Tom Brown on Caretaking
From the Nature Class - March 1997
The Earth Caretaker website has no official connection to the
Tracker School or Tom Brown Jr. whatsoever.
(This is paraphrased from notes taken at that course by Walter Muma)
Humans are an integral part of Nature (even though we have stepped so far
away from Nature these days). We belong here on this Earth, although certainly not in the
numbers that we are today. We were placed here by the Creator to perform a sacred duty,
that of caring for and protecting the Earth. Grandfather believed that this was our major
reason for being here.
The caretaker attitude (Grandfather preferred the word
"caregiver") is one in which every action is done with the idea of improving the
landscape, to pass on to future generations a healthy environment. This means future
generations of all beings, not just humans. And this also ranges from our backyards to the
Earth itself as a whole.
Most landscapes are badly out of balance due to human activities, so we
have a responsibility to correct the mistakes of humankind. By becoming this caregiver we
are fulfilling our destiny. In fact, this way of caregiving is actually part of our
original instinct. However, this concept has been corrupted by the societies that we live
in, twisting it into "dominion over" the Earth, rather than "Caring
Natural landscapes, as well as humanly altered ones, can benefit from our
caregiving. Nature, if left to itself, will balance itself out in the long run, will heal
itself. But if we assist in the proper way, this process is sped up and enhanced.
There is of course a need to be very in tune with what the Natural
landscape needs in any given area. One gains knowledge of this through intense and ongoing
observation and study of Nature. We must get to know Nature in order to know what we need
to do as caregivers. Many people, when they contemplate caretaking the Earth, take the
approach of "cleaning up" an area, or have in their mind the cultivated garden
of humans. This is not the case at all. Grandfather said, if you don't know what you're
doing, don't do anything at all.
For example, every area has its share of dead trees, and dead limbs on
trees. These are an important part of any tree and forest. Many beings utilise these for
shelter and food, such as squirrels, fungus, insects, etc. However, if a dead limb is in
the way of a young growing healthy sapling, then perhaps it should be removed to make way
for the new growth. Similarly, a dense grove of closely growing saplings could be thinned
out. Not all will survive, and the presence of all of them will cause the entire group to
grow poorly. By thinning them out, many more will live to grow tall and strong.
Another example involves the issue of alien plant species. For example the
multiflora rose is an alien invasive species. But should we get rid of all of these rose
bushes in a particular area? That depends. The rabbits probably utilise them for shelter.
So the approach would be to remove just a few of them for now, until replacement
indigenous species are able to grow up. Caretaking is a process that goes on over a long
period of time. It is not something that you do once and then forget about the area. It is
a process where you "adopt" an area and come back to it several times each year
over many years.
Always view the landscape as a whole. Step back and look at the bigger
picture. Think like the rabbits that inhabit the field, like the saplings that are
growing, like the old dying trees, like the beetles, and so on. What is best for all
beings in the area? For the Earth?
In all cases, you must rely on your purified inner vision to determine
what to do in each situation. Tune in to what the trees and other plants, animals, and
other beings of the area are telling you needs to be done. Ask them. Listen carefully.
Combine this with your knowledge of Nature to come to know what needs to be done (and not
Remember that this is our sacred duty here on this Earth.
(For a more complete report on the Nature Class
of Mar 1997 see the Wildwood Survival website, Tracker
School Class Summaries section)