Problems have solutions; dilemmas have consequences! The reality of climate change can’t be avoided but the consequences for humans and other life forms can be made worse by our decisions. There is a difference between solving problems and living with consequences. Solving problems means we can try to fix what is wrong. Living with consequences means we must face the reality of our situation. The reality of climate change is already impacting the hydrologic cycle—increased precipitation, evapotranspiration, runoff, and river flow— but we can make our situation worse.
The Mapuche struggle is an ecological struggle, it is a struggle for life and its continuity… We are people of the Earth, whose main mandate is to protect everything that makes existence possible, based on a spirituality connected with the natural elements. (Belén Curamil Canio of the Mapuche in Chile)
Are we perhaps the only life-form in this corner of the universe that sees things this way? Sensing ourselves to be unequivocally responsible for protecting everything that makes existence possible? Or does every variety of life feel the same way?
As individuals and as a species we tend to trust that things existed before us and will continue to exist after us. But absent the human individual or species from the picture and there is from a certain perspective no existence. We sense that we make it all possible just by being here.
We receive the gift of coming alive from those of our kind who raise us and with gratitude we pass it on to those we have a hand in raising. But the gift ripples horizontally too, beyond our kind. We receive life from the living Earth every day, and we in turn must daily birth and nurture the living Earth. The forests, rivers and all the things that swim, fly, creep and crawl need us as much as we need them.
So there it is, we must honour our mandate and do the right thing. Take humbly from life and give generously to life, in every breath and with every beat of our hearts. No need to ask why or from whom this mandate, or to what end. It is what it is. It is what is right.
[Image courtesy of Goldman Environmental Prize]
There are many substances that get deposited on streets and little of this pollution is removed from stormwater before being dumped into rivers. Street Department personnel spread salt and sand on icy roads in winter. People throw trash and cigarette butts out their car window or it blows out of the bed of trucks. Vehicles leak oil and other lubricants, tires shed hydrocarbons, and exhaust pipes emit gases and fluids. There are many substances that unintentionally and intentionally get washed down the drains and into storm sewers that feed downstream drinking water. All of these substances accumulate on roads along with natural debris such as sticks, leaves, and dirt.
I was at dinner with four women a few weeks ago to discuss protecting a nearby place of significance – what we would call a wahi pana. It is a ravishingly beautiful spot: a hanging valley overlooking the ocean, with groves of ancient native trees, flowers, ferns, orange trees, ginger, and bamboo. Most of the time there is a stream running through it, which, in this semi-arid district with its porous volcanic soils, is a wonder in itself. Naturally, this spot so blessed by nature was inhabited and beloved by the kanaka maoli – the native Hawaiians – for long centuries, until contact with the West decimated their population and nearly destroyed their culture. More recently, in the last few decades, it has been a religious retreat site. The Tibetan Buddhist philanthropists who currently own the land have other priorities on the mainland U.S. and so were talking of putting the property on the market. It was feared that the land could fall into the hands of owners who would treat it in the usual American way and plop down a trophy house so as to command the most sweeping view of the coastline. This would be a gut-wrenching desecration of the tangible and intangible qualities of the little valley. Continue reading “Four Earthly Ways of Being”