Shamanism, Indigenous People, and Climate Change

In the Dreaming Mother Earth glows in her perfection. In the Dreaming the Ancestors live happily. In the Dreaming Pachamama reminds us we may embrace Life in all its inexhaustible complexity and feel joy. Yet, also in the Dreaming we are shown the suffering that occurs when we no longer honor and sustain Mother Earth. Shamans, Medicine People, and  Seers of many First Nations cultures have seen these things, and tried to share them, only to have their words largely ignored. Even as I write this,  the living green of Amazonia, the Heart of the Earth, is shrinking (as is the permafrost of the bright, white North) as a direct result of our cold hearts.

Here in Vermont, the weather here has turned cool. This is a relief, as the past few weeks have been quite warm. Indeed, in much of the Northern Hemisphere the summer has been record-breaking in its heat. Temperatures in Siberia and Russia have been as much as 20 degrees Celsius above the long-term norms.  Climate studies out this week, and not challenged by most climate change skeptics, suggest conditions will only worsen in the next few decades. North Americans seem likely to be among the least effected, yet even here the heat will be excessive.

Things are, and will be, worse elsewhere:

“For more than 2,000 years the Yup’ik Eskimos have carved out a subsistence living on the frozen wastes of southwest Alaska. But now the ice is melting the village is having to move to a new site, and the world’s first climate-change refugees face an uncertain future.”

via The Observer.

Around the globe, Indigenous people are most likely to be severely effected by climate change, in part because Indigenous people  tend to live in the most marginal areas, having been pushed to the edges. Many First Nations elders have had visions of climate change. In the mid-seventies I had such a vision while visiting a  friend on the Hupa Reservation in Northern California. Pachamama is asking us to notice the impacts of our actions. She invites us to open our hearts and allow Grandfather sun to melt away the indifference and pain.

Many elders have shared their insights, yet relatively few people, outside the world Indigenous community, have listened to Pachamama’s pleas. Still, First Nations people, and  others whom Pachamama has touched,  continue to share their Dreaming, and their knowledge of the dramatic and destructive changes taking place throughout the world.

First Nations peoples are also networking. The internet and other new media are opening the way for Native peoples to share their visions, observations, and concerns. The following  networks are easily accessed via the web:

Indigenous Climate Portal

Indigenous Peoples Restoration Network

The Climate Change and Pacific Rim Indigenous Nations Network

Indigenous Environmental Network

And, of course, tribal peoples everywhere are reporting on, and  expressing concern for,  local conditions. One example of this comes from native people in Burma:

“Changes to global temperatures will make Burma’s lowland delta region particularly vulnerable to flooding and the effects of rising sea levels. Cyclone Nargis in 2008 was a potent example of how heightened extreme weather conditions can impact on a coastal population.

The wider ramifications for Burma are worrying, given the country relies on agriculture and exports of rice to keep its economy afloat. The cyclone destroyed 1.75 million hectares of farmland, or 30 percent of the wet season rice area for Burma. Ironically it is those who are most vulnerable in Burma who have contributed least to the problem.”

via  Democratic Voice of Burma.

Of course, climate change will not just effect Indigenous people, although First Nations people may have the fewest resources with which to address it. Ultimately, climate change will touch all of us, particularly our children and their children. The resulting suffering will make our long held human dream of true Peace even more illusive. It is time to look, to notice the changes in our climate, and their effects on the people and animals on the edges. It is time to join together and rethink our priorities. If we do not, events at the edges will soon fill the entire circle; they will effect us all.

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