June 4, 2011 by sgoobie
What may be more powerful than alternative sources of energy? More important than efficient technologies? More revolutionary than recycling?
“Alternative” ways of thinking have the potential to be powerful, important and revolutionary. They hold the promise of helping rebalancing the position of humanity on Mother Earth. To overcome mammoth challenges facing our societies and the planet, we ourselves need to seek out and understand alternative ways of thinking that can supply new justifications for taking significant ecological action.
But by “alternative” we can’t only mean new ways of thinking. This progressivist idea that newer is always better is one of the stubborn influences that has driven us in industrialized nations to abandon notions of the sacred and to disregard guiding beliefs of the need to keep within natural limits. To further break with the past and to deride all old ideas as primitive and backwards only accelerates our precipitous path.
We need to recognize — that is, to re-cognize — ways of thinking existing beyond the dominant industrial thoughtprint. This does not mean we worship romantic notions of indigenous and aboriginal cultures as is suggested by fans of “New Age” spirituality, who appropriate cultures out of their original context. If we genuinely seek deep understanding, then authentic ancient cultures can indeed matter. Why? Wade Davis, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, explains in The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World:
These voices matter because they can still be heard to remind us that there are indeed alternatives, other ways of orienting human beings in social, spiritual, and ecological space… (We can) draw inspiration and comfort from the fact that the path we have taken is not the only one available…
Just as biodiversity allows an ecosystem to remain strong and resilient, so too does cultural diversity offer solutions to humanity in confronting the largest of global challenges.
In this remarkable TED Talk, Wade Davis explores some of the cultures which remind us how so-called alternative ways of thinking (found in ancient cultures) are irreplaceable in an ever-increasingly threatened world. These form ecological thoughtprints we must not only recognize, but more importantly — as with biodiversity — we must protect at all costs.