Date: Sat, 23 Jan 1999 07:07:57 +0000 From: Paul Swann <•••@••.•••> Subject: Fwd: NASA looks to native elders to help save the earth From: Stephanie Bruce <•••@••.•••> To: •••@••.••• Subject: [GAIA-L] Fwd: NASA LOOKS TO NATIVE ELDERS TO HELP SAVE THE EARTH FROM UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE FOR RELEASE: WEEK OF JANUARY 15, 1999 COLUMN OF THE AMERICAS by Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez NASA LOOKS TO NATIVE ELDERS TO HELP SAVE THE EARTH The Nome Eskimo elder lamented that nowadays his homeland in winter is too warm for the life system to sustain itself -- only 20 degrees below zero instead of 70 below. His people have learned to live in balance with the ice and cold. But now the Bering Strait is sick. Sea ice is forming later, affecting the animals who breed on it. The sea pups aren't ready to leave when the ice melts, so they die or are abandoned. The hunters say the walrus are skinny, and they have to hunt farther into the tundra because the caribou know the thin ice won't sustain their weight. In the old days, the elders in Alaska could forecast the weather by watching the stars. But now, says one Siberian Yupek elder, "The Earth is so fast now. We can't predict the weather anymore." Many native prophesies warned of a time when the people would be confused, and the old and the young would die first. The prophesies said the trees would die from the tops down and the world would be in danger. Using "eyes" from space, NASA officials have seen that the elders are right. Its officials conclude that the "Earth is a living system that is distressed." So now, NASA has turned to native elders for counsel as it examines the effect of climate change on the U.S. population, environment and economy. NASA brought together a gathering of several hundred elders for a five-day climate-change workshop in Albuquerque, N.M., last fall. NASA is seeking to merge the knowing and wisdom of people who understand the responsibilities that humans have to the Earth with the knowledge of nonnative scientists. The elders who attended the conference, called the Circle of Wisdom Native Peoples/Native Homelands Climate Change Workshop, stated: "It is this spiritual connection to Mother Earth, Father Sky and all Creation that is lacking in the rest of the world. ... We call upon the people of the world to hold your leaders accountable." According to documents issued by the workshop, temperatures will become warmer in the Northern Hemisphere by 5 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit within the next 20 years. The primary source of human-induced climate change is the burning of oil, gas and coal. The melting of sea ice "affects the exchange of energy continuously taking place on the Earth's surface," according to NASA. While it might seem a distant problem to many people in the United States, all life is interconnected. We have long said that native prophesies are misunderstood. They not only are spiritual visions, but often also come from a life-science observation of the natural world. When people understand that they are not separate from the natural world, they will seek to honor and understand it. This is why Chief Joseph said long ago that the Earth was part of his body and they were of one "mind." Native people traditionally have understood that the Earth and universe have a mind and a spirit, a cosmic intelligence that in fact responds to us, to our intentions. "Earth is a living mother, an organism. I know none of us would think of abusing our birth mother. She is a spiritual woman ... that gives life. Through our ceremonies, we honor her life-giving power so that she can continue to nourish us," says Cheyenne elder Henrietta Mann. When people no longer live and learn from the land, their disconnection to it leads to the abuse of Mother Earth. Along with the land, native people's traditions die: their food, their ceremonies, medicinal plants, their fibers for making sacred baskets. And much of it has been through the greed of market economies and the perversions of science and technology that have claimed or contaminated the land, particularly native lands, through deforestation, pesticides, industrial waste, radioactive poisoning and mining. "What good is an economic system if our children die anyway?" asked a Kanaka Maoli elder from Hawaii. A nearby flip-chart read, "There is no post-environment economy." There are myriad things to be done, including requiring companies to factor the environmental impact of their projects into their businesses, and demanding that all public projects invest in clean and renewable forms of energy. But most of all, we must begin to value life in all its manifestations. Corbin Harney, a Shoshone elder, says the spirits of the land and the ancestors are waiting for people to recognize their responsibility to Mother Earth. "They want to hear us pray so that they can work with us, so everything can heal."