“All of our values are expressed through Nature, and then Nature teaches us how to behave.”
— Herb Nabigon, Anishinaabe healer & author of The Hollow Tree
“If the eye were not sun-like, how could we ever see light? And if God’s power did not dwell within us, how could we delight in things divine.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Preface to his Scientific Studies
The Goethe-Institut Toronto has invited Prof. Tim Leduc, associate professor in land-based social work at Wilfrid Laurier University, and elder Gae Ho Hwako Norma Jacobs to open their new Goethe Air Space in downtown Toronto. Designed along biophilic concepts to facilitate explorations between the natural, cultural and digital realms we inhabit, the Goethe-Institut’s new green plant wall will guide this workshop series into reflections on the interrelation between cultures, trees, climate and an ethic of care. An exchange with respondents from Germany will connect insights from Canada and Europe.
This three-part conversation ‘Cultures, Climate & Care’ is concerned with the interwoven pattern between the quality of how we live and how the world responds to us. While the opening quotes by Nabigon and Goethe point to the potential of culturally fostering mutually beneficial relations with nature, we are experiencing the destructive potential of uprooted ways of living. In Europe, record wildfires and floods have raged, while in Germany a coalition of activists protects the Hambach Forest and confronts climate injustice. On Turtle Island (North America), forest fires brought a smoggy haze to large swaths of the continent, while Indigenous Land Back and anti-pipeline protests call for resistance and renewal. Arising with these calls has been an awareness of how systemic racial injustices haunt us with ongoing colonial abuses against Indigenous and Black peoples, women of colour, their children and the Earth.
Session 1: Culture
March 8 @ 12 noon EST
Our first session looks at cultural ways of activating our knowledge and practices of care through the natural relations around us. After a rendition of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address by Norma Jacobs (virtually), Tim Leduc will, against the backdrop of the Goethe Air Space’s green wall, reflect on connections between her teachings, her culture’s Tree of Peace and the European Tree of Life, the oak in German culture. Most poignant for this talk will be Goethe’s approach to “active seeing” of plant relations and the plant spirit that he termed Urpflanze. With Tim Leduc and Norma Jacobs.
Session 2: Climate
March 22 @ 12 noon EST
Looking at all the fallen white pines and oaks that crisscross Toronto’s ravines, it is clear that we live in a time of more extreme weather events; expanding losses in biological life that is the planet’s sixth mass extinction event; quickening uncertainty for Indigenous peoples in a melting north; and conflicts over energy extraction and consumption highlighted by pipeline protests across Turtle Island (North America). Session 2 considers the cultural responses to our climate of change. With Tim Leduc and Stefan Soldovieri.
Session 3: Care
April 5 @ 12 noon EST
The sense of medicine(s) is innate in every being when they are connected to their source, and people can draw upon healing medicines like those found in plants through fostering good relations with nature. There is medicine in the German oak and the Haudenosaunee onerahtase’ko:wa (white pine).
We can learn much from the trees and nature around us, as Anishinaabe healer Herb Nabigon explains in his book The Hollow Tree: “My culture embraces universal values [e.g., Peace, Kindness, Sharing, Respect] that are treasured by all … major cultures and religions. However, the traditional Native culture expresses these values in a unique way. All of our values are expressed through Nature, and then Nature teaches us how to behave.” The significant challenge today is to renew our diverse cultural medicines in the midst of a turbulent climate, and we will reflect on the value of re-learning to root our ways of living and caring in our land. With Tim Leduc, Kerstin Ensinger, Norma Jacobs.