How Humans Regenerate Earth

How can we transform our role from Earth's conquerors to its healers, reigniting the ancient wisdom that regenerate the Earth?

In the thought-provoking video “How Humans Regenerate Earth,” narrated by Dr. Lyla June, the narrative unfolds a compelling and alternative perspective on humanity’s relationship with the Earth. Dr. June challenges the prevailing notion of humans as inherently destructive by highlighting the millennia-long symbiosis between indigenous cultures and their environments. She eloquently illustrates how, through sophisticated land management practices rooted in deep ecological wisdom, native peoples have not only coexisted with nature but have actively contributed to its flourishing.
Dr. June shares enlightening examples of how indigenous techniques have turned barren deserts into lush gardens and maintained ecological balance. By leveraging the natural contours of the land, native farmers in the southwest deserts harness monsoon rains for alluvial farming, eliminating the need for artificial fertilizers and irrigation. Similarly, the deliberate use of fire by indigenous peoples to manage grasslands demonstrates a profound understanding of ecological dynamics, promoting the growth of beneficial plants and ensuring the health and expansion of buffalo populations.
Moreover, Dr. June explores the concept of nonhuman-centric systems, where the aim is not to exploit but to support all life forms. This is vividly depicted through the efforts of coastal nations in British Columbia, who enhance marine ecosystems by planting kelp forests, thus providing a haven for herring and, subsequently, nourishing a diverse range of species.
Dr. June’s narrative is a powerful reminder that humans have the potential to be regenerative forces on the planet. The video calls into question the misguided interpretations of lands managed by indigenous peoples as untouched wilderness, revealing them instead as intricate, living legacies of sustainable stewardship. “How Humans Regenerate Earth” not only celebrates the ingenious land management practices of indigenous cultures but also serves as an urgent call to rekindle humanity’s dormant potential to live in harmony with the Earth. By embracing these ancient wisdoms, Dr. June posits that we can heal our fractured relationship with the planet and step into our roles as its caretakers, ensuring its health and abundance for generations to come.

What if I told you that we belong here? What if I told you that the Earth needs us? What if I told you I’ve seen my people turn deserts into gardens. 

For tens of thousands of years, native people of this land constructed beautiful gardens all around them. We were active agents in shaping the land to produce prolific abundance. We expanded and designed grasslands and forests for the benefit of all life. We became what the world calls a keystone species, or a species upon which entire ecosystems depend. And our cultures became keystone cultures, refined over time. 

Now, much was made about the positive environmental effect of the pandemic. As more people stayed home, pollution levels dropped, animals began to reclaim habitat, and the logical leap that many observers seemed to make was that the Earth would be better off without humans. I reject that leap. The Earth may be better off without certain systems we have created. But we are not those systems. We don’t have to be at least. What if these human hands and mines could be such a great gift to the earth that they sparked new life wherever people and purpose met?

I’d like to share important indigenous land management techniques in hopes that they might inform and inspire us today. The first is to tap into and align ourselves with the forces of nature. Why try to control the earth when you can work with her? In southwest deserts, native farmers have leveraged the pre existing topography of the land. They placed their fields at the base of watersheds to catch every drop of the monsoon rains and the nutrients that flow down with them carried down from upland soils. This alluvial farming technique requires no outside fertilizers or irrigation because all of this comes with the rain. 

Another fascinating land management technique is intentional habitat expansion. Why put plants and animals into farms and cages when you can simply make a home for them and they come to you? Indigenous peoples have intentionally augmented grasslands for Buffalo. By bringing gentle fire to the Great Plains, we would transform dead plant tissues into nutrient dense ash, nourishing the soil and unlocking the seeds of pyro-adapted grasses and medicines like echinacea. Over time, this fire would prevent trees and shrubs from taking over the grasslands and would nourish the soil to generate top soils up to four feet deep. Many people think that we followed the buffalo when in fact the buffalo followed our fire. 

A third strategy is to create nonhuman-centric systems. Why hoard for your own species where you can live to serve all life around you? Coastal nations of British Columbia enhance fish habitat by planting kelp forests where the herring lay their eggs. This helps that small silver fish lay even more eggs, and both the eggs and the hatched herring fish cascade up the food chain, nourishing so many other life forms such as bear, salmon, orca, eagles, wolves and more. By seeding this food web and feeding all life around them, coastal nations have greater food security for themselves, because they feed the hand that feeds them. 

These are the types of food and land management systems that Europeans came across as they spread westward. They often mislabeled them as terra nullius, or virgin land, or wilderness, instead of what they really were: living heirlooms, thousands of years in the making. I would venture to say that these systems are even more efficient than industrial food systems because they protect and augment the very things that give us life, instead of extracting and destroying them. 

Sometimes I wonder what the world would look like if we applied these strategies to today – if we protected life, expanded life. I guarantee you if we did, we’d no longer see humans as a bane to the earth or something she’d be better off without. We’d see humans as a critical piece of the ecological puzzle. 

In addition to healing the soil, we must also heal our history. And we can do that together. So much of these continents were conquered and stolen from a people who often never wanted to fight in the first place. Countless native people were displaced from their homelands, their children put into boarding schools where our languages and cultures were prohibited and destroyed. This legacy will not be healed by simply appropriating and mimicking native knowledge. We must also work to restore at least some of the stolen places to Native people, who often live like refugees today, aching to return to their sacred homelands. 

When we understand that humanity is an expression of the Earth’s beauty, we understand that we too belong. When we become her friend, her confidant, her ally, her partner in life, instead of her dominator, her superior, or her profiteer, we can transform dead systems to living ones. And this does not involve isolating national parks and never touching a blade of grass. No, it involves rolling up our sleeves, living within her processes, becoming a part of the Earth’s system as we were born to be, and using these mines to protect and augment life on a holistic regional scale.

“Absolutely beautiful and uplifting. Thank you so much 🙏🙏🙏”

“The real wealth of the Southwest is the Native knowledge. Thank god they contain knowledge and we need it right now desperately. They have gained such respect over all these years of struggle. Incredible human beings. Keystone cultures worldwide, glue it all together.”

“Central America Indigenous also invented biochar, much better than ashes, to improve the soil.”

Gorgeous video again. Sustainable Human always puts together awesome videos. If you go to the Bible you can see people are created to tend to the Earth. To be its Gardeners and to look after the animals. As mankind we lost our way really 😢 my heart bleeds for how the Indigenous people were treated and are still treated today… its disgusting. Id rather have their way of life than the stupid all about money life it seems to be now”

“This is the story of native peoples everywhere, too, not just North America. ♥ I see so many parallels with Australia.”

“I’m just waiting for the call. You can count on me.”


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