Interpreting Yanantin-Masintin into Action

by Anasuya Krishnaswamy

Healing arts practitioners, and certainly mesa carriers of the Q’ero lineage of Southern Peru, are steeped in the art of creating direct relationships with the people, plants, and animals around us. Part of that work is to harmonize those things that are similar and those that are not so similar (read polar opposites).

The concept expressed in the Quechua words yanantin-masintin captures the idea of harmonizing those things that are similar and those that are opposite (read complementary). Yanantin refers to the things that are not alike, masintin to the things that are alike. Very often the words are said together to capture all the levels of harmonizing. I learned this year in Peru that the concept of harmonizing is so deeply woven into the fabric of the Quechua cultural that a word such as “bad” does not really exist. Things are good, or less good, not so good.

In our healing arts traditions we must delve into issues of health and the environment. The work can lead to overwhelm as we allow others to put issues into binary terms, and yet we find solutions and progress most often in between these extremes. In a series of blog posts to follow, I want to look in between the extremes at six areas of environmental law and policy.

Since 2014 I have been studying law – with a focus on Environmental Law. I became involved with the legal profession as a technical consultant on patent litigation, and was encouraged to go to law school. This new study gave me the opportunity to learn an area of the law that has been near and dear to me for my whole life.

My respect and reverence for the environment around me stems from early experiences growing up in Northern California. I played in redwood circles, picnicked under grandmother oak trees, camped under the backyard avocado tree, and had a mother and father who were “eco-aware.”

On weekends we recycled our collected cans and bottles, and I delighted in using the crusher to flatten cans – physical work for mother earth. In fourth grade our teacher led us on a project to learn about and propose substituting Jojoba oil for whale oil. We won an environmental award from the state of California.

In junior high and high school we were preoccupied by the dangers of the nuclear arms race, the meltdown of the Three-mile Island nuclear facility, and how to dispose of nuclear waste. I wrote a poem about smog called Magenta Sunsets for the high school literary magazine.

Had they offered environmental engineering as a major at the time I was in college, I would have studied it. Instead I took what was offered, a course in non-renewable resources. We calculated that there were 400 yrs. of fossil fuel left in the earth. We analyzed that certain salt mines were the best place to store nuclear waste, but were in short supply. I wrote my paper on deforestation and warned of the contribution to climate change and ecosystem destruction. An ethic is wired into me to look at things holistically – to reduce my footprint on the planet, to inform and inspire others, to be aware of how we all impact the ecosystem that gave birth to our species.

In my personal life I have always been reducing, reusing, and recycling. Sometimes I annoyed friends, family and roommates with my discipline and commitment to reduce paper use, keep almost everything out of the water system, walk to the store for groceries, and plan trips and errands to make loops and reduce vehicle miles traveled.

In my first year of law school, I edited citations for the environmental law and policy journal. I attended many Environmental Law seminars to discover where my background, interests, and skills might best fit. I helped staff the conference on race and the law and had a logo designed for the Center for Race and Nation studies. I believe environmental issues are intimately tied to social justice issues.

I grabbed the first opportunity I had to take an environmental law course by signing up for a summer 2015 intensive comparative environmental law course covering the European Union and American Environmental Law. I’ve taken the survey course on federal environmental law, a course on climate change law and policy, and in the spring semester of 2016, I worked with the Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division.

In articles to follow this coming year, I will look at environmental science, law and policy in six areas: Chemical toxins (food, water, and skin products); Electromagnetic Waves; Energy, Carbon, and Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking); Forests; Climate Change Hot Topics; and Trade (products, services, information).  First, I’ll give an overview of the facts and where to find more information. Second, I’ll list three practical steps we can each take to help create a healthier future.

Truth is often found in between the extremes – extremes help us see what is in between. Yanantin-Masintin.