2016/07/27 10:35 Panel on “Multi-Cultural Worldviews on Sustainability”, ISSS 2016 Boulder

Plenary @ISSSMeeting panel @rudymiick Nancy Maryboy Jamal Martin Greg Cajete Bruce Milne, plenary #isss2016USA, 60th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences and 1st Policy Congress of ISSS, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Day 3 theme:  Cultural, Ethical, and Economic Wisdom

Plenary VI: Multi-Cultural Worldviews on Sustainability

  • Description: Ancient and native cultures have a direct experiential knowledge of whole systems and what is a sustainable natural balance. What are the lessons and how do we incorporate them into modern science, leadership, and society?

Chairs: Vijay Gupta, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder and Dominique Surel, Energy Medicine University

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.


Panel Vijay Gupta, Bruce Milne, Greg Cajete, Nancy Maraboy, David Begay

[Vijay as moderator]


  • Collaborative research, across disciplines
  • Broadening the scientific framework, to bring ancient wisdom into the western min


Four resources

  • David Suzuki, “Force of Nature” (shown on Sunday) (at David Suzuki Foundation)
  • First Peoples Worldwide:  “The indigenous world view versus the Western worldview” (on Youtube)
  • 2016 August conference in Bangalore “Is Science Able to Explain the Scientist?
  • Opinion letter, Gupta, Gupta and Saldarriga, July 8, 2016, Ancient Science, “Conscious World View Transforming …”

Four trigger questions for panelists

1. What was David Suzuki’s Legacy message?

[Bruce Milne, U. New Mexico]

Grew up in central New York, moved to New Mexico.

Review of Suzuki’s life:  Japanese internment

  • Labelling

Engaging in nature, connection

Knows the world is in crisis, but turns to positivity in humanity, we can consciously move in that direction

[Rudy Miick, 5 generations Colorado, raised in Hawaii (as a big white guy in a minority), owned companies focused on organizational change, growth, leadership development, working from definitive values as verbs, holding the eye and the wheel]

[Greg Cajete, Santa Clara, California; live all of life a U. of New Mexico]

David Suzuki is a premiere ecological philosopher

  • Influenced modern thinking towards sustainability and indigenous view

Began as field biologist, practising artist

[Nancy Maraboy:  Live in San Juan Islands, president of Indigenous Education institute, Ph.D. in indigenous science; part-time in physics and astronomy; Navajo and Cherokee; funding by NSF and NASA]

[David Begay, from Navajo Nation, retired and then recruited by U. New Mexico Department of Pharmacy, Northern Arizona U.; raised by elders, English is second language]

David Suzuki tells us a lot

  • Live in harmony
  • Ask the right questions
  • Japanese persecution, similar to Native American experience of removal to reservations
  • Navajo language as secret code in WWII

[Dominique:  teach organiztional development, internationally, under human potential]

David Suzuki has a poetic way of communicating

  • Modern paradigm as lost common sense:  living away from the world
  • We’re all human beings

[Nancy Maraboy]

Suzuki: We have exhausted the limits of the biosphere

  • Working with tribes
  • How can you speak with the Western way of knowledge
  • Juxtapositions, native people interested, as have Western education slapped on top of them
  • For non-native, got angry reactions
  • Now working to transform the world, making allies in the non-indigenous world
  • Some interplay with the western way of the world

Suzuki wove life with Haida people

  • Family now closely related
  • Saw a way of living, and answers to bigger problems in the world
  • Similar to experience by David Bohm:  have been writing in the quantum realm, now in with people who live it
  • Describing the Navajo way of knowing in dissertation, male and female make a whole
  • Best language came from systems thinking:  two ways coming together

Have Irish, 5th generation Colorado, hidden

  • Honeycomb Rock cave dweller, ancestors were living on the San Juan River, as now

[Rudy Miick]

Holding the both-and, rather than the either-or

  • If the value is community, how for all

Rather than working only in the world of ideation, best to hold both quantum and Newtonian physics

2.  What is the indigenous / ancient worldview in contrast to the modern scientific and industrial worldview?

[Bruce Milne]

Western approach to science

  • Scientific culture is cartoon of western society
  • Lots of collaboration, but we live in a society of punishment and reward
  • Grad people read other people’s scientific papers, and look for flaws, rather than saying that they’re great
  • Not accepting of benefits

Hubris:  want to keep funding from NIH, but need a holistic approach

  • Scientific Darwinian
  • Create an excess of Ph.D.s, more than have jobs
  • Select “winners” of grant awards:  review 120 proposals (e.g. sustainable agriculture), say we’ll give money to 10; some survive, and 1/3 are fully qualified, having a lottery.
  • Model is toxic.
  • Some scientists ignore that, e.g. Lovelock, Gaia Hypothesis

[Rudy Miick]

So, how do we change the game?

Work in gestalt

  • Education in growth as the ultimate goal

Went to Hawaii, had people going to bank in suit and barefoot

  • In school, had to wear shoes
  • In a fight every day in middle school, because was a haole

Aloha usually means hello, goodbye, love

  • Aloha means one with breath
  • One without breath:  Cook

Graduated from high school as a consummate racists

  • Went to Birmingham Alabama, etc. where bathrooms had segregation signs
  • Now was in power, didn’t know what to do, could hide.

Indigenous and West:  how to we collaborate?

  • Instead of being evangelical, how do we witness?
  • Have had company for 37 years, what used to be craziness, started winning awards as visionaries.
  • Nothing has changed
  • Saw value of I and me.
  • In restaurant business, how do we choose fish, even if the public is not educated, not purchasing that product even though we can sell it.
  • Much of solution

Medium profit in restaurants is 3%, argue about minimum wage

  • With open books, average profit is 17%, and everybody wins

[David Begay]

Apples and oranges

  • In business world, everything works together
  • In indigenous mind, nothing is independent

What you see here is not determined by numbers; what you see here is the whole universe acting.

Cancer, in the environment

  • If the air gets sick, you will get sick.
  • If the water gets sick, you will get sick.
  • If the land gets sick, you will get sick.

Scientific method, inquiry is a tool

  • Subject-object
  • Water, in the native world, you’re connected

Have to go higher, to another level of intellectual knowledge.

Language, as lived.

[Nancy Maraboy]

Already making change, just by this panel

  • Wouldn’t have been at the table 25 years ago

Interrelationships (Suzuki interdependencies)

  • Everything is connected
  • Air breathing was breathed 10,000 years ago
  • Finite amount of water, air

On San Juan Island, Salish Sea, elder says the sea is almost dead

  • Things going extinct
  • Indigenous way has promise


  • Discussed with NASA
  • They never thought about putting ashes on the moon as offensive to indigenous

See the world as moving, the process

  • Everything is in motion, everything is a verb

A paradox isn’t a polarity, can hold both ends in mind

  • Could be valuable for a new world order

[Greg Cajete]

Learning as breathing in

Education as the medium is the message

Engaging the curriculum, bringing in other ways of the world

Most university level teaching has been outmoded for decades

  • Educators haven’t kept up with natural learning

Talk with science teachers about significant changes to be made

  • Should not be so exclusive
  • Based on western world view, but the creative process of science has an exclusivity

Discuss questions 3 and 4 together

  • 3.  How does science need to change to “Realize Sustainable Futures”
  • 4.  How do we incorporate ancient and indigenous wisdom into the currently exploding new field of “sustinability science”

[David Begay]

People need to change science

  • Science has already given us enough information
  • Some denial, we have enough information to change

Indigenous wisdom is a human wisdom

  • Put wisdom into science?

When Native Americans go to Australia and to New Zealand, indigenous people give different answers.

Wisdom comes from nature teaching.

[Nancy Maraboy]

Balance:  how you employ the idea of things in balance

  • Nature has balance

[Greg Cajete]

Creative thinking of self

  • Institutions are imploding
  • Difficult to be creative

A lot we can do now

  • Sustainability for the greatest output of life

[Rudy Miick]

  • How to hold both haole and aloha.

[Bruce Milne}

Recover a sense of being indigenous

  • Don’t want to copy others
  • Genes go back to Caucasius, nomads
  • Built a yurt from scratch, foodshednomad.com

Took yurt out, 50mph winds then needed whole family


Foundation myths. Washington in the French-Indian Wars.

  • [Greg Cajete] Many ways to tell history.
  • Storytelling, only one story allowed
  • More perspective
  • Need for broader education of children
  • [Nancy Maraboy] The victors write the history.
  • Massacre in canyon, not the one written up, because American were doing the killing (and in the southwest it was the Spanish)
  • Universities going with multiple perspectives
  • Positive to have different lenses in the world
  • Richer, more accurate history

Hard sciences are quantiative.  Kind of science?

Born and raised in Rust Belt. Post-industrial, aftermath of industry, people searching for identity.  Indigenous consciousness, identity of people and place.  What does a multi-ethnic conversation mean?  Rediscovering identity?  Becoming indigenous.  Gaining sense of deep history, and entering into the conversation, what does it look like?

  • [Rudy Miick] Just have the conversation. How do I become one with?

Indigenous people living in balance, we live in scarcity.  Can we move from scarcity to abundance without becoming sustainable first?

  • [Greg Cajete] Agree, global transformation
  • Most institutions don’t teach about global transformations
  • So how to raise movement?
  • Always an education issue, and how to teach for this.
  • An ideal we’re reaching for, what it means to be sustainable.
  • It’s an education issue, on what we’re transforming
  • [Bruce Milne] Not contingent.  Don’t have to wait for abundance.
  • Just adopt the frame of abundance and take it into class.  The students don’t have a framework for living in the abundant frame.
  • [Nancy Maraboy] Education.
  • Optimistic for the youth today.
  • Teacher education has changed.
  • Was teaching under birch trees, in the Red Fish School of Change.  Not one native student.  Talked for an hour about what makes change.
  • [David Begay] Raised differently, not western Cartesian.  Had to switch to scientific thinking.
  • Brian Josephson wanted to come for dialogue, 2 days.  Brought a rock.  Deep knowledge.

In high school with 85 different languages in Los Angeles, some students felt inferior to native English speakers, others felt superior.  First, teach themselves to love your native language first.

Whorf found structure of Hopi language better for physics.  Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead worked in the Pacific.  Contributions of Somoans.

Mixed blood, mixed cultures.


#isss, #isss2016