By Suzanne Carlson, 9/20/19
Thirty-five years ago I walked across the country – all but 6 weeks of the 7-month Walk for the Earth 1984 from Pt. Reyes National Seashore (CA) to Washington DC. Everywhere we walked we learned of environmental issues, of land and water and human activities. We had exchanges with various Native nations. On a mesa in Arizona Grandfather David shared the Hopi prophecy: the road of life diverged – one path green, the other ending black from fire and ash. Thirty-three years later, Winona LaDuke, Ojibway/Anishanaaby (of the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota), shared an identical prophecy, to a gathering in Great Barrington.
I’ve learned along this journey to identify what connects all of us: all living beings need water. We know thirst and crave water, yet we haven’t learned to protect water. “Mni Wakoni”/”Water Is Life”, the message that drew over 10,000 people from many nations and cultures to Standing Rock in North Dakota, to protect water from the expanding gas pipelines (that always leak their poisons). It was then that I realized they’re not protecting “their” water, because it belongs to no one, and moves in rivers, lakes, oceans and air, to provide for the need of every being. We are of water…all living beings.
What has Western technological culture done to water? Damming, for power-generation, diversion, or recreation; polluting and poisoning, from our body-wastes in sewage, industrial wastes and creation of thousands of toxic, endocrine-disrupting, and carcinogenic chemicals, from fossil fuels and radioactive Uranium and byproducts, from plastics by the millions of tons, and all the deadly weapons of war.
But there is no “away”! People are starting to wake up to the reality: Climate Crisis. The youth have been rising up, trying to rouse adults, especially government agents, to the urgency of action to slow Climate Change. There are biologists warning of the extinctions of all forms of life – insects, frogs, birds, mammals – as other scientists warn of melting glaciers, dying coral reefs (the basis of all sea life), rising oceans, extreme loss of biodiversity, devastated forests (“the lungs of the earth”)…and we must pay attention. While the people suffering the most are least responsible for causing climate change, we of Western overconsuming societies must take on responsibility. We must collaborate together to “change the system, not the climate”. We must understand that we are all part of this web of life, all interdependent, able to choose to act toward restoring the balance. We need Indigenous knowledge to rebuild a culture of interdependence, with humility, respect, compassion and empathy, connection with land/water/air/kin (all beings), generosity, and gratitude. It will take courage to dismantle the deep structural inequality and overconsumption, but we must be part of the action.
Let’s organize for Life!