Our world in the 21st century is going through a tumultuous period in the wake of globalization and economic liberalization. A specific area in which the changes made have been particularly catastrophic is that of the environment and ecology. It is argued here that the failure on the part of modern environmental discourse to articulate the grievances of those affected by environmental concerns and problems is primarily responsible for the growing indifference, inaction and lack of political will in the public domain. . Today, the environment is just another department of government administration and a fashionable subject for university study.
Many of the priority environmental issues for the special breed of environmentalists and state authorities have been shaped by Western concerns and exist simply to conform to their ideals and positions. This has led to a complete disregard for issues that directly affect communities and their environment, such as recurrent flooding, river pollution, air pollution, or a dramatic decline and disappearance of plant, animal or avians. All of these factors have contributed to a sense of alienation and lack of any real connection to some of the uses and abuses of natural resources articulated by popular environmental discourses. In contrast to such a passive, exclusionist and non-participatory modality, the indigenous view of environment and ecology in the margins takes a completely different approach to environmental issues. Consider this folk tale of human-wildlife conflict among the Angami Nagas handed down in their oral tradition:
“Once upon a time there was a couple who had a young boy. They loved their son so much that he was never taken to work in the fields. However, it turned out that while the mother and father were working in the field, a horde of wild boars continued to destroy their crops. They tried to hunt for the treasure but without success each time. This situation lasted for some time until their neighbors told the son how his parents were busy chasing wild boars from their field and came back crying every day while he stayed at home. The son upon hearing this sharpened his dao and spear and went to hunt boars without his parents knowing.
Once he arrived at the field, he saw many wild boars damaging the crops. He hunted the treasure that escaped into a cavernous pit far from the field. He followed them into the pit and later discovered that he had entered the spirit village. There he met a girl standing in the yard of her house. As soon as she saw him, she yelled at him because he was running after his boars. He responded by explaining how his pigs ate and destroyed his parents’ crops. She asked him to stop hunting boars and invited him to her house. She prepared food and drink for him and they continued to talk until the evening. As the time for her parents to come home approached, she walked to a pillar in the house and muttered a spell, “the stone opens” and as soon as she said that, the pillar s opened and she hid the young man inside. of his parents.
Once her parents left the house the next day, she would release the young man again and they would spend their time together. This continued for some time and they soon fell in love and decided to get married. One night the girl asked her parents to grant her a wish and the parents consented. So she told them about the earthly boy and then went to the pillar and said, “the stone opens” and the young man emerged. Since the young man was handsome, the parents agreed to let them marry. The parents then prepared two baskets to carry to the young man’s village, warning them not to open the basket until they reached their destination. With their baskets, the couple were about to leave for the man’s house, on the way the young man could not contain his curiosity and opened his basket. As soon as his basket was opened, countless animals started jumping out of the basket and fled into the forest. On the other hand, the young girl reached the village with her unopened basket and from her basket came many animals that became today’s pets. Therefore, domestic animals are called women’s animals and wild animals are called men’s animals.
The above story is a unique story of human-animal conflict collected by this author from the Angami tribe of Khonoma Nagaland. It provides commentary on fundamental ecological coexistence values for Indigenous communities. There are many narrative threads that can be traced through the story, but the point I would like to emphasize here is how this story, as part of the knowledge system of the people and passed down in the oral tradition, becomes an effective educational tool for spreading and raising awareness of the nuances of ecology and our broader connection to the natural world.
It should be kept in mind that human-wildlife conflict remains one of the greatest challenges facing modern industrial societies today. However, the narrative discussed here is not weighed down by advanced technical jargon such as habitat loss or climate change which are often cited as some of the causes of human-wildlife conflict. As a result, the conflict is not resolved by direct human intervention such as the young boy hunting the boar treasure, or by cordoning off and fencing the perimeters of what is considered human and wildlife, nor by translocation, c i.e. the movement of wild animals to another habitat that is common is scientific forestry practices.
The conflict between the young boy seeking revenge and the wild beast going mad is settled by totally unorthodox and indirect means. It involves the marriage of the boy who represents the realm of the human material world and the girl who is the embodiment of the spiritual plane of existence. Harmony in nature in the Angami worldview is conceived as a union between the mundane material world and a higher spiritual order. The manifestation of the wild and domestic animals of the two baskets provides the necessary conditions for the establishment of a balance to finally compensate for the conflict.
The Indigenous concept of ecology posits a deep individual connection to the natural world which is imbued with spirits. Nature is not seen simply as a physical geological entity to be manipulated for unrestricted exploitation, but endowed with creative powers that provide human beings with sustenance and well-being.
The state of apathy and inertia that characterizes modern environmental discourse can be attributed to the absence of this connection to the natural world. Hence a human agency that remains largely remote from cataclysmic events brought about by ecological destruction and devastation. By bringing human agency to the fore and creatively depicting the myriad ways humans and elements of the natural world interact to build a sustainable culture, perhaps modern environmental discourse can articulate a cohesive alternative capable of inspiring and to motivate people towards collective action. A cohesive alternative that can help people respond effectively to the impending dangers of environmental degradation and loss.
Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will look at the social, cultural, political and educational issues that surround us. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a UGC-recognized business and arts college accredited by NAAC. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Dr Aniruddha Babar, Khangpuiliu Pamei, Rinsit Sareo, Meren and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or feedback, please email: [email protected]