UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Paths to sustainability : creating connections through place-based Indigenous knowledge Brauer, Celia


For most of humanity’s existence, a robust human-nature relationship was paramount. Any inherent benefits were clearly understood and respected. However, in the last 500 years of western history, religious dependence diminished in favour of a more rational and humanist approach and market economics rose in prominence. This evolution encouraged notions of cultural separation from nature that led to an emphasis on the individual, the expansion of private land ownership and the commodification of natural resources. These misguided beliefs then spread throughout the world during colonization. The result has been a mass degradation of the earth’s ecological health, alongside a strong decrease in the positive qualities of tradition and community life. Repair of the human-nature connection is urgent. This research demonstrates that Indigenous people living among us today who embody Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) can offer insights to heal this serious rift. They teach us that without honest human-nature relationships and a grounded existence in place, long-term prosperity for western civilization will be challenging. An Indigenous worldview demonstrates that place-based learning and the repair of community connections is imperative for healthy social-ecological systems. Nature’s importance must be regarded for its own sake, not just for the benefit of humans. Incorporating these principles into present-day society encourages more sustainable practices and helps to treat our common planet with respect. In addition, the act of receiving traditional wisdom from our Indigenous neighbours facilitates a reconciliation of the tragic legacies that endure from colonization. Without this fundamental healing, little long-term recovery of people and the land is likely.

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