The above is an "acknowledgement of country" given at my youngest sons' "Rhyme Time" sessions at the local Library. From an early age, Australian children are now learning to acknowledge and appreciate the land on which they live, and those who have been the custodians of it, over time.This is the land. This is the sky.
Here are my friends, and here am I.
We give thanks to the people of the Kulin nation, the traditional custodians of the land on which we gather, learn and play today.
There are more adult-centric "acknowledgements of country", but this example is more specifically targeted on this "connection to country".
This theme of "connection to country" comes though also in Aboriginal practices like Wayapa, which comes in two forms - one a meditation, the other a form of yoga - which acknowledge and pay respect to the 14 Fundamental Elements (PDF). (See also: Wayapa Practice (PDF))
These practices help to cultivate and deepen connection to country.
I am not aboriginal myself, but I have always lived in the same state, in the same country. My parents are each born in this country. Their parents were each born in this country. Whilst somewhere back in the family tree, there are connections England, Ireland, Scotland, Prussia etc. I have never had a relative during my lifetime who was not both born, and living in Australia. I even have at least one distant relative who was a convict.
The places where I live, earn, and play, are all within a few kilometres of each other, and this particular area has been my home for seventeen years. As such, I feel a genuine "connection to country", and like the traditional custodians of old, I find a sense of ownership and responsibility for my engagement with that country. Feeling this responsibility and accountability, I am more inclined to do things that contribute to a healthy, sustainable environment.
You may wonder where I'm going with this. Basically, I want to challenge the prevailing maxim of environmental activism that says we should "Think global, act local", and instead, that it would be better if it was changed to "Think local, act local".
I have heard it said that the more abstract something is, the more difficult people find it to relate to on a personal level. For example, climate is an abstraction from the weather, climate change is a higher-order abstraction from climate. Greenhouse gases cannot be seen, and climate modelling requires complex computations, which themselves are models and abstractions, aiming to forecast abstractions as best they can.
On the other hand, if people are encouraged to "think local, act local" then their actions will be focused on positive, tangible, observable outcomes. They will feel a connection that they cannot feel to greenhouse gas emissions, when they know that their personal contribution is a minuscule fraction compared to that of say, China. Being able to discern cause and effect, and make a visible difference, individuals will be more likely to act as true custodians for their little corner of the world. Seeing their volitional voluntary actions actually make a difference, they will avoid feeling the frustration, anger, resentment and impotency that so often plague hardcore environmentalists who cannot, for all their arm waving, impose and force individuals, corporations and governments to enact the changes that they believe are required.
And then, after all that, if you do insist on taking it back to a global level, the sum of all those individual actions and contributions will, I believe, be more than if they did not "think local, act local".
Please share any related thoughts, experiences, and queries.