Shortly after the lessons at my school - “Adventure Nature” I started off towards Salzburg. I arranged an interview with Angaangaq - the Greenland shaman. At least since the television ZDF documentary “Wenn das Klima kippt” (When the climate tips over) this sympathetic “Greenland-Eskimo” has been known to many.
After a very friendly welcome from his organizer Michaela, I waited for him in an apartment called “The Power Place” and was already curious to see what he had to say about ecology, spirituality and children. I am deeply convinced that the indigenous voices can make a special contribution in the current “human crisis” - if we only want to hear...
After a short time the door to Angaangaq’s room opened, he stepped out, smiled at me and embraced me. This is the moment when I realize again how rarely we hug each other (and how tall I am...). Angaangaq and Michaela asked me into the room and after a short personal conversation I switched on my smartphone and listened to Angaangaq’s words. His English is simple and fortunately easy to understand:
Gerald Ehegartner: Angaangaq, do you still have hope for our world? We obviously live in a time that is not exactly easy.
Angaangaq: Yes, it is a very difficult situation.
First of all: There are so many of us here in Europe alone. Europe is a very small continent and only a few spots of original nature are left. If I were here (Salzburg; acceptance by the editors) I go into a park, then I am not alone, I meet hundreds of people. In France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Hungary, etc. - the same everywhere.
And the diversity of the animal world disappears so incredibly fast. It is frightening. I don’t know if you can remember when the bear Bruno visited several countries from Italy. Millions of people suddenly got scared. They even brought specialists from Finland to hunt the bear. Imagine - just a bear! Instead of welcoming an animal, people react with fear. This is the case in many countries. We do things that simply do enormous damage to the animal world.
Due to our lifestyle, it is necessary that we keep enough cattle, pigs and chickens. The farm animals have been taking over the land of the wild animals for a long time. But we lose diversity and space for the wild animals. In this way we separate ourselves from nature, from life. At the same time, we produce only the food that makes economic sense. The diversity of species and varieties disappears.
Do you think this is a result of “western profit thinking”?
Yes, it is.
What do you think about the role of religion? Isn’t it originally also our way of religious thinking that first separated us from nature? In our religious form of spirituality there is only the father - no mother earth, no animals, etc.
Yes, absolutely right. But there is another aspect that needs to be considered: We humans simply became so many that we didn’t have enough space.
And the first to suffer was the wilderness. Especially in the last decades we lost a lot of animal, plant and mineral world. The air is polluted, the water is polluted and the fire has changed. We are losing the holistic beauty of Mother Earth.
What does the wilderness teach you, Angaangaq?
Mother Earth can live without us - but we cannot live without Mother Earth. As adults we no longer understand this in the depths, we have lost contact with the wilderness. Fortunately, in the north, where I come from (Greenland), there is a lot of wilderness and it is so
fantastic to go there. The wilderness teaches me the beauty of life itself and I am lucky enough to live in a country where Caribou gives birth to its young and I can observe it. Just the birth of a young, wild animal makes you realize that the world is much bigger with wilderness, with mother nature. The world is full of wonders if we allow them to exist. But we do not allow it.
But what can we do?
Revive, recreate, restore wilderness zones.
Here in Austria almost only more deer and wild boars live than big wild animals. Besides, you hardly see any foxes anymore. Without foxes there are too many mice and rats, which is very unhealthy and harmful. We just don’t think that everything is connected. For example the wolf: If it is missing, it has an influence on other
four-legged animals, it has an influence on the flora, on the water. If deer feed without enemies, they cause an imbalance in the plant world. But when the wolf appears on stage, it hunts the deer so that they don’t stay in a certain place. The plant world can flourish again. Then the birds, the small animals, the insects return with the wolf. Due to the growth of the plants, the water also flows differently. Everything has an influence. But we have forgotten that.
Angaangaq, what’s your main message? Why are you a teacher?
I want to help melt the ice in people’s hearts. And I want to create awareness that we need wilderness again in many areas of the world.
If we open our hearts and lose fear - like this bear, the wolves, the coyotes, the foxes - then this is possible. They have been with us for a long time - we need our Mother Earth.
Do you have the feeling that this is also connected with spirituality - with a lack of spirituality? As teachers we can hardly talk about it, spirituality has no place because it doesn’t seem scientific.
You and me - we can’t live without our spirituality.
The way spirituality likes to be reflected at the moment is that it is too small and the physicality is very developed. Or vice versa: The spirituality is too big, the physical is too little developed. We have lost our balance.
You and me - we can never learn to swing up like an eagle until we have found the balance between our mind and our spirit. But we still have too much ice in our hearts. How can you tell? We don’t say “Good morning” to each other. At the main station (in Salzburg - applies of course to stations in general; editor’s note) one notices that people do not perceive each other. So we live separated and uncoupled next to each other. We have ice in our hearts and no longer celebrate our beauty.
In this context, it is interesting to note that Mozart, the most famous of Salzburg’s citizens and one of the greatest musical geniuses in the history of the world, was very heartfelt - and composed music that still opens hearts today (Perhaps one should play Mozart music at Salzburg’s main railway station..., editor’s acceptance).
Yes - and I love referring to what the old people have always said: Only when the ice melts in people’s hearts do they have a chance to change and can begin to use their knowledge wisely. I like that. We have so much wisdom, only we don’t know how to use it anymore. That means we have to change our way by melting the ice in our heartland.
As I understand you, we must urgently allow wilderness again and actively help to shape it. For example, here in Austria we would again need places for wild animals that can move freely. That is what you meant, isn’t it? And then there is the wilderness in yourself - your own body, the wild feelings, the unfathomable psyche - which you have to protect.
Absolutely. What is inside is also outside. What is outside is also inside. And so it is about finding the balance in each of us.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the students striking for the climate. What do you think about it?
The movement started with Greta from Sweden - and it has felt for quite some time as if a revolution was rolling in. Isn’t it incredibly powerful when the young generation stands up for their future and refuses to teach the adults to whom they address the main responsibility for the climate crisis?
Greta represents the future of humanity and how it is connected to Mother Earth. At the moment we are raping the earth, taking exclusively and giving nothing back. We do not think about the consequences. We have been limited in thinking. Hopefully you can teach the children to understand Mother Nature in your school, in the school system. It’s about restoring the wilderness for people, too, about safeguarding the biodiversity of fauna. If we don’t do that, most of the wildlife will disappear.
What I also hear from you is that it is not enough to know the names of the animals, the trees, etc. or just to do something about climate change with technology - it goes beyond that.
Yes, it is more. It is the connectedness we have with each other.
We are all connected. We do not live for ourselves alone. I find it so sad that many spiritual or religious teachers - often great people - hardly care about nature. They usually devote themselves to other
topics. In their explanations there is little space for the living beings of the earth such as animals etc. I know, I know. That is frightening. And it is frightening to imagine that we are losing everything around us in beauty. For example, we live in the cities in houses where we don’t notice the sun during the day and the stars at night.
I find it so sad that many spiritual or religious teachers - often great people - hardly care about nature. They usually devote themselves to other topics. In their explanations there is little room for the living beings of the earth like the animals etc.
I know, I know. That is frightening. And it is frightening to imagine that we are losing everything around us in beauty. For example, we live in the cities in houses where we don’t notice the sun during the day and the stars at night.
Why do you think it is so important for the children to get a concrete connection to nature? What does it do to the children when they go out into nature?
The child’s world will open up. The heart will open and the child will be much more compassionate and careful with life.
You once said that the teacher should be the most valued profession in society. Would you like to say something about this?
The time will come when we teachers will deeply appreciate that they educate our children for the future. It is the most responsible and important profession you can imagine.
Do you think that schools must change as well - also in the way they work with children?
Yes. Sure. Sure. We can’t just learn to read and write. We can’t go that way. After all, we must and may still live on earth. When I was a child, I learned about every single animal that lived in our area. And when spring came, I had to go out to see the young animals.
If I had not known them, how could I have hunted them? I knew every single animal by name. I had to, because our world was dependent on it. Here in the modern world we are apparently not dependent. We think we can live without nature. But that is an illusion. We are in truth nature itself.
Can you make a final statement?
The time has come to teach our children how to live in nature. When they grow up, they can create wilderness areas again. The next generations will have to understand the beauty of the diversity of the animal, plant and mineral world and the elements.
Do you think that a combination of modern and nature-loving life is possible?
We have the computers, all the technology, the much-vaunted digital revolution. Absolutely. And we have to support ourselves. We may go together. Nobody can do this alone. The ancients said: “It is not enough just to know. You have to do something with knowledge”. So do something with the knowledge! Teach the children to live with nature! Create again wilderness, so that again place for the free-living animals, plants and minerals develops! Melt your hearts!
Thank you, Angaangaq!
Things to know about Angaangaq and Gerald Ehegartner
Angaangaq is an elder of the Eskimo-Kalaallit from West Greenland, who was appointed by his family to the highest rank of shaman. He has been a traditional healer for many years. His commitment to the environment and indigenous issues has taken him to over 70 countries around the world.
Angaangaq integrates the orally transmitted healing traditions and wisdom of the ancient Eskimo teachings into circles, intensive seminars and aalaartiviit (traditional sweat lodge ceremonies). He speaks at international conferences and symposia about the environment, climate change and indigenous issues. https://icewisdom.com/de/
Gerald Ehegartner is a pedagogue and author of the refreshingly humorous novel “Kopfsprung ins Herz - Als Old Man Coyote das Schulsystem sprengte” (“Jump into the Heart - When Old Man Coyote Blew Up the School System”), with which he not only took the Amazon bestseller lists by storm, but also the hearts of many readers. His debut album is reviewed excellently by Konstantin Wecker, Gerald Hüther, Margret Rasfeld and others.
Together with a former colleague, he founded Austria’s first compulsory nature education subject called “Adventure Nature”, for which both received the “Teacher´s award”.
Gerald Ehegartner is meanwhile part of the team “Lernwelt” and the “Akademie f. Potentialentfaltung” of the neurobiologist Prof. Gerald Hüther. https://geraldehegartner.com/
In the Infothek Waldkinder also appeared the article: “We need many more coyotes than teachers in our schools” about Gerald Ehegartner
Editorial management: Christoph Lang, Nadja Hillgruber
Editorial design and implementation: Nadja Hillgruber, www.infothek-waldkinder.org
Picture credits: Photography © Icewisdom and Gerald Ehegartner
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