OK, I never thought I’d be one for the social networking thing, but here goes anyway. I’m intending this as part business card; part record of my projects, like trying to live out of the garden and allotment, or retrofitting the house we live in; and part brain dump.
Indigenous – (ĭn-dĭj’ə-nəs)adj.Originating and living or occurring naturally in an area or environment.
The concept of being ‘indigenous’ is in part a deeply archaic one, a hang up from early naturalism and anthropology when western science was only just getting to grips with the idea that the world was actually different in different places, let alone understanding the processes of movement and change that are always present. Today we have a much more detailed picture of the history of how plants, animals and humans have moved across the landscape and how the planet itself has shifted (Jared Diamond’s books Collapse and Guns Germs and Steel are awesome summaries of this stuff), and the idea that any particular person, plant or animal is ‘originally’ from any particular part of the world seems pretty simplistic; but all the same the question of what does it mean to be ‘indigenous’ to a place still offers a pretty interesting window on the world for me.
I’m a lot less interested in reproducing the lifestyles of indigenous peoples – I know we’ve got plenty to learn from different cultures across the world, but there’s a lot of cherry picking the cool stuff from these cultures and ignoring the harder stuff . But there are a few common features to indigenous communities of people that might offer a few clues in answering my central question – what would it mean to be indigenous to the UK?
I’m going to leave aside the stuff about how long someone has lived in a particular place, because its clear that humans move, they always have and they always will, and the anthropology and sociology that didn’t recognise that just had faulty baseline data. But the other features that crop up time and again are: that people live in active communities defined by custom and tradition over generations; that there is spiritual or religious dimension to their knowledge of the world, often extending into the landscape and the relationships that define their society and economy; that that there is a close, integrated relationship with the ecosystem that they live in.
It seems to me that this offers some pretty interesting guidance in our latest mission to work out how to survive in the face of climate change and peak oil. For other takes on indigenous living in the UK, check out Alastair McIntosh’s book Soil and Soul, or anything by Roger Deakin. There’s plenty of other good questions too but here goes an experiment in living and occurring naturally in my area and environment.