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.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

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