This paper describes the concepts of moral ecology and ecological morality in relationship to the Hopi culture and modern society. The implications of each are discussed.
Hopi families worked hard for generations to identify how their lifestyle aligned with the earth, working to tie in hard work and integrate humanity with this (Greaves, 2002). Hopi families taught about the earth, and tribe members relationships to the earth, coupled with teachings from their ancestors (Greaves, 2002). People would also pray for rain, sing for rain, and ask that all of the earth be replenished so that all of life, including the people of the Hopi culture to benefit (Greaves, 2002). The natural world, according to the Hopi culture, is not one that is spiritless, but rather filled with plants and animals according to the Hopi people (Greaves, 2002). Hopi’s are thus considered to have a moral ecology coupled with an ecological morality, meaning their morality aligns with both the ecology and nature of the land, and that the people rely on the land as much as the land is respected by the Hopi people. This orientation to nature is distinct from modern, mainstream culture, where people tend to engage in a way that is out of balance with nature.
The Euro-American culture is one where land is often considered more exploited or a product to be used rather than a live substance to be prayed to and considered in terms of comfort and life necessity. The Hopi culture offered advantages to the people that enjoyed and lived in this culture in part because the people living during this time faced many threats that Euro-American peoples today may not. These threats may include changes in the ecology, and a decline in agriculture which generally continued to occur throughout the Americas throughout the mid to late 1900s (Greaves, 2002). Isolation may have also been a threat to the Hopi culture. However, in modern society, there are advantages including road construction and technology, which have allowed people from all over the world to interact and share or network without a real threat of isolation except for self-imposed isolation.
Cash income opportunities for people living in modern society related to agriculture or natural resources have fluctuated over time, and have been somewhat limited to the extent to which such resources have been exploited. The Hopi culture provides an advantage in this respect, as it would always seek to live in balance with the environment rather than to live in a way that would exploit the landscape or people living within it. There are ways that Hopi people’s living in modern society can still benefit from economic changes and technological advances. For example, members of Hopi society can now sell arts, crafts, and other representations of their culture to the external or global market (Sutton, Sutton & Anderson, 2009).
This, in some way, allows people living in the Hopi culture to experience some of the advantages associated with international trade. However, it is also critical to recognize that disadvantages including increasing bureaucracy in the world at large, alongside bureaucratic changes within the Hopi culture, may impose limitations that had not existed previous to modern society (Greaves, 2002; Sutton, Sutton & Anderson, 2009; Bookchin, 2005). There are others who argue the emergence of technology has introduced less bureaucracy, leading to a dissolution of hierarchical systems in some regions of the world (Bookchin, 2005). Such dissolution may eventually lead people back to nature, or in a position where harmony with nature may be more desirable than other choices.
I believe that key to implementing the perspectives of moral ecology and ecological morality into life is understanding the relationship that all living beings have to one another. People, whether domestic or international, have perspectives that are diverse. Regardless, there are experiences that are common to all humanity, and which all people can share. Using modern advances like technology, transportation, and social media, these experiences can easily be shared with others. The Hopi way of thinking has re-emphasized how important it is to live in balance not only with nature, but with others. This may mean rethinking decisions about not only how they might affect me personally, or a single organization, but the entire community that might be affected by decisions. For example, by implementing more recycling at home, and in the workplace, the environment and the planet benefits. People also benefit by learning to create less waste, which can lead to shared interests and common ties.
I’ve also considered more important concepts like “Arbor” day, or holidays that have historically celebrated the earth or nature, but that I have not given much attention or thought to. Without the planet, there would be no home for any person to live within. The Hopi deeply realized this, and regarded nature and the earth with a sense of sanctity. I believe knowing what I do now, that all of life should be regarded with the same sanctity, and principles of balance and balanced perspective. While I might not necessarily pray for rain, I will certainly work to conserve water, recognizing how significant a benefit and blessing it is to even have clean water available for use.