A few weeks ago I attended an Evolver Atlanta meeting where we discussed our nation’s food security and alternatives to eating food that has been transported an average of 1,500 miles from farm to plate. The options highlighted included farmers’ markets, organic gardening, permaculture, aquaponics, and wild edible plants.
As Duane talked about his organic farm and Rob showed us the abundance of edible plants that can be found in the area, I was captivated and felt a sense of recognition ignite from deep within – ancestral knowledge bubbling up from my DNA. Yet I also felt despair, wondering how was it possible that so much of this ancient wisdom eludes us. What was once commonplace is now only known by a handful of people. This is especially poignant to think about during the largest shopping weekend of the year.
Studies have shown that the average child is exposed to 20,000, 30-second TV commercials in a year. From these, children learn to recognize hundreds of logos, but I wonder how many plants and trees they can identify?
Senegalese poet and naturalist Baba Dioum wrote, “’In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” Maybe this is why the majority of Americans seem to strive for material possessions and defend our consumer culture – it is what we are taught every time we turn on the TV, flip through a magazine, surf the internet, drive on the highway, or open a newspaper full of circulars. Advertising messages have even invaded bathroom stalls! We have been taught that it is our right and privilege as Americans to have access to these vast quantities of consumer products – that in is in fact “The American way of life.”
However, the voices that cry, “That is not my way of life, or how I want my life to be” are gathering and growing louder. Organizations like the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, are forming to teach us their ancestral ways of prayer, peacemaking, and healing with plant medicines which are vitally needed today.
In the book The Absence of Soil, Imani writes “Teaching our children to respect and appreciate nature, her cycles and rhythms, where food comes from, how to garden and identify plants, how prepare and preserve food establishes a foundation that they will return to. So many youth of today are unable to perform the most basic life skills. Let us teach them what we know so as to remember what needs not be forgotten. Let us pass on vital life lessons to our children.”
This Christmas, along with a few toys, my children will find Audubon Guides in their stockings, so that I may be able to help them to understand our interconnectedness, fall in love with the majesty and wonder in the world, and embrace Permaculture instead of consumer culture.