them. Therefore, the decision makers have much less incentive to make good environmental decisions.

    I think that for a parallel world view to help create good environmental decisions: (1) the people making the decisions, or their direct descendants, need to be directly affected by the outcomes of the decisions and (2) the decisions being made must not come at the cost of death of the decision maker or their family, like the Haitian woman mentioned above.

    • Hi Darcy, thanks for your thoughtful response. How do you feel about the idea that the partnership view applies to both the natural world and other humans– including finding ways to give more economic choices to the world’s citizens. There is an economic context in which inappropriate development has taken place, that is, in which the Haitian woman’s choice takes place. See here, for instance: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/01/14-2. You indicate an important point: that people cannot be expected to make sound environmental decisions if their lives depend on doing the opposite- though some are brave enough to do so anyway, as in some of the examples given in the essay entitled “Indigenous Peoples” here.
      Good observation about the quickness of action to protect breastmilk in the EU– you are certainly right about these toxins in all our bodies. In fact, the book I reviewed on this topic points out that breastmilk analysis has been used as a non-invasive way to get measurements of human body burdens of toxics in particular areas.
      You bring up an essential point: the idea that we must understand our interdependence in the most potent way. I think the partnership ethic has given many cultures a way to do this. As you point out, it is not an ethic characteristically expresssed in our society. However, that does not mean it is not something we might not want to put into practice: I find it hopeful that the article you are commenting on has had quite a life traveled the internet, moving into business and social networks as well as environmental ones.

      • Thank you for the very good article on Haiti. I definitely agree with you that the partnership view should apply to people as well as ecosystems. However, I am finding it hard to imagine that spreading this view will alleviate the world’s environmental problems because I think that US culture is so entrenched in doing what benefits us on the immediate horizon.

        • I see many ways in which this is changing— though I agree with you that it is not a quick fix. I only hope that the changes come quickly enough. Thanks for the follow up comment.

  213. “Both concur with the modern science that tells us whatever we do to our natural environment, we do to ourselves. Thus, for instance, the pesticides and fire retardants released into our environment have become ubiquitous in U.S. breast milk.”

    This line in the essay really hit home for me. Over the summer I was doing an internship with a dentist, a career which I am pursuing, and the doctor made a very interesting comment when we were discussing his remodeling of the office. He said “as a doctor/ dentist I use a lot of chemicals and other equipment that really hurts the Earth. My remodeling will focus more on being greener. My office goes through countless amount of paper, water and electricity. I want to give back and become greener in this remodeling”
    I was awestruck when he shared this information with me because it never occurred to me that one day when I opened my own private practice that I would be wasting so much resources and dumping so much into the waste land.
    Here I am helping others have clean and beautiful teeth while on the other hand affecting the community I live in by washing down toxic things that may go unaware. It may seem like its not affecting it much, like the pesticide that we place down. But over time, it can accumulate causing a big problem.
    As doctors and scientist we have to be conscience of the things we pour down the sink because one day in the future the little stuff we put down now, will have a bigger problem later.

    • Thanks for a great ethical perspective here, William, on taking the holistic view that doing what you can to have a “green” dental is coincident with offering a healing practice to your patients. Your actions are cumulative: and thus what this dentist did (cheers for him!) is potentially multiplied by all the practicing dentists our there. And as you point out, makes your physical space consistent with your professional goals in ethical terms.

  214. I think that these thoughts are crucial in dealing with the world around us. Throughout time people have not made very much effort to relate themselves with the world around them. Most people do not make the distinction that our actions on this earth will someday directly effect either us or future generations. I think that this mind set of oneness with the world around us is needed in every action that we take. For example how you stated that pesticides and fire retardants are now showing up in breast milk. There are so many things out there that are in use daily that contain these harmful chemicals. We don’t take the time to really see what they are doing to our bodies and the environment until it is too late. Just like these chemicals were are also pulling resources at an extremely fast rate and not really thinking about what’s going to happen when they are gone or what this is doing to the environment or other creatures around us.

    I think the Idea’s of connecting ourselves with the world around us like these native americans do allows us to really think about our actions and make better decisions on how we live our lives.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jason. I would only modify the statement that “throughout time people have not made very much effort” in relating to the world around them– to “in particular cultural contexts” they have not done this. The examples in this essay indicate that a different approach has not only been practiced, but successfully practiced over thousands of years.
      Your examples bring up the destructive results of our failure to see the world around us holistically– and to be responsible for our actions when we don’t understand their results.

  215. Reading “Partnering with the natural world” brings hope knowing that there are social movements pursuing a holistic view of life on this planet. I find it interesting that a Chehalis elder, Mary Heck, and a Nobel prize-winning geneticist, Barbara McClintock, are both seeking to promote the importance of recognizing the “voice” for those organisms outside our species. I feel that whenever modern science seeks to promote a connection with ancient views we tend to be moving in the right direction.

    The problem I find with our ability to establish a partnership between humans and all other natural life is that the human species has not yet been able to assimilate this function within its own species. It seems to me that it would be quite surprising to locate someone in a Western culture who doesn’t believe that we are interdependent on our natural environment and that what we do to our environment will reflect on ourselves. So, believing that most of us understand our connection with the environment, one would wonder why so many are still allowed to endorse projects that do not support the sustaining of resources (economic growth?). What I find to be the greatest issue is the lack of interconnectedness between our own species. I’m under the impression that we won’t be able to create a holistic approach between humans and all other species until we find equality ourselves. In this case I find that ecofeminist, Val Plumwood, touches on this exact point when she expresses the current relationship between those with the most power making the greatest impact on environmental decisions. And those decisions tend to promote greater economy rather than greater equality.

    • I also find hope in the fact that both wise scientists and indigenous peoples express this view– not to mention, there is a parallel move among some in the sustainable/ethic business movement (see CS wire links here). I absolutely agree that a worldview which sees human “others” as problematic is not going to respect other species. But I don’t agree that our species has never done this– precisely the opposite. We did it for thousands of years before we got to the industrial worldview (check out the essay on “Indigenous peoples” here). I find this hopeful indeed.
      There are certainly serious trends in our economic system that mitigate against the partnership view today. In this sense, it is up to each of us to help create a satisfying (and truly democratic) society by our choice. We are going to meet many working on both those ends, who show us not only that individual action is important, but that working together can effect large changes. (And I am glad, since I think we really need them!)

  216. Eastern religions share a similar perspective to the indigenous culture’s holistic view of nature and the environment. Both Buddhism and Hinduism promote harmony with nature and nonviolence to animals. Since they see all parts of nature as equal, exploitation of part of nature by another is entirely unacceptable. In contrast, it is interesting to note the influence Western religion has had on the overall Western perspective of the environment. This perspective is more anthropocentric, and as the essay notes, sees a “dualistic split of the worldview that sets humans apart from and above nature”.

    While Westerners have increasingly become more environmentally aware, the response by many has been to utilize technology as a means of protecting the environment. Why not “expand our range of vision” to see how other cultures and religions, both past and present, respond to nature? I find it disheartening in Western society that we have such a myopic outlook. I think the key is to first recognize the simple fact we “share” our world. This implies no ownership of one species over the other. Hopefully then can we work towards the “democracy of all life” that Vandana Shiva describes.

    • Hello Breannon, thanks for your comment and the note about Eastern religions. For readers who are interested in an introductory overview of the relationship between these and the environment, check out http://fore.research.yale.edu/religion/ (Yale forum on religion and ecology).
      I think you have an excellent point that technology lags as a solution unless we change our worldview– in fact, I don’t think we will even develop appropriate technology until our perspective changes. It is certainly myopic to think that technology can address our ecological and social crises if we aren’t willing to change ourselves and our culture in any way.

  217. I think part of the problem with modern society is our physical removal from the natural environment. For most people, their specific environment no longer dictates the manner in which they live, and this especially true for the approximately 80% of the U.S. population that lives in an urban setting like I did growing up. We can go to the grocery store in any city at any time of the year and they will make all the same vegetables, fruits, and meats available to us. Our homes remain at the same temperature year round due to heating and cooling. People have difficulty caring for the environment because there is no personal relationship with the land, much less the animals.
    The aboriginal people of the northwest could notice when salmon was being overfished because they went to the river and got the salmon themselves. I would only know there was a problem with the salmon population if I went to the store and wild salmon was suddenly much more expensive, and even then I may not notice because there would be a dozen or so other species of fish that came from all different parts of the world which I could buy. Unless I take the extra effort to find out, I won’t even know the country where most of the vegetables I eat are grown. I’m embarrassed to say that all I was taught with respect to food is how much it costs at the store and how to make enough money to buy some. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any way to reconcile the concept of living in a city of millions of people with pavement as far as the eye can see and being in a partnership with nature.

    • You have a point in our removal from the natural world. I find the urban garden movement hopeful in this respect– especially as it is taking place in inner cities. It is also true (see the book Manahatta) that people concentrated in cities tend to use far less energy (mostly for transportation) than those who live in other arrangements. The way our system works, living in the country tends to necessitate a lot of driving.
      I also like the growing CSA (community supported agriculture) movement that links consumers to farm producers directly. I think our disconnect from what we eat is part of a larger problem– our disconnect from the means of production and results of most of what we consume, food and otherwise.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  218. I believe it is essential to speak out about the importance of partnering with our non human neighbors. I find hope in the courage of the human voices and this gives me courage in the face of what sometimes appears to be insurmountable odds and finances.
    Brian Walker’s article titled Resilience Thinking around the “keystone” species”, the sea otter brings to mind the current dilemma of this wonderful being. Even protection under the endangered species act isn’t enough to save the otters of the California Coast. They face a new and terrible threat in their habitats from a freshwater bacteria that is entering the ocean from rivers and streams in the form a a blue-green algae. (source CA,gov fish and game). This toxic algae is being found within the marine invertebrates a main food source for otters. Many are dying a painful death.
    This is a classic case of the larger ecosystems of the rivers and streams and tributaries warming up providing a breeding ground for the algae and affecting the oceans into which they flow.
    I believe we who live on rivers such as the beautiful Willamette can take note of this and look at alternatives for water run-off from our homes and streets that contributes to the rising temperatures of our waterways. Here is a very easy and effective way to make a difference, all the way to the sea.

    • You bring up a very important point, Maureen. We can also cut back on our use of fossil fuels (and urge Congress to pass supportive legislation for alternative fuel sources) to decrease river warming. I once saw an amazing family of otters playing in the Elk River on the Oregon Coast. It was a gift to see them and a reminder of the world that sustains us that is so much larger than our human lives alone. In terms of those human lives, there are so many others– like the people of Bangladesh and Island nations suffering from global warming, we need to recognize the costs of our choices and act to repair what we have caused– as you indicate that compassion dictactes.

  219. I saw my first wild river otter the other day; I had never thought I would see on in this miraculous of a setting. I had my first experience with river otters at the High Desert Museum. Thomas the otter could entertain me for hours with his antics and docile swimming abilities. I knew that river otters resided in the Deschutes, but it wasn’t until the other day when one was swimming along the bank as we canoed passed, that I had an actual connection and perception of their existence. Seeing this animal in the wild in contrast to the one at the museum helped me gain an even greater appreciation for them.
    We share our world with the idea of controlling nature, such as putting an otter on display for our viewing pleasure. We share our world with each other, challenging nature and wildlife. In all seriousness, I just watch a buck run down a busy street in downtown Bend, Oregon. What was it doing? Where was it going? Where did it come from? The questions are endless as to why such an animal would be roaming the streets of an urban area in the late afternoon. The chances are too great that it will be unsuccessful in its destination.
    The idea of a partnership worldview is fascinating and hopeful. To go along with the deer in the street, there have been local efforts to direct game under the highway through a tunnel that is made specifically for them. The recent movement towards sustainability seems to be the biggest connection in promoting ideals of a partnership. My hope is that it continues to grow into more than just a trend.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kara. See my response to Maureen in this forum. I also had the great good fortune to sea family of river otters in the wild. It is an odd way to “share” our world if we do this by attempting to control it; if this is so, I think we need a different definition of sharing. Thoughtful point about the creatures that pass through our lives with lives of their own. In the Yukon, indigenous peoples insisted on animal crossways (that are planted with native plants and form mini-habitats) on which animals could cross before they would allow roads build through their lands. I see hope wherever the partnership value takes hold as well.

  220. I agree with the partnership concept and I believe it is absolutely essential that we come to realize the inherent value and equality of all living things. I believe that it is not possible to establish a true “partnership” relationship with someone/something that we view as inferior or in any way less valuable than ourselves. As you have said “The first step in establishing a partnership is treating our partners with comparable respect to that with which we treat ourselves. “

    Even in areas where we attempt to protect others in nature with legislation and public action we still fall short of the mark with regard to the goal of true partnership with nature. For example, I have been involved in the Environmental Impact Assessments for several public roadway construction projects. One of these projects required the destruction of a natural wetland area so that a highway interchange could be built on the property.

    As part of the assessment team I can say that we followed every aspect of the state Department of Environmental Protection and US EPA requirements concerning the presence of Threatened or Endangered species and other environmental concerns. The report that we presented was well over 300 pages of dialog, numerous geologic and hydrologic studies, interview material, photos, etc. Fortunately (or should I say unfortunately) we found no Threatened or Endangered species present on the site.

    To make a long story short, the construction project went ahead and the wetland area was filled in and a new wetland area was created some ten miles away. During this whole process no consideration was given to the others in nature who have called the site their home for generations. No consideration was given to what effect that filling in and relocating the wetland would have on the species that, although not Threatened or Endangered, lived there. Neither was there adequate consideration given to the effect that placing a highway interchange in this site would have on the neighboring woodland areas, simply because no Threatened or Endangered species lived there.

    Since the wildlife in the site did not meet the “no-build” criteria as defined by law, no consideration was given to the rights or well being of all the other non-endangered souls who inhabited the area.

    • Thank you for your response, and it is interesting to see exactly what the US EPA is doing to help protect our environment. I do not think that rights should be awarded to effected animals, but they should be dealt with delicately, and not harmed. Nature provides so much for our society, and we cannot continue to destroy it at this rate or we will run out of resources. I agree that it is going to be very difficult for a true partnership to exist, as most of society sees animals as inferior to humans.

      • You both might be interested to know that the EPA, under Lisa Jackson, is not only supporting the Safe Chemicals Act, but attempting to re-write the mission statement of this organization so as to make all of its decisions based on a model of long-term sustainability. As citizens I think we must support Jackson’s efforts– a few ways to do this are on our “action list”.

    • Thanks for sharing this sad story, Ron. It is unfortunate that the “no build” criteria is based on scarcity and we may have to get to the point where we realize a painful scarcity of clean water before we protect wetlands. In Oregon, a wetland itself triggers some protection from development.
      And I don’t think mitigation is the answer– there is a reason why wetlands develop naturally in particular places.

  221. The idea of a partnership with the natural world is a very interesting thought. I agree that there are animals like beavers who have helped indigenous people for thousands of years, and their relationship is very strong. I personally have never felt a partnership with an animal, but I can see how the idea of partnership is important to help preserve the environment. Our society constantly ignores our partnership, and we tend to dominate all other species but ourselves. That worldview must be replaced with a respectful partnership with animals in the natural world. I will now be more aware of natures gifts to humans and try to treat nature as a partner and not as inferior.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful response, Kyle. I would also like to see us develop a partnership with the natural order– so that we work with mutuality in this context, instead of attempting to change all of nature to suit our needs of the moment.

    • I think the matter is not the lack of partnership between us and the world, but rather our lack of awareness of our partnership with the world.

  222. I think the truth is that we’re constantly involved in a partnership with the natural order, ever since our very beginning existence. But because our lack of awareness to this precious partnership, we became bad partners. But wether we acknowledge it or not, us and nature are partners and whatever we do will come back to us. The earlier we realize this the better and the less bad results we will have to live with.

  223. This article reminded me of the article about beehives and how making bee hives in your own backyard can help produce honey and wax that you can harvest without hurting the bees. This partnership is important for more people to understand so that everyone can begin to respect and protect the natural world. We seem to ignore problems that we feel will not affect us. As described in earlier lessons NIMBY is not a good reason for ignoring a problem or looking the other way. Thanks to more eco-friendly products and the “green campaign” more people are starting to realize that just because it isn’t in their backyard now, it may be later and that will affect them. Mary Heck felt strongly for the partnership between the beavers and the women and fought to protect the rights of the natural world and the animals that cannot protect themselves.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kat. I also like to think about how the human partnership with the natural world might be modeled on that of the pollinator with their world.
      Protecting the rights of those who cannot protect themselves– especially from the actions of our society or species– is very important.

  224. This sheds the idea holism in a new light for me:

    “A partnership worldview inherently promotes respect for diversity in its recognition that all natural life possesses spirit and personhood. In this sense, the partnership view envisions the most democratic of socio-ecological systems, embracing what Vandana Shiva terms “a democracy of all life””.

    We as human beings, as advanced as we are technology wise, need to “listen” to everything else that could be effected by our actions. Lately that seems to be about everything.

    Sure it would seem that if we took this approach to our scientific progression it would only hinder or cease it but do we really want to step on any more toes this late into the game with this many points against us?

    Even from a competitive approach working with nature and other life forms to become more resilient would seem pretty beneficial right about now.

    • I like to think that if we took this approach, it would not hinder our technological progress, but instead, advance it– since it would be held to ethical standards that honor the world from which we all take our lives. Thoughtful points, Alex.

  225. There are some some really poignant points in this essay that represent how individuals should strive to live their lives. I think the statement that summarizes the concept of this essay is, “… an ethic of reciprocity, which entailed sharing the gifts of life with others, taking only as much as you could replace from natural systems, and treating natural life with respect in order to allow it to flourish – which in turn allowed humans to flourish.” A perfect example of this world view lies in the efforts of the indigenous cultures in the Pacific Northwest to preserve the salmon populations while simultaneously harvesting more than any pioneer could dream. It’s amazing to think that a simple idea, such as respect, could have so many benefits for all living things.

    • It is indeed, Emily. Thanks for your comment. Pointedly, a recent listen to Dean Bavington on his interview on “How to Think about Science” (CBC) yields the importance of the idea of “honor” that Nova Scotia’s fishermen held with respect to the cod– which fishery collapsed when it became subject to the attempt at scientific “control” instead.

    • Very good response Emily. Respect definitely does have many benefits for all living things. It’s like saying, “treat others the way we’d want to be treated” this can be said for all living things.

  226. The last sentence, “How do we share our world?” ,brings home the point that when the concept of sharing is not in common between two groups the natural world will be the one to suffer. When the beaver traders came to the West as immigrants, they were seeking to maximize their profits. Long term damage to the wetlands was not something I believe they considered or cared about. In the realm of their definition of success, the Hudson Bay Company was a short term genius. Eliminating competition by commanding all of the resource was brilliant business sense to the capitalist. It was also a concept the indigenous peoples were seemingly incapable of understanding. This was brought to a fine point in the example given of Jaime de Angulo, who was frustrated by the lack of a word which would separate human and animal. The thinking was so holistic, that there was no need to distinguish earth from human from animal. To the Indigenous peoples, partnership was understood. Yet, how could they know when they first encountered the settlers that this assumption would prove false.

    Working together in a productive way is possible only after we learn to appreciate even the points of view of which we have no concept. In order to coexist on our rapidly shrinking Earth and manage our natural resources in a way that guarantees there will be a clean natural world for seven more generations, we must learn to work together as a part of nature. Separation from other humans and from nature cannot lead to a productive partnership.

    • Very thoughtful and thought-provoking reply, Sheryl. I do think there was a concept/understanding among indigenous peoples that greed was a dangerous potential in human behavior– which is why there were so many traditional stories that warned against it. The competition exhibited by the HBC was actually satirized as coyote behavior (so that elders might say to their children, “don’t act like coyote). I agree that the indigenous conception was that any decently socialized human would never behavior that way. I have always liked the insight of Nigerian Nobel laureate Chinua Achebe that the potential for good and bad are in all peoples– since we are so adaptable. However, the best (and most long lived) cultures have learned to fight rather than encourage “the instincts of self-destruction”– of which unbridled greed is one.

  227. Partnership with nature is a must in maintain the balance of life we have on earth. The holistic approach the Native Americans have in the article talks about the balance between humans and the environment. Our western society influences our approach to be more scientific when dealing with things today. I think us as humans tend to analyze thing if we feel there is a problem and do things to solve these problems without looking at the big picture or the partnership. We tend to pollute when we think we are doing right. We tend to manage for our use instead of the needs of the species or the environment. I always wonder if we are doing more damage trying to help nature recover, rather than letting nature recover on her own. I think today we need to look at the relationship and the holistic ways to better use our natural resources because we are only going to be asking for more from nature.

    • Hi Bob, thanks for your comment. I agree that the best science should take the holistic approach as well. Important point to consider that we tend to “manage” for our own benefits rather than honoring the value of other lives. And “managing” in this way, as Dean Bavington documents with respect to the Nova Scotia cod fishery’s collapse, is singularly destructive, ultimately, to both ourselves and others.

  228. Wow! Very Insightful. Having never learned about the “Partnership Paradigm” in any sort of formal setting, it was most helpful to learn about it in this format. I very much agree that to best get “in touch” with what we need to do for the health of our planet, is stop placing ourselves in a hierarchy, with Humans on the top…and Nature in a section separate and beneath people. Nature has evidenced to say that it most certainly contains some sort of conscience and to miss this, is to miss a huge section of knowledge that can only lead us to a more whole truth. I once watched a movie titled, “The Botany of Desire” it is a wonderful documentary by Michael Pollan, that elaborates on the message presented here. It shows that plants most definitely contain consciousness and also “personhood”. Species dominance puts humans on a one track road to failure. It is most definitely an archaic paradigm that originated with the first concepts of “personal property” and John Stuart Mills’ combining of Land with Labor to create property. This western ideology perpetuated the belief that the Earth was their for TAKING! This idea still prevails as the dominate ideology when thinking about land use and development questions, but as the article suggests, if we really want to ascend into a position of making our natural world healthy again…It is going to take the abandonment of these dated paradigms.

    • I think you are right about “dated” paradigms, Shana. “Dominator” culture assumes that “progress” means remaking the world for our benefit, this is liable to be our downfall– as your put it, “species dominance puts humans on a one track road to failure”. We cannot mistreat or ignore the sources of our subsistence and expect to survive very long–much less to survive well. It is high time to change that.

  229. This was a very well written piece. I like how Mary Heck said that back then a white man’s tool was fire. It is truly saddening that the Native American Indians are having their land be taken away from them over long periods of time. I remember this past summer a friend and I went to The Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California. It was a five hour drive from Bend and a beautiful one at that. The place where we tent camped was amazing. The owner of the camping facility was a sweet older gentleman that happened to be Native American. We ended up taking the sunset drive along a narrow, bumpy, dirt road and had to pass a car coming our way, well the car ended up in the ditch by doing so because it was that narrow so we told them we’d pull them out with my Jeep (I sure felt powerful then) we had to go back to camp and borrow a tow chain to pull them out. The camp host warned us to be careful of the other Native Americans around this area because they don’t much like visitors, let alone white ones because supposedly they have had most of their land taken away too and they have been going through extreme measures to show whites they aren’t welcome in the area. I guess a woman was taking this sunset drive and a group of Natives ended up broke down, well it didn’t end up being the case and the girl practically died. I think I would be protective over my land if someone were trying to take it away too. We need to respect all people and their land. Having the right to own land is great but when it comes to sacred land it should be left alone. I loved going onto the beach in Klamath and seeing their little houses and huts, and lean toos that were built. Is this really what the world is coming to, everyone getting more and more greedy and money hungry? I hope it will change.

    • Hi Jennifer, thanks for your comment. I am not sure what fire has to do with Mary Heck’s comment– her people certainly had a good deal more technology than that in terms of dealing with their environment, although they also used selective burning.
      You obviously have an empathetic response to native culture– can you say a bit more about your response to the partnership model here?

      • Partnerships models are indeed where we place the human race before any other where in fact we need to put other things before us and respect everything else first so that we can appreciate and change what is really occuring. I think?

        • I am not quite clear about your idea here, Jenn. Partnerships (true ones) should value both members of the partnership, whether human-human, or human-nature.

  230. What happen to Chehalis tribe reflects facts about our mother earth today. We are isolating ourselves from nature and other species, and becoming desire-driven individuals. The relationship between human desire and ecosystem is reverse proportional. The more we try to satisfy ourselves, the worse ecosystem gets. Beaver and otter are not the only victims of land clearance. And Cascade is not the only devastated place. Because of irresponsibility uses of natural resources, human all over the world are killing their earth mother as well as themselves. Vietnam is Southeast Asia is an example. As a result of many year of exploiting the wetland in
    South region, now people live in south have to experience worse flood every year. The reason for that is the decreasing of density of wetland forest. There is less wetland to hold and store storm water. I strongly agree with Billy Frank, Jr that we and nature are the same. Human cannot survive without the appearance of other species. I deem that we should respect and nourish our mother earth since we are the most powerful creature to make environmental decision. My suggestion for the solution is we should consume less. To consume less, at least we are slowing down the process that destroy our system.

    • Hi Vu, thanks for your comment. Lowering our consumption would certainly be a boon to all other earthly life–and especially since consumer driven societies (like our own) may use up to two dozen times the per capita resources as do other nations. There are certainly more efficient ways to get our needs met–and you make a good point about the ways in which desire outstrips those needs and creates destructive relationships with other lives.
      As you also point out, these dynamics are the same on a global level, with your example of the destruction of wetlands in South Vietnam.

  231. This article really left me a bit disheartened. I hadn’t really considered these issues very deeply. But I’ve had something of an awakening. It seems that simply because something exist, be that plant or animal, they should have the right to thrive. I realize that predatory acts occur naturally, but the wanton destruction of people, species and habitats is inexcusable. Animals are stewards of their environments because that is what sustains them. Man ,however with his alledged superior knowledge continues to bite the hand that feeds him. It seems we need to slide back down the evolutionary tree a few branches to a time before we became bigger than the earth that nurtures us.

    • It is disheartening to see what has been lost, Lydell, but I hope you also see some hope for change here–as in the folks working on resilience models for relating to the natural world. I am not sure I agree that “predatory acts occur naturally”– though I do think they occur thoughtlessly and carelessly.
      You indicate a very important point here: the need to define what “superior” might really mean. Seems to me that animals that are stewards of the land that supports them (as you point out)– exemplify what “superior” might mean to us as well if we made wiser choices.

  232. I think this article brings up a profound point, in regards to reciprocal partnerships between humans and their land. There should be a mutual respect amongst all nature. I enjoyed the term, from the Sahaptin-speaking people, “waq’adyswit”, and how it implied that all of nature has intelligence, will, and consciousness. This implication further substantiates the idea of radical equality. The example of the beaver species, in this article, illustrates the significance that just one element of nature has and the impact it can have on all of nature. I hope that society continues to follow in the direction of the partnership model, so that we can prevent similar beaver scenarios.

    • Thanks for sharing the thoughtful perspective here, Leah. As you indicate, the partnership model means that we not only treat all nature in terms of a “radical equality”– but that we honor the uniqueness of every species– including our own. Nice point about this kind of reciprocity here.

  233. Stories like this really make me think a different way. I like the fact that my reality is being broadened but it brings a strong sense of guilt with it. I’ve always understood that nature is not just whats “out there” but is all around us and indeed a huge part of our lives, but thinking about how things used to be, such as when tribes used what they needed and didn’t waste (lived in harmony) and seeing the neglect and indifference of many people today really makes me hate the way humans can be. This is that sense of guilt I was talking about, feeling bad for what we as a people have done even though I haven’t really done any of it. I sincerely hope we can recover before it is too late.

    • Hi Samantha, I think we might focus on responsibility rather than guilt. There is sometimes grief in seeing what humans have done wrong–and I see hope in seeing what they have done right. And we ought to be able to learn from our mistakes, as well.
      Thanks for assuming a learning stance in this class so that you are “thinking in a different way”. If your reality is being broadened, it is because of your own readiness and work to broaden yourself.

  234. I have heard many accounts and hold great respect for how Native Americans lived and treated the world around them. From the fish trails of the Chehalis to the buffalo the Blackfoot there is a common trait of respect for what surrounds them and disgust for any waste of it. No matter how much I respect these traits the idea that modern society would ever reconnect to them seems farfetched. The society we live in today seems to believe more in excess than substance. A society of having it your way, right away rather than one that is prudent and considerate of its surroundings.
    Although there seems to be the general contentment on how main stream society lives we have still made considerable steps in the right direction. We have adjusted our dams to allow fish to hatch. We have created laws limiting what we take from our lands and waters. We have created alternate sources of energy in order to reduce the impact on the environment around us.
    As our progress improves in conserving our resources it seems to be dwarfed by our ever increasing appetite to take from it. Although we have made progress in our ability to preserve our resources and share our world a major change in the priority it takes will eventually have to change.

    • Hi Phillip, thanks for your comment. I agree that we are making small steps in the right direction– but need to make much larger ones. I also see hope in the models of what humans can do better–and my sense is that yes, we are doing things slowly, but I don’t like to think what things would be like if we hadn’t won such victories.
      The further we are from where we need to be, the more work we need to do.

  235. This essay is centered on the idea that humans are part of a system, not the rulers of the system. Humans need to realize that even small actions in the environment can and do impact every aspect of that environment. Mary Heck explains that the beaver is a partner in root digging, and aids in keeping land wet and fertile. This point is just one example of the interconnectedness of humans, animals, plants and ecosystems. I think a very surprising part of the essay which presses this point is the statement “the pesticides and fire retardants released into our environment have become ubiquitous in U.S. breast milk”. Our intent as humans has always been to deal with a problem or situations by any means necessary, but this statement and this entire essay forces us to hopefully stop and think about our actions. The key words in this essay say the most to me about our dealings with the natural world. Words such as partnership, respect, reciprocity, and phrases such as ‘paradox of domination’ jump out at me. These words and phrases drive home the point that humans cannot rule the system any longer and be expected to survive. Humans must become better members of the system and become ‘friends’ with the beaver and the natural world in order to survive.

    • I like your way of putting this idea: that humans “are part of the system, not rulers of the system”, Brad. You have gotten to the central point here in contrasting the self-defeating notion of domination with respect and reciprocity. It is time for us to learn that the partnership mode is not only the ethical one– but the pragmatic one. Thanks for your comment.

  236. The relationship between indigenous cultures and the natural world is clearly more healthy than the relationship tradition “western” culture has with the natural world. Western culture has historically taken the view that the world around us exists for us to use as we wish and throw away as we wish. The idea that our natural resources are limitless has prevailed in western culture. We are now reaping what we have sown. As we get closer and closer to the tipping point, at which time the earth can no longer tolerate the pollution we are creating and still support life, western culture is forced to examine itself and it’s failings. Now, finally, we might be able to learn from the indigenous cultures we spent so much time and energy trying to destroy. Hopefully, now we will be able to see the wisdom and knowledge that we should have seen when the US was “discovered”. And, hopefully, it isn’t too late.

    • Thanks for sharing a thoughtful critical perspective, Nichole. I hope with you that we will be able to learn different environmental values–and act with justice toward the indigenous peoples whose central value was cooperation both between humans and the natural world–and between humans and other humans. This is, after all, our human heritage in the long term in which we have been human on this earth. Hopefully, we will rediscover the values that allowed our species and the world that sustains us to thrive together.

  237. You have a real understanding of what it means to be a voice and friend for animals. Not only did this make me think about our homes but the homes of the beavers and salmons.

    The world that I know is one that rejects the idea of our planet being alive but somehow most people think that their computers have personality’s. I think that people need to discover or get acquainted with a term called homeostasis.

    • Thank you for your kind response, Arnulfo. I can think of no more touching role than to be a friend to the world of life that gives us our own lives.
      Homeostasis is an important concept that entails values like balance, reciprocity and interdependence– of of which I think that the partnership worldview evokes.

  238. I very much agree with you Dr. Holden that we should promote the idea of partnering with the nature among our society in order to co-exist with other beings. There could be lots of challenges in order to achieve this goal, such as different values among different people, population growth, special interests and different opinions on how we should develop, but the biggest challenge we may face is our arrogance. We are very comfortable of putting ourselves above any other beings in the nature. When I look at the way we have developed our society’s infrastructure, we seem to lack the ability to be mindful of other beings who may have harmed by our buildings, dams and roads. When the pioneers destroyed Chehalis tribe’s houses, I do not think that they were concerned about what kind of value those houses had to Chehalis tribe or the beavers Chehalis people shared the nature together. The arrogant attitude of the pioneers made a barrier between them and the nature which enabled their understanding on Native American people’s life style. I agree that “the first step in establishing a partnership is treating our partners with comparable respect to that with which we treat ourselves,” because if the pioneers treated others as they would have treated themselves, what happened to Chehali tribe wouldn’t have occurred.

    • Hello YunJi, thanks for your thoughtful comment. These challenges are all substantial– and I like your conclusion that our biggest challenge in enacting a partnership relationship with the natural world is our own arrogance. Certainly we will not be able to adequately see much less relate to a world we see as “lesser than”. Our infrastructure development certainly exhibits this, as you note from your own engineering experience. it is clear that those who destroyed the houses of the Chehalis and the habitat of the beaver had only their own goals in mind and saw, as you note, nothing at all of the meaning and value of these other lives. And just a consoling note (at least to me) is that there were a few pioneers that felt differently and protested treatment of native peoples.

  239. In our class readings it was stated: “But it was the responsibility of human beings to learn from the consequences of their actions-and change their behavior accordingly.” This article seems to sum up that idea beautifully. People have seen what is going on and the disastrous problems that the environment around them has incurred, and yet no one seems to bear the responsibility of taking ownership of unsustainable practices. We are all able to lessen the burden that is being created within the environment; in order to do so we simply need to give a greater importance to our actions. Nothing is insignificant or too little to make an impact upon something else. I think it has become so commonplace for many to worry about themselves and their personal survival. Many have forgotten that our survival depends upon the survival of everything around us. The environment will only give us what it gets in return.

    • Thanks for a very thoughtful comment, Jennifer. Ironically, considering the rate at which we are using up natural resources, there are many poor–and insecure– in this society. We need to remove ourselves from this type of economic blackmail in order to see that we have alternatives– and the ways that our own lives depend on others.

  240. I find resilience thinking to be an interesting concept of working with, and not against, nature. I like the thought of changing ones thinking to create a resilient world. Many land managers don’t possess this thought process due to all the factors that play into their operations. The concept of becoming partners with all the creatures in an area only allows the manager, as the decision person, to work alongside and not against those who understand the area best. Similarly, the partnership worldview practices a working relationship with all the natural beings in an area and realizes the advantage of diversity. I have struggled with the lack of this concept recently as I visited a wildlife refuge in a nearby town as an assignment for a class. I was able to devote some time to looking at the operations of the refuge. My thought