Robin Wall Kimmerer – ‘Mapping A New Geography of Hope – Woman and the Land’

Speaker – Robin Wall Kimmerer

This is one of my favourite videos surrounding environmentalism – it is a video of a speaker at the “Mapping A New Geography of Hope – Woman and the Land” convention. This is because there was a lot of content in this video that I found myself strongly agreeing with, but an equal amount of what the speaker said for me to disagree with as well. The speaker focused much of her speech on the language surrounding how we refer to nature. She challenged the idea of referring to mother Earth as an ‘it’ rather than personifying it. I found this interesting in relation to how corporations are recognized as persons under the law, but nature is not. She explained how Indigenous language does not refer to nature as an ‘it’ but rather refers to nature as family.

Another intriguing point she made was regarding species as teachers rather than creatures. If humans were to recognize nature as a teacher, instead of a problem or a nuisance, would we not have a better planet today? Or is this too much of an idealistic approach? The speaker also touched upon linguistic imperialism, a concept I am immensely fascinated with. This relates back to colonialism and how colonizers stripped the First Nations of all aspects of their culture – dress, tradition, beliefs, and even language! This is another hurdle that the Indigenous still face but is given minimal attention to from outsiders. This can also be broadened to contest the fact that all of our language towards nature and development may need to be revaluated and as the speaker said, language has always been changeable and adaptive.

Another solution the speaker suggested in response to bridging the gap between nature and humans is to think of other creatures as our kin. This was a bit of a radical idea to me, because I cannot see myself thinking of a flock of geese as my family, but I am able to see the wisdom behind this philosophy. Realistically though, I think it would be immensely difficult to implement. In the beginning of her talk, the speaker said, “We are the people of the seventh fire who will reweave the world”. I interpreted this to mean that we are the people who will fix the alarming environmental crisis. I don’t necessarily agree with this, since this era was the reason the problem had escalated so quickly. All in all, this video was quite informative and I think it’s a great foundation to beget a breakthrough of discussion to include language, politics, and globalization in the environmental perspective.

Review by Dania Ahmed

One thought on “Robin Wall Kimmerer – ‘Mapping A New Geography of Hope – Woman and the Land’

  1. While listening to the creation story at the beginning of Robin’s talk, there are a few things that stood out to me because they are quite different from the creation story I am more familiar with. I think these differences are reflected in Indigenous culture (based on what limited knowledge I have on Indigenous culture). Firstly, in this story, it is a woman that is the first person on Earth. I think this reflects the matriarchal society of Indigenous peoples. Along side the sky woman, the animals also play central roles. There is a great sense of collaboration, or reciprocity as in Robin’s words, between the characters and in turn, between human and nature, in this story, and for this reason I think it was a great way to start her talk. The biggest takeaway from this talk, for me, is the need to return to reciprocity with nature to restore the balance we have lost. From my understanding, Robin’s method of returning to reciprocity requires people to respect nature as though they are family. Most of modern society struggles to treat other people like family, let alone anything that is not human. I agree with Dania that this sounds somewhat extreme, but I think that is because it is so far off from what modern society is used to. Humans, however, can get used to just about anything. Theoretically, it is possible to adopt such an idea and I think it would help people be more mindful of how we treat the Earth. I do not think people will be very receptive of such an idea though. That aside, the key to reciprocity, according to Robin, is respect, which I don’t think is a difficult concept to understand. It is easy to treat someone poorly when we lack respect for them. This is applicable to how we treat the earth. I don’t know if we need to respect nature to the level where you would a person, but having some level of respect for the earth is necessary because with respect comes the understanding that we rely on the earth for our very existence, therefore we must be mindful of how we treat the earth.
    I interpreted the portion about this generation being the people to reweave the world a little differently than Dania. Robin says that we are the people who will begin the reweaving. I don’t think this necessarily means that we will be the ones to do the entire job; I imagine it could take generations to fully avert the crisis. I think this means we are the people to, in the very least, initiate the reweaving, which I think may be true. People seem to be talking about environmental issues and climate change, and discussing potential solutions more than before (however, this does not mean the solutions would be effective). I would consider this the beginning of the first step to resolving a crisis.

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