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Braiding Sweetgrass: Time to look back at what was already discovered

“But the pond has shown me that being a good mother doesn’t end with creating a home where just my children can flourish. A good mother grows into a richly eutrophic old woman, knowing that her work doesn’t end until she creates a home where all of life’s beings can flourish.” (97)

Profoundly reflective and poetic, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer explores the intersection between Indigenous wisdom, nature, and science and shed light a whole new perspective to how we should understand the environment. Through a combination of storytelling and reflection, the book is a testament of the need to rebuild connections with the natural world.



While the book offers a new perspective on how we should view nature, Kimmerer reminds us that Indigenous views and knowledge have been passed down for generations. One of the most memorable chapters reflects on the concept of “The Honorable Harvest” and illustrates principles that have helped foster the relationship between Indigenous people and the natural world. The Honorable Harvest concept stems from the idea that we should only consume what is necessary, use everything that is taken, and also give back to the land. In contrast to our modern-day consumerism culture, The Honorable provides an opportunity to reflect on our connection with the environment rather than getting lost in a fast-paced society.


Another key theme in the book is about the importance of traditional ecological knowledge. Specifically, Kimmerer argues that Indigenous knowledge should be valued the same as scientific knowledge, and when merged together can provide us with a more holistic understanding of the natural world.


“Science can be a way of forming intimacy and respect with other species that is revealed only by the observations of traditional knowledge holders. It can be a path to kinship.” (252)

Through my own reflection and journey as a passionate environmental scientist, I’ve become more aware of how I view aspects of nature through a biological, chemical, and even materialistic lens. Only by looking beyond these foundational lenses have I been able to appreciate the connections nature has that allow it to flourish sustainability.


Braiding Sweetgrass continues to inspire my evolving perspective on nature and is a must-read for everyone. Kimmer offers a unique perspective on traditional ecological knowledge and allows each of us to reflect on the interconnectedness of all things. Its powerful quotes and poetic prose make it a captivating read that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.


“But the government still slings to the neoclassical fallacy that human consumption has no consequences. We continue to embrace economic systems that prescribe infinite growth on a finite planet, as if somehow the universe has repealed the laws of thermodynamics on our behalf.” (308)



Reference:

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass. Milkweed Editions, 2013.


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