Summer Musings: Ethics of Foraging & Separation of Allies

Emma Kathryn Avatar


Do you ever think that people spend so much time arguing amongst themselves that nothing ever gets done? Only that’s not quite right, because things do get done, only it’s all the things we don’t want doing and usually by those in power, but we are all too busy arguing amongst ourselves to take any kind of effective action. It happens all the time and only serves to divide us from one another and from the land.

So, a week on Sunday, I’ll be hosting a foraging walk in the little town where I live. Nothing major, mind, just me taking a small group of interested folks and helping them to identify the plants that grow where we live. As it’s aimed at beginners, the first step in foraging, and you would think the most obvious, is learning how to identify said plants and what they might be used for.

Sounds ace doesn’t it, or at least I think it does. I would have absolutely loved something like this when I was first interested in such things, and what better way to share my love and appreciation of nature then sharing my knowledge with like minded folks. And yet, there’s always those with the negativity, with the lack of understanding, who comment without researching (after all, a quick look at my writings would tell them all they need to know about me and my love of the natural world, and how I view it all as sacred); who would seemingly argue with would be allies instead of turning their ire towards the true destroyers of nature.

I’ve experienced this more than once over the years, and quite recently too, this time about said foraging trip. Now, it is important to say that such people do have legitimate concerns and worries, generally speaking, usually along the lines of leaving food for wildlife or damaging habitats etc etc. However, they attack the wrong people. Why come after me instead of the local council who build on any scrap of land we have left, including fields. Or the same council who lop down trees to create car parks. Or the government who would destroy ancient forests in the creation of an unwanted and unneeded high speed rail, or the proposed expansion of airports. Or the pollution of rivers and waterways. I could go on, and I’m sure you could add a few of your own to that list.

They do so because I’m an easy option. A quick social media post can leave people feeling like they actually done something when all they’ve done is alienate an ally and also because of a lack of clear understanding and the ability to listen properly and actively. They hear only what they want.

You see, some people do not understand that foraging is not the same as wild harvesting. Foragers take only what they need and always consider the needs of the other creatures we share this world with. We do not strip areas of  ‘resources’, of plants, flowers, nuts and fruits. We take little, leaving nothing but our footprints and we become stewards of our wild places, taking care of them. It is in our interest to take care of our wild spaces, to ensure the survival of plant species. Foraging builds a symbiotic relationship with nature, one where we recognise and understand our place within it, not separate from it.

Wild harvesting on the other hand, is nothing but a tool for Capitalism, employed by companies to strip areas of resources regardless of anything else that may require it. Just look at what the palo santo trade, or the white sage trade which has ravaged the natural supplies of such plants, harming wildlife and the indigenous people who use them.

Mostly, and perhaps most saddeningly though, is the separation of would be allies. It happens all the time, in many places and contexts, where one person or group of people argue with another when really they both share the same oppressor or similar causes. Instead of uniting against a greater evil, they spend their time, energy and resources fighting one another, all the whilst their situation fail to improve or worsen even more.

And so I say we must look past artificial differences and seek to share our knowledge with one another with mutual respect, with an ear for listening to understand instead of just to argue, scorn or mock. And if others do not wish to participate in such mutually respective ways, well you don’t have to take their shit, or let ignorance put you off your own true path, but you don’t have to give them your precious time and energy either.

My foraging walk will go ahead as planned, and I’m looking forward to sharing my love of the wild with others who hear its call.

Recommended: Wild Witchcraft

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