Caretaking is all about healing
and caring for the Earth. It is about healing the damage that we humans have done to
the Earth, as well as preventing and minimizing further damage and interference. As
well, we have an inherent role to play on this planet to work in harmony with nature and
help it to maintain its balance.
We can help
- or can we?
"Help" or "Interference"?
Just how much do we help (or some would say,
"interfere") with the natural processes of the Earth? At what point does
"help" become interference? Do we just let nature take its course, or do
we step in and lend it a helping hand?
On one hand, nature is quite able to take care of itself, and has done
so for millions of years. We see that when it is left to itself, a damaged area will
eventually heal, although it may take a very long time in some cases. There are
those who would argue that we should step back entirely and allow nature to take its
course, no matter how long it takes.
On the other hand, perhaps we can, with the right knowledge, skills,
and attitude, help nature along with its healing. Maybe we can shorten the healing
period from two thousand years to two hundred. As well, if humans are truly a part
of the Earth and belong here, then it is an inherent part of our nature to help the Earth,
to caretake it.
How much do we help?
Do we focus only on healing the damage that
humans have caused, or do we have a role in caring for the still untouched and natural
The modern societies that humans currently live in (all over the world,
not just our own western way of life) have an enormous negative impact on our natural
environment. Industrial processes, the consumeristic way of life, the garbage that
is created from that and the blatant disregard for other life forms who share this planet
all contribute to decimating the natural world. Not to mention our sheer numbers!
Caretaking involves helping to heal those parts of the Earth that have been damaged
and destroyed by these factors. The task seems monumental, but because of this there
are literally thousands upon thousands of ways that we can help.
There are still undamaged, wild, natural areas left on this planet.
It seems that these are getting to be very few and far between. It would
depend on what you would define as "wild and natural". Air pollution has
touched every part of the Earth, acid rain has as well. If you consider that, then
no area is any longer wild or natural. So, I guess we must say
"relatively" wild and natural. In any case, these remaining areas need
protection from the ravages of the modern industrial machine. Again, there are many
many ways to help.
Do we even belong on the Earth?
Are we "intruders" on this planet (and
therefore can only do damage to it) or do we belong here, an inherent part of the Earth
Well, assuming that humans did not arrive from another planet, then we
belong here. Depending on your point of view, either we evolved here out of other
life forms, or we were at some point created here by some higher force. Whatever
your point of view, we do truly belong here. If we evolved out of other life forms
(who evolved out of others, etc) then we are a part of this Earth, since we arose from it.
In the other way of thinking, if we were created here by a higher force, then we
are also meant to be here (assuming of course that "god" or "creator"
doesn't make mistakes!).
Another angle would be to say that we no longer deserve to live on this
planet given what we are doing to it. Which brings up the question, are we
"redeemable"? Can we step back to the Earth?
Are we capable of
Have we stepped away from the Earth too far to
know what to do to heal it, or do we still have inside ourselves the knowledge of what to
The more cynical amongst us would say that humans are no longer capable
of truly helping the Earth, that we can only harm it. In fact, some might say that
just our mere presence here on this planet is harming it. It seems as though we have
stepped away from the Earth too far to be able to do any healing at all. And too far
to be able to step back to the Earth. Anytime, it seems, that we try to help out in
one aspect of the environment, our actions cause problems in another aspect. We seem
to not have the ability to see enough of the whole picture to be able to do anything
without causing more harm in turn.
However, according to Tom Brown (and to Stalking Wolf (Grandfather)),
we do indeed still have the inherent ability to truly help the Earth. What it takes
is a different approach than we have been taking.
So, what is
Caretaking, as taught by Tom Brown, involves a totally new
approach to helping the Earth.
It is centered around asking the Earth what to do to
help. After all, don't we usually ask people (other humans) before we do anything to
them, such as cutting their hair, or remodelling their home? Is it then too much to
ask of us to ask the Earth and other beings who live here before we do anything that
It involves a way of being in which one knows what to do to truly help
the Earth, rather than making educated or uneducated guesses and then waiting to see what
will happen. To act from the heart and spirit, rather than solely from the mind.
It involves living in harmony with the rest of the
Earth, the rest of life on the Earth. Moving and living in cooperation with the rest
of the species of one's surroundings and of this planet.
It involves having a smaller "footprint" on
the environment, utilizing only what we need, rather than grabbing at everything that we
can lay our hands on. In other words, leaving behind some for others who share this
It involves having the skill and knowledge to make
proper changes in the environment that actually enhance it, rather than disturbing and
This is actually a very old approach.
We have simply lost sight of it in modern times. Most "primitive"
peoples lived in this way on the Earth, if not by choice, then by necessity. The
pre-contact indigenous peoples of North America (also known as "Indians") are
perhaps the most familiar example of this. When the visitors from Europe arrived
here in North America, they called it an "untouched wilderness".
Yes, there is archeological evidence that suggests that people have
always decimated the Earth whenever they had the opportunity. This gives rise to
some of the arguments outlined above. But most indigenous societies had an
underlying philosophy and way of living that respected and cooperated with the Earth,
rather than exploiting it. This is in stark contrast to the current world culture
that is centered around the rape of the world.