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Life Lessons on Sustainability through the Lens of Ancient Cultures

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Life Lessons on Sustainability through the Lens of Ancient Cultures

It is time to dip into the treasure trove of traditional knowledge passed on to us by the few still surviving ancient cultures. To understand holism when it comes to each other and to our environment. It is time to explore two ancient cultures and the life lessons they encode to us, though glimpsing into their very different ways of living.

The Khasi Tribes and Sustainability

Living root bridges constructed by the Khasi tribes of India look like they could be straight out of your childhood fairytale fantasies.  The the Khasi’s deeply intimate relationship with nature challenged me to ponder my own daily interaction and appreciation of the natural world. Khasi tribes and their nature revel in a wonderful reciprocal connection. The forest, in which resides five villages, each with a separate clan, provide the Khasi people with everything they need to meet their daily needs (Chakrabarty 2015). In turn the Khasi Tribes of Meghalaya, India treat nature with the upmost respect, epitomized by their mighty living root bridges. Spanning from 4.5 meters to 76 meters, the Khasi people spend anywhere between 15 to 30 years slowly training roots from the Ficus elastic tree across stream beds to anchor in the soil of the opposite bank. Gaps in the bridge floor are filled by flat stones that over time are consumed by growth and become apart of the bridge itself. With constant foot traffic, these living root systems become stronger with time, rivaling our own contemporary materials and bridge infrastructure!(Khan 2018) Through looking into the mirror held up to us by the Khasi Tribes we are challenged to cultivate our own unique, sustainable relationship with nature. With many of us leading busy lives, time to interact and appreciate the natural world may not come often enough, however, we can still practice respect though sustainable choices. Whether it be though avoiding fast fashion, saying ‘no thank you’ to a plastic bag or opting to have your coffee in house rather than take away, our thoughtful daily choices reflect a deeper value for our natural world, from which all aspects of life are derived.  


The Yanomami people and Investing in Relationships

The Yanomami people of South America were all but unknown to the western world until a Spanish expedition reported their existence in 1759.  It wouldn’t be for another 150 years before the Yanomami people began sustained contact with the outside world. As we slowly become informed of their unique way of life, we were reminded of the importance of relationships and human connection in it’s purest forms. Thriving in the Amazon rainforest apart from the ‘modern’ world for an estimated 15,000 years, the Yanomami people bring new meaning to community style living (Survival International n.d.). Joanna Eede from Survival International notes that the Yanomami people, as often the same with many tribal people, depend on their relationships for survival in remote and often harsh environments (Eede 2011). These tribes still live in societies where solidarity of the group is of the highest importance. They remind us that humanity is about “we”, not “I”, which in our current societal climate couldn’t be more relevant. Although we may never have to rely on our support network in quite the same way as the Yanomami people, having a friend to lean on when times get tough is a true gift. Ultimately, when the aids and affluence of “modern” life are stripped away, the Yanomami people show us that relationships and human connection remains as one of the most fundamental elements of our humanity (Eede 2011). This being the case, shouldn’t we take the time to invest in new relationships or shed some light into our older ones? As life gets busier we tend to put our relationships on the backburner. This week I challenge you to complement the girl in your class with the cute outfit or go for coffee with an old friend. Relationships are not always easy to maintain and creating a new relationship from scratch often takes time. However, caring for one another and looking out for each other, is something that unifies us all and defines us on our most basic level.


Gemma Gillette is a multidisciplinary creative currently studying degrees in Environmental Biology and Business. Just as others have inspired in her a deep love and respect for the natural world she hopes to inspire others!  You can follow her musings via Instagram @gemmagillette

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