Sealed roads, public transport and fresh water from the tap: most humans now live in urban centres and never think about the many luxuries they enjoy. And yet, not everybody has access to these everyday comforts of civilisation; many people continue to live close to and with the nature that surrounds them. Although the idea may appeal romantic, the reality is that a life next to nature requires ingenuity and a pronounced ability to adapt.
Nepal’s Sherpas are renowned for their strength and stamina. There are a number of reasons why Sherpas are able to cover great distances, apparently without tiring. Many of them are found in their everyday lives, far from the Mount Everest expeditions that have made the ethnic group a household name around the world.
Life on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean may sound incredibly enticing: turquoise seas, palm trees and endless white, sandy beaches. It is possible to purchase supplies in a tiny village store, but the goods all have to be imported and are therefore expensive. As a result, meals often consist of taro root vegetables harvested by the women and fish caught by the men – a simple life, almost entirely dependent on what nature can supply.
The Yanomami people choose to live surrounded by trees. Their villages are located in the Brasilian rainforest, a long way from encroaching civilisation. The Yanomami continue to hunt with bow and arrow, and carefully clear small sections of the forest to plant crops. Their homes are threatened by road construction and gold mining, but the Yanomami are determined to hold on to their traditions and their identity.
A life dependent on nature’s whims can be idyllic but the people who choose to live far from urban centres have to make many sacrifices. And yet, cultures like the Nanai, the river people of Russia, continue traditions such as ice fishing. Similarly, ice fishing remains popular in Canada, although the catch is no longer sold. It is about far more than just the fish: it is about maintaining traditions and spending time in nature with friends and family. Old customs can still play an important role in the modern age, helping to strengthen both entire communities and the individuals who make up these communities.
From remote mountains and forests to distant islands, in the face of the inexorable spread of modernity, the cultures and people featured in this documentary continue to celebrate life ‘Next to Nature’.