Q3 2020: Aligning Forces and the Forces that Divide

Sustainable Thoughts by Demarus Tevuk
In Sight by Pah-tu Pitt G, with collaboration from Sean Gallagher (Native Kut)

Sustainable Seattle – S2 has undergone significant changes during Q3 – we have a new part-time staff member and several new members of our 

Board of Directors . These new voices to S2 are part of Em Piro’s vision as S2 Executive Director to center our mission of supporting and aligning with frontline and BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Color) communities. Both frontline and BIPOC communities are at greatest risk of harm to health disparities due to climate change and environmental injustice. These communities are experts in authentic and true solutions to the historical and continuing inequities that are present in our systemically oppressive infrastructures.

As an indigenous woman, I view humans as social creatures with altruism as driving to bring us together to shelter, care for, and feed each other. I believe that the forces that align us with sustainability (an ancient problem that all human groups faced) are rooted in ecology – the COVID-19 pandemic and wildfires are natural responses to an imbalanced system. It may sound strange to view these natural forces as aligning us with sustainability since they are currently causing so much destruction and heartache, but if we do not see them as bringing us together then we miss the lessons they offer. Natural disasters should bring us together and they should encourage us to build equitable systems that are prepared for future crises.
We also spent time over the past quarter reflecting on the forces that interfere with our alignment – the forces that divide. Time and again we see that the forces that divide us are all human created, rooted in a colonial history that benefits the few while oppressing many. These dividing forces have become daily topics of discussion and cries for action in the streets: systemic racism, police corruption, toxic masculinity, white fragility, and extractive capitalism. In no way is this an exhaustive list but they are examples of dividing forces that are arbitrary – they have no grounding in the natural world and we are choosing to live in a system (and for many of us, we are forced to live in this unfair system) that leaves humanity devalued and loved one’s lives lost. These dividing forces are causing harm and they unjustly increase the economic earning gap. I do not agree with the narrative that tries to justify these dividing forces by claiming that they are natural and human systems that are built on greed are destined to fail.
In my work on defining sustainability I have noticed a pattern of thought that I call the cynical worldview. In the cynical worldview, humans are viewed as outside of nature and nature would be better off without humanity’s existence. Therefore, all of our actions in the natural world are inherently bad and with no room for improvement the cynical view gives us no sense of responsibility for our actions. A cynical worldview results in a self-fulfilling prophecy of bad behavior or negative actions in the natural world and it is related to apathy, selfishness, and the focus on individualism.
I challenge us to notice the cynical worldview and to question if it has any merit or evidence of truth. My goal in my work with S2 is to offer hope to our communities because human beings are part of nature and we have a vital role to play. We have an important choice to face together. Do we double down and turn a blind eye to human-created systems of oppression or do we return to what is actually human nature, which is taking care of each other?

Demarus Tevuk

Demarus Tevuk is a researcher, writer, and educator with a strong background in traditional ecological knowledge, native pollinators, native plants, science, and engineering. Demarus is an Inupiaq from Nome, Alaska and her childhood with indigenous communities across North America greatly influenced her research on the definition of sustainability from the indigenous perspective. Demarus earned her degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Washington and she has a certificate in Permaculture Design. She produced case studies on climate change projects led by tribes that were funded by EPA Region 10 grants. Demarus loves to pick berries and gather traditional food and she is an avid fiber artist and loves to sew, spin yarn, weave, knit, and design knitwear.

 

The Tahoma series are about the mountain’s (known as Rainer by many) experience as a witness to increasing temperatures and catastrophic fires. The mountains breathe through the forests, glaciers, and streams. Through these experiences Tahoma continues to support life, hold clouds, and promote a shift to sustainability. Moisture and fire are important elements centered by many Native management practices with implications for the dynamism and values needed for sustainable futures.

Tahoma 1 is a mixed media collab with Sean Gallagher (Inupiat) also of Native Kut. Blockprint and Acrylic.
Tahoma 2 is mixed media with water colors.
Cedar Rose Risingis about creating vibrant connections. Through reciprocity, we have the power to learn and lift each other up, while creating a legacy rooted in place and respect for first peoples.

 

All of the Tahoma series are available as poster and postcard prints in the Community Market. Proceeds benefit the artist, Pah-tu Pitt G, and S2 community programs.

 

Pah-tu Pitt G. (Warm Springs/Wasco)

she/her/they/them, currently works on advocacy for indigenous climate change resiliency, sustainable economic development, and grassroots organizing at regional and local levels in the Pacific Northwest and Seattle with an interest in solidarity with other BIPOC(Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and LGBTQ+ communities. She became the first female in her tribe to obtain a professional degree in the environmental sector and holds a degree in Environmental Science from Portland State University and a Master of Environmental Studies from Evergreen State. As a Native Kut business owner, she practices art, consulting, and runs a vacation/business rental that is Native art themed. Her work draws on the desire to re-center feminine leadership and to bring visibility to the experiences of historically impacted communities. Her preferred mediums include carving, printing, watercolor, mixed media and film. Creating is a way she connects to her ancestors and feels the strong connection between art and science.

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