Von Braun: Native wisdom in healthcare ‘has served humanity enormously’

Von Braun: Native wisdom in healthcare ‘has served humanity enormously’

Prof. Joachim von Braun, president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, spoke to Vatican News about a Vatican-sponsored seminar on indigenous peoples and the climate, saying that indigenous wisdom in health and science has greatly enriched humanity.

By Deborah Castellano Love

Indigenous peoples possess an abundance of wisdom to protect the world, which with the help of science can deal with crises plaguing the planet. In particular, they have contributed dramatically to the field of healthcare.

Dr. Joachim von Braun, president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS), made this point in an interview with Vatican News on the sidelines of a Vatican-organized conference on indigenous peoples.

Pope Francis on Thursday addressed a two-day seminar organized in the Vatican on March 14-15 by the Pontifical Academy to discuss the role of ethno-ecological knowledge in developing local solutions that can have global implications for the climate and biodiversity agenda.

Titled “Indigenous Knowledge and Science: Combining Knowledge and Science on Vulnerabilities and Resilience Solutions,” the conference explores opportunities for collaboration between Indigenous peoples and the scientific community on these issues.

In his remarks, the Holy Father emphasized the great need to preserve and value local experience in dealing with climate and environmental crises.

It encouraged closer collaboration between local and scientific knowledge to address not only climate change, but also biodiversity loss and threats to food and health security.

Below is a transcript of the interview with Dr. Joachim von Braun.

Q: This workshop brought together indigenous leaders and leaders of international organizations to discuss the relationship between indigenous wisdom and science. How are the two related and what overlaps did you find?

Indigenous knowledge has been generated over many generations. Humanity has learned through experience, through trial and error, and mainly by wondering about solutions and possibilities. It really combines indigenous knowledge with science.

Scientists are also driven by curiosity, wonder, and finding solutions to humanity’s problems. Where the two really differ is that science has become more narrowly focused, based on experimental theory rather than experience. Bringing the two together offers great opportunities to address biodiversity, health and agriculture.

Question: During yesterday’s audience with Pope Francis, the Holy Father said that a conversion is needed in our world so that we adopt an alternative vision to the currently dominant zero-sum conflict worldview. How does this workshop help to achieve this goal with the help of indigenous people?

Indigenous worldviews are more closely connected to nature, especially their respect for nature and natural processes, than the typical urbanized global population. Therefore, learning from them and their wisdom also suits us in scientific communities.

We at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences do not see a conflict between faith and science, and the same applies to indigenous communities. We have common ground. We both need to focus on reducing consumerism, because it is not only the way we treat nature and production, but indirectly.

Our consumption habits around the world are leading to climate change, biodiversity loss and nature destruction. Thus, science and indigenous knowledge must pay attention to the production and consumption of our way of life.

Q: Can you share anything you learned from Indigenous voices related to the sciences during this workshop?

Indigenous health knowledge has served humanity immensely. Many people do not know that about 50% of our medicines go back to indigenous knowledge of plants and mixtures that treat serious ailments. This was known to many of us, but not to the general public.

What we are finding, unfortunately, is that indigenous people still do not have equal rights today. Youth and especially women from local communities suffer from a lack of rights and opportunities.

What we’ve learned is that innovative education systems that address these issues can make a big difference. Education systems that serve Indigenous and global youth, drawing on nature’s wisdom and perspectives, can help understand and shape sustainability in the future.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Indigenous knowledge is not only concerned with the Earth, but looks to the sky and heavens. Serious concerns have been raised that need to be addressed.

Skygazing is increasingly hampered by light pollution and the tens and tens of thousands of satellites that block our view of the sky.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *