Connection to nature has a utilitarian side! I have been learning first hand about this from those who understand nature connection better than most, the Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory.
I take older Aboriginal ladies out bush for a week for women’s business and respite. These ladies hunt turtles for food and to see this makes me and many other’s from our culture uncomfortable. A case in point: I was swimming in the beautiful Mataranka Springs at the end of one of my working camps and I saw a group of Aboriginal people walking around the path carrying the usual zip up supermarket fridge bag full of fishing gear. At the same time I saw some tourists squeeling with delight over seeing some turtles in the absolutely crystal clear waters of this hot spring. As the Aboriginal group approached them, the tourists enthusiastically pointed out the turtles and I thought to myself ” no don’t do that!” I knew what was going to happen next. Sure enough one of the ladies quickly pulled out her line with its big hook and bait and tossed it in, much to the absolute horror of the tourist onlookers who shouted ” No don’t kill it” . I walked past just in time to see this unsuspecting turtle take its fatal bite and in the hope of diffusing what could have become an emotional confrontation, I said to the tourists, “this is food, this is their way, just walk on”.
No doubt I feel challenged every time one of the Aboriginal ladies on my camps catches one of these beautiful creatures; they get just as excited about seeing kangaroos and frogs as I do, but they see food, I see a cute creature that I want to protect. I guess it makes me think that connection to nature is not just the ‘la la’ feeling of the warm sun on your skin, the chirping birds but perhaps its about respect more than anything; a respect of co-dependence, which for us is lost in our supermarket ready life and our lens of what’s is acceptable to kill and consume. Fishing is socially acceptable to us because fish are generally not considered cute and what’s worst? farming millions of cows, sheep and chicken for over consumption or catching a turtle for yourself and family. For Aboriginal people living in Northern Territory, connection to nature is still rooted in survival for us we are shielded by supermarket packaging, over consumption and our socially accepted lenses of what animals we should care about (its ok to eat fish but not dog).
Perhaps in our efforts to re-connect with nature we can add mindful shopping to our ‘to do list’ and revisit our concept of what is enough when it comes to the volumes of food we catch, farm and consume. I think my lesson is that connection to nature has an uncomfortable side and this is where the real personal work needs to happen to fully understand what belonging to the natural world is all about.