This Christmas, I am organising an expedition with a wildlife photographer to meet an indigenous population in the Swedish Laplands, the Sámi, that might have the wisdom we need to live sustainably on this planet for the next couple decades. I think this clarifies the objective of the expedition which initially won’t be more than a seven day trek between the Byske River, a Salmon River, and Jokkmokk. But, there will be longer expeditions in the future which will require more collaborators.

Today, the Sámi are the only remaining indigenous people of Europe which makes them quite unique from a European perspective. As for sustainability and durability, the Sámi have witnessed the rise and fall of Empires since Tacitus first made an official record of their existence. In fact, today I met a woman of Sámi heritage who pointed out that the Sámi civilisation goes back 6000 years! So they have withstood the test of time, and I have no doubt that if the Sámi civilisation were on another planet we would probably spend at least a billion dollars to reach them.

From what I can gather, their women were powerful in ways no Western man or woman can fathom as their civilisation was matriarchal before it was Christianised. But, there is a lot of misinformation on the internet as history has always been written by the victors. What can be verified is that the Swedes, Finns, Russians & Norwegians have disrupted the Sámi way of life using a combination of economic incentives, coercion and brute force. However, more often than not the desire to punish is far from constructive.

Instead, I am trying to convince anybody with a strong interest in sustainability that in Europe we probably have more to learn from the Sámi way of life than any European institution that claims to have the magic bullet for sustainable development. This way of life appears to include a deep connection with nature that we have lost, and I think this is a subtle but important point that is often missing in debates concerning sustainability.