Modern and Indigenous Environmental Differences: The Indigenous Worldview, Part 11

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Why can’t we just get along? This is a question that I have been working on in my new book, Divided: Colliding Ways We See the World. In the next several posts in this blog series I am looking at one of the five worldviews: Indigenous Worldview. I would like to share with you some ideas that I have been exploring.

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children.
  … Ancient Proverb

Modern and Indigenous Environmental Differences

The concepts of subsistence, sustainability, and land ownership are seen differently by people in holding modern and indigenous worldviews.

06 Cooperative farming on ejido land, Mexico

Ejido (communal) land worked by farmers in Mexico

Modernizers see land as a commodity that can be bought and sold, privately owned, and valued on a monetary basis. Commodification of land is in keeping with modern economic views that apply capitalist principles to every aspect of life.

On the other hand, indigenous views of land are quite different. Groups own land collectively, with no individual private ownership. Although families may farm the same plot of land over the years, there is no notion that the land belongs to them. In countries with large indigenous populations, laws protect collective ownership. For example, in nine of the twelve countries of South America at least twenty percent of the land is legally in indigenous and peasant hands under a collective legal system.

06 Communal land ownership, South Africa

Communal land ownership in South Africa

Sustainability or resource preservation is more compatible with the indigenous worldview than with the modern. Continuity is a practice guiding many indigenous beliefs (at least in the past). There is not an impulse to exploit resources for growth and instant gratification, rather the attitude of preserving resources for future generations. A motto among many indigenous peoples is that all actions must be guided with the well-being of future generations in mind.

About the Author

Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.

Please email or visit for more information.


For more about worldviews see Dr. Ames’ book Five Worldviews: How We See the World. $9.95




This entry was posted in awareness, cultural divide, differences, diversity, indigenous, Nature, perspectives, Uncategorized, worldviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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