The Importance of Lifeviews

Let us imagine two children.  Both live in a forested area, near a large mountain, with abundant water resources.  Both children live in dwellings made of wood, and use wood for heat, cooking, and tool manufacture. Both children value the forest.

One of the children grew up gathering food from an intact forest.  Mature trees were highly valued for their fruit production and feeding game animals.  This same child was taught that the mountain was a powerful place where beneficial spirits lived.  Rivers were considered the life blood of the earth and treated as sacred.

The other child grew up eating food from fields created by clearing the forest.  Mature trees were highly valued for making wood products.  The mountain was considered a pile of ore and consequently leveled through mining.  Rivers were valued for carrying away wastes and for power generation.

Both of these children will grow up, become adults, have children of their own, and one day, perhaps, become valued elders in their societies.  Both will interact with their local landscapes.  Both will kill other organisms for their survival.  Both will build and destroy.  Both have the potential to live successful lives (success will be defined by their specific cultures).  Their view of the world and their success in life is lived through very different (and biased) belief systems.  What they are capable of perceiving and creating is heavily influenced by their cultures.

Both of these children have lifeviews that they inherited from their parents and community.  Their lifeviews are completely different.  One of the children believes themselves part of the forest.  The other considers the forest something to conquer and use for personal gain.  One child will visit the mountain to connect with things that can’t be seen.  The other will visit the mountain to extract a resource.  One child will be nourished by the animal life that lives in the river.  The other will destroy much of the life in the river due to pollution and flow alteration that they create (or condone).

We, as modern people, can no longer live (completely) as the first child did.  Too much of the wild world has been altered, fragmented, and/or degraded.  We might even consider the lifeviews of that child to be silly and superstitious.  But we, as descendants of European colonists, had abundant natural resources upon which to build this country because the people who lived here before us observed the lifeviews of the first child.  And how have the lifeviews of the second child benefited us (and the other-than-human persons we shared the forest with)?  Have they created happiness?  Have they created security for all people, not just those in elite classes?  Will those lifeviews ever lead to a sustainable and healthy future?   As parents, relatives, friends, and neighbors, we impart our belief systems on children through our word choice, our life styles, even the very food we choose to put on the table.  We actively participate or condone various policies simply by the goods we choose to purchase (or avoid purchasing).  Even though we may need to work in the forest products industry, is this any reason we can’t value forests beyond their role in providing income?   Aren’t the rivers we live near worth protecting (i.e., treating as sacred)?