In northern Thailand, Maria Tengu saw that scholars could learn a thing or two from the indigenous people. “People from the local Hin Lad Nai community reported keeping certain species of wild bees in beehives. The scientists said, ‘This doesn’t exist. These bees cannot be kept in beehives.’ Until they saw it with their own eyes.”
In addition to scientific knowledge, there are also other sources of knowledge to solve environmental problems, says Tenjo, who gave her inaugural speech in mid-November as a special appointment professor of human-nature relations in the Anthropocene at Wageningen University and Research. You try to bring these sources together and let them talk to each other. In East Africa, India, Brazil, Thailand and Sweden. She wants to start transforming.
She says nature is deteriorating all over the world. She cites the Epps Committee, the United Nations' scientific panel on biodiversity. Nearly half of the ecosystems on land and in the sea have been seriously affected by human activity over the past 50 years. He analyzed Ibis in 2019. Plants and animals are dying at an accelerating rate. The main driver of this decline, according to Ibis, is the prevailing worldview in which man places himself above nature and uses nature at will. Short-term profit and economic growth are essential. To reverse this decline, the prevailing worldview must change. Ibis wrote last year.
Do you think it is possible to change this prevailing image?
“The current model is not sustainable. We see this in all the problems it causes. We have to explore alternatives, even if we don't know where we will end up. So I'm not just thinking about technical solutions, like artificial meat. But there are also opportunities to change that worldview.” mainstream. There are other ways of looking at and interacting with nature. Indigenous peoples can give us inspiration. You can already find alternatives in countries like Sweden and the Netherlands. There are many initiatives to bring agriculture and nature together again. Or think of the rewilding movement, which It restores large animals and hunters, such as wolves, to the landscape.
“With my chair I want to join such initiatives. I want to facilitate dialogues and meetings that highlight other aspects of our relationship with nature even more.” Resources-He thinks.”
Do indigenous peoples relate better to nature?
“Research shows that they live on more than a quarter of the world's land, and these areas are home to 80 percent of all biodiversity. Indigenous peoples do not live from nature alone, as is the prevailing worldview. But also with and in nature. themselves a part of it.”
Is science open to local knowledge?
“The main obstacle is the idea that science has to validate and validate indigenous and local knowledge. You get an unequal power relationship. But they are different knowledge systems. Indigenous knowledge is more holistic. In northern Tanzania, where I did my doctoral research, the land is managed as an ecosystem. The scientists who came to measure productivity just looked at the two main crops, corn and beans, and said, 'Hmm, that's disappointing.' While vegetables like pumpkins were also grown, and grasses that scientists called weeds. In addition, there was a trade-off with the lowlands, where The soil is more fertile, but there are also more frequent periods of drought.The system therefore also takes food security into account.
“A power imbalance can ensure that no one with local knowledge dares to contradict a scientist. They may also have difficulty transferring knowledge. This is why walking workshops are so important. Get out with the different groups. If you are in the place where it is happening “You can explain everything much better than you could in the office. The scientist sees it with his own eyes. He can ask more specific questions: Why did you plant that plant there and not here?”
What is important then?
“There must be respect for each other's knowledge. You must dare to address and explore the source of tensions and conflicts. This is often avoided.”
Does this work?
“Things still often go wrong. I remember the example of northern Thailand that I mentioned at the beginning. There, the indigenous people practiced rotational agriculture, taking turns planting crops in forest areas. But in the 1990s, the trees were cut down with permission from the government. Most of the villages were turned into OTHER FORMS OF AGRICULTURE Except for three villages, they wanted to restore the forest, based on the principles of rotational farming. It has worked beautifully. The forest has come back. They grow rice in part of the area. They have rotation fields where they grow something for two or three years and then leave it Fallen fallow for a while.There are fruit trees and coffee mixed in the forest.The whole system is rich in biodiversity and very productive.
“It was nice to see how scientists responded to it. Because they usually value such a restored forest less than the initial forest. But they enjoyed it, and they liked the stories. And what did the government do next? It wants to consider the area a nature reserve. This means people have to get out.” Because this is another example of the problematic view of man and nature: that they should be separated. You are denying that we depend on nature. And that people and nature can work together.
In the Netherlands there is a lot of pressure on agriculture to change. Less focus on production, more nature. How do you look at that?
“In Sweden we are moving in the same direction. This change is urgently needed. But it is also difficult, because the government has been steering the agricultural system towards more production for decades. And now it is hitting farmers for going in this harmful direction. This is not very constructive. Respect Mutuality and dialogue are essential if you want to move forward.
Will you also give lectures to your students in Wageningen outdoors?
“This is already happening in Wageningen, and I agree with that. It has also been explicitly encouraged by the Natuurcollege Foundation, which created my chair.
Do you have any tips for looking at nature differently?
“The first step is to think about your own assumptions and realize that they are very deep.”
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