Speak of the Land

autumn trees in philadelphia
autumn in philadelphia

I have never understood what the word ‘nature’ is supposed to mean. It is an abstract idea that really refers to nothing. Where is nature? Over there? Highway 16? If it is somewhere over there what about the ground beneath your feet? Does nature exist only in spots and certain secret hideaway places? Any what is place anyway but land?

The word ‘environment’ is just as bad. It too, exists nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

rushing stream
rushing creek

Land is the solid ground beneath your feet. The rushing creeks and rivers that flow like blood rushing through the veins of the body. Trees and flowers grow like hair. And volcanoes erupt like the unsettling of an upset stomach.

Land is not abstract but concrete. It is matter. It takes up space. It has weight and height and breadth. It is three-dimensional. You can touch it. You can run your hand along the ground, pick up a fist full of soil and breathe deeply.

With nature you can do none of these things. You can’t touch it, see it, smell it or feel it in the palm of your hand. Nature is like a ghost or apparition that you can sometimes catch out the corner of your eye. But, it fades into thin air, without form or substance.

a curtain of Japanese Maple leaves
a curtain of Japanese Maple leaves

To kill a person, the killer must first dehumanized the chosen victim. Killers and abusers must make the victim a thing, of no importance except to be used as the perpetrator wants. The victim is of no use but to be used. Serial killers do it. Abusers do it. Bullies do it. Racists, bigots and haters do it. And those who would abuse the land must do it, too.

Law enforcement tell people if you are in grave danger and another person wants to harm you, tell them about yourself. Let them know you are a valued human being and that you have feelings and people who would miss you. It may help stop a perpetrator long enough for you to escape or fight back. If you are dealing with a psychopath, then you are out of luck because these folks have no conscience and no compassion.

There are many politicians, religious folks and people out to get rich, who tell us that nature is just for us to use. ‘Nature’ exists solely for the support of man (humanity). Isn ‘t this the same as dehumanizing a victim?

Just like bullies and abusers everywhere they need help in hurting others. Bullying is time consuming and hard work. The work goes easier when many join in. So, bullies try to recruit helpers. They make bullying a noble thing. That say the object is really bad or dangerous and by attacking them we are really protecting ourselves. That because of their color, height, intelligence, ethnicity, sexuality, politics, religion, the list goes on, they deserve to be hurt. They bought it on themselves.

a dam in Wissahickon Creek
a dam in Wissahickon Creek

Sadly, we hear this thinking in the political realm all the time. Gays are dangerous. Women are dangerous. Immigrants are dangerous. Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, minorities in general are dangerous and we must subdue, deport, control, etc., them to protect and save ourselves.

Man vs. Nature. Nature’s fury. Man against the elements. Subdue the Earth. Same words. Same thoughts. Same actions. Abusers have been using the same script for centuries and many humans keep falling for it. Our real enemies are the ones who trick us into war with each other, the land and ourselves. And we become the biggest losers.

Are we really at war with nature? Are we really at war with the land? Are we really at war with each other?

a view of the rolling Piedmont Plateau
a view of the rolling Piedmont Plateau

The abusers don’t say, “Let’s dehumanize or devalue our (their) chosen victims”. They begin subtly. They begin by calling the intend victim anything but their name. They (and we) devalue the land, each and every time we call it nature. The land is not nature, it is land. By speaking of ‘nature’ we take away the physical presence of the land. Instead of being beneath our feet or the physical presence of water, we make it a body-less thing that possess neither weight, nor breadth nor height. We say it exists everywhere and nowhere. By speaking of ‘nature’ land ceases to exist.

Maybe a cure for this malady called ‘disconnection from nature’ is simple, stop using the word ‘nature’. Use the word ‘land’ instead. Speak of the land as a body, perhaps a human body. The beginning of compassion is to empathize and feel connections between ourselves and others.

And the phrases, ‘Mother Earth’ and the ‘Land is My Mother’, will really mean something.

the land beneath our feet
the land beneath our feet


More Posts on Indigenous Ecological Knowledge

Words Before All Else

What are Indigenous Environmental Justice Issues?

Biodiversity, Indigenous Peoples, and the Future

Colonialism vs. Conservation: National Parks and Indigenous Peoples

Colonization, Fire Suppression, and Indigenous Resurgence 

How the Ojibwe Indigenous Horse is Being Saved

The Importance of Birds to Indigenous American Peoples (video)

Disconnection from the Earth: The Biggest Con

Living Life as Ceremony




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