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VIVIAN DELGADO COLUMN: Environmental and ecological balance: Where is the justice?

Let us identify at least one example of each environmental balance and ecological balance. Environmental balance is the external conditions or surroundings in which humans, animals and plants live that tend to positively, influence its development and behavior. An example of ecological balance is a state of vigorous equilibrium within a community of organisms in which diverse ecosystems, genetics and species remain relatively stable and unharmed. Most changes in a balanced ecosystem occur through gradual change and natural order. When indigenous people speak of natural law, they are referring to natural order, as it is the highest form of any system that cannot be controlled unless by unnatural forces.

Vivian Delgado

Our forefathers and mothers lived in societies where balance was understood much differently than today. For example, our ancestors knew it was unnatural to dam or block water systems and pathways because they knew that the water had to go somewhere and was best utilized in its natural form. Today we see many natural disasters; they are only termed natural because they are produced by the elements of the earth when they in fact are not natural at all. Water that is not allowed to flow naturally will build up in the places that it does reach and then the water is not used in a distributed way that brings natural balance. Thus, we see a rise in lakes, and rivers that eventually reach and rise the levels of the ocean. These conditions are occurring more frequently by human-caused disturbances that disrupts the natural balance of an ecosystem.

Other natural law examples include the pyramids of Mexico in which the structures themselves were built to resist aftershocks from earthquakes. The oral tradition of our ancestors acknowledged the ongoing presence of earthquakes in Mexico and how they prepared for natural cataclysms. If one were to examine a pyramid, they would notice that the base is always larger than the rest of the structure that becomes gradually smaller as you go up. Our ancestors knew that the design of these structures were important in decreasing actual destruction from movement caused by earthquakes. Today we see overpopulation and developed cities that are built to accommodate more and more people and their drive for economic advancements without consideration of the natural environments and the consequences that arise when the balance is disrupted. By living closely in balance in the natural environments, our ancestors became very adept to understanding how best to become part of their environments and not apart or separate or unconnected to it. Thus survival was seen and treated very differently than we view it today.

As we begin to see global shortages in land, food and water, we also begin to question what are some of the causes of these environmental problems (list is not exhaustive). In many countries including the U.S. many people understand the consequences of overpopulation, water and land pollution, resources crisis, gender imbalance, urban sprawling, deforestation, over production, genetic engineering and waste. Here are some of our global issues according to the Inhabitat Newsletter, 2017. Below is the how and why our environments and ecosystems are affected:

  • Lack of education (16.5 percent)
  • Safety, security, and wellbeing (18.1 percent)
  • Government accountability and transparency, and corruption (21.7 percent)
  • Poverty (31.1 percent)
  • Religious conflicts (33.8 percent)
  • Large-scale conflict and wars (38.5 percent)
  • Climate change and destruction of natural resources (45.2 percent)

While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause, political will has not been strong enough so far to initiate a massive policy shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable forms of energy. Perhaps more extreme weather events such as droughts, wildfires, heat waves and flooding will convince the public to put more pressure on policymakers to act urgently to curb carbon emissions and address this issue before it is too late.

We can all do our part, simply beginning by becoming informed. Be part of your environment and appreciate the life it brings, your life and the boundless lessons we receive from its gifts. If we cannot stop the environmental destruction we see, we should at least attempt to slow it down.

Vivian Delgado is a professor of Native American studies at Bemidji State University.