A viral reminder that Native people are the historical experts on sustainability
Photo by Anthony Gotter on Unsplash, Screenshot from tumbler

Environmental catastrophes like the recent Australian bushfires and ecological travesties like plastic-filled whale stomachs serve as stark reminders of our precarious relationship with our planet. While many of us call for greater sustainability in all areas of life, we don't really know what that looks like—which is why we should listen to those who do.


Unfortunately, ignorance about Native cultures and history prevents many people from looking toward indigenous wisdom when it comes to environmental issues. Many of us tend to think of sustainability as something new and innovative rather than a way of life that has already been accomplished in multiple places by multiple peoples.

A viral Facebook post from The Audacity of the Caucasity illustrates this point beautifully. A screenshot of a post on tumblr shows three people's posts about how Native people didn't just live in harmony with nature, but actively and purposefully managed the land to meet their own needs while also maintaining healthy ecosystems.

RELATED: Still don't think climate change matters? Here's how it's hitting people where it hurts.

The first, from @downhomesophisticate, reads:

"I don't think a lot of people really understand that ecosystems in North America were purposefully maintained and altered by Native people.

Like, we used to purposefully set fires in order to clear underbrush in forests, and to inhibit the growth of trees on the prairies. This land hasn't existed in some primeval state for thousands of years. What Europeans saw when they came here was the result of -work-"

Then @feministdragon explained in more detail what that work entailed:

"The east coast was all mature and maintained food forests. Decades if not centuries of nurturing and maintenance. When the British arrived, they were amazed that there were paths through the forest just 'naturally' lined with berries and edible plants, like a Garden of Eden. Then they tore that shit down to grow wheat."

Finally, @worriedaboutmyfern shared what they'd learned from their mom, who happens to be an ethnobotanist.

"My mom is an ethnobotanist and getting people to understand this is literally her life's work. A lot of native tribes just had a whole different way of looking at agriculture. Instead of planting orchards in tidy rows near their villages, they went to where the trees were already growing and tended them there. They would girdle trees by stripping the bark in order to stop the spread of disease or thin out badly placed saplings. And they would encourage the companion plants they wanted and weed out the ones they didn't, so that in the end the whole forest would be productive while remaining an ecosystem and not a monoculture. It is still agriculture, but it is a form of agriculture that is so much gentler on the landscape that, as the OP says, the European settlers could not recognize what they were seeing. To them the natives must have seemed to magically live in abundance while they starved."

(The tumblr post also includes many more details about how Native peoples managed the land.)

While it's clear that modern life makes a total return to Native land management practices impractical, that doesn't mean we can't learn from indigenous wisdom. All of us will be impacted by an unhealthy planet, and it only makes sense to consult the historical experts on sustainable living to find solutions.

At the same time, we need to acknowledge that Native communities are disproportionally impacted by environmental issues. Oil pipelines are being built through Native lands. Indigenous people in the Pacific islands are having to navigate rising sea levels. Inuit communities are having to figure out how to move entire villages due to melting Arctic ice. Native environmental leaders not only have generational wisdom to offer, but an urgent need for all of us to take meaningful action.

RELATED: Laws and climate change are harming this tribe's foodways. Here's how they survive.

When prominent activists like Greta Thunberg tell the world to listen to indigenous leaders, we should share and heed that advice. We can learn about and support young indigenous activists on the front line of environmental issues. We can check out the initiatives of organizations like Indigenous Environmental Network and their allies like Climate Justice Alliance.

When we have a collective problem, we look to experts to help solve it. And when it comes to protecting the environment and maintaining a sustainable relationship with the earth, indigenous people are some of the most experienced experts we have.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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President Biden/Twitter, Yamiche Alcindor/Twitter

In a year when the U.S. saw the largest protest movement in history in support of Black lives, when people of color have experienced disproportionate outcomes from the coronavirus pandemic, and when Black voters showed up in droves to flip two Senate seats in Georgia, Joe Biden entered the White House with a mandate to address the issue of racial equity in a meaningful way.

Not that it took any of those things to make racial issues in America real. White supremacy has undergirded laws, policies, and practices throughout our nation's history, and the ongoing impacts of that history are seen and felt widely by various racial and ethnic groups in America in various ways.

Today, President Biden spoke to these issues in straightforward language before signing four executive actions that aim to:

- promote fair housing policies to redress historical racial discrimination in federal housing and lending

- address criminal justice, starting by ending federal contracts with for-profit prisons

- strengthen nation-to-nation relationships with Native American tribes and Alaskan natives

- combat xenophobia against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, which has skyrocketed during the pandemic

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True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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via WFTV

Server Flavaine Carvalho was waiting on her last table of the night at Mrs. Potatohead's, a family restaurant in Orlando, Florida when she noticed something peculiar.

The parents of an 11-year-old boy were ordering food but told her that the child would be having his dinner later that night at home. She glanced at the boy who was wearing a hoodie, glasses, and a face mask and noticed a scratch between his eyes.

A closer look revealed a bruise on his temple.

So Carvalho walked away from the table and wrote a note that said, "Do you need help?" and showed it to the boy from an angle where his parents couldn't see.

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via TikTok

Menstrual taboos are as old as time and found across cultures. They've been used to separate women from men physically — menstrual huts are still a thing — and socially, by creating the perception that a natural bodily function is a sign of weakness.

Even in today's world women are deemed unfit for positions of power because some men actually believe they won't be able to handle stressful situations while mensurating.

"Menstruation is an opening for attack: a mark of shame, a sign of weakness, an argument to keep women out of positions of power,' Colin Schultz writes in Popular Science.

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