Harken to the Wisdom Ways of Agroecology

Reader Contribution by Steven Mcfadden
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Image by Pixabay/Flash Alexander

Harken – pay heed to the wisdom ways of agroecology and our native roots. That’s my advice as climate and geopolitical whirlwinds intensify. Those wisdom ways mark the path to a sane and healthy future for us all.

Last year the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published a kick-in-the-gut report about the surging wave of extinction upon our local life-support system: Planet Earth.

Their report—based on the work of 450 researchers from around the world and 15,000 scientific and government reports—warned of immediate, grave danger. “The overwhelming evidence…from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture.”

The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating rapidly. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

Among the report’s recommendations about judicious ways to respond is a section under the heading Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities and Nature.

Here’s a snippet: “Regional and global scenarios currently lack, and would benefit from, an explicit consideration of the views, perspectives, and rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities…their knowledge and understanding of large regions and ecosystems, and their desired future development pathways.”

As I learned while doing research for my new book, Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future, paying respectful attention to indigenous wisdom ways is a key element of agroecology. Now, as change accelerates in climate and in geopolitics, is an explicit time to embrace those knowings.

We Know Something

Twenty-five years ago, I was part of a long walk from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Our walk, what I’ve come to refer to as the Odyssey of the 8th Fire, was guided by Grandfather William Commanda (Ojshigkwanàng, 1913-2011) of the Kitigan-Zibi Reserve in Quebec, Canada.

A recipient of many high honors including the prestigious Order of Canada, Grandfather Commanda steadied us with his words and his example as our steps led us toward The Western Gate.

Photo by Romola Vasantha Thumbadoo, Circle of All Nations

Three months after setting out from First Encounter Beach in Massachusetts, the pilgrimage reached Memphis, Tennessee. Among the many remarks Grandfather Commanda offered at different ceremonial circles in Memphis, he said: “We cannot order or demand anyone to do anything. We can only tell you what we know, and hope and pray that you will listen.”

“We native people know something. After having lived here on this land for many, many thousands of years, we have learned some things. We don’t know it all, but we do know something.

“Right now we have a choice, but that choice is very hard. But we must make that choice now so that our children will have the possibility of the life that we have had,” Grandfather said. “We love you, we love you all, and we are depending on you to help us make life possible for our children and for your children.”

Having become a friend and colleague of Grandfather Commanda, I know he would regard the farm and food ways of agroecology—with its focus on clean, local, just food sovereignty and security—as a big part of making life possible for ourselves, for our children, and for our children’s children.

Grandfather William Commanda’s legacy endures via the Circle of all Nations.


Independent journalist Steven McFadden is rooted in cyberspace atDeepAgroecology.net. Information about his wider work and all of his nonfiction books is available atChiron-Communications.com. You can read all of Steven’s Mother Earth News blog postshere.

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