2022 Abstracts Stage 2

A comparative analysis of sustainability, public consciousness, and tribal beliefs and practises throughout Australia

Charis Wassif, 2022, Stage 2

My project focused on sustainability, environmental consciousness, and responsibility; all thing’s most western societies don’t seem to have a grip on. I wanted to explore why some communities, specifically indigenous groups, seemed to be able to act much more respectfully towards the environment than most other populations. This was an important topic for me as the climate crisis is something my generation has grown up with. It has been something most of us hear about almost every day, and yet the society I live in values so many things above the environment, despite the amount we rely on it. The environment is a current and important topic at the moment, so not only is it something that I am passionate about, but there is also an abundance of resources and information, giving me a lot of perspectives, and elements to the debate to look at.
In my essay I looked at sustainability and environmental consciousness in the context of two different societies. The first being Aboriginal Australians, as the representation of a tribal mindset; the second being non-indigenous Australia, as the representation of a mindset, of a more industrial and economically developed society. Before I looked into these two ways of life in detail, I discussed some of the current theories and debates regarding the climate crisis and society’s reaction to it. The main thinkers and activists I considered were Peter Singer, John Broome, René Descartes, Núria Almiron, Marta Tafalla, and Greta Thunberg. This gave me a good impression of what has been said already, on topics similar to my own, a lot of which I heavily agreed with, such as Thunberg’s chapter, ‘We are not all in the same boat’. Agreeing also with Broome’s responses to those denying contributing to the climate crisis. I wanted to combine a lot of what these thinkers had been saying, I aspired to directly compare the differences in ecological thought and action of these two different realities and see what mindsets, if any, would be to blame for our lack of action and denialist behaviour.
I started by directly comparing the two ways of living in four very simple aspects of life: Diet, Clothing, Beliefs and Practices. This allowed me to see, quite linearly, the differences between the two, both in environmental impact and also in views regarding nature. I unsurprisingly found that due to the Australian Aboriginals habits such as only eating locally sourced food, making their own clothes without excess, their environmental impact is almost none. They work within the “circle of life” acting as an element in the food chain rather than as a disruption to it. This way of life brings to light how out of touch and excessive most of us living in “developed” civilizations are. With eating packaged, intensively farmed meat every day, to shopping online and buying more clothes made in sweatshops across the globe. It became clear, that what allowed us to act like this is the values appreciated by the societies we live in, consumerism and individualism. This is completely different to that of the Australian Aboriginals; their whole lifestyle is rooted in their religious philosophical belief system, the “dreaming”, which has connected them to all other species and the land that surrounds them. This doesn’t force them to treat the land with respect, it motivates them to treat it with respect because they genuinely care and appreciate the nature that has helped them grow and survive. This is what I believe our more economically, industrialised societies are missing, a respect for nature imbedded in genuine ecological awareness and experience. My essay aimed solely to create and enforce a dialogue between the indigenous, and non-indigenous communities and bring light to an underappreciated, unutilized perspective.

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