To 5G or Not To 5G? An Indigenous Perspective

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Writer: Briony Dalton
Editor: Paul Pritchard

5G––It’s almost everywhere. Towers are scattered across the land, cell boxes line the streets and so begins the continual upgrades as we catapult towards the futuristic high-tech world that’s been long promised. While some nations have embraced it wholeheartedly, others have rejected it altogether, which begs the question, is there cause to explore safer alternatives?

I recently met with Jarmbi Githabul, a Custodian of the Northern Rivers, New South Wales, from the Githabul and Ngarakwal tribes. A member of the Mother Earth Delegation of United Original Nations, Jarmbi is a long-time activist and is well respected in these parts for his commitment to helping people reconnect to themselves, as well as bridging divides between varying communities.

The iconic town of Mullumbimby in Northern NSW is one of the last places in Australia yet to receive the 5G upgrade due to the community’s strong appeal for safer technology options, so I was curious to hear a First Nation perspective. 

Jarmbi began by explaining the simple principles of living in alignment with the Earth, principles that have been the way of life for indigenous peoples around the world for centuries. As he spoke, it became clear that this is so very far removed from how we currently live. The fast-paced, modern society we find ourselves in has seduced us, lulled us even, into a completely false sense of security.

“The only true safety on this planet is your connection to the Earth. Everything else is just trying to make up for the lack of that safety. Everything from police, government, guns, drugs is all to help cope with the disconnection to the natural world—from Mother Earth.”

He went on to illustrate how, from an early age, we inherit a set of wildly distorted values from the media, governments and corporations. We are told that money, success and happiness are the most important things, and without these things our lives are worthless. We are indoctrinated to accept that without them, we are worthless. 

So, we spend our lives chasing the degree, the job, the money, the house, the car, the possessions, the looks, the marriage, the family: all in a desperate and never-ending attempt to forge some form of connection to something meaningful in our lives. But perhaps we are looking in the wrong places for answers. Perhaps the only truly meaningful connection is with ourselves and our natural habitat, Gaia or Mother Earth, our home.

Jarmbi believes when we live in harmony with ourselves and with the Earth, we better understand ourselves and our purpose in the world. We can then take responsibility for the role that we play in our community and become truly empowered—individually and collectively.

He explained that our purpose is never separate from anyone or anything. We are one cog in a giant wheel and we each must step into our role so the wheel can continue to turn and operate efficiently and effectively. It depends on all of us stepping up: none of us are exempt. The wheel is Gaia, or Mother Earth. When we are truly connected to all that is and can feel that within us, we amplify a deeper connection with all that exists around us: the trees, the animals, the elements. We, and all of it, become an extension of the one bigger picture—the web of all interconnected life.

This concept forms the very basis of the First Nations way of thinking and operating; a deep and innate connection with all that surrounds them. All that informs and teaches them. All that holds them, provides for them, nourishes, nurtures, and shelters them. This is what ‘connection’ is really about.

“It’s a case of having the understanding of just how much the Earth gives us, just how sacred she is. Just how much we depend on her and by living in a way that’s honouring that, it’s the best way to live for everybody. And that’s what the old tribes are all about, having that understanding.”

As with most things in life, there is good and bad. Technology is no exception to this rule. It has facilitated a great deal of advancement for humanity …but at what cost? Have we lost sight of a healthy balance? Nowadays, ‘connection’ appears to be more about the ability to text your sibling from another room, to order and have food delivered without getting off the couch. Although these devices have undoubtedly enhanced our lives in many ways, they’ve also become the ultimate distraction from meaningful connections. Technology is distorting our understanding of natural connection and our ability to recognise and cultivate more nourishing contact. 

Instead of sitting alone with peace in our hearts, we sit alone and stare at the piece in our hand. Instead of stepping outside into nature we watch video compilations of animals doing funny things on our screens. Instead of holding conversation with our loved ones across the dinner table, our attention is held by the buzzing of the phone in our pocket. Instead of receiving the wisdom of Mother Nature into our being, we are bombarded with ephemeral information on our devices. Our natural curiosity about existence, spirit, the universe and the meaning of life has been captured and redirected towards this convenient gadget: this man-made extension of ourselves. It seems we are now only as ‘connected’ as the strength of our signal and the speed of our internet, and it leaves me wondering… to 5G or not to 5G? 

“5G and all of this is a symptom of disconnection. And that’s all it is.” 

As I sat beside Jarmbi, the glistening river poured herself out to sea and a calmness I hadn’t felt in some time soaked into my mind and body. Insect life scurried around our bare legs, birds showered us with ancient song, and gentle breaths of breeze made the leaves on the trees dance above us. I looked across at the man who is well known for his commitment to protecting this land and her inhabitants. Sensing the symphony surrounding us, he closed his eyes, took one long in-breath, drinking life force deep into his lungs. I noticed his phone poking out of his backpack and felt reassured that choosing this way of life did not mean rejecting technology altogether. Balance is, after all, nature’s most important presiding law. I put my phone on airplane mode, closed my eyes and revelled in the beauty of this moment. The simplicity of ‘being’ and connecting with myself, nature and Jarmbi. 

In the days that followed my meeting with Jarmbi, I found myself pondering––What it is to be human living on this planet right now? This, I feel, is what it all comes down to. This fundamental question holds the key to the door of hope and curiosity, as individuals and as a collective, to look within and ask, who are we and who do we want to become?

To me, it evokes a certain way of being. One that fosters connection, respect, growth, reciprocity, compassion, humility and wisdom—for all Life.

I vow to think about the ripple effect of my actions before I take them; weighing up what would be lost from my gains.

I vow to witness and acknowledge the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world. 

I vow to move through life with curiosity, letting Gaia be my teacher.

I vow to use technology with more discernment.

“Mother Earth is calling her children home and we are hearing her and we are moving.” Jarmbi

May the inspiration to move forth with life-sustaining benevolence that honours the delicate balance of nature and technology find you too.

 

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