As someone from an immigrant family, I am grateful for the opportunity that this land has given me to pursue my education and career in Environmental Science, and to steer the world into a sustainable future. I also have the indigenous peoples, those who have taken care of the land since time immemorial, and are continuing the take care of the land, to thank for the opportunity I have. I will not have the opportunity to find my interest in ecology and marine biology with the indigenous people’s care. However, the indigenous people are often those that are excluded from any decision about their land and their culture. I believe everyone should have the say on what is happening on the land, especially those who live and take care of the land.
I envision a world where reciprocity becomes an integral part of decision-making, especially in the conservation and environmental management realm. Not only giving back what nature had given us but also to the caretakers of the land. Without the indigenous people cultivating and taking care of the land, we won’t be able to enjoy and develop it. People (often colonizers) running conservation projects often see themselves as the “saviour” of the land, making decisions with accounting for those who have been living and tending the ecosystem for thousands of years. It is saddening to see that indigenous people are often sabotaged, or even exiled from their land in the name of conservation, breaking not only their livelihoods but also their relationship with their land. Therefore, I also envision a system of being aware and accepting of the different values and relationships of the indigenous/ local communities and incorporating the traditional knowledge and culture into each decision.
For this to happen, we have to actively change our beliefs from a western hierarchical one to one that considers every living thing on an equal plainfield. Everybody has the responsibility to give back what the planet has given us to thrive. Also, we have to support the indigenous movement in getting back control of their land, hence getting their traditional knowledge and cultural practice. This is not a “courtesy” or “nice gesture” to them, but something we ought to do to make up for the Western system’s greed and selfishness toward the injustice of these communities.