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The Wisdom of the Forest

“The forest can live without man, but man cannot live without the forest.”

These are the simple words that Goyo, our guide, shared with us as we practiced “treading lightly” through the soft banks of Eqitiu, and ancient Guatemalan forest. There was a heavy silence that blanketed us, like the misting fog that drifted in through the netted branches. The silence carried the weight of history. A history of extractivism. The remnants of the violence this land has endured, as foreign countries have torn everything away from it, everything but its soul.

“What can you learn from nature?” He asked us, “What can you learn from this forest?”

Diversidad. Nature does not allow one species, of any kind, to become dominant and take over. Nature always maintains balance. It seems to me that humankind has and continues to violate this law of equivalence. Through the depletion of our planet’s natural resources, and the social and economic inequality within our communities, it is evident that we have chosen to deter from nature’s pathways and we’ll suffer for it. Madre Tierra only has so much to give.

Eficiencia. Nature is self sustaining, so that it can be more productive. Nature does not overproduce, it only consumes what it absolutely needs, and it develops avenues to reuse. As a result, nature creates no waste. Life in a forest is circular. Humans again have broken nature’s laws. Our system of production is linear. The Western world creates in order to consume and throw away all for the sake of profit. This system is not efficient, it is wasteful and unsustainable.

Success. Nature itself never fails. It only falters when its’ wise methods are ignored and tempered with by mankind. And if it should make a mistake, there are plans of contingency to solve the problem. I often wonder if, as a species, we do not rise above our flaws and right our wrongs, how nature will, as she does with all things she creates, correct her mistake in us. As Goyo said, “The forest can live without man, but man cannot live without the forest.”

I invite you, as I have these past few days and will continue to do, to contemplate the question Goyo asked us.

“What can you learn from nature?”

And a question of my own,

“How can we, as a society, do better?”