Good Comms

Beyond othering: reimagining our relationship with nature

Biodiversity is the fabric of life on Earth, encompassing the variety of all living organisms and their complex interactions within ecosystems. As we celebrate International Biodiversity Day, it may be interesting to reflect on a pervasive issue: the othering of nature. This concept refers to the human tendency to view nature as separate from, and subordinate to, humanity, leading to environmental degradation and a loss of biodiversity.

trees, wilderness, nature-3822149.jpg

The othering of nature

The othering of nature manifests in multiple ways, from language that depicts nature as a resource to be exploited, to policies that prioritize short-term economic gains over ecological sustainability. Historically, industrialization and urbanization have exacerbated this divide, supporting a worldview that puts human beings at the centre of the universe (anthropocentric worldview) where human needs and desires are placed above the health of our planet. This separation has profound implications for biodiversity, as it often results in habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change.

The consequences of othering

When we view nature as “the other,” we fail to recognize our interconnectedness with the natural world. This disconnection has led to practices that degrade ecosystems and threaten the survival of countless species. Deforestation, overfishing, and the burning of fossil fuels are all consequences of a mindset that values immediate human benefits over long-term ecological balance.

Embracing a holistic perspective

Adopting a more holistic perspective on nature can be practiced to combat this othering. This means seeing humans as integral parts of the ecosystem, dependent on its health for our survival and well-being. It means seeing nature as part of us and us as part of nature — not living side-by-side but together. We can see this practiced by indigenous cultures. They offer valuable lessons in how they relate with nature, often embodying a deep respect for nature and an understanding of the interconnectedness of all life forms. By integrating such perspectives into mainstream environmental policies, we can promote practices that support both human and ecological health.

In the video below, Jupta Itoewaki talks about how indigenous peoples see nature and relate with it. Not a surprise that 80% of all biodiversity on Earth is located within their territories! She goes on to teach us about indigenous guardianship and the five Rs we van all practice to ensure the health of the planet.

The five Rs of indigenous guardianship

(taken from the TEDTalk above)

  1. Responsibility is deeply rooted in a long-standing tradition of nurturing and protecting the land. For thousands of years, Indigenous communities have embodied a profound sense of stewardship towards their territory, viewing it as a vital part of their existence. This responsibility extends to Mother Earth, recognizing her as a source of life that must be respected and cared for. It also encompasses the promotion of decolonizing and indigenizing education, fostering discussions with colleagues to integrate these principles. Understanding responsibility in this way highlights a deep, interconnected existence with the land and all its inhabitants, emphasizing actions that sustain and honor this connection.

  2. Respect is a foundational principle that emphasizes mutual recognition and honor for each other’s worlds. It involves becoming guardians of the world together, valuing and honoring Indigenous ways of living, knowledge systems, and decision-making processes. It means recognizing and upholding the cultural integrity of Indigenous peoples, which has sustained them for centuries. True respect is demonstrated through concrete actions that acknowledge and support the diverse and rich traditions of Indigenous communities.

  3. Relationship is about indigenous peoples’ deep connection with their ancestral land. This emphasizes the intricate bond that exists between Indigenous communities and their territories, encompassing cultural, spiritual, and environmental dimensions. A relationship grounded in mutual respect breeds equality and eliminates the tendency to exert power over one another.

  4. Reciprocity embodies the principle that giving and receiving are fundamental processes that connect individuals, communities, beliefs, and actions. It goes beyond monetary exchanges, recognizing that resources alone do not equate to power, nor should they. In Indigenous worldviews, reciprocity includes giving and receiving from the Earth, cultivating a relationship that sustains and heals both the land and the people.

  5. Redistribution involves reclaiming ancestral lands to restore their rights and stewardship. Many Indigenous communities lack legally-recognized land rights because these lands have been distributed to third parties for mining and logging concessions. If 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity is found within Indigenous territories, it is crucial to secure Indigenous people’s land rights so they can keep protecting it.

Learn more from -

In other words

On this International Biodiversity Day, we can start shifting our mindset from viewing nature as “the other” to recognizing our connection with the natural world. By embracing a holistic perspective and taking concrete actions to protect biodiversity, we can ensure a healthier planet for future generations. The survival of countless species, including our own, depends on our ability to integrate into the web of life rather than stand apart from it.

What now

What can we do? Here are some micro-actions:

  • Advocate for policy change: Write to your local representatives urging them to support biodiversity policies that recognize and enforce Indigenous land rights, ensuring sustainable stewardship of ecosystems.

  • Participate in Indigenous-led conservation events: Attend conservation activities, workshops, and seminars hosted by Indigenous communities to understand and honor their biodiversity practices and knowledge.

  • Develop long-term connections with indigenous conservationists: Build meaningful, long-term relationships with Indigenous communities by collaborating on biodiversity projects and learning from their ecological practices.

  • Share resources equitably: Contribute financial, educational, or material resources to support Indigenous-led biodiversity conservation initiatives.

  • Support land rights for biodiversity: Join and advocate for movements that secure and restore Indigenous land rights, enabling them to protect and manage biodiverse ecosystems effectively.

By recognizing and addressing the othering of nature and recognizing the epistemic knowledge that indigenous peoples bring, we can develop a deeper connection with the world around us and contribute to the preservation of its incredible diversity. #

error: Website copy is protected.