Review: Future Ecologies and Traditional Knowledge

By Caroline Griffith

The environmental movement is seeking to right the wrongs of industrial capitalism using the best available science, but what about traditional ecological knowledge? The podcast “Future Ecologies” wants us to envision how following the lead of Indigenous land stewards can bring us back into balance and right the wrongs of our forebears, both ecologically and socially.

“Once you start to examine how our ecosystems have changed, how they have changed over time, where they are now and what trajectory they might take in the future depending on what we do, perhaps the single most important thing to realize is that none of this is possible to understand without understanding the role that indigenous people have played in shaping these ecosystems; something that Western science has only recently woken up to. And the thing is, their track record is a lot better than the settlers that came afterwards.” This is how episode 1 “This is Where It Begins” starts, before setting off to tell the story of the unprecedented decision to return Duluwat Island to the Wiyot Tribe and the return of ancestral lands to the Amah Mutsun tribe of the Monterey Bay region, and how these simple, forward thinking acts could be the key to changing the trajectory of our extractive culture. 

Future Ecologies (which can be found at bills itself as an exploration of the future of human habitation on planet earth through ecology, design and science. In order to explore that future, we need to look at the harsh truths of the past without getting stuck there and, most importantly, envision the path to the future we want to live in. For this episode, the hosts of Future Ecologies, Adam Huggins and Mendel Skulski, interview Wiyot Tribal Chairman Ted Hernandez and Valentin Lopez, Chair of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, about the visionary paths the tribes followed to regain stewardship of their lands. 

Both the lands that were returned to the Wiyot and Amah Mutsun were damaged by the industrial and military uses that the settlers had subjected them to. The tribes inherited that industrial damage and have set out to heal the land and restore balance. Through collaboration between the tribes, government agencies, nonprofits and the community, these lands can once again support life. 

“Once people stopped being adversarial towards each other and (started) looking at solving the problem, that’s when it happened,” said Michelle Vassel of the Wiyot Tribe of the process. People wanted to heal, added Chairman Hernandez, and what better place to start that healing than here, on this sacred site. 

Future Ecologies explores the ways that our attitudes toward nature shape every aspect of who we are. In addition to monthly episodes, Future Ecologies also offers a podcast miniseries called The Scales of Change: The Dragons of Climate Inaction, a detailed phylogeny of the beasts inside of us that prevent us from acting to fight climate change.