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BY KATHRYN BERG

August 9, 2019


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At the Native American Seed Sanctuary in the Hudson Valley
The United Nations warns that climate change is threatening the world’s ability to feed itself, compounding an already growing food and water crisis - via the New York Times.
But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. - Job 12: 7-8
A new United Nations report, prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), consisting of 100 experts from 52 countries, warns that that the world’s land and water resources are being exploited at an “unprecedented rate,” which, coupled with climate change, imperils humanity’s ability to feed itself. Already, more than ten percent of the world’s population is undernourished, a number that will only grow as floods, drought, and extreme weather cause more soil loss and land degradation, which will further disrupt the food supply. Experts expect the shortage to take place across multiple continents and to greatly increase migration pressure, as people are forced to migrate to find food. Already, the increase in migration from Central America has coincided with a dry period and food shortage, which many scientists relate to climate change.
 
The report suggested that there is still time to respond and outlined pathways for hope, involving institutional changes in land and agriculture use and major shifts in consumer behavior, but barring action on a sweeping scale, a global food crisis is looming. Noting that at least one-quarter of food worldwide is wasted, the report called for reducing waste and for people shifting their diets away from meat consumption. Finally, the report suggested that policymakers look to indigenous people and their knowledge of land stewardship for guidance. Overall, the report said that the longer we wait to address climate change, the harder it will be to prevent a global crisis.

The IPCC report is a reminder of how interrelated everything is and that the choices we make have global consequences. I was particularly struck by the irony and enlightenment of the report’s suggestion that we look to indigenous people for guidance - ironic, as centuries of spurning the guidance of indigenous people has put us in this mess, and enlightened, as indigenous people offer the most knowledge and wisdom of how to heal the earth. The Honorable Harvest is an indigenous practice between people and the earth, involving reciprocity and gratitude. Even if your only harvest is metaphorical, it’s a good guideline.
Reduce your personal waste and your consumption of meat. As a spiritual practice, turn from the ways of conspicuous consumption to the ways of the honorable harvest.  
Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.

Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.

Never take the first. Never take the last. Take only what you need.

Take only that which is given.

Never take more than half. Leave some for others. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.

Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share.

Give thanks for what you have been given.

Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.

Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever


Guidelines for an Honorable Harvest, from Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
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