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Nature and Progress

Several years ago, Kathy and I drove through the Crowsnest Pass to Spokane. I stopped at an overlook in Brocket. The Pikani Nation (Aapátohsipikáni, Piikáni, and Pekuni) people live there. The sight was awe-inspiring with a contrast between Nature and a wind power farm designed with precision suggesting humans control the environment. How different this idea is from farming in tradtional ways. Nature humbles me when I pause to understand and be grateful for my place and role in it, not as an outsider colonizing and domesticating.

Progress creates an illusion we control Nature. It humbles me when it reminds me that is not a true picture. It is humbling when I pause to understand what a small place I hold in its complete picture, a picture too large to be fully grasped by individuals and collectives.

It is times such as these, not limited to the pandemic, Nature holds the upper hand. It is a Creator, which can be understood in religious terms and in spiritual terms.

Acting as backdrop;

Mountains, sky, clouds,

Providing depth and breadth,

Contrasting our progress.

Human products,

Made by mortal hands,

Marching winged machines,

Small, almost indistinct on this canvas.

Without pattern, yet poetic

River meandering a perfect line,

Finding its way,

Unseen hands guiding,

Winding its way home.

Brocket 1

“Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. One thing we know: our god is also your god. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.” Chief Seattle


About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

23 responses »

  1. Pingback: Nature and Progress — Teacher as Transformer | THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON...

  2. “Progress creates an illusion we control Nature.”..
    Truly it does. Because nature does what it wants, when it wants.
    We are mostly delusional as far as that goes. I really love that quote by Chief Seattle. It says it all. Again, a very thoughtful post. Thank you!


    • Pat, I thought, after I posted, we define progress based on our own individual understanding and by a dominant understanding. What we consider progress is not progress for all. In fact, it is often progress for very few. We mistake the predatory economic practices for capitalism. Adam Smith, often blamed for being the father of capitalism, was a moral philosopher who believed we should care and take care of one another. Much of what we espouse comes out Ayn Rand and others.

  3. Obviously great poetry, deep and everything in between and outside.
    But for a small time I lived in Seattle, next to Spokane.
    Apart from reading, and learning from your poetry you brought back very nice memories.
    Thank you

    • I am glad to do that Charly. It is a beautiful part of the world. I have not driven between Seattle and Spokane, but understand it is breathtaking in more ways than one.

      • Me neither, someone drove me and it was long time ago but I do remember little snipets of the country side. Plus then I wanted to go to Canada, not that far so might as well push it. Never got into Canada though, anyways appreciate you taking the time to respond.

  4. How far we have strayed from Chief Seattle’s message. I am hoping more are listening and awakening to the fact that we cannot exist apart from Nature. We are for sure “not as … outsider(s) colonizing and domesticating.” As long as this viewpoint exists, humans are reinforcing their own extinction. Let’s evolve instead. 🙏🌎

  5. Chief Seattle and chiefs of many tribes frequently spoke of the role of nature in their lives. Close your eyes and picture them weaving their way across the land and respecting it as they went. Their chiefs were full of wisdom. I’ve always had a secret desire to sit and listen to an Indian Chief for an evening at least.

    • They certaintly did Bev. When we are closer to the land and depend on it, it makes a difference. Many small farmers, as opposed to industrial farming, are great stewards. Both sides of our families have deep roots in agriculture on a family scale. I have had the opportunity to sit and listen to several indigenous elders. I walk away with more questions.

  6. I look at nature more closely now. Perhaps I have grown wiser with age or simply have become more aware and grateful that I can look at the view in stillness. I love these lines from the quote in your post: “Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it.” This is so true. The weave is stronger when the strand holds its place. Thanks again. Stay safe.

  7. I love the land and trip through to Spokane … it’s lovely to read your narrative as well… smiles Hedy ☺️

  8. ‘the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth’…This line is so true. People really think this way, buy every inch of land as if it is their property.


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