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Redefining Our Relationship with Nature: Embracing Indigenous Wisdom in Ethical Land Care

In a world increasingly driven by greed and profit, a partnership between a Western reforestation organisation and representatives from Indigenous Peoples and Nations is urging us to reevaluate our relationship with the natural world.

Co-created over five years and co-published by TreeSisters and The Fountain, "Rooted in Ethics: The Community Tree Stewardship Framework" seeks to redefine ethical reforestation. It champions a shift in perspective, envisioning Nature not as a resource to exploit but as a conscious, intelligent entity deserving of rights like you or I. This shift, the authors argue, is essential if we want to protect what is remaining of our natural world and begin to live more harmoniously with our environment.

The Commodification of Nature

The commodification of Nature is nothing new, from increasingly dubious carbon offsetting schemes to the recent attempt, now withdrawn, by the New York Stock Exchange to establish Natural Asset Companies valued at $5,000 trillion. These systems seek to transform ecosystem services into tradable assets, further incentivising the exploitation of the planet’s finite resources and underscoring capitalism’s role in humanity's increasing disconnection from Nature.

By contrast, the Indigenous economy is deeply rooted in cultural, social, and environmental values, reflecting a holistic and sustainable approach to economic activities. Indigenous Peoples live on just 25% of the Earth's land yet protect 80% of its remaining biodiversity. By combining centuries-old knowledge and practices with a deep respect for the natural world, they have achieved more than any world government, making Indigenous Peoples the world’s most effective stewards of the natural environment.

TreeSisters, like many other reforestation organisations, started with tree planting at scale. They offered donors a simple ‘x pence per tree’ model and an individual tracker of trees each donor had funded, encouraging them to ‘Grow your own forest’. While this model was effective at galvanising supporters, the organisation felt disconnected from the communities and the natural world they serve. Recognising this, TreeSisters embarked on a journey to align their practices with ethical principles, integrating deep respect for Nature and being led by the needs of the local and Indigenous communities involved in their projects.

Bridging Indigenous Wisdom and Modern Science

Rooted in Ethics is a pivotal framework co-published by an environmental NGO and representatives from Original Peoples and Nations. It sets forth guidelines, principles, and working practices that respect and honour the rights of Nature, women, communities, and cultures.

The framework also challenges the systemic power imbalances prevalent in the restoration sector, and wider society. It strongly advocates for gender equity, community-led decision-making, land rights, and Indigenous data sovereignty. The authors argue that communities hold invaluable local knowledge and that a community-led grassroots approach is the only way to decolonise the sector and ensure more resources go to those who restore and protect their lands.

Suzi Steer, Lead Author on behalf of TreeSisters, highlights the significance of this approach:

"Rooted in Ethics represents a significant milestone in our journey towards a positive future and a more harmonious relationship with Nature. By bridging deep knowledge of Original Principles with the best scientific research practices, we hope to ignite a public conversation about our connection to Nature and inspire positive action towards peaceful coexistence."

Mindahi Bastida of the Otomi-Toltec of Central Mexico, Lead Author for The Fountain, shares his perspective:

“Working on Rooted in Ethics has been very meaningful because, at the beginning, we were looking at ethics from the Western point of view related to Nature. Then we saw that those kinds of ethics, the rational ethics coming from humans, encounter these other ethics coming from Mother Earth and Father Sky. They complemented each other, and it's beautiful because it's a way of bringing together this powerful ancestral wisdom. We not only have ethics as humans, but these are ethics for all species.”

A Call to Action

Rooted in Ethics is a call to action. It urges organisations, businesses, and local governance bodies to adopt principles that honour the intrinsic value of ecosystems. It asks us to redefine our relationship with Nature before it is too late and foster a more compassionate and sustainable future for all Earth’s inhabitants.

For more information, interviews or to get involved, please contact:



About TreeSisters:

TreeSisters is a social change and reforestation charity working ethically to reforest and restore our planet, whilst centring women and gender equity. We’re also inspiring a global movement that honours and advocates for the rights of Nature and reconnects us with our true roots.

About The Fountain:

The Fountain is a U.S.-based non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting Sacred Economics, Territories and Cultures and advising and educating organisations and individuals based on Original Principles and ancestral wisdom.


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