3 Pacific Practices that’ll save the Planet
When people imagine the cure for the climate crisis many would picture white coats in labs creating new formulas to solve the problem or government officials in expensive suits signing lengthy documents. The reality is, the cure is not in a test tube or document, it is in a relationship that needs mending. It’s as simple as healing the relationship between humans and Earth.
Samoans call this relationship a “vā”. A sacred relationship between people and the environment. The land gives and the land also takes. The ocean cares for the village as long as the village cares for the ocean. This concept of connection to nature is also found across all indigenous cultures. In Kenya they call it “Tunza” which is Swahili for “taking care of and guarding”.
Indigenous languages point to the crucial relationship people have with the planet and it informs how different cultural practices honor this. Across the Pacific, villages and communities practice conservation practices that if implemented worldwide could be a part of the solution to combat environmental damage.
Here are 3 different community Practices being implemented around the Pacific that honours environmental protection and the vā between human, land and ocean.
Planting by The Moon (Samoa)
In Samoa a group of women have reintroduced the Moon Calendar phases of planting. Before there were pesticides and western systems of farming, Samoans would follow the guidance of the moon to indicate when to plant. This traditional way of agriculture is sustainable and falls in harmony with nature.
“The ancients observed how the moon affected the tides and by tracking it alongside the sun, they developed calendars to predict agricultural rhythms. The sun was the life giving force, but the moon played an important role in predicting rainfall.
This way of planting also ensures the health and replenishment of the soil. What many people don’t know is that the world is currently in a soil crisis on top of a climate crisis. This could mean that if we continue the toxic pattern of unsustainable agriculture and environmental carelessness the planet will run out of healthy soil in 50 years. The organic content of soil worldwide is depleting because there is no replenishment of nutrients with the western ways of industrial agriculture. This crisis will lead to further world hunger with declining food security, a huge health crisis due to lack of nutritious food and possible world wars to fight for resources.
The solution to the soil crisis is happening all around the world in indigenous communities who are preserving and reintroducing their sustainable ways of food production and planting. If planting by the moon could be implemented worldwide the world would be in a much better position to replenish our soil and protect us from the soil crisis.
The Bilum Revolution (Papua New Guinea)
The world generates around 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste annually. That is the weight of huge islands, which means every year humans create new islands of waste that isn’t breaking down into the soil anytime soon.
The new age of consumerism has meant that humans have created tons of single-use and fast consumption items that only live in the hand of humans for a few days then live out their lives polluting our land or ocean. This type of over-consumption of material items means that our planet is being piled with trash. Just last month microplastic pollution was detected in human blood for the first time, with scientists finding the tiny particles in almost 80% of the people tested.
There is no doubt that solid waste pollution is an extreme problem. A problem that our Pacific ancestors did not have to deal with simply because there was no toxic solid waste in our communities before the introduction of such products by the West. So how did we make clothes? Carry our produce? Or hold our babies while working?
The women in PNG have a simple answer to that… Bilum. In Tok Pisin spoken in Papua New Guinea, the word “Bilum” means “Womb”. The locals describe the scared bilum womb as the place where all life begins. This is also the name give to bilum bags, handed down throughout centuries through families and tribes of different regions. It is a type of bag made using a looping technique. Bilums are used by men and women to carry yams, taro and other food stuffs and sometimes even babies. It is sustainable as it is made with natural fibers.
Bilum bags aren’t just bags, they’re carriers of all things important and therefore they are important. These values that the people of PNG hold towards bilums is ones that many indigenous cultures hold towards their material belongings. Material things are not just quick purchases that can be discarded, they are intentional parts of daily life. It is this way of living that must be adopted by the rest of the world in order to pull the planet out of this era of over-consumption.
Mighty Mangroves (Kiribati)
On top of the pollution crisis, that is on top of the soil crisis all of this is within a climate crisis. The climate is changing, it’s making our oceans warmer, fish scarce and islands slowly smaller. Kiribati faces all these truths at once. The atoll island lives on the frontline of sea level rise, warming oceans and changing tides.
Despite being at the forefront of this climate crisis the atoll island continues to show resilience. Being the first to truly feel the extremes of the changing climate they’re all the first to have to react. This has meant that the people in Kiribati are experts in climate resilience.
When faced with eroding coastlines and declining fish stock the villages started building up their defenses. Not in amour or in weapons but in nature. The people reverted to what they knew their island needed most and that was the expansion of mangroves.
Mangroves protect water quality, absorb water during heavy rain and storm surges, provides nursery habitat for marine life and safeguards the shoreline. It is eco-based solution that not only helps adapts to environmental destruction but also contributes the ecological healing. The people of Kiribati know this and for the past decade have continued to upkeep mangrove planting programs to feed their resilience. Nature-based solutions like the ones being implemented in these atolls will be crucial for the rest of the world as the climate crisis starts arriving at their footsteps.
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COVER IMAGE: Vanu Studios