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Way Of The Water Lilies: Science and Ancient Traditions


PHOTO: Cherry’s grandson Kelvin Lingiari holding some lily pods with seeds inside exposed (Emilie Ens)

Part of the problem with dealing with Global Warming is the commodification of the world’s resources by mostly first world countries. This wholesale mining of resources based strictly on a profit motive has not accounted for the fact that earthly resources are, in the end, finite, and therefore non replaceable. Additionally once you remove resources from the web of life, those profit motives are also not taking into account the holes left in the earthly infrastructure, and what will happen to the rest of that now weakened system.

While many in the developed world would not want to return to what they might term a more “primitive” type of existence, one which lacks the 21st century “luxuries” they now enjoy, there are important lessons about compatibility and sustainability to be learned from indigenous people and their methods. Lessons about obtaining balance with the environment we live in and entering into a mutually enhancing and supporting relationship with it.


PHOTO: Maritza in 2013 (on left) and friend (Karen Yunupingu) pointing over some of the 20,000 square kilometres of country looked after by the Rangers (Emilie Ens)

The indigenous peoples can also learn and take advantage of the scientific insights of the west to strengthen and enhance what they are already doing.

Both can learn from each other, and in the process, all can benefit by building a whole, more sustainable planet. A good case is the story of the billabongs or waterlilies and the Aboriginal people in Ngukurr, Australia. Anna Salleh writes:

(Cherry) says these billabongs were sung into existence by an ancestral sand ridge goanna spirit called “motolo” that started at Parsons Range.

This is a pretty different way to how western science describes the creation of these same lands. So with such contrasting perspectives, how do the rangers and the scientist actually work together?

Dr Ens says it is all about “cross-cultural ecology” that helps build understanding and common ground.

“This involves building the capacity of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to understand the country using scientific and Indigenous approaches,” she said.”


PHOTO: Good water lily cover at Namaliwiri billabong is a measure of success from both a western scientific and Indigenous perspective (Emilie Ens)

Read the whole article: Way of the Water Lilies: Where Science Meets the Billabong


Author: Prescott Allen Hazeltine

Prescott grew up in the hills of western Massachusetts, and still feels most at home out in the wild. He went on to graduate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with his undergraduate degree and has done post graduate studies at the University of Houston as well as the Gemological Institute in New York City. While hiking is a major passion, as is snowshoeing, he also love to read, research and learn, and can just as easily get lost in internet information as he can photographing the wilderness.

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