Review by Morgan O’Neal
In The Earth’s Blanket: Traditional Teachings for Sustainable Living, Turner presents an affectionate and lyrical portrait of aboriginal people who persist in resource-management practices that have been sadly overlooked. It is a “book of ideas”, as it claims, but it is also a book of stories and philosophy and an encounter with people, life ways, folklore, resource-use intelligence, and that overworked term wisdom. It’s all in aid of presenting aboriginal concepts of stewardship and sustainable resource management in case-study, anecdotal, and narrative form.with First Nations in the Pacific Northwest. In The Earth’s Blanket, she explores the wealth of ecological knowledge and the deep personal connection to the land and its history that is encoded in indigenous stories and lifeways, and asks what they can teach all of us about living in harmony with our surroundings.
Scholarly in its thinking but accessible in its writing, The Earth’s Blanket combines first-person research with insightful critiques of Western concepts of environmental management and scientific ecology to propose how systems of traditional ecological knowledge can be recognized and enhanced. It is an important book, a magnum opus with the power to transform our way of thinking about the Earth and our place within it.
Turner has worked with Native peoples in the Pacific Northwest for more than thirty-five years, and generations of her indigenous teachers have given her permission to share their stories and perspectives about the natural world. Their teachings describe a rich variety of methods of harvesting, transporting, processing, storing, maintaining, and enhancing natural resources such as trees, medicinal plants, berries, root vegetables, fish, meat, and shellfish. More than just stories, these narratives underlie a belief system that informs everyday attitudes toward the earth.
The Earth’s Blanket suggests how systems of traditional ecological knowledge can contribute to the modern world. It is an important book from a gifted and internationally respected scholar and teacher. It has the power to transform our way of thinking about the earth and our relationship with its ecosystems
Nancy J. Turner is Distinguished Professor in the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. She is also a Research Associate with the Royal British Columbia Museum and the author or co-author of more than 15 books and numerous other publications. She is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Linnaean Society of London, and recipient of the Richard Evans Schultes Award in Ethnobotany from the Healing Forest Conservancy in Washington, D.C., the Order of British Columbia, and the Canadian Botanical Association’s Lawson Medal for lifetime contributions to Canadian botany.