I am mesmerized by Arzhan's kai song--the hauntingly beautiful and stirring acoustic blend of all the Altai's elements. In it, I hear the deepest rumblings of the shifting layers of the earth, the crackling of fire in the hearth, the neighing of a horse on a steppe, the bugling of elk in the forest, the tapping of raindrops on parched soil, and the high-pitched swish of air through the feathers of a bird swooping overhead.
In the next section of Gleb Raygorodetsky's The Archipelago of Hope, he visits the Altai people (his mother's ancestors) of the Altai Mountains that run along the Russian-Mongolian border. Here the emphasis is learning from local people their traditions of land use as better ways to care for nature in the midst of our changing climate.
Danil Mamyev teaches him that "nature for us, the Altai people, has a different meaning. . . . For us, Altai is a living and breathing being with whom we've developed a relationship over generations. . . . One cannot put nature in a park."
Danil, who was trained and worked for a long time as a geologist, is critical of the Western scientific approach. He states, "I believe now that my people's traditional worldview is, in many ways, more advanced." He adds, "The juvenile Western science . . . has done a lot of damage to our environment and culture. I just hope we can survive its adolescence."
One of the Altai elders talks about how unpredictable the seasons have become, making it difficult to plan. This, of course, I hear regularly from Omahans. It's clearly a global sentiment now.
According to the Altai, "If nature is not treated with reverence, reciprocity, respect, and restraint, the relationship becomes compromised, leading to environmental imbalance, such as climate change."
The shaman Maria Amanchina teaches that "If every human being could feel nature, the world would be saved." She adds, "On our own, we have no hope of healing anybody or fixing anything. We can do this only by asking other living beings to help us heal the earth. We need to ask everybody--animals, plants, spirits, the land itself--and, of course, each other."