Healing and the land: cultural perspectives on health and environment. The case of Aboriginal Australia

In this article, it is questioned whether and how cultural values and ideas play a role in influencing the ways in which we, as humans, behave towards nature, and how then we end up shaping it differently; this is done by bringing at first the instance of “Western” conceptions on the environment from the 17th century onwards. The centre of this issue is mainly developed around how different ways of treating the environment affect people’s wellbeing, and specifically it is brought the example of Aboriginal peoples in Australia, with regard to their experiences during and after colonization. Colonizers, in fact, imposed on Aboriginal communities different ways of living within the environment and also of dealing with health and sickness, causing disrupting consequences for the native peoples’ wellbeing and also for the environment’s one, that ended up being differently managed. Specifically, it is presented the example of the customary use of fire among Aboriginal communities, utilized as a way to take care of the land, a behaviour that positively affects peoples’ lives and wellbeing too. In this way, it is emphasized the positive role that humans can play in shaping a healthy environment when they assume particular behaviours related to specific values and ideas (the example of totemism within First Australians is also reported), while at the same time they can be a negative and dangerous influence, in case they value nature as a mere resource, or as a domain to be kept apart from humans.