What ecologists are learning from Indigenous people

by Jim Robbins

“…It may not just be facts about the natural world that are important in these exchanges, but different ways of being and perceiving. In fact, there are researchers looking into the relationship between some indigenous people and the very different ways they see the world.  

Felice Wyndham is an ecological anthropologist and ethnobiologist who has noted that people she has worked with can intimately sense the world beyond their body. “It’s a form of enhanced mindfulness,” she says. “It’s quite common, you see it in most hunter-gatherer groups. It’s an extremely developed skill base of cognitive agility, of being able to put yourself into a viewpoint and perspective of many creatures or objects – rocks, water, clouds. 

“We, as humans, have a remarkable sensitivity, imagination, and ability to be cognitively agile,” Wyndham says. “If we are open to it and train ourselves to learn how to drop all of the distractions to our sensory capacity, we’re able to do so much more biologically than we use in contemporary industrial society.”…”

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