QUESTION | With earth …

Posted on 11/08/2009


I’m reading a piece in Utne Reader by Eric Utne who has been visiting the Hadza tribe in Tanzania. Utne makes comments about the financial crisis and its impact on our sense of endurance. He observes “Still, many friends remain convinced that the financial turmoil is far from over, prologue to a cataclysmic economic and environmental meltdown. They’re storing food, buying guns, and otherwise trying to prepare for total systems collapse.” Then he asks, “Their actions beg the question: How on earth are we going to survive?

In this respectful account of life with the Hadza, which includes both wonder and reflexivity, he further considers that human survival is contingent on learning from first peoples and learning new ways of thinking. However, this account is not a romantic or idealised anthropological overview of an ancient people, but rather an account of people merging and negotiating traditional and contemporary knowledges and culture. These are people who live, learn, adapt, innovate and change. It’s the kind of resilience that is much sought in western communities enslaved by rationalist economies.

Describing the Hadza as “down to earth”, I began to wonder about how we construct an imaginary of earth. How it is figured in our language and our telling of ourselves and our society. Does this figuration confer a poesis of the earth; one from which we (collectively, individually) can meaningfully (re)develop practice and purpose? I love the idea of developing a new story and a new imaginary of Earth, as a way of coming to understand, in its complexity and multiplicity, our need for change? So perhaps the question that Utne – along with the rest of us – could be asking in the face of some dire circumstances is “how, with earth, are we going to live?” This means we need to start telling other stories about how we live.

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