sustainability

A taboo, proverb, tradition & song in Zimbabwe

"The program sort of links up very, very well with indigenous knowledge systems. The idea of conserving the environment is not a new phenomenon; it's not a new idea. Our forefathers actually had some songs which were so emphatic on environmental conservation. They actually had some proverbs that had a lot to do with environmental conservation. They also had taboos which were so emphatic on conserving certain aspects [of the environment]." John and me

I have been in all sorts of fascinating conversations with people since arriving here in Zimbabwe. But this one caught me by surprise--especially when the person I was speaking to broke into song! It all went down when I was interviewing John Nyilika, a training coordinator for the Africa Centre for Holistic Management. He pointed out how holistic land and livestock management relies on and honors traditional knowledge. The moment he began to speak of ancestral wisdom, my "wise traditions" ears perked up.

Here are some of the ancient truths he shared.

A taboo - It was said that it was taboo when you find two kudus in locked horns and fighting, it was actually taboo to kill both. You were only supposed to kill one. The idea was to make sure that the remaining one would remain in touch with all of the cows, female kudus, around. That taboo ensures conservation.

A proverb - We have traditional healers and they use some roots. The traditional healer will actually tell you to get to a certain tree--say, a marula tree. You just dig the root of the tree and just get a small [piece], say, about 15 centimeters of the root, and cut it off. And if you want to be healed by that root, please make sure to cover up that area and you don't have to look back. After covering up, don't look back and go away. Cover it up and go away. That aspect of covering up was to ensure that the tree would continue growing.

A tradition - If you needed a bark from a certain tree it was suggested that you get to the eastern side [of the tree.] You look for a tree which does't have any scar. Just get to the eastern side, and just get a palm-sized bark from the eastern side. And you also go to the northern side, just get another palm-sized one, you see? And you leave the tree. [This] was to avoid ring-barking the tree and killing the tree. And looking for a tree which doesn't have a scar was to make sure that you don't continue using the same tree, [to avoid that] at the end of the day, the tree would die.

A song - There were also some songs. There were also some weeding and harvesting songs that have a lot to do with environmental conservation. This song which I will sing is on conservation. It can also be turned into a wedding song, but the words can also be used for environmental conservation. "Londolozani, londolozani, londolozani’mvelo londolozani …." In short, it actually says we should not cut trees indiscriminately. We should not burn the forest, and so on. We should conserve our environment. And as people, you know, they will be rejoicing, drinking beer, and singing these songs, and dancing--at the same time, the children will also be hearing these songs. Initially it was just a wedding song, then they put these words to the song to enhance conservation ideas. To "lundulose" means to keep very well and even it goes [applies] to the bride and the bridegroom: you must not abuse her, treat her very well, treat him well.

These certainly sound like wise traditions to me. How about to you?

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Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). She is also the host of the WAPF-sponsored Wise Traditions podcast (on iTunes, Stitcher, and westonaprice.org). She is traveling in Zimbabwe and Kenya as part of the WAPF international project initiative.

 

 

 

Would you trash your friend's house?

I live in a modest row house in DC, but, this weekend, I am living in the lap of luxury. I have a friend who owns a beautiful house in Virginia and she is hosting a bunch of us for the weekend. Did I say it was a house? Correction. It's actually a mansion. It is a gorgeous 8-bedroom, 5-bath, custom-built place with a glorious deck, king-sized beds, jacuzzi-jet tubs, and more. It's one...big..."WOW!" IMG_1384

And the funny thing is, my friend isn't even home just now. She is a gracious hostess who is willing to let folks use her place as something of a retreat center, even when she's out of town.

But what if the group of us who are here this weekend decided not only to use her home, but to abuse it? What if we decided that we were going to do whatever the heck we felt like with it, and began carelessly trashing it?! I'm talking about more than just leaving dishes in the sink. What if we dragged chairs across the hardwood floor, broke the garbage disposal, pushed the deck furniture over the railing, etc.?

How ungrateful! How short-sighted! How thoughtless and stupid we would be!

 

This thought crossed my mind today because it is Earth Day. The Earth is a home that is also on loan to us. It is not ours, but we have been entrusted with it. The idea is to use it, yes, but not to abuse it. We want it to last for the long haul, for our children and grandchildren, and all the greats after that!

I see this as a calling of sorts, since the book of Genesis says: "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' Ruling is a responsibility, and it is to be carried out with justice and compassion.

What does this look like for you? In what ways are you caring for the earth (and the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and the cattle....)?  I am still learning what this looks like for me. What do I do with the resources at my disposal? Do I toss things when they break or repair them? Do I recycle? I know that each and every choice I make can impact the earth.

Happily, I get glimpses of what good stewardship looks like when I see those who choose to garden, those who live less wastefully, and those who care for the land and the animals in ethical ways. In particular, just now, I am thinking of farmer Joel Salatin. In the podcast episode "The marvelous pigness of pigs," he talks about our God-given responsibility to care for the land and animals. His ethics inform his farming practices. How do mine shape how I live and the earth I live on? Something to ponder today and in the days to come.

 

 

 

 

Sustainability is no joke

  April Fool's Day is a great day to talk about the word "sustainable." I see it everywhere I turn these days; it's laughable. I fully expect the gas station tomorrow to have a sign up saying "Fill up here: sustainable gas from organic oil wells!" It has been overused to the point where it's unclear what it's even referring to anymore. (This is ironic since the definition includes "allowing for continual reuse.")

But sustainability is no joke. The idea is to live in such a way that you can keep at it. To treat this earth in such a way that it can last a long time. To care for your belongings in such a way that you get the most out of them. In effect, to tread lightly so that you can keep treading.

I interviewed farmer Jesse Straight from Whiffletree Farm (in Warrenton Virginia) about his take on the term. I loved his answer!

“Sustainable farming is beneficial to all of the parties involved. It’s beneficial to the animals’ health, the land’s health, the eaters’ health. It’s beneficial to the farmer in terms of giving them a noble and sustainable way to live and to support their family and it’s beneficial to the community.”

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I don't have a farm but Jesse inspired me with his response. (To be further inspired, listen to his podcast interview: Straight talk from a farmer.)

I want to live sustainably, according to his definition, don't you? I want to live so as to benefit everyone around me (including me)! I want to be ready for continual re-use! How can I be an asset at home, at work, at church, in the neighborhood, the city, and the world? It's a big list, a tall order. The only way to be of any use, anywhere, is to find balance in my own life first. A hectic pace, a frantic lifestyle will lead to my being worn out and unable to live a life in the plus column, that much I know.

So like a runner in a marathon, I try to pace myself so that I can best meet the day's demands. I eat well and exercise often. I pray, sing, and connect frequently with friends and family. I keep my house clean (more or less) and make decent meals for us and our guests. These activities keep me afloat and are generally a part of what sustains me. But there are other areas of my life that threaten to drag me down and wear me out. I tend to work at a rather constant pace, so I have to discipline myself to turn off the computer an hour before bed. I struggle to hit the hay before the clock strikes midnight. And I know I need more time outside to get refreshed and re-energized.

My short-term sustainability goals almost certainly looks different than Jesse's (and probably yours) but our long-term goal is the same. We want to be well, balancing our work and play, rest and service, so that we can benefit the lives we touch. Instead of being labeled "good for nothing," we are all aiming to be good for something!

What does a sustainable life look like for you? And what do you need to work on, to get there?