In our discussion of Part 3 in Braiding Sweetgrass last week, we addressed the idea of extending human rights to nature. In this section of the text, Robin Wall Kimmerer underscores the benefit of interacting with nature in a relational way—asking permission to make use of resources, thanking the world for its many offerings that benefit us, regifting the earth with the nourishment the air, water, and soil need replenishment. Kimmerer addresses this idea of nature having agency, and therefore, rights that we usually reserve for humans. This is ultimately referred to as environmental personhood. The concept of environmental personhood is understood in many indigenous cultures, and has been employed as a legal tactic to protect sacred rivers and land masses. The acknowledgment is that these spaces are inherently valuable—that they have rights in and of themselves.
CCA intern, Aundreya Shepherd, noted that this was intriguing to her—particularly as a conversation around consent and striving to exist in a respectful relationship with nature. She reflected saying,
The idea of listening and being attuned to what a plant is communicating as a way of relating to that being in a way that is mutually beneficial, respectful, and consensual was wholly novel and intriguing to me. I love the idea of humans being so attuned to the greater Spirit of Creation, that we can be given and refused permission. I was also excited to learn that Kimmerer is not alone in her emphasis of the need to ask permission of the earth.
These are the kinds of conversations and quandaries that Braiding Sweetgrass is leading us to. What a gift to think more deeply about our relationship with the world and how we interact with the fullness of Creation. If you’re interested in joining the next discussion of the book, email Aundreya at firstname.lastname@example.org.